Gorilla Trekking for older travelers is organized in the same way as others. The only difference is that they are assigned gorilla groups that are closer to the park offices. If an Elder cannot walk for long distances, they have an opportunity to hire special porters and a sedan chair.
A brief background. Mountain gorillas are arguably the most intriguing primates on earth. Everyone wants to see them because they cannot thrive in zoos like the lowland gorillas. To see mountain gorillas, you have to travel to Africa. They can only be seen in three African countries that are in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. In Rwanda, the gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park while in Congo they live in Virunga National Park. Uganda is lucky to have half of the 1,000 remaining mountain gorillas in two national parks – Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla tours are expensive with a gorilla permit in Rwanda costing $1500 while in Uganda $600.
Well, one might be wondering why the permits are expensive, the answer is simple, An experience with mountain gorillas is considered the ultimate wildlife experience on earth. Mountain gorillas are endangered and that is one other reason why Gorilla permits sell like hot cake.
Tracking mountain gorillas can be very demanding depending on which gorilla family one is assigned. It is therefore important to go when prepared and in good physical shape. Some gorilla groups live close to the starting point for tracking and it can take only 30 minutes to find them if you are lucky. However, gorilla trekking can sometimes take up to six hours. Distance is not the only thing that one needs to be concerned about when deciding to track gorillas. As their name suggests, mountain gorillas live in mountainous areas with high altitudes (between 2,300 and 4,500 meters). Before getting to the gorilla family, the trek may involve passing through challenging terrain, steep slopes, and slippery (mud-filled) trails. These challenges can be a problem for people with disabilities, the elderly, seniors, and those who may not be in good physical shape for whatever reason.
Gorilla trekking is not limited to the young and energetic; individuals of all ages, including those over 60, can partake in this memorable experience. During the briefing, Rangers and wardens assess the needs of each participant, considering age and physical condition. If someone is 60 years or older and in good shape, they may choose a longer, more adventurous trek. It’s important to remember that the trek offers a chance to explore diverse flora and fauna while observing the gorillas.
For disabled individuals, securing gorilla permits can be more challenging due to availability. It’s advised for seniors and those with disabilities to book at least three months in advance for a group closer to the tracking point. Only eight people per day can track a gorilla family to minimize stress and potential disease transmission.
Informing your tour operator of any fitness concerns or physical limitations is crucial for planning. Special equipment, like sedan chairs or stretchers, can be arranged with the park authorities. Porters and sedan chairs come at an additional cost but contribute to the livelihoods of local porters. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is particularly suitable for the elderly due to its less mountainous terrain and numerous habituated gorilla groups. The Ruhija sector is known for shorter trek times. Researching and consulting with a tour operator can help determine the most suitable gorilla group based on accessibility and proximity to the starting point. Keep in mind that group dynamics and locations may change over time, so it’s important to seek updated advice from experienced operators.
Apart from the ability to complete the trek, elderly travelers may worry about security in the park considering that they are already fragile and vulnerable. Security and safety during gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda are excellent. Gorilla trekking is led by armed rangers whose role is to protect tourists from forest animals like elephants and buffaloes. There have been no cases of militias in Uganda and Rwanda in over two decades but the park authorities leave nothing to chance. The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be unpredictable given the different security incidences in the past. Even then, security is tighter than ever in Rwanda and Uganda. Gorilla trekking in Congo involves having to get used to countless security checks and more escorts.
There are two solutions to this problem. One is to arrive from Kigali Rwanda instead of Entebbe in Uganda. The driving time and distance from Kigali to Bwindi’s impenetrable forest are shorter. Driving from Entebbe to Bwindi can take 8 hours or more. From Kigali, it takes only 3 hours to reach the Bwindi forest. Another solution for the long driving distance is to book a local chartered flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi to the nearest airstrip in Bwindi. Your local tour operator can then wait for you at the airstrip to take you to the park. The local flights are expensive but the reward I to reach the park in only one hour.
If your budget cannot allow for a local flight to Bwindi, then you don’t have to worry. The gorilla parks are located in areas with remarkable scenery and other amazing wildlife reserves. You won’t be bored even if you choose to travel by road. You will encounter amazing African countryside, national parks, mountains, valleys, and natural African wilderness that will leave you impressed. Tour companies often arrange for small stops to relax and discover hidden points of interest like the equator crossing. If you are combining gorilla trekking with other wildlife encounters, then the trip can be designed to reduce driving time. You would be stopping in different national parks each day until you track the gorillas.
The accommodation facilities within and around the gorilla parks are of high quality. They range from ultra-luxury hotels to luxury hotels, mid-range offerings, and budget options. It all depends on your budget. The facilities are in the form of standard cottages with grass-thatched roofs, self-contained tented camps, dormitories, and basic campsites. Most of these hotels are built to allow people with disabilities to move about easily.
In case you are of middle age but relatively unfit, it is important to prepare in advance by hiking around your house. If you live in a forest, mountainous, or hilly area, use the chance to move about to prepare your body for your tour. Other activities that can help you prepare for gorilla trekking include strolling, climbing, light running, and walking for long distances.
When heading out for gorilla trekking, try to carry enough drinking water and energy snacks. They will help keep the body in good condition and energetic.
For more information about gorilla trekking for the elderly, seniors, and the disabled, contact Safari Vacations and Travel Services. We advise you to book the permits in advance and you can do this through us as we go directly to book your trek in the main offices on your behalf after you confirm the dates you intend to make your trek and confirm the payments or you can book via online but that’s a bit tiresome.
Safari Vacations and Travel Services designs itineraries in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC with over 10 years of experience and we are proud of our reputation for executing some of the most highly-rated vacation experiences. Our local consultants plan your preferred itinerary using expert ground knowledge. We take care of all the local logistics like permits, accommodation, and transport. Also, manage your entire trip, from start to finish with other services like car hire services.
For inquiries, advice on how to plan for this safari, booking the hiking permits; organize transport and accommodation. Get in touch with safari vacations and travel services, we help you to avoid inconveniences after landing for the safari.