Gorilla habituation is the process of training mountain gorillas to live amongst human beings and the process takes about two to three years for gorillas to be fully habituated when they are fully ready to be trekked. Gorilla habituation is only available in Bwindi Impenetrable National park which is situated in South Western Uganda in Kanungu District and a home to the mountain gorillas. Therefore this means that the star attraction of the park are the gorillas making Bwindi Impenetrable National park a famous destination for gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience since the park harbors more than half of the world’s remaining gorilla population. Gorilla habituation experience has a limitation on the number of people to carry it out and its only a group of four people that are allowed to get involved with the experience per gorilla group and per day. There at a total of eight gorilla habituation permits that are available per day. This mean that the permits at grouped into two groups each group having four permits. For one to get involved or be part of the gorilla habituation experience must be of fifteen years and above this is because those under fifteen can not go for the habituation experience for the fear of their reaction to what they will see, might end up screaming causing discomforts to the gorillas yet they have not been fully habituated, might not be able to walk the long distances since it involves moving and tracking, diseases that they carry are a threat to the gorillas. And one must have acquired a gorilla habituation permit.
A gorilla habituation permit can be acquired from the offices of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. A gorilla habituation permit costs 1500dollars for the foreign non residents, 1000dollar for the foreign residents and 750000shs for the East African community citizens unlike the gorilla trekking permit which is cheaper than the habituation permit. And there are 8permits available per day this means that booking a permit must be done in advance like 6 months prior the habituation experience day to avoid collisions and disappointments.
Just like it is for gorilla trekking, gorilla habituation experience can be done any time one wishes to. But there is always best time which is during the dry season when there is no rainfall or less rainfall in the park since it’s a rainforest there is not guarantee that it wouldn’t rain. Its always easier to do habituation during the dry season because the roads and trails are passable and dry, vegetation cover is not over grown though the dry season is the peak season which means over crowds in the park. The dry season covers months of December, January, February, June, July, August and early September. The wet season covers March, April, May, October and November these are days when there are less crowds in the park, less competition, muddy roads and trails, rains and over grown vegetation which are inconveniencing. Still one can choose to visit the park and carry out habituation experience in the wet season since it is not limited to any season can be carried out all year around.
Gorilla habituation involves a group of four tourists being accompanied by researchers, scientists and Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers into the jungle to search for a semi habituated gorilla family. During the Gorilla habituation experience the visitors start tracking from where the gorillas where last seen from the previous evening unlike during the gorilla trekking where the trackers first go ahead of the group and track the gorilla family once its found they make communications to the guide on the radio call. One should note that the point of gorilla habituation experience is to follow the gorilla group and stay in their vision as they move eventually getting closer to reach the 7m distance. During the gorilla habituation the time given to spend with the gorillas is longer than that of the gorilla trekking. In habituation visitors are given 4 hours time with the gorillas therefore visitors get a chance to observe and understand the gorillas deeper, individually and their social dynamics. They get to know how they behave, communicate, eat, play all details are being learnt about. After the habituation process when the researchers are certain and sure that the wild gorillas are now free and okay with the human presence a mock exercise is carried out a way of testing to prove if they are ready if they pass the test then definitely the group is ready to be launched for gorilla trekking. Remember gorilla habituation experience is only available here in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Uganda. While on the gorilla habituation experience visitors are accompanied by researchers, habituation experts and armed rangers because the gorillas undergoing habituation are still wild and undertaking a series of learning. Gorilla habituation started in 1993 in Buhoma sector one of the 4 sectors of Bwindi after the reserve was gazeted as a National park in 1991 with the Mubare gorilla family being the first family to be habituated. Currently there are 19 fully habituated gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National park found in the four sectors each sector having different gorilla families an d these include; Mubare gorilla family, Habinyanja gorilla family, Rushegura gorilla family, Katwe gorilla family, Muyambi gorilla family, Kahungye gorilla family, Bweza gorilla family, Busingye gorilla family, Mishaya gorilla family, Nshongi gorilla family, Mucunguzi gorilla family, Bitukura gorilla family, Kyaguliro gorilla family, Mukiza gorilla family, Nkuringo gorilla family, Bushaho gorilla family, Christmas gorilla family, Bikingi gorilla family. Posho gorilla family and Kutu gorilla family are the two families which are still under habituation. One should ensure that he or she is moderately fit before embarking on gorilla habituation experience since the treks to the gorillas involves the steeps, rocky, slippery paths at high altitudes.
One interested in carrying out gorilla habituation experience must be equipped with the following good hiking boats, long sleeved shirts and long trousers, insect repellent these will protect you from the insect bites and keep you warm incase of the weather change, Binoculars, camera, two masks, waterproof hut, sunglasses a back pack with some snacks, lunch enough water, sun cream.
Gorilla habituation experience takes place in Bwindi impenetrable national park in the sectors of the southern part and there are two gorilla families which are under the habituation process and these include the Posho gorilla family and the Kutu gorilla family. These gorilla families are found in Rushaga sector and Nkuringo sector. The Kutu gorilla family of Rushaga has 20 members inclusive of the silverback Kutu, 1 black back, 8 adult females, 1 sub adult, 2 juveniles and 7 infants. And the Posho family of the Nkuringo sector has 14 members inclusive of the dominant Silverback Magara.
