Whereas mountain gorilla trekking adventures have become the most sought after experiences in the world, there is still a need to enhance this primate adventure if a destination is to remain relevant for a longer period of time. And Bwindi like any destination where this lifetime adventure is conducted in Africa needs to improve on its gorilla trekking experience to make it exceptional from others that offer the same experience especially Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park lies in further southwestern Uganda and it is Uganda’s second destination where gorilla trekking is conducted. The other is Mgahinga National Park and it is also situated in southwestern Uganda. For long Rwanda has featured as the prime gorilla tracking destination in East Africa and Africa at large. And this is attributed to its remarkable primate adventures that are incorporated with cultural encounters, accessibility to Volcanoes National Park where you will spend about 2 to 3 hours drive from Kigali. Besides, the Rwandan government has also positioned itself as a luxury gorilla tracking destination and in order to meet its set goals, it is vigorously marketing its products through the ‘Visit Rwanda’ campaign, the establishment of upmarket accommodation facilities like Bisate Safari Lodge. Today, you can obtain permits in Rwanda at $1500.
Significance of enhancing gorilla trekking adventures in Uganda
Uganda a lot more to do so as to benefit from gorilla tracking safaris despite its position as a second-best destination and features the largest number of mountain gorillas compared to Rwanda and DRC. Despite all these endowments, Uganda has not done a lot in marketing itself as a leading destination and yet it offers relatively affordable gorilla trekking permits compared to Rwanda. Uganda’s permits are sold at $600 per visitor. Interestingly, you can still reach Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park through Kigali and Uganda has enjoyed peace and stability for long.
However, while on safari safety starts with you and don’t rely on general peace a fact that anything can happen depending on the area that you will be and the time for instance traveling at night is not safe in Uganda just like any country. Enhancing gorilla tracking in Uganda won’t only increase the number of trekkers/boost the country’s tourism sector but it will offer more employment opportunities to locals.
To enhance your gorilla experiences, Uganda has introduced Gorilla Habituation Experience which is only conducted in Bwindi National Park and in only Bushaho and Bikingi gorilla group. Permits for this experience cost $1500 per visitor and allows you to spend 4 (four) hours on a face to face encounter with gorillas, unlike the usual treks where you will spend only an hour.
Improving gorilla tracking adventures in Uganda will, however, attract more visitors and also position the country among the leading gorilla safari destinations in the world. Gorilla safaris should also be incorporated with cultural encounters or a cup of tea/coffee during the morning briefing in Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park. The 2 National Parks are surrounded by numerous communities including the Batwa and Bakiga that are renowned for the most thrilling cultural experiences and they can entertain visitors during a briefing at the park headquarters before setting off to the field to look out for their habituated gorilla families. For example, today we have the Batwa experience in the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Batwa Trail in the magnificent Mgahinga National Park and all these attract many tourists from different parts of the world in addition to gorilla tracking. You have a chance to learn more about the history of the Batwa, their ways of life and cultures.
The routes to Bwindi or Mgahinga should be improved to enable visitors to navigate whether during the dry season or wet season. Currently, one must have a 4×4 car to access these 2 gorilla parks in Uganda especially in the rain season. The roads are impassable without a 4×4, and with landslides. Besides, airstrips adjacent to the parks in Uganda not only in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga should be improved or upgraded to allow visitors to take flights straight from Entebbe International Airport/Kajjansi airfield.