Africa Expert Anna just returned from an unforgettable gorilla trekking trip in the misty forests of Uganda. Here are her top tips for preparing for a trek.
Have you always dreamed of witnessing one our closest relatives, the gorilla, in the wild? Well you are in luck, because it’s possible to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda. Mountain gorillas live at high elevations in very dense tropical rain forests, making it quite an adventure to trek and witness these magical animals in their natural habitat. The adventure to see these animals is half of what makes gorilla trekking so amazing, after all, it is these life experiences that make the imprint in our memories forever. The key to a smooth and delightful gorilla trek is knowing some basic steps before hand, to ensure you have the best experience during your gorilla trek. Having recently gone gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, here are five basic things that everyone should know before they go trekking.
Tip 1: Dress smart, bring less
In my own personal experience, I was quite worried about what to wear and bring along on my trek. Once I got there, I realized it is all about a few essential items. The main items you need to bring are: hiking boots, tall socks (to tuck your pants into to prevent forest ants from getting into your shoes), long pants (stretchy but breathable), long sleeved shirt, rain jacket (one that you can easily roll up), gardening gloves (in case you have to grab sharp branches) and gators (shin guards that slip on over your shoes and go up to your knees), a camera (bring a dry bag for your camera if it is not water proof), and a back pack. The beginning of your trek may start off quite cool but as you get going, it can become quite hot so it’s good to bring layered, breathable clothing. The key to wearing the right thing is to know that comfort and convenience are key and to remember, the gorillas don’t care what you look like!
Tip 2: Take a lot of rest breaks
During your gorilla trek, there will be many chances to stop to drink water and rest. Everyone moves at different paces and it is important that if you want to take breaks, to make sure to speak up and let your guide know when you need these. There is no need to feel embarrassed or that you are holding people back, chances are, they are probably in the same boat as you. On the other end, if there is someone that wants to stop more than you, please be respectful and go with it. Plus, taking these rest breaks allows you to take in the beauty of the rain forest.
Tip 3: Be respectful of others and the gorillas
During your gorilla trek, you will be joined by seven other spectators, who are there to witness this breathtaking gorilla encounter. This could last up to half a day, so you will be spending some close time with these strangers. The first thing that I recommend, is to introduce yourself to everyone and get acquainted before the trek. It’s always good to know the names of people you are about to share a magical life experience with. Once you arrive to the gorillas, you will get exactly one hour to observe the gorilla family. During this time, everyone will be taking a lot of pictures and moving around quite a bit. Make sure that you stay the appropriate distance away from the gorilla and give them their space. Look at it in a way that these animals have been gracious enough to let you into their home so treat them with respect. If you are finding that there are some people in your group that want to get a view of the gorillas in the front where you are, be sure to rotate with them and allow them to have this time. It is important that everyone works together as a team to ensure everyone has a wonderful experience because you are all in this together!
Tip 4: Do two treks
You have travelled far and wide to see the gorillas, so it is important that you make the most of your time here. In my personal experience, two treks will give you the most well-rounded experience. By the time we reached the gorilla family on my first trek, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Seeing a gorilla in the wild for the first time was unforgettable and I spent the majority of the time behind my lens, so I could remember every moment for a lifetime. Suddenly, I was notified by my guide that the hour was up. I could barely believe it, it seemed like only five minutes had gone by. On my second gorilla trek, I decided to limit my camera usage and dedicate most of this gorilla experience to being more present by simply observing these beautiful animals with the naked eye. This allowed me to have a different experience and I felt both treks were necessary to give me the best outcome. The other perk to doing two gorilla treks, is you get to see two completely different gorilla families. This means that you will see different behaviors, different gorillas, and new habitat.
Tip 5: Stay on top of your health before your trek
Since gorillas share much of our same DNA, they are susceptible to the same illnesses that we get. This means, that anything from the common cold to the flu can be transmitted from us to them. The difference between gorilla’s and ourselves, is they have not built up the same immunity to such illnesses as we have. Something small could lead to fatalities within the gorilla populations. Since these animals are highly endangered and closely monitored, it is important that no one is sick during the time of their trek. If someone is sick, they will not allow them to go on the trek. You will not be refunded, but most importantly, you’ll have to miss the experience you went there to do! My top tip for everyone is to make sure to stay on top of your health before your trip. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy, get proper rest so your immune system can be in tip top shape, so you won’t have to miss the trek!
To sum up, Gorilla trekking is a once in a lifetime experience that you want to make sure you are well prepared for and all it takes are just a few simple steps. If you do all these things I have mentioned, you can be sure to have the most well-rounded experience possible. Gorilla trekking is something I will never forget and is something I strongly recommend doing to anyone who wants an unforgettable life experience.
Call our Africa Experts on (858) 523-9000 to find out more about gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda or look at our itineraries for additional inspiration.