It has almost become close to impossible to talk about Uganda safaris without gorilla trekking and game drives. Whenever you inquire with a travel agent; depending on your budget; they will either recommend you a game drive in one of Uganda’s national parks or a memorial encounter with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Besides the travel agents; most of the tourists have known Uganda for gorilla trekking safaris though sometimes the gorilla watching permit seems to be far above their budget. But before anyone complains about how much the gorilla trekking permit costs, have you thought of how much someone who is visually impaired has to part with in order to go gorilla trekking in Uganda!
I know that at this time you are already wondering how someone who is visually impaired can go gorilla trekking yet according to the majority of safari enthusiasts gorilla safaris are mainly about sightseeing. However, the truth of the matter; sightseeing is just part of the whole safari experience. Even without seeing anything, as long as you have a very well experienced tour guide, you will have a memorable adventure deep in the African Jungles of the peal of Africa.
What is it like for the visually impaired to go gorilla trekking?
Uganda wildlife authority has not taken any special initiative at the moment to train tour guides and game rangers to handle the visually impaired tourists in order to offer them an experience of a lifetime neither have they put in place any special packages for people with disabilities. But with the company of a well experienced gorilla safari guide, anyone visually impaired would still consider including mountain gorillas on their bucket list.
The Jungle Aura
It is public knowledge; the primary sense of anyone who is visually impaired is a sense of hearing. However this will be one of the many ways they will experience their gorilla safari. The safari experience mainly rotates around the aura of the Jungle which most of the tourists who are not visually impaired tend to miss out.
Every environment has its own aura. Places that have been tampered with a lot of human activity tend to have a distorted aura compared to places that have not been distorted by human activities. Visiting a jungle which has not been tampered with a lot of human activity presents a unique aura so refreshing to anyone who is visually impaired. The jungle aura will be the first thing they will experience.
After getting used to the jungle aura, the tourist will then be sensitive enough to sense the aura of the animal species specifically the mountain gorillas.
Experience the gorillas with the Tour Guide
The tour guide always works as the eyes for the physically impaired. They have to be experienced enough to know how to transfer what they see to the visually impaired tourist. This ranges from the reaction of the mountain gorillas, the kind of plants they feed on, their taste, why they choose those specific plants for food, which plants in the jungle are they fond of avoiding and why! On a lucky day, nothing can be as rewarding to the physically impaired as a touch of the mountain gorilla. Though it is not something a tour operator cab guarantee you, but it worth trying your luck
The tour guide’s touch, the whispers, the gorilla footsteps, the baby gorilla shouts, the charging gorilla noise and silence in the jungle communicate a great deal. There are so many positive reviews about gorilla trekking unfortunately most of them are based on sight. But the real experience lays in how best the tourist connects with the animals and the jungle itself.
The main reason tourists are only allowed to visit habituated mountain gorillas is to give them a kind of experience that can only be found by being a non-threat inhabitant of the gorilla environment. The experience goes beyond what you see, to what you hear, feel and the state of your heart at that moment. To the visually impaired, color can only be smelt or felt. All these add to the gorilla trekking jungle experience for the visually impaired.
Gorilla Trekking Trails
It is not common for someone who is visually impaired to prefer being carried to trying out the hike themselves. For that matter, they must be given a trail that is not so challenging yet hard enough to give them an experience that is so unique. This is where the help of an experienced tour operator comes in handy to ensure that the chosen gorilla trekking location is such a one that will make it a worthwhile experience.
Without putting this in consideration, the trek might not be as rewarding as it should be to the visually impaired.
Encountering the Mountain Gorillas
The visually impaired encounter with the mountain gorillas will be thrilling because it is likely to cause a sense of uncertainty that tends to vanish in thin air as they get used to be in proximity with these wild animals. Stillness is paramount in experiencing these strange beings but above all, the sense of company that makes you feel part of their family for those few minutes of the encounter cannot be traded for anything.
Cost Of the Trip
Gorilla trekking for the visually impaired might at the moment cost double the amount the normal trekking rates. You have to put in consideration the fare for the experienced tour guide, visiting in the low season so that you do not have to compete for space with the non visually impaired, the gorilla trekking permit rates, transport fares, meals and accommodation.
In other words the trip is mainly dependant on the tour guide. It is him who will either make or fail the gorilla trekking adventure for the visually impaired. At the moment, Uganda wildlife Authority does not offer any special passes for either the visually impaired or their tour guide yet there are no specially trained game rangers to help in guiding the visually impaired.
Special arrangements are still being sought to ensure that provisions are made however at the moment; you have to cover expenses for the guide’s gorilla permit as well as the gorilla permit for the visually impaired and then hope that the tracking group will be small enough to allow the visually impaired have the intended tracking experience. The challenge only comes in when the rangers start feeling out of place because part of their gorilla trekking work will be done by the tour guide for the visually impaired.
But again, you will need a tour operator who is well experienced to organize all this in a way that will make your trip positively memorable.