Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla Rally to Improve Tourism

Rwanda is one of the only 3 destinations in the world where the rare mountain gorillas are protected. The other 2 incredible destinations include Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These 3 countries offer trekkers with only 4 options to spark their imaginations with the rarest wild primates in their natural habitat and no where else except only Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda Gorilla Safaris & Uganda Primate watching trips always feature on top list due to safety and prevailing peace in both countries. Tracking these great apes in the Democratic Republic of Congo equally rewards visitors with the most remarkable experiences of life time.

There are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas that still thrive in the entire world and Rwanda is proud to be a home to over 360 mountain gorillas, taking the largest population of all the gorillas that live within the Virunga Mountains. Rwanda’s tourism has drastically increased due to aggressive marketing strategies from the government as well as partnerships with other stakeholders in terms of mountain gorilla conservation.

Despite several marketing strategies used by the Rwanda government, the impact of Mountain Gorilla Rally competitions should not be left out. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally was initially called the “Fraternity Rally,” an international rally racing event organized by the Rwanda Automobile Club. The rally is conducted in Kigali Rwanda and it comprises of African Rally Championship and the Rwandan National Rally Championship. The Fraternity Rally started in 1999 as a motorsport that re-established itself after the Rwandan Civil War. It started as a cross border rally that began in Kampala, Uganda prior finishing in Kigali. The rally turned to be part of the African championships the next year, after Rwanda was suspended in 1988. For the previous years, the Uganda portion of the event declined and later renamed the “Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally” in 2002. For several years, Burundi driver Rudy Cantanhede has been the most successful driver in the rallies history with 3 wins to his credit. Italian born local driver Giancarlo Davite also has 2 wins to his credit.

It is not surprising that Mountain Gorilla Rally competitions have extended to various places including East Africa; Ivory Coast, South Africa, Zambia and currently in Rwanda. The good news is that, the 2017 Africa Rally Championship (ARC) is expected to take place in Kigali-Bugesera as Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally come September 8th (Friday) and 10th (Sunday). The Rwanda leg will mark 6th round on the 7 race continental motorsport calendar. It is expected to lure the top local, regional and continental drivers.

Benefits of the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally 2017

For the local drivers, this will be time for points in pursuit of the national championship. The Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally is advancing to a higher level thereby hosting the most acknowledged drivers in the race that in turn aides in spreading awareness to many people about the event and thus escalating more gorilla tracking tours in Rwanda. The Rwanda tourism industry however conveys more regard to every one, government, partners and sponsors for the continued support that has yielded success in the races thus fostering mountain gorilla tours.

Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally helps in creating awareness about tourism industry nationally, regionally and internationally and given the fact that this event takes place in various regions, it therefore results into more mountain gorilla trekking tours. The gorilla rally also aides to unite various parts of the world as one thus they work together to develop the tourism and increase more tourist attractions so as to lure more visitors hence increasing revenues to the government from the tourism industry.

On the other hand, the rallies are also a source of employment opportunities to the people. Besides, it aides in skill development and in a long run, enhances their talents given the fact that all people across the world, are free to join the races. Through mountain Gorilla Rallies, domestic tourism is also promoted as several nationals are lured to participate in the race and return benefits tourism and boosts the gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda.

The competitions are also one of the ways to boost conservation and protection of mountain gorillas since the money that is generated from this race is used for funding the several gorilla programs in various parts that helps to increase the population of visitors traveling for gorilla tracking.

In conclusion, the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally is an opportunity for Rwanda to market its tremendous wild mountain gorillas to the world travelers. At the end of it all, increases the number visitors and hence boosts the tourism sector of the country. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is conducted in Volcanoes National Park, Northwestern Rwanda. It is proud to be a home to over 360 gorillas with 10 Habituated Families for tourists to catch a glimpse of these world’s fascinating primates.

10 Ways to Enjoy a Perfect Gorilla Safari on Budget

You can see mountain gorillas in two places in Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Most travellers flock to Bwindi because a larger number of gorillas reside there. However, we like Mgahinga National Park because there’s only one gorilla family here, but it includes five adult silverback males, which is the highest concentration of silverbacks in any gorilla family in all of East Africa.

Many people think you need to save up millions before you go on an African safari and have an enjoyable experience, but that is not the case. You can have an amazing experience even if you do not have millions to pay for the very best in everything. African safaris are generally quite expensive but we have a few tips on how you can save money and enjoy a budget safari in Uganda.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda on a budget is very possible, especially during the low season. The price of mountain gorilla permits in Uganda is reduced to US$450 during the low season, compared to US$600 in peak season.

The discounted mountain gorilla permits are issued out to counteract the lower number of trekkers during this season, thereby ensuring continuous arrivals for gorilla safaris in the country.

Permits are not only cheaper, but also easy to obtain due to low demand. This saves the trekker’s time in booking for – and receiving – the permit. Why not go for this offer?

Gorilla Trekking in the low season provides travelers with a closer interaction with the gorillas. Fewer people in the parks mean that there is no congestion. Because of this, the number of people allocated to each gorilla family is reduced from eight down to a lower number, giving trekkers a more personal interaction with the gorillas..

