Gorillas are one of the most magnificent animals. According to the most
recent gorilla census in 2018, about 1,100 are left in the world. Most of them live in the bamboo slopes in the mountains of Bwindi impenetrable rainforest.
Bwindi forest is found in the border between Uganda and the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
The Habituation Experience
Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular wildlife experiences in Africa.
However, an even more thrilling experience is now open to travelers
interested in a gorilla safari in Uganda – the Gorilla habituation experience.
The gorilla habituation experience is only possible in Bwindi. Gorilla
habituation consists of training wild gorillas to become used to having people around them. That’s right, you can be part of such a great event!
Gorilla habituation takes groups of many people to pull it out. Some of them are trackers, researchers and rangers. These people spend between 2 to 3 years with the gorillas before declaring them habituated.
Only four visitors are allowed to take part in the gorilla habituation experience. You can be a part of this experience by joining the group that goes up the mountains each day to visit the gorillas. There’s limited space so you need to book your spot in advance. The gorilla habituation experience is organized throughout the year but the dry months of December to March, and then, July to October are best for visiting. Bear in mind that this is a task that is rarely done, so make sure you don't miss your window to do it.
Differences from regular gorilla trekking
Though in the gorilla trekking you can also see these animals, it’s not as close and involving as the gorilla habituation experience. Whereas 8 people are allowed to track the primates during gorilla trekking, only 4 visitors can take part in the habituation experience. During gorilla trekking, you follow a gorilla family from a distance for only one hour.
In the habituation experience, you can spend up to 4 hours with them. Moreover, you get to learn a lot about gorilla conservation from some of the best primate researchers. Because of this, permits for the latter costs around 1500 USD per person. But, the one hour gorilla permit costs 600 USD.
There are 14 gorilla families or groups open to tourism in Bwindi. Only two of them are open for the habituation experience. During this process, people get to know the gorillas in depth.
They learn about their behaviors and their personalities. After spending some hours with them, you will learn things about each one of them. You can even name them! The gorilla habituation experience also allows researchers to find out how success the habituation process was.
As the group continues to adapt to living with humans around them, they are eventually considered ready for the standard gorilla trekking.
How to get there and what to do
To get to Bwindi, you have to travel to the city of Kampala. There you should spend the night at a hotel to build up your energy for the following day. The next morning, you have to get up early and wait for your transfer to take you to the Impenetrable Forest.
There is not much you can do on this second day.
On the third day, your gorilla habituation experience takes place.
For the gorilla habituation experience, you should have a small backpack. It
should only have what you will need.
- Water or some energy drink and
- something to eat (energy bars is the best option).
- It is advisable that you also carry with you insect repellent as you are going into a rainforest. There are lots of mosquitoes!
- You should bring sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Also, a first aid kit just in case,
- A change of clothes is also advisable if you get wet.
- It is also important to wear comfortable and waterproof
- Even though it is usually hot, take a jacket and some trousers.
- Also, to prevent mosquito bites and other insects,’ you should wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers
The items you take should not be heavy, as you will need to carry your pack
with you at all times. Weather conditions and temperature may vary in the rainforest. . If you feel you cannot carry all this stuff, you can always hire a
porter to help you.
Follow the rules
Though gorillas are friendly towards humans, they are still wild animals.
Because of this, some safety measures should be taken into account. In the
presence of gorillas, people should keep a distance of at least 5 meters from
In this way, authorities avoid any direct contact that could transmit a
disease to the animal. Or that could result in an injury to the human. We may not be aware that we are carrying a virus or bacteria and we can transmit it to the gorillas. So if you think you are not feeling very well, please stay at the hotel.
It is crucial to keep the volume of the voices low or just be in silence.
This also helps visitors enjoy the moment and relax. Too many people yelling may scare the animals away. The same goes for flash photos, as it is not allowed. Visitors should try not to move around too much when taking pictures so as not to alert the primates.
Keep food away
Do not eat food or have drinks in front of the gorillas and, especially, do not
feed them! Our food is not good for their health and they can get excited and approach you in a violent manner. So you better wait for the rest stops to eat with your group. Smoking and drinking alcohol are not allowed in any area of the park.
Now that you’ve got all the data you need, you’re ready to go! The gorilla
habituation experience is a life-changing moment. You get to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat, only a few meters away from you. In 4 hours you can learn a lot about these animals and their family.