FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS : GORILLA TREKKING INFORMATION

1. How difficult is it to obtain a permit to see the gorillas?

Government regulations permit a limited number of permits in each gorilla park. Therefore, permits need to be paid for at the time of booking. Any delay in payment can result in delay or failure to acquire permits. Permits fees are non-refundable, except for medical reasons, with proof of a medical certificate. Gorilla trekking or viewing can be denied at short notice, under circumstances of border closure, National Park security changes, or gorillas going out of range. In these circumstances, refunds are at the discretion of the Government Authority and are not within the company control.

2. What gear and clothing is necessary for the trekking expeditions?

Gorilla trekking is one of the most sought-after tour activities for those visiting Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. For many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  To get the best experience out of your trek, you need to prepare well and pack the right gear. Below are things we recommend you bring to ensure you make the most of your trekking experience.

Hiking Boots

Gorilla trekking involves trekking/hiking and sometimes travelling long distances in search for the endangered mountain gorillas. Because of the nature of the forest, combined with the high altitude, you need light weight hiking boots to help you trek in sometime steep and muddy environments.

Gardening Gloves

You will certainly appreciate having gloves to protect your hands during your gorilla trek. As you move in the forest, remember that it can get slippery and somehow you need to hold on to some plants, trees or sometimes it may even necessitate climbing trees. These gloves will therefore protect you from nettles and other items that may scratch your hands.

Rain Jacket

Mountain gorillas live on the slopes in the tropical rainforest and, as such, rain is received through out the whole year. You can never tell when it is going to rain. So you need a rain jacket for this purpose. Many clients prefer travelling in traditional drier months of June, July, August and beginning of September so as to try to avoid rainy seasons of March, April and May. But, with global climatic changes, one needs to prepare for any eventualities.

Long-Sleeved Shirts and full-Length Trousers

Ideally, wear thick, long trousers and long sleeved top during your gorilla trek so as to protect against vicious stinging nettles, plants and bush thorns. It is often cold when you set out, so start out with a sweatshirt or jerseys which also help protect against nettles. Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking will likely to get very dirty as you slip and slide in the mud, so if you have pre-muddied clothes, you might as well wear them.

Hat and sun glasses

If it is hot, please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays. You may also need to carry some sun glasses too.

3. What are the options for gorilla location and family?

Mountain gorillas are wild primates and given the different factors such as food, threats from poacher and fights with other families, they tend to move from place to place, and with this, it becomes very difficult tell their directions and movements at any time. Implying that it is very difficult to see the same gorilla group in the same location as the previous tourists who trekked it a day before, as Gorillas can either come closer or move further in the forest. For instance, Rushegura Gorilla group commonly referred to as the R-Group has been recorded as the easiest group to trek because of the fact that their territory is just within Buhoma, yet still Buhoma is the start trekking point for those trekking in Buhoma sector. With this, most of the tourists have opted to trek specially this gorilla group. However, this is seasonal given the fact that they can also move very long distances and be difficult to trek down. Therefore purchasing a gorilla permit for Rushegura group does also not promise an easy trek.

 

 

There are currently a total of 11 families in Uganda;

  1. The Mubare Family

 

  • 11 members including 1 silverback
  • Habituated between 1991 and 1993 the family were named after the Mubare Hills, where they were first spotted
  • Mubare is the oldest habituated group in Uganda
  • Kanyonyi is the current group leader. He took over following the death of his father, Ruhondeza, in June 2012

 

  1. The Habinyanja Family

 

  • 17 members
  • Meaning ‘body of water’, this family was habituated in 1997
  • Makara is the sole dominant leader of the group
  • The family has a stubborn prodigal member, Maraya, who left family in August 2011 but often comes to cause chaos in the family then moves back to solitary life

 

  1. The Oruzogo Family

 

  • 17 members including 2 silverbacks
  • The group was named after a common local plant in the home range of this family
  • Bakwate has been the dominant silverback since habituation in 2008
  • Kagaanga – a young silverback is second in command

 

  1. The Bitukara Family

 

  • 14 members including 4 silverbacks
  • The family was named after the Bitukura River
  • Their habituation started in 2007 and tracking began in 2008
  • The family has four Silverbacks peacefully coexisting; the retired Karamuzi and two others (Rukumu and Mugisha) who are all submissive to Ndahura

 

 

 

  1. The Rushegura Family

 

  • 15 members with 1 silverback
  • Kabukojo is current leader following the death of predecessor (Mwirima) in March 2014
  • Their name is taken from a tree species that grows in their home area, Ebishegura
  • They are a calm group and often visit the Bwindi Lodge gardens
  • Kabukojo has a younger brother – Kalembezi – who helps him co-lead the family

