Minimum age for gorilla trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is such a popular and exciting activity that many travelers to Uganda do not want to miss it out during their Uganda Safari. Nothing is as interesting as traveling together with your whole family for a safari in Uganda. Family safaris are popular and many travelers around the world are choosing destinations and activities that have something for each and every member of the family.
Travelers interested in gorilla trekking safaris can only make their dreams come alive when they visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for Uganda Gorilla Safaris, Volcanoes National Park for Rwanda Gorilla Safaris, and Virunga National Park for Congo Gorilla Safaris.
However, the minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15. This minimum age is set by the government agencies responsible for managing these gorilla sanctuaries.
In Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (U.W.A) is in charge whereas the Rwanda Development Board (R.D.B) is the tourism agency responsible for Rwanda. The minimum age limit is strictly followed in Rwanda but a few exclusions may be made in Uganda to allow a minor of 14 years to trek the mountain gorillas.
Why 15 was chosen as the minimum age for gorilla trekking
Primate researchers and conservationists after scientifically studying the behavior of mountain gorillas over time concluded that 15 years would be the appropriate minimum age for one to go for the Rwanda gorilla tour and Uganda gorillas tour. A number of scientific reasons were given to support why the age of 15 was chosen. Some of these reasons are briefly explained below.
Mountain gorillas are known to be gentle giants but this doesn’t mean they are gentle all times. Mountain gorillas are wild and often times their instincts kick in especially when they feel threatened, intimidated or when they have simply misinterpreted the gesture of excitement from the minor trekkers. Once the gorilla family feels threatened, the dominant silverback will very fast swing into action with displays of different behaviors including chest-thumping and loud roaring. Once such behaviors are displayed by the mountain gorillas, trekkers are expected to act submissive or slowly back off to allow the overcharged mountain gorilla cool down. Children are easily frightened and displaying such behavior towards them may force them screaming or running away from the gorilla and this will trigger the mountain gorillas even more, leading to body harm or injuries to the minors during such an incident. To avoid such a risk from happening, the tourism and wildlife authorities put a minimum age limit.
Gorilla trekking is also a very streneous activity that requires some level of physical fitness by the trekkers. The activity can take between 3 hours to a whole day of walking and therefore the trekkers should be ready to walk through the muddy and dense jungle for over long hours. Minors easily get tired and bored especially when they have walked over long hours. The conditions during the trek require alot of determination and endurance for one to successfully complete. This kind of determination and endurance may be lacking in minors. Once tired, they will want to go back to the starting point and this would distort the entire gorilla trekking activity.
Other than physical fitness, trekkers also have to possess mental fitness. Before undertaking a gorilla trekking safari, alot of mental preparedness is done because of the sophistication of the activity. Coming face-to-face with an ape whose strenghth is equivalent to that of 15 able-bodied men is not something trekkers think of overnight. On average, minors do not book gorilla trekking safaris on their own due to different interests, but rather travel because of the excitement of being in the company of other family members. Minors may therefore not understand what they are getting into and therefore want to retreat before the end of the gorilla trek.
Before undertaking the gorilla trekking activity, trekkers must agree to abide by all the rules and regulations of gorilla trekking. Minors easily get excited and may fail to follow some of these rules such as maintaining a 7-meter distance from the mountain gorillas. On coming face-to-face with these gentle primates, minors may get carried away with excitement and move closer than the recommended safe distance. This could turn out disastrous if the mountain gorillas reacted negatively.
It is also a fact that minors under 15 years of age tend to suffer from communicable diseases such as common flu and cough. Because mountain gorillas share almost the same DNA with humans, they are very vulnerable and easily contract these common diseases which are very common in minors. The conservation of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Virungas has been a success story thanks to the wonderful works of Dian Fossey-an American primatologist and conservationist together with her team who undertook extensive studies of mountain gorilla groups and championed the campaigns to protect these gentle giants. These wonderful efforts saw the mountain gorilla population increasing and eventually moving from the I.U.C.N red-list category of critically endangered to the endangered category. It is because of this reason that the tourism and wildlife authorities in these gorilla trekking countries put this measure in place to avoid any chance of communicable disease transfer from minors to the mountain gorillas.
The above reasons justify why minors of below 15 years may not be allowed to trek mountain gorillas.
However, under specific conditions/scenarios, minors of 14 years may be allowed to trek these gentle giants in Uganda especially if they are to trek in the same group with their family members but this is not a guarantee. The parents of the minor must satisfy beyond doubt the eligibility of their child to trek the mountain gorillas.
Contact Jewel Safaris today to book your gorilla tracking permit for the amazing gorilla trekking experience.