Embarrassing question about gorilla tracking

Sep 1st, 2014, 03:14 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 19
Embarrassing question about gorilla tracking

I have traveled extensively in Africa over the years but am not young anymore and although I can walk forever am not used to climbing uphill. The last thing on my bucket list is gorilla tracking. I have done extensive research on both Rwanda and Uganda.

My original plan was to go to Bwindi. But I read that the aged are not necessarily assigned groups nearer camp as they are in Rwanda and it is hard to trade. But Gorilla Forest Camp offers these nifty carried chairs for the infirm or fatigued for the cost of the extra porters. Cost is not a problem but would I find this so embarrassing as to be uncomfortable and spoil the experience?? I look perfectly normal but have exercise induced asthma and one painful knee but still really want this experience. I guess you have to reserve the chair as they only have one!

The alternative is Rwanda but no chair and no guarantee the gorillas will be close.
I fear that I can work out til doomsday and still not be able to march uphill for 6 hours.

Any people out there who have been on these trips that can give an opinion??

Thanks, Kimt
docklang is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 04:12 PM
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I've read accounts of some who used the chairs and sounded more mobile than you. Go ahead and use the chairs so you can do something you've planned for. The fact that chairs are available is testament to others needing help to get up those hills.
sdb2 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Chairs sound very interesting indeed!

Gorilla trekking has always been on my bucket list but I too am older & have 2 bum knees so didn't think it would be possible.

I say we dress like Cleopatra and go for it!!

Please come back and tell us how it all went. I'll be watching this thread with great interest.
KathBC is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 04:50 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks for not making this question seem silly!! I was afraid some snarky youngster would tell me to stay at home!
docklang is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2014, 09:30 AM
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If they've thought of the chairs, then someone needs them. Why shouldn't it be you. If this is something you want to do and the company can accommodate your wishes - go for it! Swish!
sandi is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2014, 07:32 AM
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Another vote for the chair! But are you sure you can't get it in Rwanda? When we were there 4 years ago our guide told us all about how some people go up in a chair with porters? He made it sound reasonably common.
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2014, 08:46 PM
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Does anyone have a picture of these chairs??

The other cool thing about Gorilla Forest Camp is that the gorillas often appear in camp. Wow! Now that would be something else for sure!!
KathBC is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2014, 10:38 PM
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There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about being carried when you opt for it.These are facilities made available for enthusiasts like you.I too have heard of able bodied porters carry people with mobility problems on specially designed sedan chairs.

A nice story I came across


These kind of transport are a commonplace and have seen them in India,caterin specially the pilgrims headed to holy places in the Himalayas.
inquest is offline  
Sep 4th, 2014, 12:15 PM
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I recently did two gorilla hikes; one was in Rwanda, and it proved to be straight uphill for 2 hours, and very hard on my old knees. This was despite asking for an easier hike. The gorillas just aren't always where they think they are, and our group headed to the top of the hill for an afternoon nap, which is where we finally found them, mostly sleeping. In Bwindi (Rushaga), we asked for an easier group and got one -- a lovely walk around the edges of a valley. It was still a challenging hike, but shorter and more varied. It involved more horizontal walking than relentless uphill climbing. And we found a great group of gorillas out in the open.
My point is just that requests are now honored in Bwindi as well as in Rwanda, and I thought the Bwindi rangers were actually more responsive to our request. They came and switched us after receiving some additional information, and we really appreciated that after our difficult Rwanda hike. Like the OP, I can hike horizontally for a long time, but vertical climbing is very hard for me. I managed it in Rwanda, but I really appreciated the consideration that was afforded us in Bwindi.
numbat83 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2014, 02:48 PM
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inquest thanks so much for posting the link to Carolyn's story and photos.

