It’s not every day that a gorilla is let loose on London’s Trafalgar Square. But then visitors to the square last month soon realised that all was not as it seemed. Although the gorilla in question was exceptionally lifelike, and certainly startled the tourists, it was in fact a life-size animatronic beast! Watch the video:
Uganda is one of the last places in the world where you can see mountain gorillas in the wild, and this mascot of the Uganda Tourism Board is an ambassador for his real-life relatives in the forests.
Gorilla conservation is a great success story — five baby gorilla have been born in habituated gorilla families in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the last few months — and the total numbers in the park are estimated to have topped 350. The only way to get to see them is by joining an escorted tour such as one provided by safari holiday experts Titan Travel.
The uptick in the gorillas’ fortunes has been made possible by sustainable tourism, the benefits of which are also felt by other species including chimpanzee, baboon, blue monkey, and 1,000 different types of birds.
Although the scenery of the country is impressive on its own, the real stars of the show are not the diverse landscapes but rather the primates who inhabit them.
Why you need an escort
There are 13 primate species in the Kibale Forest National Park alone, and you can spot the chimpanzee swinging through the forest canopy.
As they prefer to live in family groups up to 100 members strong, the best way to see them is on a hike with the chimpanzee researchers who study their behaviour and know exactly where to find them.
Access to the gorilla is restricted, so you have to have a permit (included in your price with Titan). They live deep in the Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks, and the only way to reach them is to trek through the forest on foot. Their inaccessibility has probably helped their survival, as in spite of their steadily growing numbers, they are still a critically endangered species.
Best time to go
The best time to track gorilla is between May and September when the weather is quite dry and the sun is shining – the mountainous landscape means it’s not too hot, even in the height of summer. In the accurately named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, there are seven habituated families of mountain gorilla — i.e. they have been studied by researchers for prolonged periods and so although wild, they’re unfazed by the presence of people watching them. This is important as it means they don’t become stressed. You can watch the families playing, grooming one another, and eating, and the most curious gorilla might even approach you to see what it is you’re doing.
Quite a few lodges have sprung up in the vicinity of the park, so you’ll have a comfortable place to base yourself between treks into the forest. Silverback Lodge is on the edge of the park, and with absolutely stunning views. Primates (though not the gorilla) occasionally come into the grounds, so you can watch them without even leaving the verandah, and it’s also an excellent spot for bird watching. On selected departures you may be staying at the alternative, yet no less striking, Mahogany Springs lodge, set on the Munyanga river and facing the Impenetrable Forest.
Travel with a conscience
Conservation in Africa often seems to be an uphill struggle. But as the mountain gorilla show, when tourism is developed in a responsible, sustainable way, it can be a potent force for good. Add gorilla tracking with Titan Travel in Uganda to your bucket list, and do your bit for the survival of Africa’s stunning mountain gorilla.
Uganda may not immediately be the most obvious of tourist destinations, but if you have a passion for wildlife and are prepared to get out into the wilderness to view animals in their natural habitat, it’s an extraordinary place to explore.
Disclaimer: this article was sponsored by the escorted safari holiday experts Titan who know Africa better than any other UK tour operator, and winning the award for Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holidays Company at the 2016 British Travel Awards is testament to that. Uganda may be new to Titan, but you can rest assured that it will be treated with the same care and attention as everywhere else in their African portfolio.