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Gorilla Habituation

Gorilla habituation is the process of training mountain gorillas to live closer to people as they continue with their day-to-day lives. The process can take about 3 to 5 years and involves continuous visits by the researchers and trained park trackers. When the gorillas can tolerate human presence without perceiving them as a threat they can be trekked by tourists. They don’t flee or try to fight humans when in their presence. During habituation, travelers spend up to 4 hours with these intelligent primates. It is a fundamental process to continue protecting the mountain gorillas.

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Where to get the Gorilla Habituation experience

Gorilla habituation experience can only be done in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The park is home to approximately more than half of the world’s endangered mountain gorilla population. Habituation is done in the Rushaga sector which is in the southern part of Bwindi. However, travelers need permits to participate in this activity/experience which are acquired from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

How much is a gorilla habituation permit in Uganda?

A permit costs $ 1,500 per person for foreign nonresidents  and $ 1,000 per person for foreign residents and Ugx 750,000 per person for East African citizens. Permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and can be acquired through a travel agency.

The permit requires prior booking before the actual day of the activity since it is limited to a certain number. We advise that bookings for the gorilla habituation permit should be at least 3 months for the low season and at least 5 months for the peak season.

The best time to go

The gorilla habituation experience can be done all year long, however Uganda has two seasons’ wet and dry seasons.  The period from June to August and from December to February is the best time to go for a gorilla habituation experience. However, it can also be done during rainy seasons.

The months of March to May and September to November are mostly rainy although this gives an advantage of great photography. Most hotels and lodges offer discounts since tourists are few during that period.  

What to expect

Tourists and the habituating park team (researchers and trained park trackers) set out as early as 6 am and trek to the location where the gorillas were last seen the previous day. It is from there that the 4 hours start, travelers follow the trail with the help of clues left behind by the gorillas. The clues include their droppings, broken vegetation, and footprints. Tourists can collect important information from the clues left along the trail which are used for research purposes.

What to pack for the gorilla habituation experience

  • Hiking boots that are waterproof and have a good grip will enable you to maneuver the different terrains of the trails. Ensure you have good socks to be comfortable.
  • Long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and waterproof jackets. The clothing you choose to wear should be light and long enough to protect you from insect bites. In addition, it should be able to keep you warm in case the weather changes.
  • A light backpack which you can have in lunch, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, umbrella, and gloves.
  • Binoculars to used to spot birds, wildlife, and other primates that live in this park.
  • Camera with extra batteries to capture the moment.

Where to stay

There are options for choosing the accommodation facility to stay in depending on your budget. There are Luxury lodging facilities like Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.  For a mid-range budget, you can opt for  Buhoma Lodge and  Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge.

More information about gorilla habituation experience in Uganda.

How is the gorilla habituation experience different from the gorilla trekking adventure?

 The big difference is between the time spent with these great apes, with gorilla trekking a traveler is limited to spending only one hour with the gorillas after tracking and finding them whereas with habituation you spend four hours.

Gorilla habituation is only done in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest in the Rushaga sector whereas Gorilla trekking can be done in  Bwindi National Park,  Mgahinga Gorilla National Park,  or Rwanda’s  Volcanoes National Park  and Congo’s Virunga National Park.

How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Forest National Park Uganda is located about 478 kilometers from the capital city – Kampala. Bwindi can be reached by scheduled or chartered flight or by road. When using a flight that is daily, you fly from Entebbe International Airport to either Kihihi which is North of Bwindi, then drive south to the park, or fly from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro which is south of Bwindi and drive North to the park. Both are about 40km from the park and the drive from either takes usually about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

When using the road from Entebbe International Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, it takes between 7 to 8 hours of driving, the journey is mostly on a smooth surface and a dirt marram road for the last part into the forest. One can also access Bwindi from Queen Elizabeth National Park, diving through the Ishasha sector with 3 to 4 hours of driving.

 What is the minimum age for gorilla habituation experience?

The minimum age for gorilla habituation is 15 years and above just like the case with the gorilla tracking experience. Gorilla habituation is limited to only six people per Gorilla group joining the team of UWA researchers who lead them to the location of the Gorilla family under habituation.