Maybe this will be a possibility for me after all!!
KathBC is offline  
Sep 5th, 2014, 11:11 AM
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I did two days tracking gorillas in Rwanda and would very much recommend it! I was 67 at the time. They put us (another friend and I) into the easier group and the first day was only about 45 minutes climb, the second about an hour. We stopped frequently or when someone needed it. On the second day there was a lovely older woman whose dream was to track gorillas. She went up twice with porters carrying her on a chair-like device. In the evenings she raved about how wonderful it has been and how glad she was she had done it. GO FOR IT! It was one of the great experiences of my life.
losaltos is offline  
Sep 5th, 2014, 06:42 PM
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Embarrassing, not at all. But I would be concerned about securing THE chair.

Since you mentioned expense is not the issue, what if you brought your own chair to the gorillas, then donated it? Perhaps its construction could be commissioned in the city and then you pick it up on the way to the gorillas. Or how about some kind of medical stretcher device you bring from home?

I have heard of hiring several porters to carry a person up the mountain.

You must get a guarantee that a chair-like device will be available if that is the only way up the mountain for you. In choosing a company to go with ask about a chair and references of anyone else who has used it.

One other thing, if possible plan for more than one gorilla visit just in case something happens--such as a downpour that detracts from your visit, or forest elephants that prevent you from reaching the gorillas, or maybe the family has crossed into DRC, or a predator has spooked them, or they just can't be located. These instances are rare but I have known them to occur--fortunately not to me. I personally do not like to rely on a single shot for special wildlife encounters/activities.

While odds of seeing gorillas on a single visit are really, really high in both Uganda and Rwanda, I think they are highest in Rwanda. I know of more "misses" in Uganda than Rwanda.

Please report back on how your trip went. It will be a great resource for others with the same question. If there is a will there is a way. You can do it! And you'll be absolutely thrilled that you did!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 5th, 2014, 07:16 PM
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I stopped half way up some mountain in Jordan. I was in my 30's. If I could of had a 'chair' ride. I would of taken it in an instant! Plenty of times at the end of a day I'm begging to be given a lift. I for one would not think any less of someone getting a bit of help.
MissGreen is offline  
Sep 7th, 2014, 03:14 AM
Join Date: Sep 2014
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It is not embarrassing at all, please just go for the Gorilla trek- and accomplish everything on your bucket list. We tracked Gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda with My Husband who also had difficulties in walking a couple of years. However it was easier for him to trek in Rwanda compared to Uganda. In Rwanda it took us just 50 minutes. In Uganda the group that was available at the time of booking was a distance a way from the starting point, so our agent (AA SAFARIS AND TOURS LTD. www.gorillas-safaris.com) organized for porters to carry my husband on stretchers.

However the whole experience was worth it, and currently we want to go back and trek Gorillas. We have been informed that now gorilla families to track in both countries are being given to people at the park. Therefore in both Uganda and Rwanda we have been informed that we will be able to get gorilla groups that are closer to the park.

I am excited and planning to travel 2015.
sallblew90 is offline  
Sep 7th, 2014, 05:47 AM
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I have just returned from Rwanda, where my DH and I completed two gorilla treks. Both treks took about an hour and were much easier than we expected. The guides on both treks were excellent, stopping us frequently to ask how we were. I noticed that the head guide studied each of us carefully during these stops, ensuring that all really was well - he didn't take our word for it. We also stopped for frequent water breaks. The guests in each of our groups had no difficulty reaching the gorillas. However, when we returned to our lodge, we learned of a woman who got into difficulty shortly after her trek began, and she was carried to the gorillas in a chair. Guests in our lodge had been in her group, and they were surprised by how quickly a chair was produced and how quickly the trek resumed. This (someone getting carried to the gorillas) happens relatively often, they were told.

My impression from hearing her story and from talking to the guides during the breaks on our treks was that the guides will get everyone to the gorillas no matter what they have to do. They appreciate how much effort and money you have spent to get to Rwanda to see the gorillas, and they are going to ensure that you see them - whatever it takes. There is a certain pride involved in ensuring that guests to Rwanda (and the gorillas) leave happy.

