Is Ecotourism Saving Mountain Gorillas?

Mountain gorillas are the largest apes in the world and they are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. The population of mountain gorillas has recently increased from 880 to 1004 individuals according to the 2018 census results. Such increase is attributed to gorilla tourism which is the backbone of long term conservation efforts between the three countries.

However, despite the increase, threats to the survival of gorillas pose a challenge for conservation including loss of natural habitats, poaching, human diseases and conflicts. So it becomes evident that gorilla tourism through gorilla trekking safaris has been responsible for generating revenues to strike a balance between conservation and human needs.

There are 4 national parks where gorillas are protected. They include Bwindi impenetrable national park which is home to 400 individuals about half of the world’s gorilla numbers. The other parks are found in the Virunga Conservation Area which spans the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo including Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda.

High numbers of tourists visit these places for gorilla trekking safaris and go hiking through the dense forests to see the gorillas in their natural habitat. The gorilla parks are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna including birds, golden monkeys, forest elephants, butterflies.

Along with the gorillas, and other natural attractions, the gorilla parks are surrounded by dense populated indigenous communities of BaTwa, Bakiga and Bafumbira.

The dependence of these communities on natural resources for livelihood posses threats to the survival of gorillas such as habitat loss, human diseases, poaching and civil conflicts.

As tourists pay for the privilege to see mountain gorillas, the revenue earned in dollars is used to pay local rangers to manage and protect the parks and as well as supporting local community development to avert over-dependence on resources.

As much of what ecotourism relates to saving gorillas, eco tourism means responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.

Therefore, gorilla tourism revenues are used to conserve and protect gorillas. Without doubt, eco tourism is largely responsible for the thriving number of mountain gorillas in the following ways;

Revenue sharing and community conservation projects

Through revenue sharing scheme, 20 percent of the gorilla trekking proceeds are injected into the adjacent communities to develop schools, hospitals, roads, clean water. Locals are also supported to set up sustainable farms such as vegetable growing, honey bee keeping, and pig and goat rearing which acts as a trade off for bush meat.

The gorilla parks provide employment to the locals such as guides, trackers and rangers. All this set up provides livelihood and has educated locals on the benefits of conserving gorillas rather than poaching and encroaching on the habitats. For example locals are empowered to manage human gorilla conflicts and also collect resources such as wood, medicinal herbs in dedicated zones of the park.

Law Enforcement, Security and trans-boundary collaboration

Political instability is one of the major threats to the survival of gorillas but let’s see how eco tourism has helped.

Gorilla parks are gazetted and protected by armed rangers which clearly help to protect gorillas and their habitats from illegal activities. Rangers also ensure security of tourists and monitoring the movement of gorillas using the ranger based monitoring system in the case where gorilla parks overlap borders. This has helped gorilla numbers to increase especially Virunga conservation has seen increase of gorillas from 480 to 604 according to 2018 gorilla census.

However, some years ago Congo experienced some political instability which led to killing of gorillas. And decline in tourist numbers visiting Virunga national park for gorilla trekking meant there loss of revenues to pay for Virunga park management. That is why there’s need for strong trans-boundary collaboration and security through creation of one strong force of Virunga rangers and organizations such as Virunga alliance, International Gorilla Conservation Program, Great Apes Survival Partnership do a lot of work to protect gorillas which would rather be difficult for a single country like DR Congo to manage. With the return of political stability in DR Congo, we see that once again Virunga national park is safe for gorilla trekking safaris and it does not only saving gorillas but also the lives of rangers.

In Rwanda, the gorilla naming ceremony dubbed Kwita Izina was initiated in 2005 to help raise awareness about conservation of gorillas both locally and internationally. Indeed, it has paid off in a way to keep records of newly born gorillas.

Mountain Gorilla Veterinary doctors

Due to increased tourist visits, there’s a high risk of human infectious disease transmission to gorillas. Gorilla doctors are therefore responsible for intervention to treat sick or injured gorillas.

Gorilla trekking rules and regulations

A set of 8 rules and regulations were developed to limit tourist interaction with gorillas. Some of the rules include maintaining a distance of 7 meters when observing and photographing gorillas and spending 1 hour with gorillas. Among other rules include, only 8 tourists can visit 1 gorilla family per day. This ensures that gorillas are not overwhelmed by tourists and secondary, the gorilla habitats are kept safe since few tourists are allowed to visit the gorillas.

