Gorilla Trekking; When, how, and where
What do you give to your long-term partner for their milestone birthday?
For popular American TV talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres’ 60th birthday, Ellen’s wife, Portia De Rossi, gifted her a life-changing experience.
Knowing Ellen’s love for gorillas and childhood hero being the famed primatologist Dian Fossey, Portia organized a surprise trek in the heart of gorilla country.
Trekking through the rugged mountains of Rwanda in search of the endangered mountain gorillas, Ellen described her experience as life-changing.
Spending time with these gorillas changed my life. Thank you to everyone who is helping Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund @SavingGorillas and EDWF save them. You can get involved here. https://t.co/j3gffqkJr9 -ED pic.twitter.com/rk5ZqDTScR— The Ellen Fund (@TheEllenFund) May 30, 2018
Alongside experienced guides, the couple hiked for nearly 5 miles through dense forests and up a steep incline of a dormant volcano until finding the majestic primates.
I can’t begin to describe what this experience was like, or how much it means to me. I’m so grateful. pic.twitter.com/nuoRaPsVnu— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 30, 2018
Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is not just for celebrities! With the right help organizing permits, transportation, and experienced guides, anyone can feel the mystic presence of these massive primates.
When is the best time of year for gorilla trekking?
While tracking mountain gorillas can be conducted all year round, the dry season from June to September is preferred by most. However, the low season can often mean reduced fees on primate trekking permits.
Where can one go gorilla trekking?
Both Uganda and Rwanda offer a different experience that can be done together, or separately. Read below of what each destination has to offer for those seeking a life-changing experience like Ellen’s.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is where Ellen and Portia had their life-changing gorilla encounter. Take a beautiful hike through the green landscape and hills of the Virunga Volcanoes to spend a magical hour with these amazing creatures while a Yampu guide explains more about the family and their behavior.
Find yourself seated 30-feet away to one of the roughly 900 mountain gorillas remaining on earth. Similar to the treks in Uganda, choose a trek according to the difficulty of hikes and length of time you wish to spend. Take an early morning moderately strenuous hour-long walk from the park-headquarters or a more challenging hike that can take more than three hours to reach the gorillas. Pass sloped fields of Irish potatoes in lavender bloom and then up a steep vertical through the forest.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the place in Uganda for gorilla trekking. Here you can experience an exclusive, up close and personal glimpse into the life of a single wild gorilla family. After a year of gradual encounters with guides and researchers, the gorillas are now comfortable enough with human presence for guests to observe them in their natural habitat – including witnessing very exciting mock charges as the silverbacks show who really runs the forest.
Tracking, depending upon the hike chosen, can take between 3 and 10 hours. There is an early morning entry into a gorilla sanctuary which allows you the opportunity to see them in their nests as they wake up. Trek through a spectacular, heavily vegetated and dense rainforest in a landscape crisscrossed by numerous animal trails. Be rewarded by the thrill of spending time with these rare gentle giants that will leave you with long lasting memories of a truly unique experience.
The Gorillas are shy and peaceful animals, and it is an unforgettable experience to watch and photograph them as they interact with each other. The majority of visits are limited to one hour. However, there are special bespoke adventures that allow staying with the creatures for up to four hours. These more adventurous treks allow for more time with the gorillas and require advance reservations and a good level of physical fitness, as the terrain is often difficult.
If you’re lucky, you may even have an extra special experience like a gorilla birth…
Footage taken by Dina Tamimi on a trek in Uganda with a Yampu traveler where they witnessed the birth of an endangered gorilla in the wild.
Bonus Primate Experience; Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania
Mahale Mountain National Park is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, a population of roughly 900. Tracking the chimps of Mahale in Tanzania is a magical experience. The dry season (May – October) is the best period. During this time, chimpanzees are likely to be seen in big groups. It’s also a great opportunity and an inviting spot to relax on the white-sand beach of Lake Tanganyika in the park.
A special thanks to Jane Behrend for sharing her experiences with us!
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