Gorilla habituation is an act of training gorillas to become used to the sight of people. The experience involves different groups of people like the trackers, conservationists, trackers, researchers and rangers to mention but a few. These groups of people take a period of about 2 to 3 years completing this habituation experience. During this process, the people get to understand the gorillas deeper and individually know their behaviors and even get to the point of naming everyone. In the end, if the researchers are certain that the wild gorillas are okay with the presence of people, a mock exercise is done as a way of testing to prove their facts. When the gorillas pass this kind of exercise which now includes journalists and scientists, the gorilla group is then available for trekking.
The package was introduced in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park through Uganda Wildlife Authority to all interested clients effective in 2014. This new primate safari experience is designed to allow a small number of tourists to spend more time with mountain gorillas during their habituation.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has currently 18 habituated gorilla families which include 3 groups in Buhoma sector (Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura), 4 groups in Ruhija sector (Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro A and Kyaguliro B), 4 groups in Rushaga area (Kahungye, Bweza, Nshongi, Busingye) and 1 group in Nkuringo sector (Nkuringo group).
In addition to the above 12 groups, there are two other semi-habituated gorilla families that have been put aside for gorilla habituation experience and are located in the Nkuringo and Rushaga side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This experience offers a more relaxed and enriching encounter with the gorillas. You’ll feel less rushed and you’ll have plenty of time to fully absorb this incredible wildlife experience.
During your time with your gorilla family you can immerse yourself in their world as they continue to go about their daily lives – feeding and interacting with each other, under the watchful gaze of the mighty Silverback.
To habituate a group, they must be tracked and monitored on a daily basis, and slowly over time, the gorillas develop a trustful relationship with observers. The habituation of mountain gorillas is a lengthy and difficult process, ultimately resulting in the gorillas losing their natural fear of humans. Initially the gorillas are fearful of humans and will run away. In the next phase, the gorillas stop fleeing, but may respond to the presence of humans with aggressive charges and other negative behavior that is indicative of stress and not feeling comfortable with human presence. Finally, the gorillas will react calmly to humans being in their midst and go about their normal activities with only minimal acknowledgement of humans being present. It is only at this last stage that the gorillas can be considered habituated and it is appropriate to start bringing visitors to see them.
The gorilla habituation experience is different from a regular gorilla trek in several ways including group size, time spent with the gorillas and price. The activity involves spending all day on a Trek in Forest which includes 4 hours with a Gorilla Family being habituated. A total of 4 visitors can track a group, unlike a normal Gorilla Trek where you have 8 participants on a gorilla trek. This experience is only available in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Those going for this experience should expect to visit semi habituated mountain gorillas which can decide to hide, behave in a manner which is not usual and the experience can be stopped upon advise from researchers. In terms of cost, a permit for Gorilla Habituation Permit is 1500USD per person per day compared to 600USD for the normal gorilla tracking. All the rules and etiquette of gorilla tracking, including clothing and foot wears apply to the Gorilla Habituation Experience.
Whilst the gorillas are not yet completely habituated (the gorillas are used to trackers and rangers, but not to strangers or tourists) the Gorilla Habituation Experience will help to ensure that they will eventually become fully comfortable in the company of humans.
On this experience you’ll get a better understanding of gorilla tracking and gorilla behaviour than on a normal trek.