Increase of gorilla permit fees in Rwanda

Rwanda increased its gorilla permit fees from $750 to $1500 per person for seeing gorillas for 1 hour. Prior to the increase, there was tourist congestion leading to degradation of gorilla habitats in volcanoes national park. This strategy helps to limit people who can afford to track gorillas. thus it paves way for healthy habitats and population of gorillas.

6 Awesome Animals to See in Uganda

The world distinguished gorilla trekking destination Uganda offers the finest safari experience in Africa. Are you planning a vacation tour in Uganda and you very much want to see animals all through?. Uganda is a blessed country with variety of wildlife like Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes, Rhinos, Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Golden monkeys among others. The country has different national parks with various wildlife; therefore the choice is yours to visit the one with your favorite animals.

The most Incredible National parks for wildlife in Uganda include Bwindi forest National Park, Kibale forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Kidepo National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park. You may have a list of animals you want to see on your safari in Uganda  but the big 5 is a must as well as the best unique primate species in the world especially the mountain gorillas.

Uganda has a large selection of wildlife safari tours available in all wildlife game reserves and itineraries are designed depending on one’s interest. These guided safari tours normally depart from Entebbe international airport just after arrival or Kampala the capital city of Uganda.

1. Mountain Gorillas – The Silver of Western Uganda

Gorilla tourism in Uganda takes place in Bwindi forest National Park and Mgahinga National park home to over half of the living mountain gorillas in the world. These forest creatures are real beautiful and amazing to look at all the time. If you looking for exclusive gorilla trekking experience in wild jungle forested environment Uganda is the answer though gorillas also love in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

2. Golden Monkeys – Meet the Gold in the Wild

 Mgahinga National Park a famous point for gold and silver is the only place in Uganda to experience golden monkey habituation and trekking an exciting primate encounter in the jungle forest also a home for mountain gorillas. Trekking golden monkeys and gorillas have similar procedures. The activity starts at 7.00am after briefing in small groups of not more than eight and spend one hour with the monkeys once you find them. The interesting creatures that jump from tree to tree made Mgahinga National park exceptional for gorillas and golden monkey treks just like Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

3. The Beautiful Kobs

Uganda has plenty of beautiful Kobs a common type of antelopes found in almost every Uganda wildlife safari park. They roam freely in the eco system and its one of the beautiful animals you can’t miss on your trip to Uganda wildlife parks. Due to its wonderful beauty, the country used it on its coat of arms.

4. Lions – the Kings of the Jungle

The famous large carnivore that is a must see for those interested in viewing the big five  and are always scattered  throughout the park grassland best spotted during morning hours  and late evening. However, after getting a bite of the day they take rest until when they get hungry again. The best places to see lions in Uganda are Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Kidepo National Park but most amazing moment is watching the tree climbing lions of Ishasha.

5. Thrilling Hippopotamus

These animals can be seen in large numbers on the Kazinga channel of Queen Elizabeth National Park, on the might Nile of Murchison falls National Park and along the shores of Lake Mburo. Since they spend most of their time in water, they are sometimes seen in along the bank and shores. Visitors to Uganda enjoy viewing these creatures during the afternoon boat ride the perfect way to discover the lake beauties. While on the boat ride still expect to see some crocodiles, birds and many other attractive wildlife.

6. Elephants in Uganda

The elephants are one of the beautiful wild creatures in Uganda found in various wildlife safari parks like Kidepo valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Semuliki National Park, Tourists to Uganda have many chances of spotting elephants in different locations and safari destinations.  Carry your camera and meet them during the morning and evening game drive which is always an amazing experience for every visitor to the country.

Other amazing animals to see in Uganda include  chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, Buffaloes, giraffe, topis, waterbucks, baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, Rhino, leopard, cheetah, Zebras, warthog, Impalas among others.

Why Self Drive is the Best Option for Uganda Road Trip

With Covid-19 pandemic still proving to be the main challenge to the tourism sector, many people are left wondering how they can get to their dream destination on Uganda safari. But here is good news for you. Traveling during covid-19 is now possible with self-drive car rentals. Self-drive has proven to be the best alternative travelers can get to their destination to spend their holiday. Are you planning to go for self-drive safari in Uganda or game viewing? We have everyone covered with our fleet of self-drive car rentals which are available at affordable prices.

Why choose self-drive cars over other rental options

Self-drive cars make it easier to observe social distance

Renting a self-drive car for your travel plans during Covid-19 is pretty a good choice one can make. Unlike other means of transportation, it is easier to observe social distancing from each other.