If I were you, I would get in touch with one of the better-known/larger companies, such as Volcanoes or Primate Safaris, and explain your situation to them. We used Volcanoes Safaris, and they were excellent (not cheap, but excellent). I have little doubt that they will be happy to make arrangements for you to see the gorillas, no matter what is involved. You must go - viewing the gorillas was amazing! CR
canadian_robin is offline  
Sep 9th, 2014, 07:44 AM
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I second Canadian Robin's recommendation of Primate or Volcanoes. I've traveled them both and they are great. Volcanoes is both Uganda and Rwanda; Primate just Rwanda. Unless that has changed since I used them.

Best wishes!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 9th, 2014, 03:16 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks for all the gracious replies. Still waiting to see if anyone could comment about Queen Elizabeth park and best area to stay in!
docklang is offline  
Sep 10th, 2014, 12:52 PM
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I'm a snarky youngster and I'll tell you that you absolutely should go! You want to go, you have the ability to go and to pay for the extra assistance. If that extra assistance makes it possible for you to go to the place you want to go to, then why the heck not??? Nothing says that you have to use it 100% of the time if you don't want to. Why not walk for a bit now and then if you wish and then relax before you start to get worn out/sore? There's nothing to be embarrassed about when you say "I have asthma and a wonky knee, but I really want to go do this".

It's there for a reason and you'd be paying for the extra assistance, why not use it??
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Sep 10th, 2014, 09:34 PM
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Please go and hire as many porters as you need, get a chair, whatever, all without shame. Porters need work, so definitely avail yourself of them.

Seeing the gorillas in Rwanda was a highlight of my life. If this is something you want to do, make it happen. It is, in fact, easier than you think (though perhaps not as inexpensive!).

Leely2 is offline  
Sep 11th, 2014, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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It appears you have decided to visit the gorillas. Wonderful.
Now on to QE...

I have stayed 3-4 times at Mweya Lodge due to location, location, location. Pros: Location--beautiful setting on the channel that you can enjoy while strolling the grounds or having a drink and it is very close to the must-do activity of the Kazinga Channel Boat Launch. In fact I've walked to the launch site, it is so close to the lodge. There are banded mongoose that live on the grounds. Recently I read about an activity where you do something like track the mongoose with a researcher. Even without a formal outing, the mongoose provide great viewing opportunities all around.

Other animals are comfortable grazing throughout the lodge grounds and I've sat within feet of a nursing warthog. The rare and elusive Giant Forest Hog is sometimes seen near the lodge and has been habituated to traffic and people, making it a bit less elusive and shy around Mweya.

Cons: Traffic and lots of people. Mweya is large and busy and a popular destination for Ugandans who want a getaway. That's why if you can arrange a visit on a weekday, it is better than a weekend.

In general, Mweya is a nice place to stay with comfortable rooms of different price levels and good food at the buffet in the restaurant. Pretty fancy place I thought, since the renovation from the 90s.

Back to the Kazinga Channel and Giant Forest Hog. I have found the morning Kazinga Channel launch to have more mammal activity but the afternoon to have better light for photos. I've even gone midday in heat and harsh light and seen very cool stuff. The birds are always prolific. This is probably the highest concentration of different birds per meter/yard of any water activity in Africa. It is actually worth going 2x if you have enough time.

Now for the Giant Forest Hog. QENP I think is the best place to see these creatures. You may want to state your interest in them because there are certain swampy areas they are more likely to be found in, viewed from the vehicle of course. Warthogs are everywhere but Giant Forest Hogs are rare.

If you have several days for QE, you could split your time between Mweya and a spot in the Maramagambo Forest or Kyambura/Chambura Gorge. These forests are where you are more likely to see the beautiful black and white colobus monkeys. But you can drive to the forests from Mweya.

Not sure how much time and $ you are devoting to this Uganda trip, and do budget 2 gorilla visits over everything else, but Murchison Falls is a fantastic place to visit too. All activities there are by boat or vehicle, other than walking around the falls area for views. There are optional climbing excursions, but not necessary for great views of the falls. The company that owns Mweya has a lodge in Murch Falls, Paraa Lodge, which again has as its biggest draw--location.
atravelynn is offline  

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