The covid 19 pandemic has disrupted the normal order of life and introduced a new normal, as a way of controlling the spread & effect of this virus (or should I say as way of living with the virus). This includes how gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done during this covid pandemic era.
Gorillas and humans share than 98% DNA, meaning humans and gorillas can suffer from the same diseases and that includes covid 19. Therefore, the biggest task of gorilla tourism in this covid era is to prevent humans from passing the SARS-CoV-2 virus on to the gorillas. At the moment it is not known how the virus would affect the gorillas if infected but it could be as devasting as it has done in humans or even worse. The virus crossing over to the gorillas would also mean the virus will stay around longer and potentially cross back to humans with even worse variants.
The government of Rwanda has taken the lead in protecting the gorillas and other primates from covid by imposing stricter guidelines/requirements for visiting primate parks including Volcanoes National Park home to the gorillas and golden monkeys, Gishwati – Mukura National Park home to chimpanzees and Nyungwe forest national park home to the chimpanzees and many species of monkeys and is popular for the chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda and the canopy walk
What are the guidelines/requirements for the gorilla trekking in Rwanda during the covid 19 pandemic?
Before visiting the gorillas, a tourist much have a negative PCR test result done within 72 hours from the time of gorilla trekking or golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park. This is perhaps the most outstanding requirement!
Only a PCR test is accepted but not the rapid test.
On the day of the gorilla trek should a tourist show any covid symptoms such as high temperature, cough or flue, he or she shall not be allowed to proceed with the gorilla trek.
Tourists must put on masks when with the gorillas.
Where to do a PCR test for your gorilla trek in Rwanda?
You can do the covid test in Kigali at RBC. Results are supposed to return within 24 hours, but on average return within 12 hours. You can therefore do a test in the morning of traveling to the park and by evening have the results if you are trekking the following day.
You can also test at the government hospital in Musanze. This is if your gorilla trekking date will be a few days away from the time you travel from Kigali a test from Kigali would have expired by the time of your tracking date! The Musanze testing point also works if you are not traveling from Kigali so you do not have to travel back to Kigali for the test.
Another PCR testing center is in Gisenyi where you can test if traveling from the south or western parts of Rwanda enroute to the Volcanoes National Park!
As the covid situation in Uganda improves, with cases of covid 19 dwindling every day, the government of Uganda is relaxing on the restrictions. The good news for travelers going to Uganda is that the government has declared there is no more testing on arrival at the airport effective from February 2022. Perhaps one of the best news as many travelers found the test on arrival at the airport the worst of restrictions. It added to the cost of travel as you had to $30 for it, and it was such a great inconvenience that caused a lot of anxiety waiting for the results while thinking of the worst outcome of a positive result. Imagining traveling all the way to Uganda to enjoy a safari vacation in the Pearl of Africa (home of popular gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking) only to test positive for covid and sent into isolation.
The government came to this decision to stop covid tests on arrival as fewer and fewer positive cases of covid were registered among the arriving travelers. An indication of the declining covid 19 cases worldwide. Perhaps an encouraging signal that the worldwide pandemic could soon come to an end.
What restrictions are still in place for traveling to and from Uganda?
Travelers going to Uganda are required to present a negative result from a PCR test taken not later than 72 hours to the time of arrival in Uganda.
Travelers leaving or flying out of Uganda are required to present a negative result from a PCR test taken with 72 hours from the time of flying out of Uganda. Travelers often are concerned as to whether they would be able to find a place to test in Uganda at the end of their gorilla trip and get results in time? Well, Uganda has developed a lot of capacity to test for covid 19 over the last two years of the pandemic. So many labs have been established in the capital Kampala and even out of Kampala. You can take a covid 19 PCR test and have your results in as few as 4 hours. Generally it would take 6 – 8 hours to have your results.
What is the latest covid situation in Uganda?
The covid situation in Uganda has improved a lot as of February 2022. The country experienced the Omicron surge in December last year of 2021, peaking quickly by early January and by the end of January almost every person in the capital Kampala and much of the country had had a taste of it. By end of February 2022 nearly much of the population has been “vaccinated” by the extremely contagious Omicron variant. There is little covid in the population as more recover from Omicron.
Most of the adult population above 50 years that is most vulnerable in Uganda has received the covid jabs. Uganda has a younger demographic with more than 70% of the country below 25 years. This younger demographic is one of the main factors the covid pandemic did not have a devastating effect in Uganda like it has been in countries with aged populations such as Europe.
There has been a lot of vaccine hesitancy among the young population, but the later covid variants that spread quickly through the population have caused natural immunity among the population.
Nearly all essential works such as health workers, teachers, security, tour drivers and hospitality workers have been vaccinated!
I can tell without fear that chances of picking a covid infection from Uganda are very minimal!
Chimpanzees are said to be our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Below are ten interesting facts about chimpanzees that you may not know and many will leave you surprised at how similar they are to humans.
- Chimpanzees share 98.7% DNA with humans. Scientists say Chimpanzees and Humans share the same ancestor of evolutionary origin.
- Chimpanzees live in communities like humans. Unlike other primates like monkeys and Gorillas who live in groups, Chimpanzees live in communities that can be as large as 100+ chimps. Within the community are smaller units of groups, families, friends, etc… who can go about their lives independently from other chimps in the same community.
- Chimpanzee communities have classes. Within a community of chimps are three classes; upper class, middle class and lower class, and of course the higher the class the more privileges a chimp has…much like in human communities
- Chimpanzees vote their leaders in communities. Unlike in other primates like monkeys and gorillas where the most powerful becomes the leader of the group, chimpanzees are highly democratic and vote their leaders depending competencies and skills a chimp possesses. They do change leaders every now and then once a leader becomes unpopular.
- Chimpanzees have binocular vision. Chimps have an incredible eyesight that is said developed to spot snakes in the thick jungle.
- Chimpanzees can’t swim.
- Chimpanzees do not become sexually active until they about 10 years.
- Infant chimpanzees are born every 4 – 5 years and stay with their mothers until they are 8 – 10 years
- Chimpanzees are endangered. Due to the low birth rate of chimps and the immense pressure on their habitats, their numbers continue to dwindle.
- Chimpanzees can make and use tools. Chimpanzees have been observed to make and modify tools from their environment such as trees.
Never seen chimpanzees before? The chimpanzee trekking in Uganda and chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda are excellent tours that will give you an opportunity to encounter a community of chimps in their natural home, observe their classes and leadership, see how they use tools and communicate with each other, and other interesting behaviors.