The Economics and Logistics of Gorilla Tourism



Curving along the the boundary of the Albertine Rift Valley within the Virunga Conservation Area stretching across the countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda is a home to half of the mountain gorillas in the world found in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. It borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Having twenty gorilla families available for trekking, Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO situated in south western Uganda and trekking gorillas there is so interesting but challenging.

As one veers off the well-trodden path and start heading up into the thicket of jungle, digging walking stick into the rich soil and carpeted layers of jungle growth, a real dark place gorilla tourism is unique it its way.

Mountain gorillas are the closest relatives of human beings sharing 98%, they are strong in that a male gorilla can lift more than 1 tone of weight, enough to dispatch a traveler very easily. Although mountain gorillas are habituated and can be visited by people, they are still wild and can be dangerous to people if approached badly.

Gorilla Tourism in Uganda

It has been realized that gorilla trekking is the most tourism activity in Uganda as most tourists who visit the country come for. Gorilla tourism was started in 1963 by the American primatologist Diana Fossey who made her research in the Virunga conservation area and found out that many primates including gorillas were dying seriously due to limited care by local people and tourists.

She dedicated her life to saving these gorillas by introducing gorilla conservation programs that led to gorilla tourism. Since then, gorilla tourism has grown at a high rate with many travelers flocking into Uganda for gorilla trekking.

The act of tourism is so important to the government of Uganda and the local communities adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

The revenue is used for further development such rehabilitating the roads connecting to the national park the case here is the Kabale Kisoro road that was rehabilitated purposely to promote gorilla tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park . Local people around the park are given 20% of the total revenue earned which they use to improve their standards living.

In 2014, the anti homosexuality bill that was passed by the government of Uganda was believed to pull back tourism in Uganda but the popular gorilla tourism in the country helped to keep tourism development at a high level with the number of tourist arrivals shooting up to 1.4 millions in 2014. Gorilla tourism has surely made Uganda popular, it has even been realized by the leaders mostly the president that tourism sector is very important for Uganda’s economy.

Gorilla tourism is led by the professional guides who are recruited by the Uganda wildlife authority. This is because the rare mountain species are so close to human genes which make them so susceptible to human diseases.

Mountain gorillas move from place to place looking for fresh foods hence the guides have to follow up to know where the family of gorillas has shifted to before taking the travelers for trekking.

Also, although the gorillas are habituated and can interact with the trekkers, they can be hostile some times, the trained ranger scare them aware and also guide the trekkers on how to approach the mountain gorillas. Cautions like keeping a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas is highly emphasized, a maximum of 8 people for one hour maximum is also highly emphasized all this is done perfect by the guidance of the professional tour guides.

With Bwindi Impenetrable National park being surrounded by around 200 local communities, the population is big beyond the carrying capacity of the area; local people try to encroach on the national park in order to expand their land for agriculture and settlement.

However the government has tried to resolve natural resource conflicts in the national park by supporting local households and resettling others who have no land at all. This has given space for the mountain gorillas in the national park hence the increases in the number of mountain gorillas.

Gorilla tourism is sold at 600usd contributing over 50% to the Uganda revenue, this money is shared between the local people adjacent to the national park and the government for further developments.

Also, many people have been employed in the tourism sector; local people are hires as local tour guides, porters and organizers of gorilla tourism programs. Through this, local people earn income that is used to sustain their families and improving their standards of living.

Conclusively, gorilla trekking is challenging though interesting and memorable. It requires one to be physically fit as it involves hiking through the deep tropical rain forests especially in Bwindi, one walks through some 327km2 of tangled vegetation draped over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high, draughty ridges. It is of great importance in the development of Uganda’s economy.


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