How does the chimpanzee trekking compare with the gorilla trekking

The gorilla trekking/tracking is obviously the number one tour activity that majority tourists book to see primates in the African jungle. The chimpanzee trekking/tracking on the other hand is normally just an add-on and many tourists wonder whether it is any different from the gorilla trek and whether it is a worthwhile addition to the already expensive gorilla trekking. Afterall, they are all primates!! In fact, some tourists cannot properly differentiate a chimpanzee from the gorilla.

 
Which one is the gorilla & which one is the chimp? 🙂

Below I try to throw a bit of perspective to help you see how these two great apes with interesting wildlife experiences compare and help you decide whether you should do one over the other, or do both of them.

Meeting up with the gorillas and chimps – character & organization

The Mountain Gorillas are big and have an intimidating look, but they are so gentle and shy, nothing like the aggressive “King Kong” gorilla portrayed in the movies. You will find the gorillas who live in relatively small tight families of about 8 – 15 individuals going about their business silently on the ground which is mostly feeding on vegetation, grooming each other and resting. It is the big silverback, the head of the family, that normally imposes himself in space to show who is boss and ensure no creature is getting too close to his members, while other members are mostly shy and retreating, always trying to get away from onlookers.

Chimpanzees are the opposite of the gorillas. Chimps are extremely active…and wild. Unlike gorillas that live in small family units keeping tightly together in a small area, the chimps live as a community of 100s of individuals occupying a large territory. They engage in loud vocalizations & the traditional thunderous hitting of tree barks to communicate with other members across the wide territory. Being in the midst of those vocalizations is quite hair-raising experience. They move swiftly, be it on ground or swinging from tree to tree and therefore need you to be on your toes almost all the time. Every member or group of members in the chimp community can engage in different activities giving you a diversity of views and experiences. You can decide to follow one member or group in the big community.

In a nutshell:

Meeting the gorillas can be likened to bumping into your favorite celebrity for the first time that leaves you astounded/starstruck, while meeting the chimp is like bumping into a long-lost crazy buddy who will treat to you to hearty laughter…

Comparing the trekking experience and the level of difficulty

The gorilla trekking level of difficulty is normally a concern because the mountain gorillas live in mountains covered in dense vegetation. It can be a difficult or easy hike to find the gorillas depending on their location, however after finding them the experience is much slower as the gorillas do not move very often and can stay in same area till you leave. On the other hand, the chimps are quite swift and can be quite a task following them up and down.

Verdict

I highly recommend combining these the gorilla trek and the chimpanzee tracking. Both of these tours can be done on trips in Uganda and trips in Rwanda.

What is the best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda? Best time to see gorillas?

What is the best time to visit Rwanda for the gorilla tour? What is the best time for the gorilla trekking? What is the best time that will give me the best chance to see the gorillas?

These are common questions from tourists planning a gorilla trekking trip in Rwanda and Uganda. Gorilla trekking is number one on the list of top things to do in Rwanda.

What is the best time that will give you the best chance to see the gorillas? And the answer is simple:

ALL YEAR ROUND the gorillas can be seen.

BUT THE WEATHER…

However, the weather can have an effect on the level of difficulty of the gorilla trek (but not on the chances of finding the gorillas), and therefore you may choose to do the gorilla trek when it is easier to trek (or hardest to trek, for hiking fanatics) because the gorillas live in the rugged mountains densely covered in vegetation presenting a challenge for trekking. And of course, the mountains are easier to trek in dry conditions than in wet conditions.

There are two weather seasons in Rwanda, the WET/RAINY season (March – May & Sept – Oct) that sees frequent rains, and the DRY season (June – August & Dec – Feb) which sees more sunshine and less rains.

The most preferred time for the gorilla trek is during the long dry spell from June – August and a bit of September. The mountains do not receive frequent rains and so the trails are dry most of the time. There will be some occasional rains though. This can be taken as the best time for the gorilla tracking in Rwanda.

The wettest period is from March to May, with rains experienced almost on a daily during the peak rainy month of April. This is the least favorable time for the gorilla tracking adventure.

During the wet season however, the gorillas tend to leave the high elevations of the mountains because it is too cold and will retreat closer to the warmer altitudes towards the base of the mountains. During this time the gorillas may be easier to find 😊. The irony!