 

  1. The Nkuringo Family

 

  • 12 members with 2 silverbacks
  • Named after the Nkuringo Hill where the group was first spotted
  • Originally habituated in 2004 after destroying the crops of local farmers. Now farmers benefit from the tourism they provide
  • Rafiki has been the dominant silverback for almost a decade

 

  1. The Nshongi Family

 

  • 7 members
  • Named after the river close to where they were first sighted
  • It was the largest group to be habituated, now fractured to form several new families

 

  1. The Kyaguliro Family

 

  • 20 members
  • Currently under contentious leadership of young Mukiza, whose authority is being contested by an immigrant silverback from Bitukura family

 

  1. The Bweza Family

 

  • 12 members
  • Kakano is the silverback of the group
  • The group was formed after a dispute in the Nshongi family, at which point they split off and became a separate family

 

 

  1. The Kahungye Family

 

  • 18 members including 3 silverbacks
  • The group was named after the Kahungye Hills and are newly habituated
  • The family has three silverbacks but two, Rwigyi (the oldest) and Ruzika (the youngest) are loyal to the dominant one (Rumanzi)
  • Rumanzi has been dominant since habituation

 

  1. The Nyakagezi Family

 

  • 10 members, including 5 silverbacks – the highest number in a single group
  • The group is very nomadic, crossing the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC
  • Mark is the dominant silverback. He took over from Bigingo, who is still alive but the oldest family member

Families like Oruzogo, Bitukura, Rushegura, and Mubare are easily accessed from Buhoma. The other families can be tracked from Southern Bwindi, which is easily accessed from Kisoro.

 

Rwanda on the other hand has a total of 10 gorilla families in the Volcanoes National Park in the Northwestern part of the country. Each family is trekked by a group of eight people per day and the allocation depends on the traveler’s fitness and his/her choice. Gorilla families are located on different altitudes which are nearer, medium and hard, which mean that travelers choose which ones they want to trek depending on their fitness. However regardless of which group trekked, all travelers are assured of a memorable experience.

These Families are;

  1. Susa Family

The family derives its name from Susa River along which the gorilla family was first spotted by Dian Fossey. Susa family was known to be the largest gorilla family in the entire Volcanoes National Park with 42 members and would sometimes move to the higher altitudes, making its trekking quite difficult. However, the family later split to form Karismbi family, which reduced the number of members to 28 gorilla members.

 

  1. Karisimbi Family (Susa B)

As already said above, this gorilla family split from Susa and became independent. At present, the family has 15 members some of which were former members of Susa A while others joined from other families. The gorilla family lives on the slopes of mount karisimbi, which make it quite difficult to trek.

 

  1. Amahoro Family

This is the most peaceful family in Volcanoes National Park led by Ubumwe a dominant silverback. Amahoro is translated in Kinyarwanda as peaceful, and the family has surely proved to be peaceful compared to other families. The Amahoro family comprises of 17 members and lives beneath Karisimbi volcano.

  1. Sabyinyo Family

This family was named after mount Sabyinyo, which is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “old man’s teeth.” Sabyinyo comprise of 9 members with 2 silver backs and is one of the most accessible gorilla families in the Volcanoes National Park. In Rwanda, Trekkers who are less fit are advised to opt for Sabyinyo family which does not require much of hiking.

  1. Hirwa Family

The gorilla family formed after some members split from Sabyinyo and Agashya families to form one Hirwa family. The family comprise of 9 members including a dominant silver back, 2 juveniles, 3 young ones and 3 female adult gorillas.

  1. Kwitonda Family

This family formerly inhabited the tropical rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo after which it migrated to Rwanda and settled in Volcanoes National Park. Kwitonda, which means “humble one”, is the head of a family with 18 members, 1 other silverback and the black back. The past movements of the Kwitonda family to the DRC made its trekking difficult but has presently settled in Rwanda and available for trekking.

  1. Agashya Family

The family was formerly headed by Nyakarima who was over thrown by Agashya a dominant silverback who currently heads the family. At the time of its habituation, Agashya family comprised of 13 members but has presently expanded to 25 individuals with the leadership of Agashya.

  1. Umubano Family

Led by Charles the dominant silverback, Umubano gorilla family was formerly part of the Amahoro family, which broke up when Charles disagreed with Ubumwe the dominant silver back of Amahoro family. Charles decided to start his independent family and went with other families’members. At present, Umubano has a total of 9 members with 1 silverback.

  1. Bwenge Family

This family comprises of 11 members and is led by Bwenge a dominant silverback. In 2007, Bwenge broke from his former family and was later joined by other members. The family faced hard times in the start when it lost 6 infants at once, which was a great draw back.