Besides the discounted gorilla permit prices, the cost of services in lodges and hotels during the low season are also reduced due to the low occupancy rates. This means that travellers receive high-quality services at a reduced price, which is not always the case in the high season. The same also goes for air tickets as they are also offered at a low rate.

The low season occurs during the rainy months of February through to May, and November, but this does not affect trekking. Mountain gorillas live in tropical rain forests where rain can occur any time despite the season. Additionally, forest vegetation becomes very green and lush during this time – the perfect setting for some great photographs!

Travelling in a group is a good way to cut costs including transport and entrance fees compared to when you are a single traveller.

Book your trip well in advance:

If you intend to travel during the peak season, or want to go gorilla trekking, make sure you book your trip early. Book with a safari company preferably one in Uganda. The peak season is June, July, August, December and January. Book with a Safari company early enough, so they can make the necessary arrangements for you.

Many people visit Uganda in those months that make up the peak season, so many lodging facilities are fully booked, especially the good affordable ones. So if you book early, the safari company can make your reservation at the guest house or hotel, or lodge early, and you will not have to spend much more on more expensive and costly lodging because the good budget accommodation is all taken.

Travel as a group:

A budget safari in Uganda with a group of four to six friends, or family is not only much more fun but also lessens the pressure on your wallet. In a group, the price per person goes down because you share the costs. Although park entry fees, food and accommodation prices might not change, the transport costs will change. And transport cost is one of the cost factors for a Uganda safari trip. As a group you share the vehicle and transport costs, unlike a solo safari where you foot the entire transport cost alone.

Use Budget Vehicles:

you can travel around Uganda by bus, whether you are travelling in a group or on your own. If you are travelling in a group and want to stick to a budget safari, you can let your tour operator make budget vehicle arrangements for you. It is cheaper to make vehicle arrangements through a safari company, than on your own. Chances are prices will be hiked if you approach service providers on your own and your budget safari will end up not being so budget after all. Many safari companies have company vehicles that they use to transport their clients, at a cost of course, but often the price is reasonable and within your stated budget.

Budget for Moderate lodging Facilities:

 Lodging is another major cost factor for a Uganda safari. You can cut costs by staying in budget or moderately priced hotels and lodging facilities. Prices of lodging in or around the game parks can be as high as $400 per day full board.

Ugandan Visas: while you can buy a Ugandan visa from your home country, it comes with extra charges for mailing and passport photos. If you come to Uganda, you can buy a visa at Entebbe airport, at only $50, no mailing charges or passport photo costs necessary.

Foreign exchange:

The best currency to carry from the west is the US dollar. It has continually risen against the Uganda shilling in recent months so you are guaranteed a favorable exchange. However go to a forex bureau, you will get better rates than if you change your money from a hotel or restaurant.

Where to eat:

Even people on safari do have to eat. You can eat at a luxury hotel where the food is very costly, or eat out at more affordable places with good food. You just need to know which places are good and that’s not hard you can ask around, or consult you tour operator. They can be very helpful.

All in all, for you to enjoy a perfect gorilla safari, you have to have proper timing for your holiday.

What is the Best Time to Visit Bwindi for Gorilla Trekking

Whereas mountain gorilla safaris have become the most sought after experiences in the world, knowing the best time to trek these captivating creatures in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is very crucial for any traveler who is planning a safari holiday to Uganda. Numerous arguments have been raised by travelers and notable online forums like trip advisors and lonely planet pertaining the best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for gorilla trekking. But as a matter of fact, what may seem to be the best time to you may not be the worst time to other travelers! This draws us down to frequently asked questions like “what is the best time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking?” “When should I visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to trek mountain gorillas?” Is it wise to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park during wet season for gorilla trekking? To some people these questions look obvious but in reality, we feel they need to be addressed in order for you to get the most captivating and memorable experience with the rare mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is done at any time of the year but many visitors prefer traveling from the months of June to September and December, January and February due to drier trails. This means marking the seasonality of the year is of significance to every traveler who plans to catch a glimpse of these unique primates in the wild. Dry season and wet season are 2 (two) important seasons of the year that tourists can visit the park to track these remarkable creatures. Each season comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Most importantly, they are all divided based on months of the years.

Dry season

This season occurs in the months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December. These months are also popularly known as the peak season in Uganda. For tourists who are planning for their gorilla safari holidays to Uganda, they should note that the dry season is best time for them to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to track the rare mountain gorillas in the wild. Mountain gorillas live in temperate weathered places with high altitude, the climate is kept cool throughout the year and this makes the dry season the best time for any traveler to catch the most captivating and unforgettable experiences with these impressive wild creatures. During this season, the rains drop down and the gorilla habitat is kept relatively drier and this makes gorilla trekking easier for trekkers. However, being a dry season does not mean that there is no rainfall at all, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park experiences Equatorial type of climate and visitors should expect rain showers any time of the day! It can rain shortly about 30minutes to 1 hour but this does stop visitors from tracking mountain gorillas. It is also during this season that the prices for Uganda’s gorilla trekking permits remain at $600 for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents.

