Gorilla Habituation Experience is part of the many activities offered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority as of 2017 and it is available for visitors to Bwindi National Park. Gorilla habituation experience is a less known activity to many. Only a few have actually participated in the experience unlike the many thousands who have gone on a normal Gorilla Trek. The Experience takes place only in the southern region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Rushaga. Since it is not intended for mass primate tourism, only 4 permits are made available each day – meaning 4 people can participate each day.
Gorilla habituation (abbreviated like most Ugandans as GEX) is the slow and mild introduction of a family of wild gorillas to the presence of humans. Wild gorillas are habituated so researchers can study the species, treat them for sickness and injuries, protect them from hunters, and boost their conservation efforts with sustainable tourism.
For a gorilla family to become accustomed to the presence of humans, each gorilla group has undergone a lengthy habituation process ranging from 2-5 years, managed by a team of expert researchers, conservationists, trackers and rangers.
The Habituation process starts with park rangers spending a short period of time with the gorillas each day, maintaining a specific distance at the limit of the gorillas’ comfort zone.
Every few months they gradually increase the time and reduce the distance until they are certain that the gorillas are ready for tourists to visit them.
Whilst the gorillas are not yet completely habituated (the gorillas are used to trackers and rangers, but not to strangers or tourists) the Gorilla Habituation Experience will help to ensure that they will eventually become fully comfortable in the company of humans.
By participating in the Gorilla Habituation Experience you are supporting the crucial work in habituating gorillas and ensuring their survival. You are an active participant in the Habituation process and not just an observer as during a Gorilla Trek. Being an active participant in the Habituation Process is that extra plus for many. It is truly humbling to think that you will be one of the first humans to meet these gorillas. Although most people may see it as just More Time with a Gorilla Family, yes it is, but it is way beyond a more extended Gorilla Trek, it is an experience that if more realized is the closest to a Gorilla in the Mist experience of Dian Fossey, of encounters that David Attenborough has described.
The first thing you notice when stepping out on a gorilla trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the sounds of the forest. The trees are alive with birds and insects, and the excitement mounts as you realise you are about to meet one of the few remaining wild mountain gorilla families.
Once you find a gorilla family, the ranger advises you to keep a good distance – however the gorillas do not always follow this rule! Some members may suddenly come out of the bush and even come closer. Hours seem to rush as you move slowly through the dense forest, as you try to catch other view of these magnificent creatures.
Gorilla Habituation Experience offers an authentic experience in the wild – it is a more relaxed and enriching encounter with the gorillas. You’ll feel less rushed and you’ll have plenty of time to fully absorb this incredible wildlife experience. During your time with your gorilla family you can immerse yourself in their world as they continue to go about their daily lives – feeding and interacting with each other, under the watchful gaze of the mighty silverback.
Both gorilla trekking and the Gorilla Habituation Experience are incredible opportunities to trek deep into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with an experienced tracker, in search of a Wild Mountain Gorilla Family.
When planning for a regular gorilla trek an entire day is dedicated for the experience even when the permit allows you just one hour with the gorillas. No other serious activities can be scheduled until the trek returns – thus it sounds much like you can only plan one activity just like it would be the case with Gorilla Habituation Experience. Most people don’t look at the time but rather focus on the $1500 cost for the permit. Well, when looking for Value more are turning to the Gorilla Habituation Experience where a US$1,500 permit does not just give you 1-hour with a Gorilla Family as it does in Rwanda but stretches further into 4-hours on an all-day trek in the Rushaga Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Going back to what more time does for Gorilla Habituation Experience; On a gorilla trek, you can hike through the forest for anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours, depending on the location of the specific gorilla family you’re tracking. When you finally meet your allocated gorilla family you’ll have the chance to spend up to one special hour quietly observing them in their natural habitat.
No wildlife encounter on earth can compare to standing a few meters from the gorillas. It will undoubtedly be a magical experience that you’ll never ever forget. The 4 hours with a Gorilla Family, fewer participants, offer a more significant learning experience.
For those who wish to spend more than one hour with the gorillas there is a rare opportunity to participate in a full day Gorilla Habituation Experience, run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.This allows you to spend up to four hours with these magnificent creatures and is only available in Rushaga, in the southern part of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
On this experience you’ll get a deeper understanding of gorilla tracking and gorilla behavior than on a normal trek, and you’ll have a greater amount of time to observe and photograph the gorillas. Those who have tried it like the idea of fewer participants – the fewer permits block many from going on the Habituation, the higher cost for permits blocks others.
Oftentimes a question is sent to us via email seeking our opinion, – clients comparing and wanting to choose between regular gorilla trek and Gorilla Habituation Experience. The question is this. “Which one is right for me?” the other is, “Can you advise whether to complete the habituation experience or two treks to two different families?”
Here is an impartial personal opinion; - both treks are extremely rewarding since no wildlife encounter on earth can compare to standing a few meters from the gorillas. To first-timers however, I would strongly recommend you stick with the standard trek, unless you can afford to do 1 of each type of trek for reasons related to experiential differences especially with the Habituation. I guess that answers both questions but if I may add a little bit more to that, – one may do one of each trek since they are unsure about how easy it will likely be to see gorillas on the Habituation but that’s virtually guaranteed on a on a standard trek. As mentioned earlier, with the Habituation, you are visiting gorillas that are "Wild" but semi-habituated and you are a participant in this process. If you have been on a regular trek and seen the gorillas before, you will be well prepared mentally if they were shy and chose to hide from you on a habituation. Hope this helps.
It’s important to come well prepared for the incredible experience of tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda, however you don’t need too much gear. The guidelines and our suggestions for a habituation Experience are nearly the same as for a Gorilla Trek with some few additions. Please note that domestic flights usually have luggage limited to 20 kilograms per person and it’s best to use a soft case or holdall bag to maximise space. Please Click for details regarding the Clothing, Gear, Rules and Guidelines for your Gorilla Habituation Experience.
Gorilla Habituation Experience starts with securing your Permit early enough. The cost for each permit 1500 USD and can be obtained through the same process as regular gorilla permits. You have to go through an AUTO registered Tour Operator such as Lifetime Experience Safaris. AUTO partner with the UWA in the promotion and Sales of Gorilla Permits. Unlike gorilla tracking where there is over 170 gorilla permits each day, only 4 Gorilla Habituation Experience permits are made available each day. You are advised to secure your Gorilla Habituation Experience permit at least 6 months before you set off for your actual experience most especially if you are looking to taking a gorilla safari during the peak months of June - September.
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