Fairend Safaris

Gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda offers a unique opportunity for visitors to spend 4 hours with a gorilla family that is being habituated to human presence. During the habituation process, researchers and guides gradually prepare a gorilla family for the presence of humans. This enables gorillas to become comfortable with the occasional visits of tourists. This process can take up to two to three years and involves gentle interaction from a distance.

Participating in the gorilla habituation experience provides a deeper understanding of gorilla behavior and conservation efforts. It also supports the local community and contributes to the protection of these endangered primates and their habitat. Gorilla habituation is only carried out in Bwindi National Park and travelers interested in this activity must first acquire a permit.

Cost of gorilla habituation permit

A gorilla habituation permit costs USD 1,500 per person for foreign nonresidents, USD 1,000 per person for foreign residents, and UGX 750,000 per person for East African Citizens. These permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and must be acquired before the experience. Gorilla permits are usually competitive therefore, we advise travelers to acquire them at least 3 months before the experience. Travelers who are not within Uganda can acquire these permits through Tours and Travel companies.

How gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is done

Gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a carefully managed process that involves several stages to acclimate wild gorillas to the presence of humans. There are several steps involved and these include,

Identifying gorilla families where researchers and conservationists identify wild gorilla groups within the park that are suitable candidates for habituation. These groups are typically selected based on their behavior, location, and other factors. Once a suitable gorilla group is identified, researchers begin initial observations from a distance to understand their behavior, social structure, and movements.

The habituation process starts with gradually approaching the gorilla group at a safe distance. Initially, the gorillas may display signs of aggression or fear towards humans. However, over time, they become accustomed to the presence of researchers and trackers. Researchers and trackers use non-intrusive methods to establish trust with the gorillas. As the habituation process progresses, researchers spend increasing amounts of time near the gorilla group, allowing them to become familiar with human presence.

Researchers closely observe gorilla behavior during the habituation process, documenting social interactions, feeding patterns, and territorial behaviors. This information helps in understanding gorilla ecology and conservation needs. Once a gorilla group is successfully habituated, it may be opened to tourists for gorilla trekking or habituation experiences.

The best time for the gorilla habituation experience

 The gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be done year-round. However, the best time is during the dry season which takes place from June to September and December to February. Bwindi’s temperatures are usually between 20 to 25 degrees and it can rain any time given the tropical climate of the area. The months of March to May experience heavy rains making the terrain slippery and muddy. The beauty of these rainy months is most lodging facilities offer discounts since it is a low season and it is great for photography.

Rules and guidelines for gorilla habituation experience

  1.  Gorilla habituation groups must be comprised of only 4 individuals. They are typically smaller in size compared to regular trekking groups to minimize disturbance to the gorillas.
  2. Travelers who are 15 years and above can participate in this experience. This is to ensure their safety and the safety of the gorillas.
  3. Visitors are required to be accompanied by trained guides and trackers during the habituation experience.
  4. Visitors must maintain a minimum distance from the gorillas at all times to avoid disturbing them.
  5. Flash photography is prohibited during gorilla habituation experiences as it can startle or disturb the gorillas. Visitors are typically allowed to take photos without a flash.
  6. Visitors are not allowed to feed or touch the gorillas during the habituation experience. This is to prevent the transmission of diseases between humans and gorillas.
  7. Visitors are expected to respect the gorillas’ natural habitat by staying on designated trails and minimizing their impact on the forest ecosystem. Littering and disturbance of vegetation are strictly prohibited.

What to pack

  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect against insects and thick bushes.
  • Rain jackets or ponchos for unexpected rains
  • Comfortable hiking boots
  • Hat or cap for sun protection
  • Backpack to carry essentials
  • Binoculars
  • Camera and extra batteries
  • Snacks, water bottle, and lunch.
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit
  • Sunglasses

Difference between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience

1. Gorilla trekking involves hiking into the dense forest of Bwindi in search of gorillas and once found travelers spend only one hour in their presence while with gorilla habituation travelers spend up to 4 hours with the gorillas.

2. A gorilla trekking permit costs USD 700, whereas a gorilla habituation permit costs USD 1,000.

3. Gorilla trekking groups comprise 8 individuals inclusive of guides while gorilla habituation groups comprise only 4 individuals inclusive of the guides.

4. Gorilla trekking focuses on providing tourists with a glimpse of mountain gorillas while gorilla habituation is more of research and conservation measures.

5. Gorilla trekking can be done in four sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park while gorilla habituation is only done in Rushaga sector.