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Before we dive into what to pack for a gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, let’s first show you a bullet list and then chat about why you would be hiking in the African Jungle in the first place.
List of 10 things to pack for your gorilla trekking trip in Uganda:
- For Coronavirus (Covid-19) prevention, carry two mask, hand sanitizer & test certificate
- Pack a decent waterproof jacket
- Long pants, long sleeved shirt and longer socks
- A pair of outdoor gloves
- Trekking boots are your best friend
- Pack a tin of Insect repellent
- Biodegradable tissue or toilet paper
- Waterproof backpack and extra batteries
- Trekking poles or hiking staffs
“A life-changing experience!” This is what most tourists say after they visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda. We totally agree since we spend many days in a year taking tourists to see gorillas — each day is exciting, and discoveries happen all the time.
But doing so involves an Indiana Jones-style journey into the depths of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
The jungle is a seemingly everlasting thicket of tangled emerald green with no street signs, walking trails, or Google Maps voice directions. To find the gorillas’ nest, you must get up early and, with the protection of park rangers, religiously follow the footsteps of a local tracker. The tracker uses a machete to clear a path through the jungle, detecting and tracking gorilla trail from the last spot where a gorilla group was seen. These traces can include hand and footprints, bent vegetation, remains of plants the gorillas have eaten, and other signs. Every tiny detail is investigated as the trackers determine the gorillas’ direction.
The hike up or down the mountain slopes that tourists take to get to the mountain gorillas is an exciting experience in itself because it brings you to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the few remaining tropical mountain forests located on the Albertine Rift edge.
The park is inhabited by about 500 mountain gorillas, known as the Bwindi population, which makes up about half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains shared between Uganda’s Mgahinga NP, DR Congo’s Virunga NP, and Rwanda’s Volcanoes NP.
With four trail-heads spread over the edges of Bwindi Impenetrable NP (Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo & Ruhija), make sure you pick the right one that will be gentle on your physical fitness and great for forest lodging. The walk to reach a gorilla group can take from one to several hours, but no matter how long it is, the result is always amazing.
It’s not possible to predict how far the gorillas have moved from the previous day or what direction they’ve taken, so patience is definitely a good state of mind while following trackers at this time. But sooner or later, they will find the group they are seeking.
The first sight of gorillas is unforgettable! Inside the intense green of the dense vegetation, you’ll see dark shapes as you got closer. It takes a few seconds to realize that these shapes are wild gorillas, right there in front of you. Amazingly, they are perfectly calm. The gorillas may glance at you at first but will quickly resume their normal activities.
“If you happen to look into the eyes of a gorilla, take a quick moment to enjoy the experience fully, but then immediately take your gaze off the gorilla’s eyes and look down. This signals to the gorilla that you are not a threat and that everyone can relax.”
It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it’s best to come prepared. So, to keep you comfy throughout your ‘African gorilla jungle’ experience, don’t leave home without packing the following:
The gorilla trekking permit
Because Bwindi and Volcanoes are protected environments, the local governments introduced trekking permits to control tourists flocking the destination. This serves to maintain the natural habitat and avoid the gorillas becoming overexposed to humans and continue funding the gorilla conservation efforts.
This has made the demand for gorilla permits higher than the supply. Tourists are flooding to this part of the continent to get a piece of the action, don’t be the last one.
With just about 19 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi available for tourism, 8 permits are issued for each gorilla group per day, making it just about 152 permits issued out for Bwindi gorilla trekking per day. Will you get yours when you need it? Luckily enough, our local partners deal with the permits, so you won’t have to.
A Uganda gorilla permit costs US$700 per person since July 2020. It is issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at face value. Your operator can process it on your behalf (some charge a fee of $30), and when you book a gorilla trip, you get the permit processed for free, and you find the original with your tour manager.
So now you have your permit, plane ticket, itinerary sorted, and the jungle excitement building up. What should you pack for your gorilla trekking tour? Let’s see…
What you should pack for a gorilla trekking in Uganda
1. For Coronavirus (Covid-19) protection, carry two facemasks, hand sanitizer & a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, a trekker should carry with them at least two surgical or cloth face masks and always have one on when you get 10 meters (the closest) close to the gorillas. Have your pair of outdoor gloves on too.
At the airport, immigration will require that you have a valid negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate issued within 72 hours before your visit. So prepare to have one taken and place it with your other travel documents.
Carry a portable bottle of hand sanitizer, a pack of disinfectant wipes to help you keep your room clean, and yourself protected from the Covid-19 pandemic while you enjoy nature’s ambiance. It’s important that you keep your mask on, a distance from another trekker, and avoid contact with things that could infect you or the animals.
2. Pack a decent waterproof jacket for your gorilla trip
Toto must have been to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest before they sang, “I bless the rains down in Africa.” In Bwindi, downpours are impromptu and rather unforgiving, so squeeze a lightweight rain jacket in your backpack and avoid the damp. There’s nothing worse than hiking the jungle in wet underwear.
