It is often a dream come true of every tourist to track the magnificent mountain gorillas. The excitement someone gets just after confirming the availability of a gorilla permit and eventually acquiring it cannot be described just with words. However good things don’t come easily and cheaply. You need to know what you require in order to participate in this adventurous yet arduous activity. The things you pack for a gorilla trekking safari are not the same as those for a wildlife viewing safari. The statement “right” and “light” should be in your mind when packing for your comfortable and unforgettable gorilla trekking safari (whether in Uganda or Rwanda). Below is the comprehensive packing list for a memorable gorilla trekking safari.
A gorilla permit. This is undoubtedly the first and the most vital thing you need to consider and pack because without it, there is no gorilla trekking, and being denied the chance to trek these Giant Apes is a total disappointment. You wouldn’t want to go through that dilemma. So make it a big deal to acquire your gorilla permit on time.
A valid passport and visas. Acquiring the gorilla permit is not enough. All Visa prone nationalities should obtain Ugandan Visas in order to be allowed to enter the country. The Passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry into the country.
A waterproof Daypack that you will use to carry your cameras, binoculars, documents (for example a gorilla permit), packed lunch and other snacks is inclusive in your packing list.
Sturdy/light rainproof hiking boots with ample ankle support. When tracking the mountain gorillas, you go through a jungle with no clear paths. At times (especially in the rainy seasons), the trails become muddy, slippery and impassable which will require tourists to use strong hiking boots. Avoid sneakers unless you are going to use them for outings within towns.
A pair of cotton socks (long enough) is handy for your gorilla trek. These socks prevent the safari ants from entering into your trousers. Before the gorilla trek, the ranger will ask you to tuck your trousers into the socks.
Light rain jacket/poncho. The mountain gorillas are found in equatorial forests where the probability of raining is higher than it not raining, whether it is a rainy or dry season.
A sweater. You will definitely need this in the mornings and evenings. The coldness you will experience in Bwindi, Mgahinga or Volcanoes National Parks will make you look for your sweater or any cloth (especially scarf) to keep you warm. This is indescribable during the rainy seasons where even the blanket and bedcover may not be enough.
Long sleeved shirt/blouse (at least 1-2). This is important during the actual gorilla trek. Avoid short sleeved shirts or sleeveless tops (for women).The jungle has a lot of insects, stinging nettles, and plants with thorns. The long sleeved shirts will protect your arms from the effect of those plants. Long sleeved shirts are also important to keep you warm because it is always chilly in the morning.
Long trousers preferably light ones (avoid shorts). The long trousers will protect your legs from the effect of the stinging nettles, thorns which are very common in the jungles. Avoid jean trousers because they can become heavy and uncomfortable when they get wet (resulting from the dew in the grass).
A pair of shorts. These are important when you are relaxing within your lodge.
Pajamas are very helpful in places like Bwindi National Park or Volcanoes National Park where it can get really cold at night.
A money belt is also helpful for carrying money in case you need to buy souvenirs and tipping tour guides.
Garden gloves. This is also an important requirement for gorilla trekking because as you will be hiking/trekking, you might need to support yourself using tree branches or grasses. These might have thorns, therefore the gloves protect your hands from getting hurt.
Sunglasses with neck trap and hats with a brim are important to protect you from the effect of the scorching sunshine. Similarly, sun cream is also an important element in your packing list.
A pair of sandals preferably Teva sandals are necessary for relaxing in the evening or when participating in other activities such as community walks.
Energy giving snacks and bottled water. Gorilla trekking is challenging and involves hiking to areas of higher altitude hence requires a lot of energy and physically fitness. The energy giving snacks will revitalize your lost energy. These can be obtained from nearby supermarkets within towns (for example Kigali in Rwanda, Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda).You will also need bottled water which can be got from the lodges.
Swimsuit for those interesting in swimming. However not all the lodges within Bwindi or Volcanoes National Parks have swimming pools. Hence it will be more exciting to book with a lodge that has a swimming pool.
Underwear. This is an obvious thing for someone to pack. You will be required to wash your own underwear because most of the lodges in the National Parks do not use washing machines and it would be inappropriate and uncourteous to give someone (housekeeper) to wash them.
Toiletries like toilet paper (may be necessary during the gorilla trek, but the lodges provide them), toothpaste (most lodges do not provide toothpaste), toothbrush, detergents, sanitary pads (for women), lotions, shampoo, shavers, hair conditioner, towels for tourists who prefer to use their personal towels (though you will find some at the lodges, lightweight trek towels are recommended), lip balm, Hand sanitizers, wipes and deodorants among others.
First aid kit containing your prescription medicines like anti-malarial drugs and anti-diarrhea drugs, antiseptic cream, cold medication, allergy remedy, painkillers, bandages and liniment for muscle strains that you might get due to hiking.
Also carry insect repellants to get rid of the safari ants, tsetse flies and mosquitoes. The recommended repellants include “RID”. Also the insect repellants with DEET for example Repel 100 are also good.
Safari Gadgets like a pair of binoculars that will be important during birding, cameras with enough memory and extra lenses for capturing all the interesting and breathtaking moments during your safari, rechargeable batteries with a charger (for the camera), smart phones because Wi-Fi is available in most lodges, torches (LED torches have a good battery life and are of lightweight) .
An important but often ignored element is hiring a porter to help carry your backpack and offer support during hiking. You may ignore this but it is very handy. Besides that, hiring a porter is a way of supporting a family around the National Park.
In conclusion, participating in gorilla trekking is a great achievement in the life of a tourist. In order to have the best of your time in the gorilla trekking safari, make sure you pack the right items to have a memorable experience of a lifetime.