BEST TIME WITH NO CROWDS

Don’t want crowds??? There are fewer people tracking the gorillas during the wet season hence you have a more intimate encounter with the gorillas. We call this time of the year the low season because of low numbers of tourists. A number of lodges discount their prices (low season prices) and therefore it is the best time for the gorilla trek if you want to save.

VERDICT:

The gorilla trekking can be done ALL YEAR ROUND

How difficult or hard is the gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

How difficult or hard or challenging is the gorilla trek? Will I manage the trek? How far shall I trek to find the gorillas? How long will it take to find the gorillas? What if I sprain or injure my leg while on the trek, what happens?

As a tour operator organizing gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda (and Uganda), these are some of the questions, or I should I call them concerns, we normally receive from clients asking to book a gorilla tour in Rwanda and Uganda. And since the mountain gorillas live in mountains (the Virunga Mountains), the level of difficult of the trek is a big concern especially for those that have no or little experience in hiking or climbing mountains.

So below I will try to explain the level of difficult you should anticipate:

The gorilla trek can be easy, moderate, difficult or even extremely difficult… It depends on; first your fitness levels 😊, and second the mood…eeh sorry, I mean the movement of the gorillas that day and their general location across the mountains. There are more than 10 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park for tracking by tourists and every morning before the trek groups of not more than 8 tourists are assigned to each habituated gorilla family.

Every gorilla family has a different location across the mountains, however the location is not static as the gorillas move, but still they do not cover a big distance & on average can cover just 1km in day under normal circumstance (though, still 1 km on a mountain is not a small distance). But under some abnormal circumstances the gorillas may travel very far, e.g. when attacked by another gorilla group or errant lone males wanting to take over the family forcefully, so the dominant male gorilla who is the leader of the family can flee his family as far away as possible.

The gorillas make new homes every day and therefore have a different location every day. The park has trackers who keep with the gorillas till they make new nests to spend the night, and so the general location of the gorillas at the start of the day is known. Alternatively, the trackers go out early in the morning and basing on where the gorillas were last seen the previous day, they track down the gorillas’ nesting location before they wake up and will stay with them as they start the day & relay the information of their movement to the park authorities at the head office. So, the park authorities have an idea of the general location of the different gorilla families and going by this the park may have an idea of how long it could take to find each family.

Going back to the allocation of the groups to tourists before the trek, the park authorities will give priority to older tourists in assigning them to gorilla families that are closer to the base of the mountain or may be easy to find.

Therefore, as an individual who may be worried about your fitness, you can request to be allocated an ‘easier’ group.

I deliberately put ‘easier’ in quotes because, as I did say, the gorillas do not have a static location, so what started out as an easy trek can fast turn into a hard trek depending on how the gorillas decide to move. They can move up the mountain so you have to climb to catch up or keep moving along the sides or even come down closer to the base and near to the trailhead and could be found in a matter of minutes.

On the other hand, the younger and more adventurous tourists can request for a harder trek. Tip: if you are the extreme adventurous type, in Rwanda ask for Pablo, notoriously hard-to-track group in Mt. Karisimbi (tallest of the Virunga volcanoes) but be ready to come back from the mountains at night fall 😊

PORTERS HELP!!

Porters are available for hire at $10 and you are encourage to take at least one even when you feel energetic and fit enough because the altitude could get the better of you. Porters will carry your daypack and other times so that you are as light as possible. Porters can also give you a push or pull in certain situations.

What happens if you sprain or injure your leg during the trek??

Well, this is possible and happens sometimes, unfortunately. Since you are trekking on uneven mountain terrain you can miss a step or slide and strain an ankle. When this happens, the park cannot give up on you. A stretcher shall be improvised using tree branches and you shall be carried by able bodied porters for the rest of the trek.

If however you feel that you are no shape to attempt trekking even one meter, you are still not left out as you can request for this specialized stretcher that you sit on comfortably and are carried to and from the gorillas. It however costs an extra fee and is booked in advance.