Wet season

The wet season (March to May and October to November) is certainly the perfect time for tourists traveling on budget to have fantastic experiences with the wild mountain gorillas. Tourists who get into the misty valleys of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park during this season are rewarded with exceptional encounters with these impressive primates. The advantage with the wet season is that there is plenty of plant forage for the mountain gorillas to feed on and this means that, they spend much of their time within the foothills of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Viewing these primates during this season in most cases takes visitors the shortest time. The only disadvantage with wet season is that, the gorilla habitat can experience heavy rainfall which makes the trails muddy and slippery for and that is why many visitors tend to dodge tracking mountain gorillas during this season.

Whereas tracking mountain gorillas during wet season is said to be hard due to muddy and slippery steep slopes, it also comes with low gorilla trekking permits especially in the months of April, May and November ($450 for foreign non residents, $400 foreign residents and shs.150000 for East African residents). As well, the lodges and notable accommodation facilities in and around the park will charge tourist low prices for their accommodation because during this season there is low occupancy rate.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking is a breathtaking experience and any visitor who is planning to have safari holiday in the misty valleys of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Southwestern Uganda should be physically fit to able to hike through the dense forest and terrain. If you are organizing a gorilla safari, you should therefore take note of the most favorable conditions despite the low prices in the low season. With this, the best time for any visitor who is planning to come for a gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is during the 2 dry seasons that occurs from June to July to August and December to January to February that come with best weather conditions (the trails are drier and tracking mountain gorillas is simpler compared to wet season). The worst weather conditions take place between March to May and September to November (These months are associated with heavy rainfall and gorilla habitat in most cases is wet making gorilla trekking hard for tourists).

REVIEW: Top Gorilla Safaris in 2017 Rated by Experts

Sticking to the belief that all gorilla safaris are expensive has been outdated by experts who organize gorilla trips and still believe there are many budget gorilla safaris that one can enjoy at affordable rates. It’s surely a grand primate adventure that features tracking gorillas in Bwindi National Park. Mgahinga national park, Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park.

2 Days Bwindi Gorilla Safari from Kigali

Did you know flying to Kigali and tracking gorillas in Uganda is the best budget gorilla safari in Africa? This is one of the newest tours and it is offered by selected tour operators. This tour requires only 2 days with one night accommodation .You will be picked up from Kigali with an overnight stay in Bwindi national park the ultimate destination for gorilla trekking in 2017. Next morning go for gorilla tracking in one of the habituated gorilla groups and experience the long waited wildlife encounter in the jungle forest. After meeting gorillas drive back to Kigali with a drop off at the airport for your home flight. To sum it up this gorilla safari saves time and money making gorilla trekking safaris affordable and cheap.

Uganda gorilla trekking  (3 Days, 2 Nights)

The most charming budget trek from Kampala to Bwindi National Park. This can be private with your own car and driver at only $950 or backpacking  at less than $700 all inclusive. There are several features that make the trip very outstanding like the Equator, Lake Mburo wildlife, Igongo cultural museum, Batwa people, waterfalls and much more. To track gorillas one must book his or her gorilla trekking tour in time in order to reserve the trip essentials especially the gorilla permit the gate pass of to see gorillas. If the expert organizes your trip it’s perhaps the nicest with everything in place just as planned. Pick up on the day is done quite in the morning to bit the early morning city traffic but the drop off is always in the evening at either your lodge or airport.

Congo Gorilla Trek (2 Days, 1 Night)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is another budget safari gorilla destination in Africa for both mountain and low land gorillas. Congo.The Park currently has multiple habituated gorilla families with three most tracked. It’s also possible to start the trip in Uganda and cross via the border of chanika to Virunga National Park.Get a life changing experience in just 2 days in Virunga a park with the most cheap mountain gorilla trekking permits at $450 high season and $200 low season. All international visitors are advised to process there Congo Tourist visa before arrival at a cost of $100 valid for a period of 90 days. When time permits don’t miss to hike Nyiragongo the most impressive volcanoes in Africa.

Lowland Gorilla Trekking Safari in Kahuzi Biega

Get off the beaten track and track the Eastern lowland gorillas during your safari in Africa? Did you know Kahuzi Beiga National park is the only wild place where you can see the eastern lowland gorillas! You can travel on budget into Congo a park from Rwanda and get upclose and personal with the grauer’s gorillas.The park attracts a few travelers who love low land gorillas but the trekking experience is just same like that of mountain gorillas. Tourists are allowed to spend a full hour with gorillas after the encounter and every trek begins with a briefing from the park rangers. However, the difference is that student tourists get discounts on gorilla permits in both high and low season, a thing that applies to all the park tourist activities.

What We can Learn From Dian Fossey’s Gorilla Conservation Spirit

Are you a scientist, conservationist or naturalist? What have you learnt about Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas? Dian Fossey was a primatologist; conservationist, scientist as well as an anthropologist famously known for her research on the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas of the Virunga complex in 1960’s and 1980’s. Spending about 18 years while in the jungles with these remarkable creatures comes with passion and dedication and credit goes to Dian Fossey. Today, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the most popular destinations in the world that attract millions of travelers purposely for mountain gorilla trekking and this has not come for the sake but simply because of Dian Fossey’s legacy to conserve mountain gorillas. Her told stories in her book and later a movie “Gorillas in the Mist” can easily be accessed globally. Before this book was published and the movie appeared to the public, hardly did the world know anything about these impressive creatures or why they are the world’s critically endangered species. We credit her because currently, millions of people are aware about wild mountain gorillas something that has simplified their conservation on this planet.

