The chance to track some of the few remaining mountain gorillas is arguably one of the most breath-taking and fascinating wildlife encounters in Uganda and Africa at large. The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live within four national parks split in two regions that are a mere 45km apart. Access to these national parks is now tightly controlled, and rightly so – numbers of silverback gorillas are in the hundreds not thousands, with current estimates standing at 786.
Going on a gorilla safari with friends or family may seem like a daunting or even challenging experience. Although almost everyone will come close to these magnificent primates when out trekking, there are no guarantees – so for some, this may not seem like a holiday at all. However, for those who are willing to experience a vacation that doesn’t involve lying on a beach, gorilla trekking could be just your thing.
In fact, there’s no need to slum it when out searching the impenetrable forests for your very own silverback. There are now quite a few luxury camps which are located in (or just outside) of the National Parks. Of course, these camps are kept within strict building regulations and have to seamlessly blend into the natural environment. After all, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Recycling and eco-tourism are majorly embraced by almost all camps and lodges that offer these luxury African safaris.
Of course, the silverbacks are the main attraction for those going on a gorilla safari, but the Bwindi forest and the surrounding areas offer some of the richest ecosystems in the world. The Bwindi National Park for example provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs and many other endangered species. As discoveries are made, these numbers continue to grow.
There are still many threats facing the mountain gorillas. Habitat loss remains one of the greatest. In 2004, 1,500 hectares of gorilla habitat were cleared by illegal settlers in the Virunga national park, and increasing agricultural and pastoral land continues to cause disorder. Other threats include; hunting, killing during war and disease. Organisations like the WWF have been working for over 30 years to save the mountain gorilla and its forest habitat. The species only became known to science in 1902 and it was feared that because of human activity they would become extinct in the same century they were discovered. Thankfully this was not the case, but they are still critically endangered and will continue to need the support of organisations like WWF if people are to go on gorilla safaris well into the next century.