The Gorilla Habituation Experience

01 May 2018

With the gorilla habituation project in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park still at a mock stage, visitors can join researchers on this rare opportunity to get up close and personal with Uganda’s mountain gorillas for up to four hours, as opposed to the standard one hour with already-habituated gorilla groups.

Simply put, gorilla habituation is the process in which wild mountain gorillas get used to humans; however, this process is anything but simple. It can take up to five years for a group to become habituated, involving constant dedication and monitoring by the park’s rangers and trackers.

Below we outline what you can expect from this encounter and answer a few FAQs about habituation:

What is gorilla habituation?

When a band of wild gorillas is discovered, they are slowly and gently introduced to the presence of humans. This then allows researchers and travellers to gain an in-depth understanding of the endangered species. Due to recent gorilla habituation, researchers have been able to determine how best to treat mountain gorillas for sicknesses and injuries. Ultimately, gorilla habituation leads to conservation efforts becoming sustainable alongside tourism.

What is involved in the process?

Park rangers start out by spending short periods of time with the wild gorillas every day, at determined distances that represent the gorillas’ comfort zone. As the years go by, the rangers gradually increase the time and reduce their distance until the gorillas are deemed ready for researchers and paying clients to visit them. As the trackers and rangers spend a lot of time with the gorilla family, they get to know the behaviour of each member and their unique facial features. This is around the time when the rangers start to name the gorillas.

What is the difference between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation?

Gorilla trekking costs $600 and you only spend one hour with habituated mountain gorillas within a group of a maximum of eight people. With the gorilla habituation experience, you spend four hours with semi-habituated gorillas, for a cost of $1,500 with a maximum group of four.

When and where does this take place?

The Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced this pilot experience in the Rushaga region of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2015; however, it only takes 2–3 years for a gorilla troop to become habituated, meaning there is limited time for this extended encounter. The experience is currently limited to only one gorilla family, called Bukingyi, in the southern part of the national park.

You will start at 7:30am with a briefing on what to expect and how to approach the gorillas. You will then head out to meet the family and spend four hours with them.

What is included in the gorilla habituation experience permit?

This includes rangers, researchers, and spending up to four hours with mountain gorillas under habituation. It also includes park entrance fees for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Who can join?

Due to the steep terrain, dense vegetation and high altitudes, a reasonable level of fitness is required for visitors on foot, and the minimum age requirement for the gorilla habituation experience is 15 years.

If you’d like more information on the gorilla habituation, feel free to call us on 020 8547 2305 or send us an email at [email protected]