Dian Fossey spent hours and hours with these spectacular primates something that built a strong bond between her and the mountain gorillas in African wilderness. It is such a strong background that the world has understood value of conserving mountain gorillas and their habitat. As well, we are able to understand the complex feelings and collective aptitudes of mountain gorillas and their real threats that from time and again have claimed their lives.

Drawing links between mountain gorillas and humans:

Dian Fossey made splendid findings her research in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda and one of which was that mountain gorillas were very social. Her research indicated the gentleness that these wild creatures demonstrate to one another in the jungles. Mountain gorillas are on wholly the most harmonious animals and only indicate bouts of attack when guarding their babies. She also found out that every mountain gorilla had a different temperament and this explains why she named each mountain gorilla that she met. The other finding that she made was that the rare mountain gorillas attach a strong feeling with their family members. They also mourn just like humans. To Dian Fossey, mountain gorillas share numerous human characteristics especially playing and tickling and this helps us to understand more about human biology.

The escalating threat to mountain gorillas:

This is also something that we shouldn’t forget about Dian Fossey. Many mountain gorillas are protected around the Virunga Volcanoes just within the leaps of Virunga National Park. The park covers many of African states and has unfortunately faced several instabilities for about 2 decades. In the 1990’s, Dian Fossey was forcefully displaced at a time of political insurgency, which came with numerous threats to the lives of mountain gorillas that reside around this area.  This also made thousands to be displaced and they resided adjacent the Virunga complex national parks of which has caused intense poaching and mountain gorilla habitat depletion. In addition, the rebel group has also occupied many areas of the park where half of mountain gorillas reside. This has made the work of conservationists to protect these critically endangered species very hard. There are nearly 14o Virunga game rangers who have lost their lives on the frontline of protecting the mountain gorillas since 1996.

The efforts that have been to conserve these creatures extend up to date. Unfortunately, the civil wars in DRC and oil mining have turned to be the stressful factors on endeavors to protect the mountain gorillas. The Virunga National Park protects about 200 mountain gorillas many of which are orphaned gorillas.

In 1970’s, Rwanda on the other hand had only 240 mountain gorillas which is a different case today. Currently, there are less than 900 mountain gorillas that are still surviving in the world and out of this, about 62% of all those that live within the Virunga Massif can be found in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Despite this increase, mountain gorillas are still at the point of extinction in the world and this is nothing other than poaching and habitat encroachment. When we look at what Dian Fossey instructed us concerning these impressively beautiful primates, it is more useful that we direct her love for these creatures into their conservation. It is as a result of Dian Fossey’s conservation endeavors that mountain gorillas have become the only primates whose population is escalating.

Encroachment and mountain gorillas

To conserve the 900 mountain gorillas that are left in the world toady means that we first understand the exact threats that these endangered species are encountering. These threats include poaching, disease, habitat loss and charcoal burning and these have impacted on the decrease of these species either directly or indirectly.

Due to the ever escalating population, humans have moved into areas next to gorilla habitat. This human pressure has also claimed gorilla habitat given the fact that many people largely depend on farming and as a result, these endangered species are displaced from their natural habitats. Living adjacent the park where these primates stay means their lives are at a higher risk of contracting human diseases and illnesses given the fact that they share 98% of their genes with humans makes them to be very susceptible to human diseases. Dian Fossey’s research therefore was crucial in opening up a better understanding of human beings by recognizing our close relatives.

Charcoal burning also leads to deforestation in the gorilla habitat. Despite the fact that charcoal burning is not a legal act, the largest population of adjacent local community residents depend on charcoal as the main source of fuel. Others threats include illegal hunting of mountain gorillas. Although poachers kill Apes for their body parts, in most cases, mountain gorillas are not their main targets; the only unfortunate part of it is that mountain gorillas get entangled into the wire snares and traps which are laid for other species.

Conserving mountain gorillas in Dian Fossey’s memory:

Dian Fossey was animated woman and the heartfelt that she had assisted to save the critically endangered mountain gorillas. At one point Dian Fossey said “when you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on past and concentrate more on the conservation of the future.” We may not alter the current situation that has caused the decrease of the mountain gorillas but we can and we must, as brilliant and empathetic human beings, change the future. You can as well assist to conserve the mountain gorillas by supporting the endeavors of protection groups like Dian Fossey’s Gorilla Fund, Adopt a Mountain gorilla or simply donate towards conservation of mountain gorillas. Above all, go on a Rwanda Gorilla Safari and by so doing you would have supported conservation of mountain gorillas not only in Volcanoes National Park but across the world. We realize that Dian Fossey’s effort to conserve mountain gorillas was useful but, her personal commitment to the lives of these endangered species and her emphasis on the value of these creatures can have a long lasting effect. In case these creatures survive on earth due to her efforts to conserve them then that will certainly be her biggest achievement.

