East Africa is one place on planet for adventurous gorilla safari experiences meeting mountain and lowland gorillas in the wild. Gorillas are rare primate species that live in the forested mountains of East and Central Africa and man’s closest primates.
Gorilla safaris have become a lifelong dream for many seeking to meet these apes in their most preferred habitats. To successfully do this however one needs to take time and prepare ahead of this once in lifetime experience. Below are 8 travel tips to plan ahead of your gorilla tour in East Africa.
1. When to Go
For best gorilla safaris and experiences, the dry season from June to September and December to March is ideal. During this time rainfall is very minimal and the gorilla tracking trails are dry making movement very easy.
The vegetation in the forested mountains is not very lush and therefore its easy to spot mountain gorillas. The wet season stretches from Late March to May and October to November and gorilla safaris are also doable then.
The dry season is very busy and gorilla permits get fully booked couple months in advance. When planning to go during this time ensure to book the gorilla permits in advance. In the wet season, gorilla tour bookings are many but they don’t reach the dry season numbers. Incase you want less crowds then a gorilla safari in wet season would be great.
2. Choosing A National Park
Gorillas in East Africa live in 5 national parks all offering exclusive gorilla safari experiences. Mountain gorilla parks include Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Virunga National park DRC, Bwindi Impenetrable park and Mgahinga Gorilla park Uganda.
Lowland gorillas are only in Kahuzi Biega national park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. All these gorilla parks have habituated gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation.
Gorilla permit fees for these national park vary Volcanoes national park being the highest now at $1500 per person. Bwindi and Mgahinga permit fees are at $700 per person now and Virunga national park permits at $500 per person.
Gorilla safaris or the tracking experiences in these national parks start with a briefing at the park headquarters. On the day of the gorilla tour you will be expected at the park headquarters at 7:00 am for briefing.
3. Choosing a Local Tour Operator
Local tour operators help a lot on ground handling especially booking gorilla permits and accommodation. Local tour operator packages usually comes with safari guides who helps a big deal in connecting to destinations.
Safari guides are well knowledgeable about gorilla safaris and give insightful information you can fail to get on your own. Apart from gorilla safari information, these guides bring the wilderness to life showing you even the smallest species like insects.
To avoid inconveniences, book a head of time to enable the local tour operator get time to book logistics accordingly. Local tour operators can be identified online by and also have umbrella organizations you can use for referral. The umbrella organization for Uganda tour operators is the Association for Uganda Tour Operators.
Enjoyable gorilla safaris are very much complimented by the right stuff especially clothes worn while on the gorilla trek. Given that mountain gorillas live in forested mountains, even in dry season the trails are wet.
For gorilla tracking, pack long waterproof pants like track pants and long sleeved shirts to avoid irritation from plant species. Also have strong hiking shoes to easily move through the muddy trails and steep slopes with ease. Incase you don’t have strong king shoes you can hire boots at the park headquarters.
Gorilla parks have cold temperatures in the morning and evening and sweaters, gloves and socks can help keep you warm. Binoculars are a great option as you can easily spot birds with them and wildlife in a distant.
Internet at gorilla safari lodges sometimes is unstable and a book of your preference would be essential to pack.