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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda - Tour operators

whitety

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2009
Following on from a trek up Kilimanjaro and safari in the Serengeti, my girlfriend and I intend to travel to Uganda in late march to go Gorilla trekking in Bwindi. The plan is to go relax at Bunyonyi lake for a few days and then join a tour company to go on a gorilla trek and then perhaps a couple other stops on the way back to Entebbe to say goodbye to the better half and probably head into Kenya.

To those of you that may want out how wonderful Rwanda is as an alternative, I've seen many posts and understand your views but I'm very keen to spend the time in Uganda and Bwindi.

What I want to know is any view on tour operators. I'm currently in contact with Kazinga Tours and GorillaTours and am keen to understand if anybody has any views about these operators or whether there are alternative options. We want a fairly custom option as we won't be arriving into Entebbe which seems the standard expectation.

Any information / opinions / feedback will be most gratefully received.

Zuleika

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2009
Uganda is a wonderful country - quite unspoilt by tourism - unlike parts of Kenya -just my opinion of course!
Anyway - my question is - do you need to join a tour company at all? I did - but it seemed to me that it wasnt needed. All you need is your gorilla trek permit - and there were always a couple spare everyday we were there although you may have to wait a day or so, (we were given the option to trek again simply by purchasing a permit on the day) - you could look into this option - and of course dont forget to book some accomodation in Bwindi - which is mostly tented camps. I guess transport could be an issue if you didnt have a tour.

Lake Bunyoni is also a wonderful relaxing place, and if you can get to Kibale to see the wild chimps -I found them pretty scary and ominous, unlike the giant gentle gorillas.
Uganda is my favourite african country to date.
Life is such an adventure, I can't wait to live it some more.

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2009
I'm not sure you could pay me to see wild chimps. I saw the semi-wild variety in Malaysia, and I do believe they are aggressive nasty creatures that would give wolves a good name.

I'd be scared to go on any kind of trek in Africa without a guide, especially gorilla country.

I'd also worry about the Gorillas, since they can catch our diseases and have no immunities!

Africaholic

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2009
Not to worry - you are NOT allowed to either track gorillas or chimps without a specialist guide. Everyone that has a permit, checks in at the ranger station early in the morning and is assigned a guide (it's part of the permit fee).

You would never see truly wild chimps or gorillas because they would scamper off most likely before you would even spot them. We are talking about habituated chimps and habituated gorillas in the wild - big difference! If you go track both, do the chimps first because even the habituated ones are much more skiddish than any habituated mountain gorilla. Most of the time, you don't get very close to chimps and since they are mostly arborial, you'd be lucky to get a decent photograph of one. Gorillas are completely different. They are truly gentle giants, predominantly on the ground, tolerant and very curious. The guides speak their language (grunting noises)! Anyone that is ill (even with just a common cold or traveler's diarrhea) is NOT allowed to track in order to protect these apes from catching our diseases. The guides also make sure you don't get too close to the apes, in Uganda even more so than in Rwanda.

There is NOTHING to be afraid of as long as you follow the rules and the instructions of your guide. Gorilla tracking is THE most amazing animal encounter one can have!

whitety

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  • Added on: October 8th, 2009
Thank you all for your responses!

The reason for the tour is that we are going to be pressed for time. My girlfriend is coming to Africa for 1 month (I'll be there for 7) and we are packing quite a lot in. Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and safari in the Serengeti / Ngorogoro take up a big chuck of time. We need to get back to Entebbe for her flight home on a specific day and therefore want the assurance of a tour for the last few days. Basically we can't afford to wait for a permit to come up, and certainly wouldn't want to miss this fantastic finale.

We are currently looking at two options - 1) going on the gorilla trek, then travelling to Entebbe 2) leaving Bunyonyi a couple days earlier, going on the gorilla trek, heading to Kibale to go chimp trekking and then headint to Entebbe. Basically going to depend on price and how much we fancy relaxing at Bunyonyi.

Africaholic - you have clearly been a number of times (from reading a number of other posts) have you every gone with a tour company?

Many thanks,
Tyler

snarkyinla2

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  • Added on: October 10th, 2009
Hi Tyler,

So, I did what you're asking two summers ago (you can read my blog for details) and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I would advise your option of leaving Lake Bunyoni earlier. Its nice there, but its really not worth ALL that long a stay, IMO. I stayed for 2 days/1 night and it was more than enough.