In conclusion, Dian Fossey was backbone of mountain gorilla conservation not only in Rwanda but also Africa at large. The more we put our efforts to conserve these endangered species the more their population increases and thus tourists can be able to enjoy authentic experiences.

 

5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are currently increasing in numbers after near extinction due to habitat loss, poaching, human diseases and civil conflicts. Thanks to conservation efforts, there are more than 880 individuals in the wild. Being one of the extremely rare animals on earth, the chance to see them in their natural habitat attracts many travelers who book their gorilla trekking safaris to Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorillas are closely related to human beings

Mountain gorillas share 95% of their DNA with humans. Research has therefore proved that gorillas share a number of similarities with humans. They exhibit emotions such as unhappiness, laughter and grooming each other. They also communicate to each other through vocalizations and body language such as hand gestures. The silverback gorillas will often beat their chest and make noise to signal to other members that there’s a threat or an intruder into their home.

Mountain gorillas play sex for both pleasure and reproduction.

Gorillas have been observed having face to face sexual intercourse. Females use sex as a trick to win favor from silverback gorillas as well as prevent the rival females from mating with their male. This sort of competitive behavior explains why dominant females close their mouth and court their silverback males by staying around them to prevent other females from mating.

Female mountain gorillas have a gestation period of nine months just like humans. Females start reproduction when they are ten years old and have the ability to give birth to twins or single baby at a time. In their life span which between 35 to 50 years; they can more than six babies. After birth, females hold their babies tight in the chest until they’re four months old to be carried on the backs.

Mature male gorillas are called Silverbacks.

Whereas females don’t experience any changes in their hair, the male gorillas normally develop silver-like hair on their back and hips hence the origin of the name Silverback. As people tend to relate the silver hair to grey hair that men develop in the process of aging, it is a sign that male gorillas have reached sexual maturity at the age of 12 years. As a result, other gorillas start to respect the silverback as the head of the gorilla family which can be as large as 30 members.

However much a single gorilla family may have two or more silverbacks, there’s always one that leads and protects the group. In addition to protecting family members, silverbacks also command activities such as feeding range, movement, resting and nesting. Silverbacks also pact as parent the young gorillas. And babies will always move and stay around the silverback most of the time because it’s their father, protection and strength.

Mountain gorillas do not survive in captivity and live only in Africa.

Apparently, there’s no single mountain gorilla living in captivity. Mountain gorillas live in a unique tropical mountainous environment and the conditions cannot be replicated elsewhere.    There are only two separate habitats where mountain gorilla population lives. The Virunga massif is one and appears to be the largest habitat as the volcanoes straddle the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo. The second is Bwindi impenetrable forest national park which is home to half of the mountain gorilla population. Bwindi forest is isolated about 20 miles from the Virunga volcanoes and this has led to speculations and rumors that Bwindi gorillas might be a different subspecies. There’s no scientific evidence however to ascertain this claim.

Would you like to meet the mountain gorillas in the wild? Why not book a gorilla safari today and get close to these great apes. Well trained guides will lead you on a trek to meet these forest dwellers in their natural home. By the end of the tour, you will be well equipped with a lot of information about these apes!

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS AND THEIR HABITAT IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Do you wish to become a zoologist or primatologist? Do you know where mountain gorillas are found in the world? With less than 900 mountain gorillas that are still surviving in the world, trekkers have less than 4 months this year to achieve their dreams in the remotest national parks in the heart of Africa. Mountain gorilla adventure is one of the breathtaking adventures and undoubtedly the most sought after experience that you must include in the list of activities to do while in your safari to Africa. Spend an hour with these tremendous creatures in their natural habitat and you will appreciate the magical experiences thereafter. A face to face encounter with mountain gorilla in the wild is once a life time experience and count visiting Volcanoes National Park, Northwestern Rwanda a must for you achieve your long time dreams. A 160 square kilometer national park is a home to over 62% of all the mountain gorillas that live within the Virunga Massif. Besides, visitors also get a glimpse of golden monkeys as well as the stunning 5 Virunga Mountains which include Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. If you are planning a safari to Rwanda, you should expect to catch a glimpse of not just mountain gorillas but also a thousand hills.

Just like humans, mountain gorillas stay in varied families with a dominant silverback gorilla. They are the world’s popular largest primates and staring at them is only possible once you set yourself into habituated gorilla families basically during gorilla trekking. This means you have to walk in the tracks of the mountain gorillas as you look for them via the dense jungles. Gorilla trekking also means a trek via forested highlands to see gorillas and mostly you follow the areas where they retired for a night the previous day. In Rwanda, there are 10 habituated gorilla groups that are allocated for visitors to trek.

Mountain gorillas together with their sub-species are named based on their habitat locations. For lowland gorillas, they are found in the montane forests while the rare mountain gorillas relax high within altitude of up to 10000 feet just on the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park. For lowland gorillas, they are commonly sighted at dense tropical rain forests around Central Africa especially in countries of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Gabon, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Odzala kokoau national park.

