Using Porters on a Gorilla Trek

Natural World Safaris

08 Jul 2014

should I use a porter during my gorilla trek?

should I use a porter during my gorilla trek?

One question that we often get asked is about using porters during gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda. On my recent trip to Bwindi in Uganda I was able to meet some of the local porters and find out what the work means to them. 

The success of conservation anywhere in the world is largely tied into the ability that any species or eco system has to support the communities that are local to it, the reality of this is more often than not based in terms of economics. When initially asked at the briefing if I wanted a porter to carry my bag I couldn't see a reason why I would need one; my bag was not heavy, in fact I've carried far heavier for further distances than we were likely to cover today. However, after meeting the local porters I began to see the value of the service they were offering and it's potential positive impact on my experience.

As soon as we arrived at the start point for our trek I noticed there were eight porters waiting for a potential four clients.  These people had walked close to 6kms up a steep hill to reach the starting point of the trek with the aim to secure a day's work carrying bags and generally assisting on the trails. 

To put things into perspective, most of the people who are working as porters are those that live closest to the mountain gorillas. When they are not working as porters they are working in the fields raising crops but earning very little money. If we were to consider that a year's health insurance at the local Bwindi Community Hospital can cost as little £2.50 it starts to make sense exactly how far this days work can go and what it can mean for someone to secure this, making their long walk up the hill worth the time and effort. Each porter will typically only get to work as a guide once a month, managed fairly on a rotational basis.

For us as clients in this environment it makes your trip significantly more enjoyable, freeing you up to manoeuvre more comfortably through the often thick vegetation. Your porter remains with you throughout the trek and will help you cross the trickier parts of the trails and are on hand to get anything from your bag that you may need.

what it means to the porters...

The porters in our group for the day were 17 year old Usitina, 26 year old Chris and 32 year old William. Each of them has a different requirement from this sort of work, for example Usitina is finishing her senior year in school (equivalent to GCSE in the UK or finishing high school in the US) and will use these funds to complete her studies. William will be using the money to ensure his children can continue to study and Chris is using it to make some improvements to his house. It is exactly these communities that tourism needs to support as it is with them on board benefiting from tourism that the success of mountain gorilla tourism or eco-tourism in general can continue; without it the road would be much harder. And of course you aren't just making a charitable donation; your experience trekking to view the mountain gorillas is improved as a direct result of the service they offer.

If you are interested in gorilla tracking then download our comprehensive free guide which contains in-depth information and advice to help you prepare for one of the most memorable wildlife encounters in Africa.

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If you would like to have an encounter with the mountain gorillas our free guide is packed with expert advice and tips.

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