Bwindi is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Bwindi is considered to be the richest biodiversity forest in East Africa with hundreds of plant species, birds and other wildlife. The main tourist activity in the park is tracking the mountain gorillas. Bwindi has different habituated gorillas groups open for gorilla trekking tours in Uganda. There are groups in the northern sector of the park, 03 in Ruhija and 03 groups in the Buhoma and southern sector, in Kisoro district – 08 of which are in Rushaga and the other one is Nkuringo.
The supreme threat to the mountain gorillas is human encroachment for settlement around them. previously there was a slash as well as burn mentality however, through an educational program by the Uganda Wildlife Authority plus cash motivation to the community through the tourism industry that the gorillas within Uganda are today no longer as threatened by various poachers as it was in the DRC. Additionally they are threatened by various diseases transmitted by human visitors into the park, and for that reason the Uganda Wildlife Authority has set up strict rules to prevent spreading of such diseases. All this has come in place to save the lives of mountain gorillas in Bwindi.
Visitors into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest frequently inquire if mountain gorillas are dangerous? Although dominant and very strong, these are gentle as well as shy, and in addition the mountain gorillas which visitors see within Uganda have been habituated. In other words they are habituated to people, which process that takes close to 2 years. Dian Fossey actually was against the idea of visiting mountain gorillas which is done today, however it’s the money collected that survival of this endangered species, and seen their number increase over the recent years.
There are more than seven hundred and eighty six mountain gorillas in the whole world. Uganda hold close to half of their total population, and the majority of them live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, whereas the others are found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park; however these at times cross over to Rwanda.
Fortunately the Gorillas are growing in numbers because of the protection they are offered from the government of Uganda which also included efforts of the adjacent communities to the parks to whom part of the USD 600 fee of Gorilla tracking permits charged from foreign visitors to Mgahinga as well as Bwindi is offered to them in order to have a strong protection to the gorillas.
A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioural disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases. Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest. DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you. You will be taken to where the guides observed the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail to find them. Look out for the gorilla’s nesting sites along the way! When you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will inform you to get ready. A 7 meter (21 feet) distance should try to be observed at all times from the gorillas.
The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be. You must stay in tight group whey you are near the gorillas. Keep your voices down at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions. Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking inevitably will increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases. Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass).
Do not attempt to run away because that will increase the risk. Flash photography is not permitted! When taking pictures move slowly and carefully. Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals. The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will finish the visit early. After the visit keep your voices down until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas. All these rules are part of the gorilla Eco-tourism which needs to be observed in order to save the gorilla lives.