Volcanoes National Park has distinct vegetation cover mainly because of large altitudinal variations. The lower montane forest straddles between 2400 and 2500 meters together with Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 to 3200 meters, you will find Arundinaria alpine also known bamboo forest and it spans up to 30% within the Volcanoes National Park. Hypericum forest on the other hand can be seen on the humid slopes in the South and West between 2600 and 3600 meters and it also spans to about 30% in the park. You will also find Hagenia Abyssinica and this covers the biggest portion of the park.

Between 3500 and 4200 meters above sea level, Volcanoes vegetation is characterized by L. lanurensis, senecio erici rosenii and Lobelia wollastonii and this takes almost 25% in the park’s area. The grassland can be found within altitude 4300 and 4500 meters above sea level while the marshes, secondary thicket, small lakes, meadows as well as swamps cover relatively small portion.

Given the fact that mountain gorillas are herbivores; they depend mainly on plant species such as wild celery, thistle and nettles which make almost 150 different plants. They depend on specific trees like bamboo and bracket fungus and their main food plants grow within the cool moist montane climate. During the wet season, the Bamboo forest remains tender and greener and the Bamboo shoots can contain about 84% of water with an extra trocatea, flowers, stems, roots, soft bamboo leaves and during the dry season, the black berries are main food for the mountain gorillas.

However, when there is food shortage within their habitat, a gorilla trekking adventure also becomes difficult since they usually roam around many areas within the park searching for food unlike the wet season when they can be passive due to plenty of food. Tracking gorillas during this season also becomes ideal as they can be found within the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park. A mature mountain gorilla eats almost 60 pounds of the vegetation every day.

Besides being large, powerful and muscular primates, mountain gorillas are also known as the most affectionate, humble, shy and social creatures that live harmoniously in their families. Mountain gorilla family ranges from 2 to 30 to 40 individuals but in most cases, they live in a family of ten. These rare species don’t have a mating season and infants are born throughout the year. The male gorilla begins breeding around 15 years while the females give birth from 10 to 12 years. Gorillas give birth after every 2 to 3 years which counts about 4 to six babies in the course of their lifespan.

A male gorilla is normally two times the size of female gorilla and they stretch up to 6 foot tall and weighs between 350 and 500 pounds. The male gorilla is called silverback simply because of their grey hair on the back. A male gorilla is ten times stronger and the arms stretch out long.  They usually have longer and darker hair given the fact that they stay in colder climate especially at a higher altitude unlike the lowland gorilla that are a bit smaller and brownish grey coats and brown ridge. They have a life span of 40 to 50 years.

Big male gorillas allow the young gorillas to climb all over them without any resistance and at 11 years, male gorillas tend to leave their families. Gorillas use over 25 distinct sounds and usually they use grunts, shouts and roars. Just like humans, a mother gorilla takes care of her baby gorilla up to four years and after the 4 years the mother gorilla conceives another one.

Besides tracking mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, Visitors also have higher chances of viewing other mammal species and Apes that are equally of great importance to travelers for instance the rare golden monkeys, bushbuck, spotted hyena, black fronted duikers and buffaloes as well as 178 birds that are on record. The 13 species and 16 sub-species of birds that are found in the Volcanoes National Park are endemic to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.

In conclusion, mountain gorillas are the world’s critically endangered species, they share nearly 97% of their genes with humans making them to be most susceptible creatures to human diseases. Volcanoes National Park is made up of varied vegetation cover that inhabits distinct wildlife species that is why mountain gorillas can be tracked within the bamboo forest.

4 Amazing Places to Visit for an Affordable Gorilla Safari in 2017

Rwanda might not be the best gorilla trekking destination for those travelling on budget given the increased gorilla permit prices! Since this was the favorite destination for tourists intending to spend less on their safari, many travelers intending to visit the gorillas have started looking for other affordable destinations! Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo are now the best places for budget gorilla safaris. It no longer has appealing gorilla permit prices for budget gorilla treks all year though one can explore other tourist attractions under the best moderate weather. The Kigali city vibe and beauty can be still experienced if travelers fly to Kigali and track gorillas in Uganda or Congo. That doesn’t mean that you will miss to explore the cleanest city in Africa and other country affordable attractions like Nyungwe forest famous for chimpanzees, Akagera National Park for wildlife, Kigali city and Lake Kivu the honey moon paradise in the land of thousand hills.

Many travelers love tracking gorillas during the months of June, July, August, September, October, December , January and March that many agree as the best time to see gorillas  yet even those who track gorillas in promotional months of April, May and November experience the best. During the dry period, hiking and trekking in the jungle forest is manageable and the treks seem easy for many travelers. However, promotional months are best for budget gorilla safaris and most gorilla trekking parks offer discounts on permits. Congo gorilla permits go for only $200 and Uganda for only $450 per a trek unlike in Rwanda where gorilla permit prices are fixed year round at $1500.

Apart from Gorilla permits one needs, transport and accommodation to get around and experience the most well conserved natural forests. Gets a pleasant primate viewing experience by tracking gorillas in Uganda and Congo on budget and Rwanda on luxury.

Uganda Gorilla trekking

Uganda is very well organized country for gorilla trekking tours and easy to get around. It has exclusive atmosphere with plenty of water adventure if you know where to find them. However, tour agents can make arrangements in just a minute that will enable you have a great time all through. Local people are friendly and welcoming and most of them speak English the national language that is easily used in all tourism aspects. You can quickly get want you want if you speak English.

