By Jonathan Benaiah (The Ugandan Tourist)
In part 1 we discovered that Uganda has a total of thirteen (13) habituated mountain gorilla families in the two National Parks called Mgahinga and Bwindi; and twelve of these are open to visitors on Uganda mountain gorilla trekking safaris. We also discovered that only tourists who have purchased mountain gorilla permits can participate in this activity. In part 2 we will continue from where we left off. And we will pick on Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for the examples.
With the permit at hand, tourists above fifteen (15) years can then proceed to Bwindi where the long awaited adventure will take place. Because Tracking Uganda’s mountain gorillas starts early in the morning (08:00 am), it is advisable that you travel to the park at least a night before; especially if you are going to drive there.
The night before the actual experience of the mountain gorilla tracking safari in Uganda often feels longer than normal nights because you are so anxious about what to experience the following day. When you wake up early in the morning, the anxiety is even more and all you can think about is seeing the mountain gorillas.
The time you wake up will be determined by the distance between your lodge and the trailhead. In mountain gorilla tracking, a trailhead refers to the place where the path along which tourists move in search of the mountain gorillas begins. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four (4) sectors (Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga) and each sector has a trailhead where the tourists are briefed from.
The briefing starts at 7:45 am by Uganda Wildlife Authrty (UWA) experts and then the Uganda mountain gorilla tracking Safari and tour in Bwindi will begin at 08:00 am. It is advisable that tourists mark the name of the habituated family which is indicated on their gorilla tracking permit and thereafter ascertain the location of the correct trailhead along which that particular family is tracked (especially if they are not using a tour operator).
Visitors ought to know that a purchased gorilla permit can only be used by the person in whose names it was purchased. Additionally, gorilla permits are non-refundable and if a tourist fails to show up on the date indicated on his permit, he can never claim compensation; similar to the fate of a “no-show” for a flight at an airport. The few cases where tourists might be refunded include when a tourist is observed to be ill before the Safari to track Uganda’s mountain gorillas commences; or if tourists fail to find the gorilla family after a tiresome day of tracking. In these two cases, tourists can get back a maximum of 50% of the price they had paid for the permit.
If a tourist fulfills all the necessary requirements, then he/she has a right to enjoy the experience of his life.