  1. Ugenda Family

The family derived its name from Kinyarwanda word, which means a “move” due to its continuous movements from one place to another. The family now consists of 11 members with 2 silverbacks and roars in the slopes of mount Karisimbi.

In Bwindi, gorillas live in thicker tropical forests and tracking is more challenging than in other Gorilla sanctuaries. On the other hand, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda have steeper hillsides and it can take more than 6 hours after leaving the hotel.

4. What security precautions should I take while traveling?

Basic precautions should be taken seriously in all countries. Remember, most of the countries where we operate experience pockets of criminality, in part due to frequent political and civil unrest. We therefore advise you to;

  • Always endevour to seek advice from the tour guide or operator

 

  • At the airport, watch for your suitcase as it appears on the carousel. Don’t hang back and wait for the crowds to disperse – you might find that someone else has already taken your bag in the meantime

 

  • Unless it is extremely necessary, avoid changing money at airports, as thieves could be watching you

 

  • Consult with your hotel manager or tour guide about the public transport in your area
  • Carjacking is a problem in some areas. When driving, keep all doors locked and windows up. Make sure your boot is locked too

 

  • Leave valuables hidden well

 

  • Do not walk or loiter around unescorted at night

 

  • Use safe boxes to secure travel documents and other valuables

 

Thieves devise inventive ways to rob you. Some of these may include:

  • Posing as Police Officers and asking to check your money for counterfeit bills

 

  • Make sure you know what official taxi cabs look like. A thief may pose as a taxi driver to lure you into their car

 

  • Posing as Tour Guides and offering to show you around the city

 

  • Slipping sedative drugs into your food or drink
5. Do I need to purchase travel insurance

Travel insurance is mandatory– it is a condition that all our clients must fulfill prior to their departure.

6. What health requirements do I need to meet before traveling?

Travelers to other countries often face health issues they wouldn’t ordinarily experience at home. To minimize your risks of becoming seriously ill when traveling abroad, you should find out in advance whether any specific immunizations may be recommended for travel to the region of the world you’ll be visiting. It’s also a good time to review your own immunization history.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), it is best to schedule a visit to your doctor or travel medicine clinic four to six weeks before an international trip. Since your body needs time to build up immunity after receiving a vaccine and many vaccines are given in a series over time, getting an early start on your immunization (s) is the best way to protect yourself. Even if you are making a last-minute trip or plan to leave in less than four weeks, you should still check with your doctor to see if any vaccines or preventive medications might be recommended.

Also, pack any other personal medication required, such as anti-malarial tablets and mosquito repellent. Drink bottled water or boiled water only. Medical facilities, especially in rural areas, where safaris take place are basic, and the insurance cover includes all medical, evacuation, and repatriation.

7. What weather should I expect when traveling to East Africa?

In the past, the name East Africa was used to refer to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Today however, East Africa has expanded to include Rwanda and Burundi. Thus, when talking of East Africa, you will be talking about the 5 member countries of the East African Community (EAC). The region experiences equal days and nights (12 hours for day and 12 hours for the night). It also boasts of a warm, tropical equatorial climate which makes it ideal for the proliferation of abundant wildlife.

Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania are near the equator. As a result, the climate does not change much. The rainy season tends to be from March to April and October to November, but this varies in different areas. As a rule of thumb, be prepared for rain at all times when you visit the region.

8. Are flights handled by Kent Safari Tours?

Kent Safari Tours is your most trusted partner when it comes to flight bookings. We have cultivated a cordial and formidable working relationship with reputable Airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Emirates, British Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, among others operating across the African continent.

We also boast of good working relations with Airlines operating flights within Uganda and the East African Region, such as Aero Link, which operates two daily flights between Burundi, Kidepo, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kibale Forest. Others include Rwanda Air, Eagle Air and Coastal Aviation. All is designed to let you relax as we handle all the modalities for you to have a stress-free and memorable safari.

9. Are there any restrictions on photography?

Taking photographs is prohibited near military and other security instillations. It is also advisable to politely seek for the consent of those with whom you may want to take photos. However, most parts of the region are picturesque, you may want to take as many pictures as you possibly can, we therefore recommend that you pack extra batteries and car chargers in your small bag, as not all camps or lodges have electricity.

10. How much money should I bring?

Your safari package covers most of the costs, but for personal expenditures cash is the best option. We recommend that you carry with you, some “pocket change” that can finance a $20 US per day budget. This can be for purchase of souvenir and other regalia that may not be inclusive of the safari package. The exchange rate may fluctuate daily, but $1 is typically the equivalent of about 3700 (UGX). Credit cards are accepted by a few outlets in East African Countries. Hotels and lodges, for the most part, only accept cash.

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