The Gorilla is the largest primate in the world not found in any Zoo but only in the heart of Africa. If you’re feeling adventurous take on a gorilla trekking safari to Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and wind your way around the tropical rain forests. During the trek, you will learn about gorillas and the natural forests they inhabit. You will learn about conservation, challenges and pitfalls ahead. Interact the locals and get their own side of the story. Learn about the important and fascinating work different Government and Non Governmental Organisations are undertaking in Africa.
Venturing further into the tropical forests of Africa, you will come across a stunning kingdom of apes. Here you will see the majestic gorillas in their natural habitat and the different flora and fauna that is found in the areas visited.
An informative local guide will lead the way into the gorilla kingdom. Exploring the forest further you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the endangered gorillas as they move around their home.
Planning a Gorilla Trekking Tour
Where to Go
What to See and Where
Tips & Advice
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Uganda is a home to over half of the Mountain Gorillas in the world. The estimated population of the endangered mountain gorillas is about 480 individuals. Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s number one attraction and the major activity carried out in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National parks.
With many people getting interested in gorilla tracking, there are several ecotourism measures that have been put in place to protect the gorilla habitat. Gorilla tracking is conducted within the habituated gorilla families in the four sectors of Bwindi; Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga. All these are interesting places where you can go gorilla tracking. On a gorilla safari in Uganda, you will spend up to 1 hour with a mountain gorilla family and there are two gorilla groups that have been set aside for a 4 hour experience with the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest. All families have unique behaviors and characteristics, if you have enough time and resources you can track more than one group during your trip.
Within the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there is only one group of Gorillas (Nyakagezi group). The tracking starts in the morning with well- informed and knowledgeable professional guides or park rangers to provide information to the trackers. You can also spend 4 hours with a gorilla family on an all-day trek during the Gorilla Habituation Experience costing 1,500 USD.
Gorilla Tourism Rules
A maximum of 8 people are allowed to track each gorilla family at any given time in order to conserve their natural habitat and keep them safe from infections. The duration of the trek depends on the family allocated in each sector. Tracking requires a permit to each person interested in the activity. Permits are purchased from Uganda Wildlife Authority and a prior booking is highly recommended before the tracking day, each permit costs $600. The activity requires physical fitness since it is a bit tiresome when moving in the forest, steep slops and valleys. More so the length of tracking depends on the location of the Mountain Gorillas simply because they always move in search for food like any other living mammals.
Equipment needed for tracking include; light clothes, water proof cameras, packed lunch, enough drinking water, surgical masks for wearing while in the presence of gorillas. While participating in this activity in the forest, you will hear the sound of birds, monkeys and other mammals.
The best time to trek Mountain Gorillas
There has been an ongoing debate on what is the best time to trek or track the gorillas in Uganda. Many arguments and opinions have been voiced in different avenues including online forums like trip advisor, lonely planet among others. The fact is that be tracked throughout the year and the clients almost get the same satisfaction. This is so because the clients tend to avoid rainy season forgetting that Bwindi impenetrable National Park is located in an equatorial forest where chances of rain are very high daily.
The mountain gorillas that are among the most endangered species on planet earth are also located in bwindi impenetrable National Park and the Virunga range that are shared amongst three countries like Uganda, DRC and Rwanda. Since these primates are highly endangered, the clients pay highly to see or trek them. Because of the current price of the gorilla permits at $1500 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda, the clients would love to maximize their experience when it comes to gorilla trekking and the best time to visit them.
Uganda being crossed by the equator has a modified equatorial climate with two rainy seasons and because of this people tend to associate these rainy seasons with the best times to trek gorillas. This is also true when it’s raining, it becomes hard to hike and trek in the impenetrable forest because of the heavy rains that make the trails too slippery. Some of the gorilla families need to drive for some time to reach at the beginning of the trail heads and because of this, if you don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle you might not make it to the gorillas. Besides that, vegetation tend to grow something that reduces chances of proper visibility and photography. All the above combined, the best time to visit the gorillas is to avoid the most rain seasons in Uganda.
