You can now have a once in a lifetime experience helping researchers train and acclimatise gorillas in Bwindi, Uganda. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has recently introduced gorilla habituation tours for visitors interested in taking part in gorilla habituation. Unlike the normal gorilla trekking safaris, which tend to last one hour, gorilla habituation allows visitors up to four hours with the gorillas.
What is gorilla habituation?
Gorilla habituation is a teaching process for gorillas with an aim of getting them familiar with human presence in their jungle forests. The major aim for habituation is to promote mountain gorilla tourism by making sure gorillas live in harmony with human visitors, and don’t attack tourists who go gorilla trekking in Africa.
Mountain gorilla habituation is a long process involving gorilla adaption. This is only done by gorilla researchers and well-experienced rangers who meet with the gorillas every single day to train and monitor their progress. Habituation involves giving names to each gorilla and training them to acknowledge these names, while closely observing their behavior. This is very challenging at the beginning as gorillas tend to run away from researchers moving deep into the forests. It is a very slow process that can take years.
With time, gorillas start getting used to the presence of researchers and rangers, but to finally sign them off as ready to be visited by trekkers, two to four new people start accompanying researchers on their visits each day. When the gorillas are not disturbed, they are then opened to tourists’ visitation.
The difference between gorilla trekking and habituation
Whereas gorilla trekking safaris can be done in all other mountain gorilla destinations, gorilla habituation is limited to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the Rushaga region, and can only be done with the Bushaho gorilla family and Biking group.
Mountain gorilla habituation takes up to four hours. Most times visitors spend the majority of the day trekking for gorillas, and when they finally find them, they are involved in the gorilla training process with the guidance of researchers and trained rangers who have spent a lot of time with the gorillas. On the other hand, gorilla trekking takes trekkers to visit already habituated gorillas who are used to human presence and are happy to do their normal activities with people being around.
Another point to note is that the number of people allowed for gorilla habituation is limited to four people or less per day. More numbers may distract the gorillas who are still adapting. Already habituated gorillas are limited to eight people per day for one hour.
Booking a habituation gorilla permit
Booking can be done directly with Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or you can send them an email. You can also book through your local tour operator. Habituation permits are available all year round, but you need to book early as spaces get booked up quickly!