This is what you need to know as you prepare for your gorilla trek in East Africa. Enjoy!
1. Wear long socks – this was probably the best advice I got before I went gorilla trekking. The ants in the forest are notorious and within seconds of standing near them they will somehow be up your legs, crawling all over your body and biting you. You will not survive if your pants are not tucked into your socks!!! Even still we would pass quickly by these ants and somehow three seconds later I would find one biting my shoulder! You need long socks. Don’t forget them.
2. Bring your passport – I just happened to bring my passport with me although I’m not sure actually if my tour company had put it on a packing list or not so maybe your tour company will remind you of this. But it is important to have your passport because they take your information at the start of the trek before you go. I’m not sure what would happen if you didn’t have your passport, likely you could just use a different form of identification but still a good thing to bring just in case.
3. Hire a porter – Porters cost about 15 USD or 60,000 UGX and are locals from the community nearby. You might think you’re a fit and experienced hiker and won’t need a porter, but trust me a porter is more than just helpful for carrying your bag. Your porter will help you safely get up and down some steep and slippery jungle and will help you navigate and not fall (too much) when you’re knee deep in the forest. When you get to the gorillas you also need to leave your bags behind – so it’s almost essential to have a porter for this part. I’m honestly not too sure what you would do if you did not have a porter.
4. Use actual trekking boots – The forest is thick and there is no nice trail for you to follow. Even with a porter holding me and guiding me through the jungle I still fell a handful of times. Many of those times it would be because my foot was stuck in the jungle as I tried to move forward. Having proper hiking boots is essential for this hike. I’m sure people have done it with regular runners but I wouldn’t recommend it, and I’m sure your ankles wouldn’t either!
5. Don’t forget the change in altitude – This isn’t something I really considered at all but you actually do climb quite a bit from Kampala/Entebbe to Bwindi. Where we were hiking was about 8,000 ft above sea level so you could definitely feel the difference. It’s important to drink lots of water so that you don’t get headaches and to go slow as you will be more short of breath.
6. Wear layers – In Uganda it can be sunny one minute and pouring the next, especially in Bwindi! Make sure you wear appropriate layers so that you stay comfortable the whole time. I recommend a lightweight t-shirt or long sleeve shirt with a rain jacket.
7. Waterproof gear for camera – Like I said, the weather can be unpredictable so it’s important to take care of your camera gear and have some stuff to protect it just in case it decides to down pour!
8. Use a hiking stick – A hiking stick on this trek is going to be your best friend. Seriously you will be so grateful for this guy by the end. They give them out to all the trekkers so you don’t need to worry about bringing one, but definitely use it!
9. Be prepared to get dirty! – Don’t wear your nicest gear if you’re not prepared for it to get very muddy and dirty by the end. Most people will fall down once or twice too. By the end my pants were covered in mud and dirt and my shoes were unrecognizable. Luckily, the camp I was staying at cleaned by shoes to look sparkling new for only 4,000 UGX!!
10. Pack enough water and food – Gorilla trekking is unpredictable so you can’t know how long you’ll be hiking for. Give or take it normally lasts about 4-8 hours. Some people find the gorillas after just 1 hour but it can also take you all day. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a packed lunch with you too.