Gorilla trekking| Chimpanzee Primate Safaris: Uganda |Rwanda
For a chance to capture the thrill of an African Gorilla trekking and Chimpanzee tracking safari, Uganda and Rwanda are the ultimate East African destinations. Tanzania follows closely with its Chimpanzee tracking encounters.
The East African region has a great share and show of primates in Africa, with Uganda; a country proclaimed as “the Pearl of Africa” and Rwanda “the Land of a Thousand Hills” undeniably being remarkable primate tracking destinations.
Uganda and Rwanda offer irresistibly otherworldly Gorilla trekking and Chimpanzee tracking primate adventures. These two East African countries each shelters two, of the four world’s Great Apes in their pristine sometimes misty cloaked rainforests.
Gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda
Usually seen in movies, documentaries and travel manuals, for a chance to come face to face and behold the majesty of the gentle giants, Rwanda and Uganda are the mainstream African Gorilla tracking destinations.
Rwanda lately is the most popular Gorilla tracking destination regardless of the cost of taking on this tour, with a permit costing 1’500Usd. The ultimate location for trekking the gorillas in Rwanda is the Volcanos National Park (PNV), towering in the northwestern part of the country. It is just about 2 hours from Kigali capital. This park is part of the greater Virunga massif, a physical landform of 6 dormant and 2 active volcanoes. It runs across two other countries of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda on the other hand has two gorilla trekking sites which are located southwest of the country. Bwindi Impenetrable forest with nearly half of the world’s Mountain Gorilla population and Mgahinga gorilla park which is part of the Virunga chain. The latter park has one transboundary gorilla family. (Important to note is that Mountain Gorillas can only be found in Bwindi and Virunga Volcanoes). Tracking the Gorilla’s in Uganda requires more time than in Rwanda. This is because access to the gorilla locations in Uganda takes about 9-10 hours on a normal drive southwest of the country.
The Gorilla trekking experience and what to expect
Standing just about 7meters close to the Mountain Gorillas is one of Africa’s most celebrated and sought-after wildlife experiences. The Gorilla trek in either Uganda or Rwanda demands one to be reasonably fit and sturdy. The nature and terrain of the forest is a little challenging because of the chilly weather, the narrow steep and slippery trails and the mountainous terrain of these gorilla habitats.
The treks start early in the morning at about 0800hours with briefing about the trekking etiquette. You are assigned a habituated Gorilla family in a group of max. 8 people, your ranger and guide will move ahead and behind you as they take you through the ecology of the forest. Before visitors go tracking, there are trackers that set out first into the forest to see where the gorillas are, and communicate with the guide where you will find them.
As you move through the forest, you come across a variety of interesting ecological species. The trek may last a few hours (4-5) or close to a day depending on various factors like movement of the gorilla family, pace of the trackers/visitors and much more. Once you come across the gorilla group, you are notified and required to lower your voices. You’re only allowed to go with your cameras and no flash photography, so you see them for just an hour. Whether you’re tracking the Gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda, the trekking etiquette is the same, see our gorilla guide
Gorilla Habituation Safaris
For those that would seek or love to see and spend more time with the Mountain Gorillas, a gorilla habituation safari is the ultimate alternative. This kind of experience is only available in Rushaga the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable forest. The gorilla habituation experience allows visitors entirely a day while in the forest and about four hours of watching these Great Apes.
The park only has 2 groups currently available for this experience; Bukingyi and Bushaho. Different from the gorilla trekking safaris, gorilla habituation only allows a maximum of 4 people, where one gets chance to follow the habituators, conservationists and researchers for almost a day.
It is a learning experience that was introduced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in 2014, on a small scale to give those who wish to meet the gorillas chance to learn about them, and to be part of the behind the scene process of getting these Great Apes accustomed to human presence. It is one of a kind forms of experiential tourism in Africa.
Chimpanzee tracking, and other Primate Safaris; Uganda, Rwanda or Tanzania?
Chimpanzee tracking safaris are close to Uganda and Rwanda classic Mountain Gorilla safaris. The national parks and wildlife reserves of; Rubondo, Gombe stream and Mahale in Tanzania, Kibale forest, Budongo forest reserve, Kyambura gorge and Kalinzu forest in Uganda as well as Nyungwe forest park in Rwanda, are beyond comparable places to see Chimpanzees in Africa.
Primate Safaris in Uganda, Chimpanzee tracking
Tucked in the far-reaching tropical forests of Uganda are over 23 identified species of Primates such as Chimpanzees which are some of the most interesting primates to watch. Uganda has more than 5,000 individuals in its reserves and Kibale forest has the biggest share. Generally, ardent primate safari holiday makers would find Uganda more appealing than its counterparts for Chimpanzee and other primate tracking safaris.
Kibale forest is roughly 765sq.km national park and East Africa’s popular primate tracking destination. It has over 13 identified species, with more than 1’500 Chimpanzees plus other small and medium sized primates like Vervets, Olive Baboons, L’hoest’s Monkey, Potto and many others.
Kibale forest is by far one of the world’s famous primate destination hence referred to as the “World’s Primate Capital”
The forest reserves like; Budongo which is part Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Kyambura Gorge which forms part of the greater Queen Elizabeth national park and Kalinzu forest are some of the other places you will track primates in Uganda.
Primate tracking in Rwanda
The popular spot for Chimpanzee and other primate tracking safaris in Rwanda is Nyungwe forest located southwest of the country. The roughly 1’000sq.km park is a block of mountain forest and it’s one of the country’s oldest. Its bio-diversity takes in over 12 primate species like the Blue monkeys, Owl-faced, Red-tailed, Dent’s Mona and Crowned monkeys among others.
Apart from Volcanos national park whose rise to fame is the Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys, Rwanda’s Gishwati Mukura park in the northwest is another location where you can meet the primates. It’s a remote destination with intimate primate encounters. It’s nearly 34 sq.km with over 20 Chimpanzees, and other primates like L’Hoest’s monkey, Blue Monkeys, Black & White Colobus, Vervets and others.
Where to track Chimpanzees in Tanzania?
Though not that as popular as its counterparts in the region, that’s Uganda and Rwanda, Tanzania too has its share of the Chimpanzees. These can be found mainly in Mahale National Park that’s located west of the country near Lake Tanganyika, and the park has over 900 individuals. Most of these have been habituated for tracking, and there’re other primates available like the Angola Colobus, Red Colobus, Blue and Red-tailed monkeys among others.
The other primate tracking destination in Tanzania is Gombe stream national park north of Lake Tanganyika close to Burundi and Congo boarder. It’s also popular for the endangered Chimpanzees and it’s where Jane Goodall, a famous primatologist spent her time studying the Chimp population. Rubondo national park, is a small remote island park south-west on Lake Victoria and it’s a diverse sanctuary hosting some Chimpanzee communities that are not fully habituated. With advance booking, there’s possibility for visitors to take part in a unique and rewarding Chimpanzee habituation experience in this Tanzania’s park.
Please note, as with Gorilla tracking safaris, Chimpanzee tracking is as well more demanding. It most-times involves moving longer distances because these primates are usually active than the Mountain Gorillas. They spend most of the time moving around the forest, therefore to track them you need to be reasonably fit. Be sure to read the Chimpanzee tracking guide
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