THE WEATHER AFFECTS

Ooh, weather too can affect the level of difficulty of the gorilla trek. During the rains the trails get muddy, of course, and the trek therefore gets more difficult. The two rainy seasons in Rwanda are from March to May and October to Mid-December. These are the months when it is most difficult to trek in the mountains. On the other hand, however, the gorillas are easiest to find during this time. This is because, due to the lower temperatures up the mountains, the gorillas tend to the get to the lower zones to escape the cold temperatures uphill.

ALL IN ALL

FITNESS is key or plan for THE STRETCHER

Tigers in Uganda at the Entebbe Zoo

BREAKING NEWS!! The lion is no longer the biggest cat in the Pearl of Africa – Uganda. The Tiger is!

Uganda has received a pair of tigers, a female/tigress and a male/tiger, that will call Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Entebbe Zoo) their home. The tigers were got from South Africa and were traded for 25 Ugandan monkeys.

tigers at the entebbe zoo in Uganda

The tigers are of the Bengal tiger species, and they are stunning with their brown color and white color coats. The brown is the female while the white is the male

Uganda Wildlife Education Center continues to shine after it was recently named the best zoo in central and east Africa, and now it is the only place to have tigers in East Africa. The zoo has over 350 species of wildlife, with over 20 cats which now include the two tigers. Some of the other big cats at the zoo include lions, hyenas, leopard, and cheetah.

The tigers were brought in at a perfect time after covid 19 pandemic lockdown which greatly affected the zoo’s finances because it was not receiving any visitors and thus no money to care for the animals. Hundreds of people are now streaming into the zoo on a daily to catch a glimpse of these stunning animals that have overtaken the lions as the biggest cats in the land.

a child enjoys watching tigers for the first time at the Entebbe zoo in Uganda

Unlike lions which can be found in the savannah parks in Uganda (Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, and Queen Elizabeth) and Africa at large, the tigers are not native to the African continent and can be found only in zoos such as the Uganda Wildlife Education Center. Tigers are native to Asia.

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center or Entebbe Zoo is one of the top places to visit in Entebbe.

Visit the Entebbe Zoo and watch the tigers in their own fenced enclosure, plus see other wildlife in their enclosures as you walk through the zoo. There is NO special fee needed to the see the tigers. You just have to pay the entrance fee to the zoo, which is 10,000 (ten thousand) Uganda shillings for adults, and 5,000 (five thousand) Uganda shilling for kids.

Experiential chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park – Spend More time with the chimps with no crowds around.

Experiential chimpanzee tracking/trekking or premium tracking of chimpanzees is the new chimpanzee tourism product that has been introduced in Kibale National Park, the prime destination for chimpanzee tours in Uganda. Experiential chimpanzee tracking is a more exclusive tour which allows a small group of tourists to track a community of chimps (100+ chimps) alone and spend 1 – 2 hours with the chimps.

Chimps live in communities and Kibale National Park has 5 communities that have been habituated for tourism and research. A community of chimps can have more than 100 chimps, and the chimps in the community organize into different groups or families (lets say, like human communities). The most popular of the 5 habituated communities in Kibale National Park is called Kanyanchu and its the one used for the traditional chimpanzee tracking tours which allow the 1 hour of chimp watching and several groups of tourists set out to track the different groups/families in the kanyanchu community which can lead to crisscrossing of tourist groups and crowding spoiling the experience. The experiential or premium chimpanzee tracking is more exclusive as a small group of tourists will track another habituated community, the Ngogo chimps community which has been a research group & is 99% habituated. The small group of tourists will have the whole ngogo community alone uninterrupted and watch the chimps for 1 – 2 hours. The experiential chimpanzee tracking is a more intimate and enjoyable experience.

Cost of the experiential chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park

The exclusivity also comes with a higher cost as it will cost $400 per person. The ordinary chimpanzee tracking of the Kanyanchu chimps costs $200

Experiential chimpanzee tracking is NOT chimpanzee habituation experience

Experiential tracking should not be confused with the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience which also allows allows a group of tourists track another of the 5 chimp communities which however is still undergoing habituation. During the habituation tracking tourists set out early in the morning, as early as 5am, so that they can find the chimps before they wake up from their nests and follow them up for 4 hours. It can be intense because the chimps are still undergoing habituation

You can book our 3 day chimpanzee tour to Kibale National Park and request for the experiential option, or visit this page for more Uganda chimpanzee trips that be customized to included the experiential option