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By: E Cho

Tracking gorillas while in Uganda is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in this African country. These fascinating creatures are extremely rare, with only about 600 of them in existence throughout the world. Amazingly, about half of these can be found in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, while the remaining half are found in the Virunga Volcanoes Conservation Area that is located nearby. Bwindi, however, is the only one of the two that is also home to chimpanzees, which means you can find both of these great apes in just one location.

Mountain Gorilla Facts

Observing one of these great mountain gorillas in its natural habitat is truly a rare treat. In fact, it is the only way you can see a mountain gorilla in real life because they have been unsuccessfully bred in captivity and they are not on display in any zoo.

Reaching up to 6 feet tall and weighing in at anywhere from 300 to 425 pounds, these mountain gorillas are truly massive creatures. Although mountain gorillas are vegetarians, it is still necessary to approach them with caution when finding them in their dense forest habitat. Although they are not necessarily aggressive by nature, humans are their only predators and they may respond in an aggressive nature if they feel as if they are in danger.

Getting Prepared to Track Gorillas

There are multiple businesses that offer gorilla tracking safaris. These safaris often last for at least one full day, though they may stretch out over several days and may include other adventures in addition to tracking gorillas.

Since you may have to spend several hours in the rain forest before you come upon gorillas, it is important to be properly prepared for your time in the wilderness. Ideally, you should pack a backpack to carry with you on the trip. This pack should include items such as:

• Three or four t-shirts or short sleeved shirts
• Two pairs of trousers, the type with zip off legs are best. Do not bring jeans, as they take too long to dry.
• A warm sweater or hooded sweatshirt
• One or two pairs of shorts
• Underwear and socks
• A hat or a cap
• A water and windproof jacket
• Boots
• Swimsuit
• Personal toiletries
• Sandals or thong
• Sarong
• Water bottle
• Sunscreen

With these items packed for your trip, you should be able to remain reasonably comfortable throughout your trip. Remember, it can be quite hot and sunny during the day and can get very cold at night, so bring the proper clothing for both situations.

If your long trip through the jungle will result in staying overnight, other items you will need to bring include:

• Sleeping back
• Sleeping mat
• Torch
• Mosquito net

Some of these supplies might be provided by the safari company, so be sure to check on which supplies you need to bring and which you can leave at home.

Spotting Mountain Gorillas

In order to go on a gorilla tracking adventure, you will need to acquire the proper permits. These are available through the safari company and are intended to ensure that the gorillas do not become overwhelmed by the number of human visitors they receive.

Since you will be on safari with an expert guide, he or she will give you a good idea of where to look for gorillas and how to find them. Nonetheless, there are a few key places that you should look. For example, gorillas in Bwindi are likely to climb trees as they search for fruits, foliage, and more to eat. In addition, they are more likely to build their nests in trees than other types of mountain gorillas. Therefore, you should keep looking above you as you engage upon your gorilla tracking adventure, as you just might find one or more up in the trees.

As you look for the mountain gorillas in Uganda, you will need to be prepared to climb over steep hills and to work your way through many tangled vines. The terrain is quite rough and you may have to walk for several hours before you spot a gorilla, so it is important to be physically and mentally prepared for the adventure. In addition, you will only be able to spend one hour with the gorillas once you do spot them. In this way, overexposure to humans, which can be harmful to the gorillas, will be avoided.

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