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

Boat Cruise Safari on the River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park

murchison falls boat safari

I know, most of us get onto the popular Murchison Falls boat cruise knowing we will see the aquatic wild but, we still can’t fully predict in which manner we will find these beautiful creatures. That’s the beauty of a boat cruise at any day in Murchison falls national park!

Whether it’s the grey skies or the bright blue skies, it’s always an amazing journey and one like no another ….you can always be assured of safety as a life jacket is provided for everyone and a little briefing right before you begin the cruise on the waters of the Victoria Nile is done to give you precautions on safety.

There has never been any recorded tragedy during the so many cruises that have been done before. It has always been a good practice to make sure that tourists like you and i are safe during the boat cruise and therefore, great caution is always taken right before tourists get on board.

The cost of this activity is $30 per person, refreshments are always available on the boat, which cost a very affordable fee. The cruises have a fixed schedule every day that is to say, you are free to choose between a morning or afternoon boat cruise. The morning boat cruise is at 9am while as the afternoon boat cruise is at 2pm.

The cruise is approximately 2hours or 3hours, all this time you will not know how the time will run so fast because you will be busy lost in the moment of beautiful pictures of Nile crocodiles , Hippos and most common on the shores drinking water , antelopes and at times even elephants. All the while, a tour guide will be explaining away the various animal habits of those that you see, how they feed, their weight, gestation period and so much more. The boat cruise is not only enjoyable but also an informative activity for all age groups. Above all, you will get to interact with other people from different parts of the world who are enjoying the boat cruise like you are and for me that’s the added excitement to this activity, meeting new people and being drawn under a common cause, tourism and more so cramped comfortably in one boat and just being able to share in the passion you both have for nature.

hippos in the nile in murchison falls national park

Another one, of the most interesting things about the boat cruise is the spot along the Victoria Nile where Ernest Hemingway, an American author of the time had two plane crushes with his wife. Having come with an intention of taking pictures of the Murchison falls, their plane crushed and another at their rescue, barely made it for takeoff when it crushed too. It’s an interesting story as the tour guide himself gives it to you in detail, you will be amazed.

The boat takes you closer to the spectacular Murchison falls, here you can get out with the help of the tour guide and take plenty of pictures with the falls in the background. That has got to be the most exciting memory to keep with you for years. Or, you can go on a hike to the top of the Murchison Falls, which is highly recommended as you will get to enjoy the best views of the spectacular waterfalls. However you must communicated with your tour driver who is supposed to pick you from the top of the falls since you do not go back with the boat cruise.

I don’t really know what you have heard or what your past experience was like but , I can assure of this , boat cruises in Murchison falls national park just get more and more interesting with every other new experience!

The boat cruise safari is done as part of a multi day safari in the Murchison Falls National Park. It is a highlight of our safari trips to Murchison Falls National Park; 2 days Murchison Falls trip & 3 days Murchison Falls tour (with optional rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary)

Hiking to top of the falls in Murchison Falls National Park

Hiking is a typical hard adventure activity that is quite interesting to involve oneself in, at Murchison Falls National Park it gets even better!

After the 2 hour long amazing Boat Safari along the River Nile reaching at the base of the Murchison Falls the group which is set to do the top of the falls hike will get off the boat to meet the waiting ranger at the set off point!

hiking-murchison-falls
we get off the boat to the starting place of the hike up the Murchison Falls

The hike starts right off at bakers point, here Sir Samuel Baker, a famous explorer of the time, stood on a huge rock (that you will also stand on) to declare the beautiful falls in 1864 as Murchison Falls, like they are famously known to be today.

You will begin to be so inquisitive walking in his shoes and for a moment imagine what was going through his head as he took a stroll through nature’s untouched beauty amidst the most amazing scenery.

A tour guide is always provided for the hike to explain certain features and answer all your questions.

the-murchison-falls
notice the form (whitish.. milky stuff)

One of the things that intrigued me almost immediately was the white form that these falls make. For a long while since, I had been ignorantly believing that the force at which the water comes through the narrow space between the rocks was the cause of the form , but the tour guide clearly brought me out of ignorance by explaining that; Leaves fall into the water and decompose and as they mix with some rock mineral, they form that white form as water comes gushing out of the narrow plum. Standing at that point you can see clearly the Murchison falls and take lots and lots of great pictures.

enjoying-the-murchison-falls
Getting off the trail for a moment to enjoy the magnificent views of the Murchison Falls

After of course, a few minutes of briefing and the endless clicks of the camera, you will begin the hike, which may take from forty five minutes to one and half hours, depending on how big the group is, and needless to say, how fit everyone is.. Ha-ha. Having gone for a hike myself not too long ago, I know exactly what it takes.

Hiking to top of the falls in Murchison falls national park, could be best described as, running a huge marathon that gets you a gold medal when you do win in the end, like any other hike, you have done before , it’s no easy one . There is a long stretch of steps that you will keep ascending until you reach the top, you will feel like crawling at some point from exhaustion and yet with every step you ascend, the fall’s view gets even better and better. Even its sister fall called, “Uhuru fall” suddenly comes into clear view.

uhuru-and-murchison-falls
Getting sight of Uhuru fall

Uhuru fall was formed as a result of a breaking away of water from the Murchison falls, forming another fall right at the time of Uganda’s independence in 1962 hence giving it the name “Uhuru”, a Kiswahili word that means independence. The scenery at this point, is simply spectacular.

Finally, you have made it! Top of the falls. Here you will forget all the pain and toiling through the endless steps, as the cool fresh air blows away the exhaustion and the beautiful music ,quickly reaches your ears, from the falls as they join hands with huge rocks in a loud clap , and the soft splashes, almost like little drizzles from heaven fall on your face. It’s so refreshing, so beautiful. You can stay here forever!

murchison-falls-uganda
the reward of reaching the top – simply breathtaking

top-of-the-murchison-falls

The entire River Nile squeezes through a tiny space of 7 meters between the rocks, emerging with a powerful explosion and plunging 42 meters to the bottom. This is also the world’s strongest waterfall!

Would you like you to experience this wonderful adventure in Murchison Falls National Park, you can book one of these trips to Murchison Falls National Park; 2 days Murchison Falls trip and 3 days Murchison Falls tour (with optional rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary)