Mountain Gorilla Habituation process in Mgahinga & Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mountain gorillas are one kind of rare wildlife species. Their being rare isn’t about being hard to see ut being a few in number and restricted within a specific area. In the whole world, the only natural habitat is within Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South western Uganda. Volcanoes National Park in north western Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. All the four gorilla natural habitats are within the same vicinity.
With the changing trends in tourism, gorilla trekking is becoming one of the popular Africa safari activities. However, this isn’t the only safari activity done in these habitats, there is what is known as Mountain Gorilla habituation.
What is Mountain Gorilla Habituation?
Mountain gorilla habituation is a taming or training process of getting wild mountain gorillas used to the presence of human beings and behave normally in their presence. The gorilla habituation experience is a full day activity alongside researchers who help you learn more about the gorillas since they spend more time learning the behavior of each gorilla. Since the time spent with the gorillas on habituation is more than that of trekking, the prices are also higher, in Uganda it goes for USD 1500 compared to USD 600 for a trek and Congo USD 500 rather than the USD 400 for a trek. There isn’t gorilla habituation in Rwanda because all the gorilla families there were already habituated therefore you can go for a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda rather. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also doesn’t offer the gorilla habituation experience since it has only one gorilla family which is also already habituated and open for Uganda gorilla trekking safari tourists.
Gorilla habituation is a painstakingly slow process in which guides approach the gorillas and try to behave like them each day for a full year. After a year, tourists are allowed to go for habituation such that the gorillas get used to white skin and cameras. After about a year and a half of gorilla habituation with tourists they are opened for gorilla trekking. This time could seem like a long time for a specie to get used to humans but this is incomparable to chimpanzees that can take even 10 years to get fully habituated.
Why would someone opt for Mountain Gorilla Habituation?
As you plan a Rwanda, Congo or Uganda gorilla safari, gorilla trekking is probably the first idea to come to your mind, but why would one opt for gorilla habituation rather;
Gorilla families set for gorilla trekking have been receiving visitors for years on a daily and therefore they won’t be bothered by your presence. For gorillas under habituation, they are in most cases half habituated and therefore they behave like how they do in the wild. Its amazing to see how they react to human presence with the silverback gorilla in most cases charging towards people as a way of protecting their family. The experience is different and so much unpredictable.
Unlike the normal gorilla trek, where you spend a single hour in the presence of mountain gorillas during a gorilla habituation experience, you spend the whole day in the forest with the gorillas. This gives you more time with the gorillas and you learn more about the gorillas though it can be challenging to interact so much with the gorillas because they are not fully habituated and will always keep a distance.
If you are a “loner” or one who loves to do safari activities without “destructive” crowds, then gorilla habituation in the way to go. Eight tourists are allowed to trek a single gorilla family each day whereas four tourists are allowed to go for gorilla habituation alongside ranger guides and researchers. The small numbers offer a more amazing experience.
Whether you opt for gorilla trekking or gorilla habituation, there’s no experience just as the same as the other. The same gorilla family in the same habitat could behave differently when met by different groups, just go expecting to see what you find.