Gorilla Trekking in Uganda – A Guide to see Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
Are you planning and interested in visiting Uganda for Gorilla Trekking? Eco Adventure Safaris guide on Gorilla trekking in Uganda will help you plan well your trip for a great experience during your gorilla trek tour to Uganda. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is only done in two national parks Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park both found in southwestern Uganda, Gorilla trekking is one of the major activities that attract many tourists to Uganda and many include this activity in their itineraries when visiting Uganda.
What is Gorilla Trekking? Defined
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda involves walking and hiking through the forest to search for gorillas in their natural habitat once you find the gorillas you spend one hour encountering them, learning more about their daily lifestyle, taking pictures and videos.
About Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the only 4 national parks home to endangered mountain gorillas in the world, other national parks include Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in DR Congo. Bwindi Forest National Park is one of Africa’s oldest forests with diverse biodiversity with various species which include 350 birds, 310 butterflies, 200 trees, 51 reptiles, 88 months, and 120 mammals, the park is also home to several primates including chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkey and the major one the Mountain Gorillas. The global population of mountain gorillas is 1064 individuals and half of these can be found in Bwindi forest, the park has over 15 habituated gorilla family groups open for gorilla tracking with 8 gorillas permits allocated to each group per day.
About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the other only national park in Uganda where gorilla trekking is done the other is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national Park. Mgahinga National Park is home to one gorilla family called Nyakagezi open for gorilla trekking. The park is also home to 3 volcanoes Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhavura volcanoes of the 6 extinct volcanoes found in the Virunga ranges sharing borders with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in DR Congo also home to mountain gorillas. Mgahinga National Park is the smallest National Park in Uganda covering just 38 kmsq it is also best known for golden monkey trekking making it the only national park in Uganda where to see gorillas and golden monkeys.
Mgahinga gorilla National park is also home to 76 mammal species including the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Other large mammals include elephants, buffaloes, leopard, giant forest hogs however these are very rare to see. It is also great for bird watching with over 115 bird species present in the park including various Albertine Rift endemics.
Where is Gorilla Trekking done in Bwindi Forest?
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest is done in 4 sectors which include Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Buhoma sector is located in the northern part of Bwindi and Ruhija sector in the North Eastern part of Bwindi both sectors are located close to Queen Elizabeth National Park making it easy to combine gorilla trekking with game viewing if you are trekking at these sectors. In the southern Part of Bwindi it is where Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors are located close to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for gorilla trekking and Golden monkey tracking. Each sector has different habituated mountain gorilla families open for gorilla trekking with Rushaga sector having many families compared to other sectors.
How much is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
A Gorilla Permit in Uganda costs USD700 per person per trek for Foreign Non-Residents, USD600 for East African Residents, and USD70 for East African Citizens. This Gorilla permit gives you an opportunity to spend one-hour encountering mountain gorillas in the Bwindi forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park once you find them on your trek.
How to purchase a Gorilla trekking permit in Uganda
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda are purchased from Uganda Wildlife Authority, this can be done at their headquarters in Kampala or Kisoro for tourists arriving in Uganda through Entebbe it is recommended to purchase their gorilla permits from Kampala and for tourists arriving in Uganda through Kigali, they can purchase their permits at the branch headquarter of Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kisoro town which is 1-2 hours drive to Bwindi.
Eco Adventure Safaris is one of the best gorilla safari companies which can purchase for you your gorilla permit in advance and on short notice, once you confirm your dates and share them with us via email or WhatsApp we will first tentatively reserve the gorilla permits for you online and then send you an invoice for you to make payment and once money comes through on our account we will purchase your gorilla permits immediately and send you scanned copies of your permits for your records and perusal and this will confirm you have purchased your gorilla permits for your gorilla trek in Bwindi forest for a given date.
Where is the Gorilla Habituation Experience done in Bwindi Forest?
