Comparing Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation

Comparing Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituationIt is that perfect time to accomplish that life time goal of seeing the Mountain Gorillas in the wild jungles of Uganda or Rwanda. You are however undecided on whether to take up the Gorilla habituation experience or the regular Gorilla trekking. As you plan, here is an insight into Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation that can help you make an informed decision based on your preferences and interests.

First and foremost, in both Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation, tourists meet wild Gorillas in their natural habitat under strict observance of the trekking rules. The major difference is that tourists are meeting already habituated Gorilla groups during Gorilla trekking and yet with the habituation experience, a tourist participates in habituating the group. It’s much like the full day with chimpanzees at Ngamba.

Comparing Gorilla Trekking and Gorilla habituation

Time with the Gorillas

The Gorilla habituation experience is an extended adventure compared to the regular Gorilla trekking. While standard treks usually last about one hour, a habituation experience can last up to four hours. During this time, visitors have the unique chance to witness various aspects of the Gorilla’s life. Please note that the one hour or four hours time of observing the animals do not include the time taken to find them.

Time taken to find the Gorillas

The time taken to find the Gorillas is more predictable in the habituation experience than regular trekking. Please note that all Gorilla groups are monitored everyday by trackers irrespective the park has visitors or not. When it’s a day for habituation, the visitors with researchers and trackers meet the Gorillas at the same time. That is very early before they shutter their nests to start off the day. For Gorilla trekking, it is the trackers who locate them first and direct the rangers and guides coming with tourists on the easiest route to find them.

Tracking Location for Gorilla trekking Vs Gorilla habituation

Gorilla habituation is unique to Bwindi National Park Rushaga sector and yet regular Gorilla trekking can be done in all the four national parks that harbor Mountain Gorillas. These parks are Mgahinga Gorilla Park, Volcanoes Park in Rwanda, Virunga Park in Congo and Bwindi itself. Looking at Uganda’s Bwindi National Park in particular, Regular Gorilla trekking is offered in all its four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. The habituation experience takes place in Rushaga sector only.

Number of Gorilla families and permits available per day

The fact that habituated families are many, there are more Gorilla trekking permits per day than for habituation. There are over 20 habituated Gorilla families in Uganda and each family is visited by a maximum of 8 visitors which implies a larger number of available permits. Gorilla habituation on the other hand is currently taking place to only 2 families where each family is visited by a maximum of four people. The available permits for habituation per day are therefore eight.

Permit Price – Comparing Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation

The Gorilla habituation permit price in Uganda is US$1500 and yet a Gorilla trekking permit is at US$700. Please note that the price of the Gorilla habituation in Uganda is the cost of one Gorilla trekking permit for Rwanda. It’s also interesting to note that the $1500 for habituation permit or a Gorilla permit in Rwanda is the price of a 3 days Uganda Gorilla trekking Safari from either Kigali (Rwanda) or Kampala (Uganda). Thought it important to know that as you plan a Gorilla Safari in Africa.

Visitor Category Gorilla habituation Permit Gorilla Trekking Permit
Foreign Non-Resident $1,500 $700
Foreign Resident in Uganda/EA $1,000 $600
Ugandan/EAC Ug Shs750,000 Ug Shs250,000

Time for the activities

The Gorilla habituation experience typically begins much earlier at 6.30am than the normal Gorilla trekking adventure that starts at 8.30. The early start for the habituation is another great opportunity to witness how Gorillas get out of their nests to start the day. In both cases however, the treks are preceded with a briefing from park rangers and researchers before visitors and guides set out to track the Gorilla groups. On the journey, you may encounter other fascinating wildlife, such as forest elephants, primates, and a multitude of bird species.

Time spent with the Gorillas

Once the Gorilla family is located during habituation, the visitor has four hours of observing their social behaviors, interactions, feeding habits, photographing, movements and other activities in their natural habitat. For the usual Gorilla trekking, it is only one hour.

What are the chances of finding the Gorillas?

In both habituation and the usual Gorilla trekking, the chances of seeing the Gorillas are 98%. However, habituated Gorillas present some calmness since they are already used to strangers unlike the unhabituated ones that always free when approached. You have to use some extra effort and skills to go after them more especially when still in the initial stages of habituation.

Additionally, the Gorillas for the habituation experience are less used to humans making the experience more unpredictable. As for regular trekking where Gorillas are less bothered by human presence, you are sure of some welcome gestures. However, it is always important to remember that Gorillas are wild animals whose behavior can hardly be predicted at all the times.

Age limit – Comparing Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation

The age limit for both is uniform. Both trekking and habituation are restricted to any individual of below 15 years. With out discriminating the age, statistics have come to show that habituation is mainly taken up by people of 30 years and above while regular trekking can be signed up by any one from 15 years and above.

During Gorilla trekking, groups get divided according to fitness levels and each group gets assigned a group to track for the day. For Gorilla habituation, there is no such categorization of visitors.

How to prepare for Gorilla habituation and Gorilla Trekking

Apart from the varying cost of a Gorilla trekking and a habituation safari experience, preparations for the activity/safari do not differ. See how to prepare for Gorilla trekking.

Best time to visit for Gorilla habituation and Gorilla trekking

The best time in both cases is ideally during the dry months when trails are drier and therefore passable. The dry months are June to Mid-September and December to February. However, note that both activities are available and can be done at any time of the year although the wet months present some challenges in navigating the forest.

Whether you are an avid wildlife enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a profound connection with our closest relatives; embarking on a Gorilla trekking or habituation journey will undoubtedly leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the incredible primates that call Uganda home. So, pack your bags, prepare your camera, and get ready for a journey of a lifetime – meeting the Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat through habituation or regular trekking.

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