Visiting the mountain gorillas is one of the ultimate wildlife-viewing experiences. There are thought to be only 700 of these magnificent creatures left in the world. They are essential to the tourist economies of both Uganda and Rwanda and somewhat controversially the tourist dollar is essential to the survival of the gorillas. The gorilla trek and permit money is used for anti-poaching programs and maintenance of the National Parks-the gorillas natural habitat.
Visits to the gorillas are very well controlled by the Parks Authority in order to minimise the potential negative impact on the gorillas. Group sizes are limited to eight; visits last for one hour (and there is only one visit allowed per day) and a distance of seven metres has to be maintained. Every effort is made to ensure that the gorillas are not exposed to human bacteria. Physical contact is not allowed and visitors are not allowed to trek if they are suffering from a cold. A tourist infrastructure has also built up around the gorilla trekking points-providing accommodation, food, transport and souvenirs-creating lots more local employment.
We also visit a number of other conservation /community projects en route-that support local communities and conservation initiatives. In Uganda for example, our clients have the opportunity to visit the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary which cares for rescued or orphaned chimpanzees. In Kenya clients can visit Elsamere-the home of the Elsa Conservation Trust which has donated millions to wildlife and conservation projects and has an on-site conservation centre.
On this trip we stay at small, locally run campsites and where possible buy our food in local markets, thereby directly supporting local communities. We use local companies to run all our excursions.
Before commencing the tour all our clients are provided with detailed pre-departure info which includes information on Responsible Travel. This information is re-emphasised by our Tour Leader at the start of the trip-clients are, for example, advised about respecting local customs particularly in terms of dress and behaviour; water conservation; respecting and conserving wildlife and their habitats; purchasing of endangered species products and so on.
Charities supported on this trip:
We sponsor two charities on this trip. In Nairobi, we sponsor a baby elephant, Kamboyo, through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
In Uganda, we make a regular, monthly, financial contribution to Soft Power Education-an organisation that provides education to Ugandan children. We visit this project on our trip and some of our clients have returned to Uganda at the end of their trip to undertake voluntary work here.