A Beginner’s Guide to Ethical Wildlife Tourism

If you’re up for a true adventure and are OK with getting a little dirty in the process, a trek in pursuit of seeing one of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world would certainly be one for the books. At this point, Mountain Gorillas can be found in the Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda, but it’s Uganda that holds  60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world. About 400 of them reside in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Finding an experienced local guide is critical for a journey like this, since you’ll be bushwhacking through some of the most remote jungle on Earth, possibly for the entire day. Once the gorillas are located you’ll have time to observe, take photos and ask questions. Beware any companies that might allow you to get too close to them, as they’re highly susceptible to human disease and can get violent if they feel threatened. No tour company should allow you to eat or drink around the gorillas for the same reasons.

If you do choose Uganda for your gorilla trekking journey, keep in mind that the country has two significant dry seasons: June to September and December through February. The remaining months make up the vaunted wet season. Though you’re able to trek all year long, attempting it during the dry months is recommended for many reasons — flash floods, rained-out trails, etc.

There’s a high demand for gorilla permits, so try to get yours as early as possible. It’s advised to obtain them no less than six months in advance of your trip time, especially during high season. The cost for non-residents is $600, and you can secure one through a reliable ground tour operator in Uganda or through the reservation office at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Note: Plan on visiting with the kids? Keep in mind that travelers must be 15 years or older to obtain a gorilla permit, but most tour operators offer kid-friendly activities for them to participate in while you’re on the trek.

 

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