Summers are indeed best time to go gorilla trekking in either Bwindi forest National Park or Mgahinga national park the only two mountain gorilla trekking destinations in Uganda. Everything will work in your favour either on private gorilla safari, self-drive or backpacking if you reserve your gorilla trekking essentials in time. Due to gorilla permit high demand all year better to confirm your travel essential books at least a month before travel. But if luck you will get a gorilla trekking permit even at the last minute. The fact is that all gorilla permits are sold basing on first come first serve. Gorilla trekking experience in Uganda is very affordable with gorilla permits at $600 high season and $450 low season unlike in other destinations and the reward is a great quality life gift.

Congo Gorilla Trekking

Congo has everything you may need to see gorillas either mountain or low land gorillas and the best part is that its 100% the cheapest in east Africa and among mountain gorilla trekking destinations in the world. There are different tourist activities available for tourists each day in Congo depending on what one wants. The main park for mountain gorilla trekking Virunga has, chimpanzee habituation, Nyiragongo volcano hike, bird watching and gorilla trekking as the main park tourist activities. Though travelers are free to explore other neighboring attractions like Bonobos the most amazing primates that behave like real humans, landscape and the Congolese culture.

Kahuzi Biega National park is another low land gorilla trekking national park in Bukavu perhaps a best budget gorilla trekking destination in Africa. The park is less explored, well conserved with a lot to offer to its guests beyond gorillas. If your interest is to see both low land and mountain gorillas better to discover the hidden gems of Congo that is best accessed via Gisenyi Rwanda. Just fly to Rwanda Kigali international Airport and then connect to Democratic Republic of Congo your gorilla trekking destination of choice.Enjoy your gorilla trekking vacation and save big for the next travel destination.

How Long Does a Gorilla Trek Last?

The moment you mention Rwanda or Uganda, many people’s minds rush to the endangered mountain gorillas. It is true with no doubt, gorilla tracking is the most sought after adventurous safari done in these two African countries. Every year these two countries attract a huge number of travelers all over the world who live their beautiful offices and homes and come and spend some quality time with these endangered apes deep into the forest.

In Rwanda mountain gorillas are hosted  in Volcanoes national park which is located in the northern part of the country.

In Uganda the endangered apes are housed in two national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park . Both parks are located in the south western part of Uganda. Gorilla tracking is regarded as one of the most interesting safari activities one should not love to miss, although sometimes it’s too demanding since it involves passing through the thick and sometimes muddy forest. Many tourists taking gorilla safaris in Uganda are very eager to know how long it takes during the process of gorilla tracking.

The time taken during the search of gorillas is one of the most asked questions by gorilla trekkers. Answering this question is not easy because it involves a lot of variables. The gorilla tracking process can be divided into 2 stages; the first stage is that one which begins from the lodge to the park headquarters. It involves early wake-up from the lodge and then after a cup of tea/coffee, you will be driven to the park headquarters to receive short briefings from the park wardens/seniors ranger guide. This process can be well predictable and it’s generally quite flat and light. Depending on where you slept the previous night, you can easily drive from the lodge to the park; it’s just about 30 to 1hr drive from most of the lodges especially those outside the park although it’s sometimes depends on the speed of the driver and the road condition. During the dry season one can easily drive from the lodge to the park compared to the rainy season which is characterized with tough roads.

The 2nd stage of gorilla tracking is regarded unpredictable and the toughest stage! It involves moving from the park headquarters/park boundary here you are escorted by the park ranger guide deep into the forest and each group involves only eight members. This stage involves moving deep in to the forest to begin the search of gorillas. This stage is unpredictable since gorillas are wild animals. They move freely in their natural habitat so the time taken to meet them can’t be predictable. There are some gorilla families which can be seen easily compared to others. The toughness of this second phase is determined by very many factors including; the weather condition and food location, in that during the rainy seasons, the roads and gorilla paths becomes muddy hence making it very difficult to traverse making the all process of gorilla tracking very difficult and also the food location when there is no food in the forest, the gorillas tend to feed very far making it very difficult to meet them this especially during the dry season.

The physical condition of the gorilla trekkers and the age also determines the toughness of the trek. Less physically fit and old trekkers are assigned to easy to find gorilla families and the young or physically strong are assigned to tough gorilla families although it’s not a guarantee the one seems to be easy to find gorilla families may turn to be difficult and vice versa. In Rwanda the susa gorilla families are known as the tough and difficult to find gorilla families, this group is always assigned to people of below 40 years and those who are physically fit whereas the Sabyinyo gorilla family is known as Rwanda’s easy to find gorilla families and its known as a reliably straight forward to reach group compared to any other Rwanda gorilla family, within 2 hours the gorillas can be seen and by 1pm you are out of the forest. In Rwanda the group allocation is always determined on the date of gorilla tracking this means no one is ascertain to which gorilla family to track in advance. The Ranger guide can assist the trekkers to negotiate with the park wardens/senior ranger guide to assign the trackers to the most suitable group in line to their age, Physical fitness, and interest.

