Responsible Hiking in Uganda
Sustainable tourism is essential for the preservation of local communities and their culture and the environment. Following sustainable principles reduces human activity’s impact on the Earth’s environment and natural resources.
At Nkuringo Safaris, we practice responsible gorilla tourism that contributes to the survival of endangered mountain gorilla species and helps surrounding communities.
You can help preserve the environment and nearby communities by hiking with us in several ways. Follow along to learn some tips about hiking sustainably in Uganda.
Follow the Instructions of Your Guide
Our guides are familiar with the terrain and landscape you’ll trek through. They’re also familiar with the behaviours of the apes. You must follow your guide’s instructions and safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Staying with your guide and listening to their instructions will give you more insight into respecting your surroundings and appreciating the beauty of the wildlife.
Our guides help you navigate strenuous terrain, as trekking to the gorillas can be difficult for some travellers. The terrain can be steep and muddy, which can be challenging to travel to at certain times of the year. The forests are also dense, and you may need time to adjust your breathing to the high altitudes.
To hike sustainably, preparation is essential. You’ll want to consider the weather and terrain conditions of where you will be walking so you can plan accordingly. Coming prepared limits the possible need for additional resources.
Respect Plants and Wildlife
Before you start trekking through the forests of Uganda, a park warden will give you a summary of the park rules you must follow diligently. These rules are put in place to protect visitors, staff, wildlife, and the environment.
When participating in gorilla trekking, it’s essential to respect the space of the gorilla group. You could tick off the dominant male silverback’s aggression when you violate its space without invitation. In some instances, the silverback may walk to you. In that case, follow the instructions from the guide and stay calm; keep your eyes down. You could be in the silverback’s path to reaching a juicy branch.
An important thing to remember is that you’re entering the homes of these majestic creatures. You’ll be able to observe their natural behaviours and the unique social bonds that these animals have. However, you must keep your distance to protect our staff and the gorillas safe.
Be sure to leave the vegetation alone. Picking vegetation leads to habitat degradation. You can remember the experience by taking photographs of your encounters, but be sure to turn off the flash on your camera. Flash photography can make the gorillas uncomfortable.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Trekking through the dense forests of Uganda is a great way to get out and connect with the wild. Gorilla treks can be long and strenuous, so it’s essential to pack some snacks and water for your trip!
Using a reusable water bottle is one of the easiest ways to practice sustainability. We do not recommend carrying plastic water bottles because they are produced using fossil fuels, and their life cycle leads to pollution. If you unforgettably bring one, make sure you leave it in your back and take it back to your home.
Planning can help reduce waste as well. When you map out your trip, you can plan how much water and snacks you might need. That can help limit the number of things you may need to carry and reduce the amount of trash you need to hold. Any trash or food bits should be picked up and stored in your pack until you return to a proper waste site.
If you gotta go, you gotta go! There are no restrooms in the jungle but if you take a shit, make sure you bury your waste at least 30 cm deep. That’s important because it avoids polluting nearby water sources and reduces the risk of spreading diseases to the forest inhabitants, especially gorillas.
Stay Home If You Feel Sick
Staying home if you’re feeling ill is crucial if you’re planning on gorilla trekking. Gorillas and humans have a lot in common, but gorillas don’t have strong immune systems like us. Although it would be unfortunate, staying behind on a gorilla trekking experience when you’re sick prevents compromising the health of the gorillas.
Going gorilla trekking while sick could spread a contagious disease to a group of gorillas. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to more than half of the mountain gorilla species population. Human illness could have a devastating impact on a group and even the entire species.
Even in good health, you must wear a facemask when you come close to the gorillas, and this helps keep fellow trekkers, staff, and gorillas safe.
Support Local Businesses and Respect the Culture of Local Communities
One aspect of sustainable hiking that’s often forgotten is supporting local businesses and communities. Gorilla tourism helps sustain communities around conservation areas with alternative livelihoods.
The Uganda government gives 20% of the proceeds from gorilla permit fees to communities. These proceeds help develop infrastructure and support the alternative livelihoods of locals.
Booking lodging that supports local communities and environmentally-friendly practices can also help you have a more sustainable trip. We make an effort to reduce carbon emissions in our offices, trips, and destinations for a more sustainable experience. Energy and water usage are also minimized in our facilities to reduce waste.
Supporting locals is a part of sustainability because it helps the community’s economy and improves the quality of life. More opportunities, such as jobs, become available. And it contributes to conservation and preservation efforts in areas where it’s needed.
Researching the culture of the area, you’re visiting can help preserve it. Being respectful of different cultures helps preserve cultural beliefs and traditions that are important to local communities.
Booking a gorilla trekking tour with us at Nkuringo Safaris is a great way to support local communities in Uganda with alternative lifestyles and help preserve the endangered mountain gorilla population.
You can enhance your experience with us by coming prepared, packing eco-friendly items and gear and researching the unique cultures of surrounding communities before your arrival.