ESSENTIAL THINGS TO PACK FOR A GORILLA SAFARI TO BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Whether you are planning to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or any country in Africa, You must consider packing some items for use while on your trekking adventure.
- You should come prepared with any documentation or numbers related to your gorilla tracking permit. Don’t forget to bring your passport, as you will need to show it when you check in for the trek.
- Move to the park with some local currency for tipping a porter while in the jungle.
- Pack Long-Sleeved Shirts or Jacket because Treks begin early in the morning, and you may be chilly at the start of your trek. Long sleeves are helpful for protecting your arms against stinging branches.
- Long Pants because you will be encountering thick vines, fallen trees, and scratchy brush, and you will want to have protection on your legs. I found thick leggings to be ideal pants for the trek because they allowed me to move freely while still covering my legs.
- Tall Socks – Keeping the biting safari ants out of your pants is important your guide will instruct you to tuck your pants into your socks, and tall socks are best for this task.
- Hiking Shoes with a good grip are a must. The terrain can be difficult to navigate, including thick vines, slippery rocks, patches of mud, and more. If your shoes are waterproof, it is even much better.
- Pack a Rain Jacket -The national parks where the mountain gorillas live are largely rain forest, and it can rain unexpectedly while on the trek.
- Gloves .Because you keep touching plants, tree branches passing through the forest, its ideal to come along with a pair of gloves to avoid hurting your fingers and just in case you touch stinging and sticky plants.
- Pack some Malaria Pills
- All the national parks where you can track the mountain gorillas are located in malarial zones, and you should discuss options to safeguard yourself from malaria with your doctor and do not forget an insect repellent also.
- Carry with you energy snacks. You will trek for a few hours then likely to stop for a bit to give everyone an opportunity to eat their packed lunches.
- Pack a good Camera for capturing the moment. Binoculars are useful to watch and spot the gorillas from afar. Ordinary camera will be fine provided it shoots well in low light as you aren’t allowed to use flash.
- Bring as much water as you can carry on your trek to avoid dehydration.
- Photography is an important component of your safari and make sure that you have your camera ready, charge your batteries very well and if necessary, carry extra batteries as you will need to take as many photographs in the one hour you will have with the gorillas. Please make sure that you switch off your flash while taking gorilla photographs.
- If it is hot, please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays. You may also need to carry some sun glasses too.
- As earlier noted, gorilla trekking can be strenuous and thus you will need someone to give you a push or a pull on the way to the gorillas. You need to hire a porter and offer him a reasonable fee.
- You will need a Pair of sports sandals like Tevas
Lightweight wool socks
- Swimsuit and a plastic bag
- Small day pack
- Film particularly fast film for the gorillas.
- Personal toiletries
- Small notebook
Please note that this is a guide but you can pack according to your preferences.
General Packing List for a Gorilla Trek
Gorilla Permit and Passport: These two documents must be with you at all times. The gorilla permit and passport must be present at the head offices for verification so that the authorities can ascertain whether a traveler is eligible to track the gorillas. The passport is presented to the park officials to know if the permit is yours and that you are old enough to track the gorillas. According to the gorilla trekking rules, one needs to be at least 15 years to track gorillas. Gorilla groups are allocated based on the age and the physical fitness of travelers. A passport will therefore help determine if you get an easy or harder trek so that you can have a perfect gorilla safari.
Hiking Boots: As we mentioned earlier, gorilla trekking requires one to hike for long distances in dense forest. The forest trails can be muddy and steep hence presenting challenges to trackers. With the challenges in mind, a tracker needs to acquire shoes with good grip/traction and can cover the feet/ankles. With such shoes, one can easily walk for long hours in the forest without slipping or getting pierced by thorns.
Clothing: Not all clothes are suitable for the African jungle. The clothes for gorilla trekking should be made of light material and water proof. They should cover most parts of your body to protect you from thorns and sharp vegetation in the jungle. A tracker must wear a long sleeved top and a long pair of trousers. A tracker must also be selective of the colors. He or she should choose what is known as jungle colors – cream, brown, grey and dark green. Very bright colors make you stand out and could attract unnecessary attention from the gorillas.
Raincoat and sweater: The weather in most of the gorilla parks is very unpredictable. You can start the hike when the sun is bright and the rains come suddenly. As a tracker, you must carry a rain jacket before going out to look for the gorillas. The Volcanoes and Mgahinga National Park are located in areas of high altitude. It can get very cold especially during the wet season. A sweater will help you keep warm during and after gorilla trekking. You also need a cap to protect your head from sunlight and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the same. Hand gloves will help protect your hands from sharp tree branches.
Insect Repellents: Mountain gorillas live in countries lying in the tropics with many irritating insects like mosquitos. We recommend that you carry an insect repellent to protect yourself from insect bites. Try to pack deodorants, perfumes, shavers and hand sanitizers so that you can look and smell good during your trip. You should even consider packing toilet paper, wipes, tooth paste and a tooth brush.
Snacks, packed lunch and drinking water: Gorilla trekking takes between 2 to 6 hours depending on the group you will be tracking. You might find yourself exhausted, thirsty and hungry. You will therefore need drinking water, energy drinks and light snacks for lunch. The packed lunch and water can be arranged from your lodge but if that is not possible, and then you can buy them from a supermarket in the nearby towns.
Walking stick: Gorilla tracking is very unpredictable depending on which national park you visit. The trails are not demarcated and you will find yourself hiking through thick forests, mountain slopes, river streams and valleys. We recommend that you acquire a suitable hiking stick to support and help you hike through hills and valleys. Basic walking sticks are given free of charge at the starting point but you can acquire higher-end ones at a cost.
Camera with a great focus, strong battery and memory: Why would you go for a gorilla trekking without taking any photos? Gorilla trekking is a very special wildlife experience and you need to have both mental and physical memories that you can show your friends/family. A very good camera is important to capture the primates but also the beautiful volcanoes and forest creatures. Do not use flash cameras while with the gorillas.
Binoculars: Gorilla trekking is not all about gorillas. You will be encountering pristine wilderness with an amazing collection of wildlife including small primates, butterflies, moths, birds, antelopes, forest hogs and much more. A binocular will help you spot all these creatures as you search for the gorillas.
Phone simcard: In order to keep in touch with your friends and family while in Africa, you need to acquire a local simcard. The simcard will help you make calls back home and also gain access to internet even while out in the jungle.
Porters: Are you planning to travel with a heavy bag or equipment (video cameras, binoculars and other gadgets)? If the answer is yes, then you might need to hire a porter to relieve you of the burden of carrying heavy stuff. The porters will also lend a hand during the more difficult sections of the hike. Porters consist of students looking for school fees, former poachers, fathers and mothers. By hiring their services, you are indirectly making a difference in their lives. Porters are available just after the briefing or at the starting point of the trek. The services of a porter costs about $15.
Tipping: One thing you will notice throughout your gorilla tour is the dedication, enthusiasm and friendliness of the people you meet. The people could include Park rangers, hotel personnel, Drivers and Guides. It’s a nice gesture to reward them with tip if they go out of their way to make your time memorable in Africa. Tip of $10 would be great. Only give out tip if you want to.
Other essential items for packing: Apart from the items we already mentioned, there are some other essential items that you should consider including in your gorilla trekking packing list. They include travel maps, a guide book, and an itinerary from your tour company, cash or a visa card for buying souvenir. A traveler should also consider traveling with a first-aid kid and medications for any lifestyle diseases they have.
Wondering about what to wear for gorilla trekking in Uganda? Some of the mistakes most people have made is to go for gorilla trekking dressed inappropriately some wear sandals, shorts which are not the right clothes for such an activity.