The standard or normal gorilla treks in Uganda and other countries give you the chance to spend up to one hour in the company of the gorillas in their natural habitat. This has been made possible by gently introducing the gorillas to human presence, a process that takes between 2 and 4 years. This is essential for the continued research, care and conservation of the gorillas.
Gorillas aren’t always so placid in the presence of people: it takes time and effort to achieve this relaxed, almost nonchalant attitude in a process known as habituation. Bwindi’s exciting new gorilla experience allows you to be part of this process by tracking a group that is only semi-habituated. During habituation, trackers visit wild gorilla groups every day for around three years, gradually getting closer and spending longer in their company. At the semi-habituated stage, the primates are familiar with trackers but not strangers, so this new experience can now help them get used to seeing different people.
For those wishing to take a more active role in the protection and understanding of these gentle giants, you can join the rangers and conservationists in the habituation process of two more gorilla families in the Bwindi impenetrable forest.
During a habituation trek, you can spend up to 4 magical hours with these highly intelligent and emotional animals.
It is an incredibly humbling experience, and the habituation process is fundamental to the continued protection of the gorillas.
In traditional encounters, trackers have already found your gorillas and they take you directly to them. Instead, this four-hour experience starts from where the gorillas were last seen the previous evening. You walk with the trackers, learning the tell-tale signs that eventually lead to the primates’ nests, such as knuckle prints in the mud, bent and broken vegetation and discarded food. Gorillas build new nests each night then move on looking for food: what they leave behind is vital for checking their health and numbers. At the nests, the team collects samples of hair and dung before continuing their search.
It’s only when you find the gorillas that the real challenge begins. The point of habituation is to follow the group and stay in their vision as they move, eventually getting closer to reach that magical 7m cut-off point. But unlike fully habituated groups who mooch around patiently during your permitted hour, these gorillas move fast to feed, dashing through dense rainforest, storming up and down slippery slopes and crawling on knuckles through bushes, with you and the tracker team in hot pursuit. It’s like a rainforest boot camp, and it’s not for the unfit or fainthearted.
The gorillas observed during the habituation experience are less used to humans than those seen on the standard gorilla treks (they are still being ‘habituated’). The experience is still completely safe, and the benefit of spending more time with gorillas is that you can better understand their behaviors and social dynamics, as well as get incredible photographs, without being rushed.