This means that the best time is in June, July, August , September and part of October but because of the global warming even becoming hard to predict when it’s going to rain or not. You might also contact us in case of information about the best time to visit Uganda.
What to Expect About Mountain Gorillas
As part of the excitement of tracking the gorillas is wondering where you will find them! As the name suggests, the mountain gorillas live at high altitude and the dense jungle, altitude as well as the muddy terrain can be so tiring and some of the visitors might find the trek very challenging. It’s always advisable to keep your own pace and drink a lot of water getting dehydrated.
As always after getting your breakfast, the lodges were you slept must give you packed lunch and a lot of drinking water. Always make sure that the lodge gives you lunch and enough drinking water to take into the jungle. Even though the weather looks so fine before you start the trek, the higher you get, the more it rains. This means that you shouldn’t forget to carry rain gears.
This once in lifetime gorilla trekking experience starts in the morning with a briefing, at around 7:30 to 8 am depending where you are trekking. You will be reminded of the rules and regulations of gorilla trekking that are put in place to protect the gorillas and their habitats. One of the rules is that in case you are feeling ill, you are grateful to advise the authorities. They will decide whether you are very healthy enough to trek. Always remember that the health of the critically endangered gorillas is more vital than your holiday,
After enjoying the briefing, you will have the chance of hiring the porter for the day. Highly recommended for the steep slopes. Even though its one family that is found close to the start of the gorilla trekking in Uganda, generally you will walk for an hour or more before you find the mountain gorillas. The countryside is so wonderful and its makes the whole experience fantastic. The Radio contacts between rangers and the information from the past day’s gorilla sightings will make it possible for the rangers to guide you to the right place to find the gorillas. When you come within range, the rangers will ask you to leave your bags and non-essentials so you can finally approach the gorillas more closely, the cameras at the ready. Take time to enjoy the presence of these amazing animals. Always come out from behind the camera lens occasionally.
You are always given an hour with the gorillas, during which time they may be chewing on bamboo, hanging from the trees above your head, grooming each other, suckling the babies, playing, sleeping, farting and having sex! So you just never know what to expect.
One of the most important gorilla rule is to always keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas. There is no guarantee that the gorillas will stick to this however! You will move around the forest while you are with them. In case you come across them, the rangers will ask you to step back. In case they walk into the forest you might be allowed to follow them a little way. Sometimes you will see the gorillas in a light clearing. At times they will be in the dark part of the forest. You need to bear this in mind if you are planning to take a lot of photos. Carry a fast film. Regardless of what type of camera you have, you must always make sure the flash is switched off.
Always the route back to the headquarters is often shorter, even though some tracks might involve you hiking back uphill in places. At the base, you get to be offered gorilla trekking certificate.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) conservation ranger guides are so knowledgeable and will take good care of you while you are in the forest. These rangers help you in negotiating steep and often muddy ground too. Even though you have questions about the gorillas, or about the gorillas, or about the birds, wildlife and plants in the forests, always feel free to ask. The guides know each of the gorilla family intimately and can tell you the names and habits of each family member. There is much to learn about these primates. The tips for the rangers are optional but very much appreciated. The estimate is $15-20 per tracker/ranger. The tips should be in small US dollar bills or local currency.
Gorilla trekking registration and briefing takes place at the UWA Park head offices from 7: 45 am and trekking starts at 8:30 am. This is where you will be given the family gorilla name that you are to trek. Some of the gorilla families are easier to track than others; but it depends at what altitude they range or what distance they cover during the day. This normally takes 1 to 3 hours trekking time to find your gorilla family. In case you are fit, push through the dense jungle of Bwindi Forest, with the ranger hacking through the occasional branch with his gun in front of you, can be quit adventurous
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda starts with tea or coffee that are given out at 7:00 am for gorilla trekking visitors assembled in Kinigi where the entertainment is provided by the traditional Intore dancers from SACOLA which is Sabyinyo Community livelihoods Association. In Rwanda, your gorilla family will be assigned to you at the early morning briefing. The fitter you are, the more likely you are to be allocated a gorilla family that includes a longer trek. The rangers here access you according to your health and general fitness.