The mountain gorilla is the largest member of the great ape family. It is also one of the most vulnerable — there are only about 780 of them left in the wild. The good news, according to the BBC, is that this number represents a 25% increase over the past 7 years.
One incentive for local people to protect mountain gorillas is eco-tourism. Safaris to see the great apes up close are becoming increasingly popular, bringing in much-needed tourist revenue to countries like Uganda.
In fact, approximately half of the mountain gorillas remaining in the wild are found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which hosts eco tours that allow tourists to observe the animals. Tours are also available in the much smaller Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
To enable these safaris, park workers habituate a band of gorillas to the presence of humans, basically by hanging out near them until they become accustomed. It’s a less-than-ideal situation, really, since it’s usually better for wild animals not to let down their guard around humans, but it makes for an amazing experience for tourists and helps provide funds for the parks that protect the gorillas and the local communities that surround them.
Cool facts about mountain gorillas (via Wikipedia):
- Instead of fingerprints, mountain gorillas have nose prints.
- They spend most of their day foraging for food; they are mostly vegetarian.
- Silverbacks may look fearsome, but they’re actually “family men.” They play games with their children, and if something happens to a mother in the group, the silverback will raise the baby himself.
- They are instinctively afraid of reptiles.
- The most common form of communication within a gorilla group is a “deep, rumbling belch.”
To see these beasties up close in Uganda, you’ll need a passport and a Ugandan visa. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you enter Uganda. You can apply for a Ugandan visa upon arrival at Entebbe Airport, or if you’d rather be safe than sorry you can apply for one before you leave the US. Per the Department of State, if you plan to get a visa on arrival you should check with your airline first. Many airlines won’t let you board your plane without one.
Either way, here’s what you will need to get your visa:
- 2 completed copies of a Ugandan visa application form
- 2 passport-sized photos
- An international certificate of vaccination for yellow fever (carry this with you when you enter Uganda as well)
- A copy of your round-trip itinerary
Additionally, children under the age of 5 need a polio vaccine to enter the country. Tourist visas can be valid for as long as three months, but you need to pay attention at the airport, as the immigration officer will determine how long you can stay when you arrive in Uganda.
Finally, you’ll also need a gorilla-tracking permit to go on a gorilla safari. Visit the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s website for more information on how to book.
We can help you get your Ugandan visa quickly and easily. Contact us today!