You travel in sanitized vehicle

Before you set off, we ensure your self-drive car is sanitized. This makes it a safer option for you to get around Uganda. Most parts of the car are disinfected including steering wheel, keys, door handles, seats and many others once the car is return and prior handing it over to another customer. For public means, people tend to be reluctant about such measures which puts travelers at higher risk.

Unlimited mileage

The interesting part of self-drive tours is that visitors enjoy unlimited mileage on a road trip. You pay for the rental car and your movement isn’t limited. Your exploration in the agreed destination all depends on you. A traveler has his or her own travel plan and he or she can engage in activities not necessarily those that have been listed in the itinerary by the service provider.

Benefit from the doorstep car delivery services

Most car hire companies in Uganda offer doorstep car delivery services which you stand to enjoy on self-drive tour. The self-drive car can be brought to your hotel or other area as early as possible as agreed with your car rental dealer. This is not a case with public means where you have to travel up to particular terminals or stand along the road sides waiting.

Keyless entry system

With covid-19 at hand, it is hard to avoid touching surfaces. However, most car rental companies now apply keyless entry features to reduce the rate in which customers keep touching keys.

Why Most Travelers Prefer Bwindi than Mgahinga for Gorilla Trekking

Uganda hosts two national parks that protect the mountain gorillas. These are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Both parks are frequented by tourists looking for the popular and thrilling Uganda gorilla safaris, great trips that bring up close encounters with the mountain gorillas.

Where is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The popular Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is situated in South western Uganda. Its one of the biologically diverse rain forests in Uganda with ever green vegetation. The park is the most popular for gorilla trekking in the world. It hosts almost half of the world’s remnant population of the mountain gorillas. Of the estimated 1060 mountain gorillas, Bwindi hosts about 460 mountain gorillas that live within the forested park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest covers 321 squire Kilometres and is popularly famous for hosting mountain gorillas and it is characterised with tropical trees, shrubs and wetlands.

On the other hand, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda covering 33.7 squire Kilometers.  Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

In comparison, I prefer Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and below are the reasons justifying my statement:

Many Mountain Gorillas – It’s believed that over 400 Mountain Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable. This is almost half of the world’s mountain gorillas. With 21 habituated habituation Mountain Gorilla Families, Bwindi impenetrable National park offers Uganda much foreign exchange revenue. On the other hand, Mgahinga National Park protects one Gorilla Family known as Nyakagezi.

Over 120 mammals are found in Bwindi Impenetrable national Park. Among the mammals include forest elephants, forest Antelopes, leopards and many primates like including monkeys, chimpanzees among others.

Gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National Park are mobile but do not cross the boarders to the neighboring Rwanda or DRC therefore, meeting Gorillas in Bwindi Forest is guaranteed. Unlike in Mgahinga National Park, Nyakagezi Gorilla family is so mobile and sometimes cross boarders to Rwanda.

About 350 species of birds stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park including 23 Albertine rift valley endemics. Therefore, guests interested in birding safaris, Bwindi Impenetrable forest is a must visit.

Accessibility– In terms of accessibility, Bwindi impenetrable National Park is easily reached by road and air. You can fly from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Air strip to Kihihi or Kisoro Air strips. From there, you drive for few hours to Bwindi impenetrable National park. Alternatively, you can drive for 7-8hrs Entebbe Airport to Bwidi Impenetrable National Park.

Gorilla habituation is only done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Rushaga sector). Gorilla habituation enables guests spend 4hrs with Gorillas. Normal tracking allows one hour with Gorillas. On the other hand, Mgahinga National Park offers no Gorilla habituation.

Differences in relief – Mgahinga national Park is mountainous and unfit guests can’t maneuver. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is a bit gentle and manageable. It should be noted that Gorilla trekking involves walking through different land terrain before meeting Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.

Mgahinga National Park protects one habituated Mountain Gorillas known as Nyakagezi, Bwindi with more than 18 habituated gorilla families. For that note, guests are given chances to exercise their freedom of choice.

Mountain Gorillas Face More Threats During Lockdown

Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) are an endangered primate species that a visitor can’t tour without. There has been an increase in the number of mountain gorillas which live in the Virunga Mountain Ranges of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. Today the population of these great apes stands at over 1087 individuals. These primates are at the heart of a growing tourism industry that has incentivized their continued protection, but close proximity between humans.

