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From the blog

How to Habituate a Mountain Gorilla

A small group of mothers were quietly playing with their fuzzy-furred babies in the dappled light of a forest clearing. None of the group appeared to take the slightest bit of notice of the clumsy tourists and park rangers who’d tramped nosily up to the apes as a part of a gorilla habituation safari. But then a large silverback male rumbled onto the scene. He appeared to be annoyed, and immediately the calm atmosphere among the female and baby gorillas changed. Mothers glanced at the approaching male and pulled their babes closer to them. Suddenly, the male thumped his fists hard into the ground, stood tall on his back legs and raced towards the human intruders while beating his chest.

A Gorilla Habituation Adventure

As the silverback came thundering towards us, my heart skipped several beats, and I froze to the spot. The rangers accompanying us, though, had clearly seen it all before and merely grinned in excitement as the gorilla came to a crashing halt a metre away from them. As the silverback slumped back down onto all fours and plodded back to his females, the head ranger turned and said, “The gorillas can tell the difference between tourists and rangers. They know that it is rangers who disturb them when they are sleeping or feeding. They think that tourists are very docile. If gorillas charge, they normally just run straight past the tourists and go for the rangers. It’s normally just a mock charge to show who is boss.”

 

I was part of a group of three tourists taking part in a Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience deep inside Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. To get to this safari moment, we had walked up steep mountain slopes through a tangled undergrowth of giant stinging nettles and weeds that clasped at ankles and legs. Eventually, though, we’d got our first sight of a mountain gorilla. It was a juvenile female clowning about in the lower branches of a tree. Quickly afterwards other gorillas became visible. Some were clearly uncertain about this rude human intrusion, and they tucked themselves up into the darker shadows. Others in the group were unfazed by our presence and allowed us to approach within a few metres of them.

 

“Habituating gorillas to human presence is a painstakingly slow process,” the guide whispered as the excitement of the charge faded away. “At first we see them only very fleetingly from a distance. The rangers have to act like gorillas. They pick leaves and pretend to eat them. This is so that the gorillas get interested and come and see what is happening. This is done every day for about a year and slowly, slowly the distance between rangers and gorillas reduces as the gorillas get more used to the presence of the rangers. After a year, we start to allow tourists to visit. This is done so that the gorillas get used to new faces, white skin and cameras. After two years, they are usually close to properly habituated and they allow people to approach very close. This might sound like a long time, but compared to chimpanzees, which can take ten years to habituate, it’s a very fast process.”

What is a Gorilla Habituation Experience?

 

In the standard Uganda gorilla trekking tours, the apes have been receiving human visitors for years, and they’re so well habituated to our presence that they literally regard you as just another forest object. This means that they will often look right through you and barge you out of the way if you don’t move fast enough when they approach. At times, the experience can almost feel a little too ‘zoo-like’. A gorilla habituation experience is different. The gorillas, visitors are taken to see, are normally only halfway through the habituation process, and some members of the group will very much keep their distance. So this begs the question. Why sign up for it? Well, two big reasons stand out. Firstly, unlike on a standard gorilla visit, where your time with the apes is limited to one hour, you get four hours with the gorillas. Secondly, up to eight tourists (plus guides and rangers) are permitted to visit each gorilla group in a normal gorilla watching visit, but on a habituation experience, only four tourists are allowed. This provides a more intimate experience.

 

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Customer Reviews

Ngoni Safaris Uganda

Customer Reviews

Stephany Aug 13, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
Sedrick was unique and stood out from the rest in the high quality communication he provided since the first inquiry. He called me to provide information about the itinerary and see if I had any questions even before booking the tour. We communicated through WhatsApp for any other questions that came to mind after that call. After picking me up from the airport, he and Pilot (additional tour guide) provided plenty of information about the country to give me some context and we started our long drive to the impenetrable forest. The food was delicious with many options; the accommodation was very clean with exceptional service; and the transportation from Entebbe to Bwindi park was very comfortable (although long). As a solo female traveler, both tour guides (Sedrick and Pilot) did an exceptional job at enduring I accomplished everything intended to in Uganda, and always made me feel safe. I highly recommend to book your safari with this company because the quality and professionalism will not let you down.

Shakira Dec 14, 2018

Ngoni safaris uganda is the best tour operator in Uganda. A few weeks back we traveled to Bwindi impenetrable with sedrick to explore the beauty that is Uganda. This company took care of us . with most comfortable car , Great guide .We highly recommend it to the next travelers

Winnie Dec 19, 2018

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
I was going on a gorilla safari with my friend and this was going to be the first ever safari for the both of us. Luckily, the communication with the office was super easy and we got answers to all of the questions we needed. The driver / guide (Sedrick) was very professional and funny and made our time very pleasant. Also, he had a proper knowledge of the local area close to the Mgahinga national park and he promptly spoke some 7 languages which we thought was super positive. The safari was surely the highlight of out East African trip!

Ritah Jan 2, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
My Team and I did a five day trip, including Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls and Kidepo. It was truly an incredible experience. Our guide, Sedrick, was knowledgeable, skilled in driving in some challenging settings and just plain fun to hang out with for five days. The lodging was perfect, especially Savannah Lodge. The tents and beds were high quality. The views were spectacular. Meals were delicious and varied. I recommend Ngoni safaris Uganda with all my heart and soul!

Pilot May 28, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
Our six days trip was amazing. The driver/guide had an incredible knowledge of animal and bird-life and are so interesting to talk to. His driving skills through lashing rain and massive puddles was admirable! The cooks managed to produce varied and delicious meals from the kitchen, which we ate both at accommodation or roadside when we were travelling from one place to another . At all times we felt safe and well-looked after. All in all, an incredible experience, due not only to the abundance of wildlife we were lucky enough to see, but also to the great efforts put to have our Safari a better one . The safari was full of fun. Traveling with ngoni safaris is my life time memorable experience and I highly recommend it to travellers who would love to visit uganda or EastAfrica for holidays, vacations or Adventure.. Even five stars are too small .