Bwindi has got a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from lodges, hotels, campsites, cottages all these range from the luxury, midrange and the economy or budget. This therefore mean that one can not fail to get a place to stay since there affordable facilities with good services, well trained and hospitable staff. These facilities offer services like beds, laundry, bathrooms, full stocked bar and restaurant with both local and international dishes, gardens which offer a scenic views, camping grounds. Since gorilla habituation experience happens in the southern part of the park it is suitable for visitors to choose accommodation facilities that are close to Rushaga sector and Nkuringo sector. And these are some of the accommodation facilities to choose from Gorilla Hills Eco lodge, Bwindi Guest house, Lake Muhele Gorilla lodge, Bwindi Cultural center, Rushaga Gorilla lodge, Rushaga Gorilla camp, Haven lodge Gorilla safari lodge, Ichumbi Lodge among others in Rushaga sector and then in Nkuringo sector we have facilities like Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla lodge, Wagtail Eco safari lodge, Chameleon Hill lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort. One can choose to sleep anywhere in the accommodation facilities in Bwindi and others include; Trekkers Tavern Cottages, Gift of nature lodge, Broadbill forest camp , Bakiga lodge among others.
Bwindi is in the south western Uganda and can be accessed by both road and air transport.
By Air transport: after arriving at Entebbe airport u can book a chartered flight that will land in either Kisoro or Kihihi or Kayonza airstrips. This flight will take you about one and half hours to get to the domestic airports. After there you proceed to Bwindi by road. Those intending to go to the southern trail head of Rushaga and Nkuringo then Kisoro airstrip is the best option to land which takes either 1½ hours or 2hours then reach the sectors by road. Those wishing to go to Buhoma or Ruhija sectors the best options to land in is Kihihi airstrip and Kayonza then after drive by road to get to the sectors.
By road transport: if your going to Rushaga from Kampala it will be eight to nine hours drive while to Nkuringo sector it will be about 10hours drive. You can choose to first pass by the Queen Elizabeth for the famous tree climbing lions. All routes connect to Butogota town which is 10miles from the entrance gate of Buhoma region. Those whose are already in Queen Elizabeth National park the drive to the southern part is two to three hours. You will drive through Ishasha, on this route you will be able to see the famous tree climbing lions. Those coming from Lake Mburo National Park the drive is five to six hours to get to the park .
There are set of rules and regulations and these include;
Bwindi impenetrable does not have only Gorillas a s an attraction there are a variety of other attractions available for tourists in the park including the primates like chimpanzees, baboons, blue monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Vervet, bush babies among others animals since the park is a home to 120 mammals like buffaloes, forest elephants, duikers, bush bucks, warthog, bush pigs, giant forest hog, African civet, African golden cat, Side stripped jackals, clawless Otter among others, bird species like Slender billed Greenbul, Strange weaver, Dusky Crimson wing, White Starred Robin, Great blue Turaco, Handsome francolin, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori turaco, Red faced woodland warbler, Grey Cuckoo shrike, White tailed crested flycatcher, Purple breasted sunbird, African green broadbill, Yellow streaked Greenbul, Banded Prinia, black bee eater, Cassin’s Hawk eagle, Waller’s starling, Grey headed sparrow, Grauers, Oriole finch, Regal scarlet tufted sunbird, Red headed Malimbe, Malachite, Archer’s Robin chat, Capa Robin, Toro Olive Greenbul, African pygmy kingfisher, African sooty flycatcher, Ross turacos, Shelly’s Greenbul, African paradise flycatcher, Yellow ramped tinker bird, African Goshawk, Doherty’s bush Caruthers Cisticola, Dwarf honeyguide, Cinnamon chested bee eater among others, butterfly species since the park has 200 species, tree species like bamboo trees, African brown mahogany, Ebony trees, Ceiba trees among others, 27 Amphibian species 11 of the Albertine Rift Endemics, Reptiles species an other plant species therefore Bwindi is a biodiverse.
Besides gorilla habituation experience there are numerous activities that tourists can engage in and these include gorilla trekking this is seen in every sector of the park since gorillas are the major attraction in the park, chimpanzee tracking since Bwindi is a home to 11 primates and chimpanzees being inclusive, primate viewing since the park has many primates like blue monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys visitors can carry out primate viewing and tracking. Birdwatching, Bwindi Impenetrable being a home to over 360 bird species this makes a birders spot. Birding can be done in the Mubwindi swamps, around the bamboo areas which have a variety of birds like black bee eater, Ruwenzori turaco, Striking handsome Francolin among others. Wildlife viewing since the park is a home to many animals both wild and herbivores and these include bush pigs, forest elephant, duikers, Civet, clawless Otter, warthog to mention. Forest nature walks. This involves walking around the jungle. This activity will give you an opportunity to discover and explore the jungle. You I’ll b able to view the beautiful scenes of the Forest, deep valleys, Lake Bunyonyi, different plant species, tree species, bird species, animals and Amphibian species, colorful butterflies of the forest, primate species, Reptiles and d flora and fauna. This will give you an exciting and amazing experience. Village walks. During the village walks you will be able to discover much about the locals lifestyles, cultures since you will be moving around the village having a one on one interaction with the locals, you will be able to visit schools, projects, come across the arts and crafts that is being made by the local women. Other activities include hiking, game drives, Camping, cultural tour involving encountering the Batwa people where you I’ll get a chance of knowing the culture and norms of the Batwa. You also be able to know the history of the Batwa people, how they used to live in the forest thus making an insight in their culture.