Due to covid-19 that have affected the whole world negatively, there are steady increase threats affecting mountain gorillas. Recently a gorilla was killed in Bwindi by poachers.

The gorillas that are located in the thick forest of Virunga Conservation Area are highly affected by poaching and these include the eastern lowland gorilla found in the lowland forests of eastern DR Congo, the western lowland gorilla found in lowland forests of central and western Africa and the cross-river gorilla living along the Cross River along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Despite the fact that mountain gorillas have been affected by coronavirus, there have resulted into the suspension of primate watching safaris in various national parks such as Bwindi impenetrable national park, Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes national park and the Virunga national park.

Due to suspension, there has been steady increase of gorilla threats where gorillas have been killed by poachers just like rafiki gorilla silverback in Nkuringo gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable national park which is located in southwestern part of Uganda. This incident has made UWA to deploy more security guides in all national parks in Uganda to maintain the increase of the gorillas in their thick forest for touristic attractions.

The Virunga Conservation area has worked hand in hand with non-government conservation organization bodies such as Dian Fossey Fund whose focus is to protect gorillas in Rwanda and DR Congo. However much the conservationists work their best to protect gorillas in their thick forest, there are still challenges facing gorillas especially those gorilla subspecies that are less cared for than those habituated gorillas.

What is the biggest threats gorillas face in virunga conservation area?

Diseases

The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of humanity’s closest relatives and the largest primate that mostly attracted by visitors in virunga conservation area. Due to the genetic similarity between humans and gorillas, gorillas are easily affected by infectious diseases that affect people. Such diseases include Ebola, flue and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), and respiratory pathogens transmitted from humans, have been confirmed as important sources of mortality in wild gorillas and chimpanzees.

During gorilla trekking, visitors are briefed about the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking in the jungle. Some of these rules include illed visitors are not allowed to trek  in the jungle to safe guard the lives of gorillas which live in groups and can easily spread the disease quickly within other groups in the forest and keeping 10meter distance away from gorillas to prevent them from diseases. While awareness of the threat has increased, interventions such as vaccination and treatment remain controversial.

Poaching

Poaching has increased rapidly in all national parks during lockdown. Recently four men were imprisoned for killing rafiki gorilla silverback which was commonly known for leading Nkuringo gorilla family for 25 years. “These four men were imprisoned for being found in possession of wildlife specimens, illegal entry into a protected area and killing an endangered species” said by UWA spokesman. Steady increase of poaching was caused by the suspension of national parks due to coronavirus where people have hunted animals for survival.

Habitant degradation

Due to the fact that gorillas live in the forest were local communities are located, people degrade the forest to get land for agriculture, and clear the trees for get firewood. Despite the fact that trees are cut, gorillas are forced to migrate in search for thick forest were they feel comfortable to live in. furthermore, Infrastructure development causing habitat loss and degradation, and possible disruption to mountain gorilla health and behavior are also an emerging threat, as well as a changing climate.

Is Ecotourism Conserving the Gorillas in Bwindi?

As part of your ecotourism experience, Gorilla tracking is a very captivating activity; it involves walking in the wilderness in search of these great apes.

Most parts of Uganda have remained unchanged for over a period of a century. The instabilities of the early eighties resulted into stunted growth of all industries especially tourism which is super-sensitive when it comes to developing tourism. However the situation has been changed in the last 15 years. Local and international funding is picking up.

Government is slowly but surely reversing the damage inflicted on the wildlife population by re-establishing control and management. Much has been progress has been registered in the development of infrastructure and security in the National Parks. New non-traditional attractions such as sport fishing, Mountain Gorilla tracking, ecotourism, whitewater rafting, kayaking, Bungy jumping and quad-bike safaris. The above have put Uganda back on the tourist circuit.

Ecotourism: An experience to remember At Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Located in southwest Uganda, part of the last remaining natural stand of forest in East Africa. The renowned Bwindi Forest supports a large number of flora, fauna endemic in this region; the major being half of the worlds population of Mountain Gorillas. Close up to 450 mountain gorillas in number live in the impenetrable forest. These great apes live in groups. The mountain gorilla population is split between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their habitat is being encroached by farming and increased human population. These great apes are not called mountain gorillas for nothing; they live high in the slopes of the gorillas. The rugged terrain makes hiking/tracking in search of the gorillas strenuous work. The hilly uphill experience is worth every drop of sweat and dollar when you finally track them down.

