Yes, it is very safe to trek mountain gorillas in Uganda, and here is why.
Gorilla trekking is one of the major tourism activities in the country
Gorilla trekking being one of the most important tourism activities in the country, attracts maximum safety and security for this activity from all the concerned tourism regulatory bodies in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga national parks where gorilla tracking is done, are duly monitored and patrolled by the Uganda tourism police and game rangers to prevent any attacks and unlawful acts from poachers, rebels or any intruders.
The trekked mountain gorilla families are habituated
Tourists are only permitted to encounter gorilla families that are fully habituated. Habituated mountain gorillas are those that are introduced to the presence and site of human beings for research, care and conservation purposes. Habituated gorillas are familiar with humans therefore leaving very low or no chances of tourists getting attacks from them.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) set safety rules and guidelines to guide tourists on how to behave and conduct themselves when tracking the gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga national Parks. These rules aim to protect tourists while trekking in the forest and also to conserve and protect the gorillas and other animal and plant species that inhabit these forests. Every day, each group of tourists heading into the forest is briefed on these guidelines, and this has enabled responsible and safe gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park. These guidelines are also available on the website of UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and on most tour operator websites.
Tourists are protected by the tourism Police and park rangers during gorilla trekking
When doing Gorilla trekking in Uganda, each of the tourist groups heading into the forest are escorted and guided by two rangers and a tourism policeman armed and trained to protect tourists from any attacks from wild animals while in the forest. Early every morning before any tourists start tracking, rangers move into the forest to search for location of Gorillas and also ensure that the forest is safe for any gorilla tracking activities to take place.
The hospitable and safe community in Bwindi and Mgahinga National parks
Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks where gorilla trekking is done in Uganda are surrounded by a warm and welcoming community. The people are continually educated on conservation and protection of the forest and its inhabitants by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The community is made up mainly of Batwa and Bakiga who benefit greatly from the forest and the revenue from tourist visits which gives them even more reason to protect this forest and ensure its safety.
Uganda as a country is a politically stable country. There have been no cases of terrorism or war in the past 15 years. The government has also ensured maximum security by training and deploying more security personnel within and all over the country to maintain law and order in the country. This therefore promotes safety for any visitors into the country Uganda and renders Uganda a safe place for gorilla tracking.
After the briefing at the headquarters a maximum number of 8 people is allowed to visit the mountain Gorillas to each Gorilla family. The 8 people are grouped in order not to make noise, to minimize the behavioral disturbance of the mountain Gorillas and not also to pass human infectious borne diseases.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
- You must be 15 years of age or older to be permitted to trek the mountain gorillas. This is because children are easily destructed and may not be able to handle their emotions when they encounter the Gorillas or follow the rules and guidelines of gorilla tracking.
- A maximum of only 8 Individuals is permitted to trek one gorilla family per day. Once you meet the Gorillas, you are given only one hour to spend with these Gorillas. This is done to avoid overcrowding in the park.
- You must maintain a minimum viewing distance of 15 feet when you encounter the gorillas in the forest. This allows gorillas to walk around freely and avoid feeling as though they are surrounded by people, which could frighten them. Additionally, this lessens the possibility of people exposing gorillas to dangerous infections. The Park rangers has the authority to stop you from going for Gorilla trekking if there is any risk that you will spread a disease to the animals.
- Photographing mountain gorillas with a flash is prohibited. Gorillas may find the lights annoying and start charging as a result. You will be instructed by the rangers oh how to take photos without making noise or disturbing the Gorillas.
- Do not litter in the park. You must keep the park clean by not throwing away rubbish that could harm the gorillas in case they swallow them. Also communicate to the guide in case you need to use the restroom or in need of anything while in the park.
Most importantly pay attention and follow the guidelines of rangers and park guides in order to avoid breaking the rules and guidelines of Gorilla trekking in Uganda
What is the best time to do Gorilla tracking in Uganda?
Although the dry season is the best time to visit Bwindi or Mgahinga national parks to see gorillas, it is possible to see them all year long in Uganda.
Uganda sees two dry seasons from June through October in addition to the months of December, January, and February. The dry season in Uganda offers the best opportunities to see gorillas because the roads to the park and tracking trails are not slippery and the it is not so cold like in the wet season.
The wet and low season is in months of March, April, May, June, October to November. What makes this time great to travel is that the rates for most services are discounted, so you can save a lot of money when you do gorilla trekking in the low season.