Gorilla Habituation in Bwindi forest is done in the southern part of Bwindi at Rushaga sector and areas between Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors. With this, if you are interested in doing Gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi you are required to stay in lodges in the south at either Nkuringo or Rushaga. Gorilla habituation experience involves walking/hiking through Bwindi forest to search for semi habituated mountain gorillas and once you find them you will spend 4 hours encountering them as you participate in activities geared to make these mountain gorillas get used to human presence so that they can trek normally after a given period of time.
Gorilla habituation experience gives you an opportunity to spend more hours with mountain gorillas that is 4 hours compared to one hour during normal tracking. Gorilla habituation is always in high demand given they are only 4 permits available per day and tracking is only done by 4 people per day so it is recommended you book your permit at least 2-3 months in advance. A Gorilla Habituation permit costs USD1500 per person per trek for Nonforeign residents, USD1000 for Foreign Residents, and USD220 for East African Citizens.
What is the difference between Gorilla Trekking and Gorilla Habituation Experience?
The major difference is during Gorilla trekking you spend one hour encounter with the mountain Gorillas once you find them in Bwindi forest whereas for Gorilla habituation experience you spend 4 hours encounter with mountain gorillas in Bwindi forest, gorilla trekking is done in a group of 8 tourists tracking per gorilla family whereas gorilla habitation is done in a group of 4 tourists tracking a given semi habituated gorilla family. Both activities are done in Bwindi Forest national park and both start in the morning hours you are required to be fit to be able to participate in one of the activities given the fact sometimes they tend to be strenuous especially when you are hiking through Bwindi Forest.
What is the best time to go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?
The best time to do gorilla trekking in Uganda is during the dry months from Mid December, January, February, June to early September, this makes it easier to travel to the park and gives a clear view of gorillas given the vegetation cover is not too much high grown. However, Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done anytime throughout the year and you have the same chances to see these gentle giants in their natural habitats.
What to pack for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
During gorilla tracking, you will need a comfortable, hard wearing, pair of walking shoes or boots. Conditions are generally very muddy when it is raining. There are uphill sections that may be quite steep and strenuous. It is also advisable to wear a long sleeve cotton shirt and lightweight long trousers to protect yourself from the undergrowth, stinging nettles, and biting ants. Suggested Items to pack for Gorilla trekking in Bwindi include;
- Insect Repellent
- Torch/Flashlight – and Spare Batteries
- Wet Wipes
- Water Bottle
- Camera, lenses etc
- Comfortable walking/hiking boots & socks
- Gardening gloves for gorilla tracking
- Sandals/strops/walking shoes
- Hat and Sunscreen
- Rain Jacket
- Binoculars (game/bird watching)
How hard and challenging is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths. It can be very strenuous it may be just a couple of hours but it can also be for a full day of up to 8 hours or more of hiking in hot, high altitude conditions therefore please be prepared for this by being as fit as possible.
Where to stay during Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest National Park is done in the northern part that is Buhoma and Ruhija and in the southern part that is Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors. In Rushaga lodges, you can stay at Rushaga Gorilla camp, Four Gorillas Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Havens Lodge, Nsongi Camp, Icumbi Gorilla Safari Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Gorilla Valley Lodge and Karungi Camp. In Nkuringo lodges you can stay at Nkuringo Bwindi gorilla lodge, Clouds Mountain gorilla lodge or Lake Mutanda Resort, all these lodges are close to the start point of Gorilla Habituation and Gorilla trekking.
In the northern part, in the Buhoma sector you can stay at Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Ride 4 a Woman among others, In Ruhija you can stay at Trekkers Tavern Cottages, Agandi Eco Lodge, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, and Broadbill Tented Camp among others.
Which sector is best for Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest?