Before heading into the forest to track the endangered mountain gorillas, please note the following

  • don’t forget to put on sturdy pair of walking shoes/boots,
  • Carry bottled water and sometimes packed food,
  • A walking stick is essential and most of the time provided it is provided to you at the park headquarters/ at the lodge
  • Carry a bag and it’s much better if it’s water proofed
  • Carry a jacket or a rain jacket since tracking is done in the tropical rain forest it can rain at any time,
  • Other important things to carry include sun glass, a hat, gloves.

In case you need a porter, you can hire one from the park headquarters, they help to carry your luggage, and in case you feel tired he can help to carry you. Hiring a porter is not a sign of exploitation, it’s just a way how they can earn a living from foreigners and the money they get help to look after their families and pay fees to their children.

SINGLE GORILLA TREKKING VS DOUBLE GORILLA TREKKING

Around the world, there are very few destinations that offer the remotest and authentic touch of wildlife experiences except Africa. Despite the incredible people, Africa is credited for its dramatic wildlife species that for long have left a life time memory in the minds of a million travelers. There is nothing more exciting in African safari than sighting at the rare mountain gorillas, Eastern Lowland and the Western Lowland gorillas relaxed in the jungles of Africa. A face to face interaction with these spectacular wild creatures for just one hour indeed comes with the most unforgettable experiences of a life time. Gorillas are in Africa and the most important thing of all is that, mountain gorilla trekking is only done in the greater Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Just along the Western army of the Great East African Rift Valley, is where you can find these remarkable and remotest national parks. All gorillas are listed as endangered species but one unique thing is that a few of them are enlisted in the IUCN red book as the critically endangered except mountain gorillas. Currently, it is estimated that only 950 mountain gorillas are still surviving in the world and only found in three of African countries.

Mountain gorillas are only found in the wild especially between altitudes of 2400 kilometers and 4507 kilometers and hence their name. Karisimbi is the highest peak in the Virunga region and despite inhabiting the critically endangered mountain gorillas, there is also a lush green bamboo zone around the Virunga. Whereas Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that lies in south-western Uganda, comes with its misty valleys and the most challenging hikes given the fact the thickness and hence the difficulty to penetrate through the forest hinders photo taking and clear views, visitors are then offered opportunity to spend more than a single day tracking mountain gorillas.

While looking at the comparison between single and double gorilla trekking, visitors ought to understand the following:

Single gorilla treks denote that visitors have a chance to only one gorilla permits (pass). This is relatively affordable for visitors, for single day trekking experiences as they cost $1500 per visitor in Rwanda, $600 per visitor for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents in Uganda and $450 in DRC. The experiences thereafter are equally the same and in most cases having a second trek (double) the next may not be necessary as the cost may also double. However, visitors can still go to view the mountain gorillas twice as it offers a comparative advantage. In the first trek, visitors can easily find mountain gorillas relaxed, lazy and resting or even feeding in the dense vegetation which also makes it challenging to take photos clearly and thus a hindrance to visitor’s encounters.

Visitors who get into mountain gorilla habitat the next day can easily be rewarded with more experiences although this also comes with a higher cost compared to single gorilla trekking.  The advantage with double gorilla trekking is that visitors have higher chances to experience much about mountain gorillas and hence more memories to share with dear ones.

In terms of photo taking:

Most travelers who go for single gorilla trekking have higher risks of missing flights, falling sick or ill and hence retrieving gorilla pass and this can be termed as a “No show” which also means that such a visitor can also miss out on the first trek and hence double gorilla trekking is worth for such a person to achieve his or her dreams.

Visitors should also note that not all gorilla groups have the same gorilla members or family size; some gorilla groups are larger than others in size and it will be the visitor’s unfortunate experience to find him or herself tracking a gorilla group with very few female gorillas or black backs or baby gorillas. This comes with an impact as it reduces on the level of visitors excitement in the jungle compared to a person who travels for two gorilla treks where he or she has higher opportunities of experience a lot of excitement and fun as well as clear photographs in the jungle with mountain gorillas.

Although many travelers wish to go for double gorilla trek, it is a bit costly as a visitor has to double the figure for instance in Rwanda $1500 times 2 or $600 times 2 in Uganda.

Visitors who go for double gorilla trekking safaris have a wider array of options to choose a gorilla family to track after going through the first trek an example can be gorilla families like Sabyinyo which is competitive in terms of accessibility since every one can be struggling for it but if a visitor goes for the first trek and this means the second or double gorilla trekking is inevitable.

Mountain gorilla trekking is incomparable to any trekking bit it trekking mountain Everest or trekking in Naples. For mountain gorilla trekking, it is the rarest experience of a kind as many visitors can even wish to go for as many times as possible. Visitors tend to choose a double day adventure with mountain gorillas because the first day the trek can easily be affected by rains or bad sighting.

In conclusion, mountain gorilla trekking is the most spectacular experience that rewards travelers who wish to achieve their long time dreams. Tracking mountain gorillas requires visitors to be physically fit to hike through the tropical rain forests in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. You can choose to track these rare species for one day or two days. The single day is mostly associated with photo taking then the second day can be for actual watching. It is important that you arrange your safari for both treks to help you make your comparisons thereafter.