Within Bwindi, there are 18 habituated gorilla families that can be visited by tourists. Groups of eight visitors are allowed to visit a habituated gorilla family per day and visitors are allowed to stay with the gorillas for only one hour. How time flies by! Keep eight to five meters distance as per the gorilla watching rules. However the gorillas do have their rules! They might come inquisitive especially the juveniles and may break the rule.

A good camera is handy here, but please no flash photography or you might upset the party! Remember you are not in the zoo, you are the intruder! Looking for tale-tale signs like broken twigs, pressed-down grass, dung around gorilla nests, the guides/trackers follow in their wake until you catch up with the family. While you are tracking the mountain gorillas, there are plenty to see in the Bwindi Forest, Chimpanzees, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, and 163 species of trees packed into one of the richest ecosystems in Africa.

Is Gorilla Tourism Sustainable?

It was decided to limit the number of people allowed to track these vulnerable primates so that to safeguard the habitat from human activities that can be disastrous. These rules are a balancing act between the short term benefits and the long term benefits and the long term protection of the gorillas. If the visitors are not regulated and large groups are allowed, there could be an increased risk of degradation and contamination of the environment in which the gorillas live.

Unrestricted tracking can lead to spread of disease from humans to the gorillas and vice versa. Remember most of the communicable diseases that humans catch, can spread to the mountain gorillas.

Gorilla tracking is a worthwhile adventure, as part of the proceeds goes into the work of ensuring that the gorillas survive for posterity to enjoy. Many projects concerning ecotourism in Uganda have sprung up around this ecosystem to sensitize the communities about the importance conservation measures concerning the gorillas and other endangered wildlife.

Conclusion

The remnant of the once huge rain forest which covered a large area of Africa in eons past; Bwindi Forest straddles the precipitous ridges of the Rift Valley. It is home to almost half of the remnant population of the mountain gorillas left in the whole world. Mountain forests are the last places to be encroached by the cultivating humans, consequently, the gorillas are constantly pressured into the mountains, and it is not their choice.

Unfortunately Bwindi also lies in one of the densely populated areas in Africa. Finally the forests upon the mountains have become a sanctuary of diverse species of fauna and flora. As its name implies, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is not easily accessible, with thick undergrowth, giant buttressed trees entangled in hand-thick lianas, Gorillas find it a perfect haven as well as birds which are present all the year round.

Wonderful Vacation in Uganda Africa

We had a wonderful vacation

My husband and I took the most incredible vacation that we have never been on! We knew that it was going to be fantastic but we had no idea just how amazing it would be. We decided to take Uganda Safaris. We went on a nine days safari which we booked with African Jungle Adventures Ltd. Indeed, the company prepared a wonderful trip. We took so many photos, it is going to take me forever to go through them all and put the best ones online. I have seen mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the zoo before but there is nothing quite like encountering them in their natural habitat. I also thought that I knew a lot about birds but we saw types that I had never heard of before. I took a lot of notes and I plan to put all of the information on our family website. These were nine of the best days in my life. I promise to go back next year with the same company.

I Wanted a Lifetime Holiday

When my husband and I were married, we never vacationed. No matter how many times I asked to visit another country or even another state, he didn’t want to go, and I never wanted to travel alone. We divorced after 12 years of marriage, and to celebrate my freedom, I booked a plane ticket to Africa. I decided to go on Uganda tours and I expected this trip to be the most exciting one in my life — not to mention, the vacation of a lifetime. I booked the longest safari with African Jungle Adventures Ltd which had 15 days package I wanted. The package included Gorilla tracking, Chimpanzee trekking, Launch cruise on Murchison falls among other activities. Indeed, I explored Uganda. It was amazing to see a part of Africa that few get to experience, and it was unbelievable how close we got to the wildlife. I met other people on the tour who were also traveling alone, so we made new friendship and never felt lonely.

I had a Great Vacation in Uganda

Are you looking for a great vacation? Try a Uganda Safari, very stimulating and a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone. Uganda is known for having almost half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitant. Parks like Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga protects the great mountain Gorillas alongside other primates. Bird watching, chimpanzee treks, and among other type of treks available. The fauna, climate and wildlife are breathtaking no matter when you visit Uganda. Before gorilla on a budget or luxury gorilla safari in Rwanda or Uganda, , there are several things you will need to keep in mind. You are watching wild animals. Anything can happen. Make sure you book with a reliable company having a reputable guide so that you are completely safe. Look over all the different companies that offer safaris and pick the one that is right for you. No matter which one you pick, you are sure to have the time of your life.