Mountain Gorilla watching is one of Uganda’s biggest tourist attractions, attracting thousands of travelers across the world. These mountain gorillas are the bulkiest primates on earth and when you meet them, you will be amazed at how beautiful they look with those brown eyes and how caring and protective they are towards one another with their families, especially their little ones. There are over 700 of them living in the Bwindi impenetrable national park and in the Mgahinga national park, both in Uganda as well as in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, the only places you can visit to meet the mountain gorilla while in the wilderness.
A gorilla trekking adventure can start from either of these countries depending on the program. In all parks Mgahinga, Bwindi or Virunga, there are the habituated mountain gorillas which means, they easily relate with people than the violate, unhabituated gorillas. These animals live in families, usually have a group leader who is also the dominant male and is often referred to as the silver back because of the silver lining on the back.
Gorilla trekking begins very early at 8:00 am following briefing from the ranger, lunch is always packed as there is no time to return for lunch since tracking takes between 4-8 hours. The ranger guide helps in the search for the particular family you are tracking on a particular day, their movement is highly determined by the location of their food but they never move out of their comfort zones. A single gorilla family is often tracked by over 30 tourists every day and this makes it the most sought after animal in Uganda and Rwanda.
Once you locate the gorillas, you are given an hour to sit in the jungle to watch them feed their young ones, play with each other and take care of each other and when that is done, its time to walk out of the jungle.
Besides the gorillas, there is also man’s closest relative which is the chimpanzee. They are very charming apes and there are lots of them in places like the Kibale forest park, the Budongo forest and also in Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth park. While there are the wild ones, those that the tourists go trekking are the habituated ones thus a perfect opportunity to spend some time with this endangered species. Other than Chimpanzee trekking, you can also do the chimpanzee habituation process and in this case you have longer hours in the jungle participating in the habituation exercise which is more fun though more costly. Besides the mentioned parks, Chimpanzees in Uganda are also found in Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary located on the Ngamba island in Lake Victoria, which was set up to be the home for those orphaned chimpanzees as well as those confiscated from the illegal hunters. It’s the only chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda and when you visit, there you will have a very close contact with the chimpanzees especially during the feeding time as you may be given the opportunity to feed them too.
Other primates include monkeys, which are remarkably well represented in Uganda. You can find a huge population of them in the Kibale forest, about 5 or 6 species that are likely to be spotted over the course of just one afternoon walk in the forest. Elsewhere in Mgahinga, there are troops of habituated golden monkeys and in Murchison falls you find the few East African strong holds for the plains-dwelling patas monkeys and all these make a primates watching safari worthwhile.
Gorillas and primates watching is not only about primate watching but it is also the perfect opportunity for a wonderful nature walk, through the bushes, hiking, push through the creeping plants, the sound of the birds is music to the ears, learn about the different plants and so many others that you will find in the jungle.
Gorillas and primates watching is done all year through, trekking during the rainy days may be a bit more hectic than during the hot days but at the end of the day, you will have got what you wanted to achieve. For any one interested in watching the gorillas or the other primates, all you have to do is book the permits in advance and you will never be disappointed.