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When can a child 15 years trek Uganda’s Gorillas

12 days best of Rwanda safari

Did you know that a child below 15 years can also get the chance to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda? Yes, this is possible under some circumstances you are about to find out.  It’s undeniable that the minimum age limit for gorilla trekking in all destinations (Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks as well as Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park) is 15 years and the enforcing Authorities (Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board) usually follow the guideline by the book. This is serious to the point that the mentioned governing Authorities request for passport details before gorilla permits are issued. Not only that, trekkers are normally required to present an original and valid passport to make certain that all the tourists are of eligible age.

By the way, have you ever wondered why children below 15 years are not allowed to track the mountain gorillas? Well, there are a number of reasons but this article will explore a few of them. One of the reasons is the fact that young children are susceptible to communicable diseases (such as cold, flu and measles) which also affect the giant apes that are already endangered. Not only that, children are generally unpredictable and sometimes it’s difficult to know how they will behave or react after seeing the mountain gorillas. Therefore to avoid such occurrences, the minimum age limit for tracking the mountain gorillas was set.

Even with this strict guideline, a child below 15 years can surprisingly track the mountain gorillas in Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks under some special instances. Therefore, the following are the circumstances under which a child below 15 years can track the mountain gorillas in Uganda;

When the child is about to celebrate his/her 15th birthday

One of the instances when a child below 15 years can track the mountain gorillas is when he/she is about to celebrate his/her 15th birthday. This is applicable to both Uganda and Rwanda whereby the governing bodies can be sympathetic to such a child so that he/she can get the chance to meet face to face with one of the World’s most desired and sought-after creatures. If the child is making 15 years in the next few months (at least 3 months), she/he is eligible to track the mountain gorillas.

If the child expresses some maturity (of a 15-years old child) and is physically fit (or strong)

Another instance where a child below 15 years can track mountain gorillas is when he/she expresses the required maturity and is physically fit, which will be assessed by the concerned Authorities so that she/he can be given the chance to track the mountain gorillas.

If the child will be tracking with his/her parents

If a child is from 12 to 14 years and is interested in tracking the mountain gorillas, she/he will be allowed as long as it is done with the parents. This is usually done to avoid any troubles and normally the parents are supposed to sign a consent and liability with the Uganda Wildlife Authority on the child’s behalf to ensure that they (parents) are liable incase anything happens to the child during gorilla trekking. These liability forms (referred as the “Republic of Uganda Waiver and Release of Liability Agreement”) can be picked from UWA Head offices and if not possible for you, the tour operator with whom you are booking your safari will pick, scan and send it which you will sign then send back. Once it’s accepted, you will be required to pay for the gorilla permit (same price at $700) and has to be done earlier because it takes a longer process.

One thing you need to note is that the right and opportunity for a child below 15 years participating in gorilla trekking lies in the hands of the governing body (Uganda Wildlife Authority) which will confirm whether you are accepted or not.

Other tourist activities for children

Due to the physical demands of gorilla trekking, we would recommend other activities for children below 15 years (especially those that were denied the chance of encountering the giant apes). Some of these activities are offered within the Safari Lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park like nature walks, cycling and birding. In addition to the mentioned, other National Parks such as Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks offers a wide range of children-friendly activities such as cultural performances, game drives and boat cruises which also offer opportunities of sighting a variety of wildlife species such as lions, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, elands, Elands, Uganda kobs, leopards and warthogs among others.

In conclusion, if you have a child nearing 15 years or from 12-14 years but expressing the required maturity and physical fitness for gorilla trekking, don’t deny him/her the once in a lifetime opportunity of encountering the endangered giant apes in their natural habitats. Just continue with the necessary preparations like packing and acquiring the passport/visa because the child’s dream is about to be achieved.

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