Yes, if you need to get a tour on less than 1-2 year's notice you need a tour operator as they pre-buy up most of the permits -- but as the other poster pointed out, the tour operators have nothing to do with the actual gorilla tour itself, they drop you off in the morning and the park guides take you trekking. If you want to go see chimpanzees, then find a tour operator who can package them together. For our agency recommendations, TripAdvisor has lots of good recommendations and reviews. I had a pretty bad tour company experience and it was wth a very highly recommended tour company, so in some cases its just a crapshoot (I used Churchill, they get great recs normally, but I can't recommend them).

So, when looking at a tour company they are all going to be the same as far as gorilla treks, since they don't control those. But other factors you should look for are: transportation to Bwindi and the type of lodging. Transportation falls under three categories: you take public go get there from Entebbe or Kampala, or they take you in a private car, or you go by charter plane. I'm going to assume you're looking at the options where a tour company picks you up in a car. If so, then the main thing to know is will it be just you and your girlfriend, or will you be part of a larger tour? The latter will be cheaper usually, but either way you need to find out the quality of car you are getting (eg: a nice land rover, or are you being packed into a bus)?

On lodging, they will tell you where you would stay, or give you a couple of options. Look them up on the internet and get reviews (again, I recommend TripAdvisor for that). Some places will offer camping (very cheap) and then there are a range of lodges. I spluged and stayed in just about the nicest, most expensive place there is. For me, it was worth every penny to round out the experience, but it really depends on your situation.

Hope that helps!


-Snarky

whitety

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  • Added on: October 20th, 2009
Thank you Snarky! More handy information which is much appreciated.

(Was on holiday - hence delay in reading your post)

Off to go read your blog now.

Tyler

whitety

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  • Added on: October 23rd, 2009
Ok, so I'm just getting to the point of thinking about travel insurance. STA travel seem to provide a good package for most things which included trekking up to 6,000 metres which is perfect for Kili, but they don't and won't cover gorilla or chimp trekking. Think it has to do with the fact it deals with wild and in their eyes dangerous animals.

So, two questions - when going trekking has anybody got specific insurance which covers them for trekking with gorillas and chimps - if so, who through (in the UK....)

If not, the impression I get is there isn't a great deal to worry about but that's often the case with insurance - is there any reason to hunt down and insurer that will specifically cover this?

I'm also wondering about being sick - I know that if you have a cough / cold that you can't trek and there is no refund - can that be covered by any insurance?

Thanks all,
Tyler

snarkyinla2

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  • Added on: October 23rd, 2009
My travel insurance was with STA, and there were no gorilla-related restrictions (though it was not something I specifically asked about, the person who sold it to me knew where I was going). I've never heard of any such restriction though. By the same token, no one would cover a camping safari where there's a risk you are exposed to the animals. The only kind of restrictions have seen are for things like bungee jumping, mountain climbing, and parachuting. I'd look at different policies, I don't think others will give you such flak.

You need to be worried there as you would anywhere -- what if you get sick, what if you break your leg, what if you need to be flown out to a hospital. I woudn't worry about the gorillas and chimps themselves, but at least for Bwindi its a very steep rainforest and its very slippery. One of the people I was with took a bad fall (though she was wearing completely inappropriate shoes). On the whole, there's nothing particuarly dangerous about it, its just wanting insurance same as you would anywhere else...

shubh

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  • Added on: November 2nd, 2009
You are advised to wash your hands before you start you gorilla trekking trip. Try as much as possible to keep your voices as low as possible. Rubbish is something that you must not leave in the pak. Please carry back the rubbish you came with. A minimum of 8 people are allowed to visit a particular group. so as you plan with your friends, keep this in mind. This is meant to help with behavioural disturbances and also risk to human diseases to the gorillas.

Adventure Joy

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  • Added on: November 24th, 2009
Gorilla Trekking safari is a trip of a lifetime as it's very expensive for most of us.I'm also looking forward to do gorilla trekking in the near future.A single permit costs Usd 500 per day.I wish you well on your safari.

whitety

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  • Added on: February 21st, 2010
It's been a while since I checked boots 'n all mainly due to having started my travels. Going Gorilla trekking in the first week of April and will be putting info on my blog - www.lariamnights.com should anybody who has commented or viewed this feed be interested.

markhodson

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  • Added on: April 5th, 2011
You should check out World Primate Safaris, a gorilla safari specialist. They are a small company run by former safari guides based in Brighton.
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