3. Long pants, long-sleeved shirt and longer socks
You want to stay protected, cover as much skin as possible. Yes, folks, the jungle can be so unkind to your body. Get ready to look like a mogul soldier because your guide will insist you tuck your trousers into your socks to avoid red and climbing up your thighs (Elvis has nothing on you when the red ant bites, and you unwittingly dance to shake it off).
Long sleeve shirt will also keep the bugs and thorny branches away from your skin. Please make sure they are light and won’t collect heat inside.
Avoid the camouflage army like coloring or decoration, they’re reserved for the ranges or army, and it’s illegal to wear camouflage in Uganda and Rwanda. Pick up some kaki, green or light colors that won’t excite the animals and blend you in with the natural world.
4. You’ll need a pair of outdoor gloves
The guides will do as much as they can to clear a path, but you’re inevitably going to get your hands dirty and, in doing so, will want to avoid the prickles on your hands. Outdoor gloves will come in handy when you have to clear your path and pack a pair. They’ll also keep you from leaving any dangerous organism on the things you touch during your trek.
5. Trekking boots will keep you dry on the dump jungle floor
You’ll not be able to trek gorillas in just your long tucked trousers, socks, and canvas shoes. The jungle floor is a dump, and there are no designated hiking trails, so you’ll have to put your best foot forward. And your best foot will be thick-soled, waterproof, and with a decent ankle support pair of jungle boot, like Indiana Jones’. Check out a travel store near you and pack a pair for your gorilla tour.
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6. Pack a tin of insect repellent
Now that we have you all dressed up, how about keeping the nasty bugs at bay. This when I have to remind you that you’ll be staying in the African Jungle, the metropolis of all kinds of bug species.
And not just any African jungle; it is the tropical rainforest jungle with the highest species of animals, bugs, and all kinds of creepy crawlies on the continent. You’ll want to avoid said creepy crawlies, especially if they cause unnecessary itching.
One-two punch of Deet on exposed skin and permethrin on clothing is the outdoors enthusiast’s best bet to knock out the annoyance and risk of blood-feeding pestilence. In the evenings at the campfire or lounge, when you’re dressed up less, douse yourself in insect repellent and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience scratch-free.
Food is your source of energy to keep hiking the jungle. No one is sure how long you’ll spend in the jungle before the trackers spot the gorillas. You might want to carry something to snack on when you feel your energy is getting depleted.
The lodge you stayed in the previous night usually packs something for your backpack. Still, you can carry something familiar like an energy bar and at least a liter of drinking water in your backpack.
The guides usually allow short snack breaks. Remember that it’s illegal to litter the pack, so carry something to keep your garbage when you’re done snacking.
8. Biodegradable tissue or toilet paper
When you gotta go, you gotta go! There are no bathrooms in the jungle, and nature may call anytime—pack biodegradable tissue to save you from the embarrassment of using leaves and keeping the forest natural.
9. Waterproof backpack and extra batteries
We know you’ll be carrying your camera equipment with you to record these once-in-a-lifetime memories for your people back home, right. Then you won’t want them getting wet.
Pack a ziplock waterproof bag or a waterproof backpack to keep your equipment away from rainwater or forest mist. Also, pack extra batteries for your camera and an extra flash drive or memory card. This place is full of too many wonderful memories to store. You’ll be carried away to fill your camera memory. Africa safari photography tips that will come in handy.
10. Trekking poles or hiking staffs
Trekking Poles are sold as a pair and used in tandem to enhance your stability and reduce your knees’ force while hiking and backpacking. Most are adjustable in length, and some include internal springs that absorb shock to reduce impact further. On the other hand, the hiking staff, sometimes called a walking staff or travel staff, is a single pole that’s most effective when used on relatively flat terrain and with little or no load on your back. Hiking staffs are adjustable, and some include a shock-absorbing feature. At your gorilla lodge, you may be given a walking stick locally made from timber, but they’re not made to standard and could give you mobility side effects.
You will have a steep downhill; the trekking poles can provide good anchor points to balance against as you hike down. Likewise, if you get to a steep upslope, you can use poles to dig in and pull yourself upon.
If you want to make your hike more of a full-body workout, there’s no denying that moving your arms back and forth will help you expand a little more energy. It’s also nice to get in a rhythm with hiking sticks.
If your hands swell when hiking, using trekking poles will keep the hands closer to the heart’s level, improving blood return to your heart.
Alright, folks, that’s just about what you need to pack for your gorilla tour in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest jungles. Just pack light, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your luggage safe and avoid all the consequences of carrying heavy bags. You’ll enjoy being with the gorillas for that one hour with no mind wandering interruptions.
When you’re ready to book your gorilla trekking trip, send us an email ([email protected]), and we’ll connect you directly to a local expert to help you plan your holiday in your own style of travel. No third parties involved.