Many tour operators and tourists choose the Rushaga sector as the best sector for gorilla tracking in Bwindi because of the many habituated gorilla families here it is easy to get the gorilla tracking permit here compared to other sectors, however, according to the nature/elevation Buhoma is the best sector for gorilla trekking given the fact sometimes you can only spend 3-4 hours on your trek and some trackers are already done by 11 am in the morning. Among all the sectors it is the Nkuringo sector that has a higher elevation making the treks strenuous. For gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest whichever sector you are booked for your trek you will be able to see the mountain gorillas and you have 99% chance of seeing them on your trek given the fact this is a very well organized activity.
How to get to Bwindi Forest for Gorilla Trekking
By Road: This will depend on which sector you will be doing your gorilla trek in Bwindi Forest; Bwindi can be accessed through the main high-way road from Entebbe/Kampala which is approximately 8-9 hours drive. The northern sectors of Ruhija and Buhoma can be accessed by turning off along the Kabale-Kisoro road you will see the signposted of Uganda Wildlife Authority which you will follow up to the designated sector for your trek. The southern sectors of Rushaga and Nkuringo trailheads can be reached using the road turning off at Muko along Kabale-Kisoro Highway.
By Air: You can fly from Entebbe International Airport or Kampala’s Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip to access the southern sectors of Rushaga and Nkuringo and then to Kihihi airstrip for the northern sectors of Ruhija and Buhoma. Scheduled and chartered flights are available and operated by domestic airline operators of Aero link and Fly Uganda. You will need to plan with your tour operator for a transfer from the airstrip to the Lodge you are booked for your stay.
Where else to go for Gorilla Trekking Africa
Gorilla Trekking in Africa is also done in Rwanda and Congo which host the four national parks that are home to the only remaining mountain gorillas. In Congo, you as well have an opportunity to see the Eastern Lowland gorillas which are found in Kahuzi Beiga National Park. Gorilla Trekking in Africa is one of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that attracts many travelers to do during their visit to Africa. Despite the high costs, time, and discomfort from booking to doing the hike through the forest to search for these endangered apes watching gorillas in their natural habitat in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo is one of the best wildlife experiences every traveler would do on his/her safari.
Cost for Gorilla Trekking permits in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla trekking is much cheaper in Congo compared to Uganda and Rwanda. This issue of price difference is basically out of policy difference between these three countries Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Rwanda wants to promote itself as a Luxury destination while Uganda wants to market itself as an affordable destination. Congo is trying to promote its gorilla tourism to attract more travelers after a long turmoil in the region that caused a lot of insecurity. Whereas Uganda is promoting it’s self as the preferred best affordable destination for gorilla trekking among the 3.
The Gorilla permit in Rwanda Costs $1500 Per person per trek for the Foreign nonresidents, $500 Per person for foreign residents and $200 for East African Citizens (Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan), this gives you an opportunity to spend one hour encounter with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
Gorilla permits in Congo costs $400 per person per trek for the high season months of Mid-December to mid-march then June to October and then $200 for the low season months of mid-march to mid-May and then mid-October to mid-December every year. A gorilla permit in Kahuzi Beiga National Park costs $400 for foreign nonresidents, $200 for East Africa Residents and $20 national resident. Lowland Gorilla trekking permit price in Congo Kahuzi Biega National park costs USD400 for Non Residents, East African Residents-USD200 and National Citizens of Congo-USD20.
In terms of accessibility, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is a better option than Uganda and DR Congo. Reasons to support this is that Volcanoes National Park is a 2-3 hours drive from Kigali, that Gorillas are easily seen with a short drive time possible even in one day. This is indeed very true and no one can run away from it. People used to avoid gorilla trekking in Bwindi because of the 9-10 hours drive from Entebbe International Airport to Bwindi but now we arrange tours to Bwindi via Kigali which then becomes 4-5 hours drive only. With this, you land in Kigali, use the East African Tourist Visa (which allows you to visit both countries at ago) and then trek gorillas in Uganda at an affordable price. Because of this, even Rwanda tour operators are selling Bwindi instead of their country.
In terms of Lodges, Both Countries have Budget, Mid Range and Upmarket Lodges where you could choose to stay during your trek. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is the best place for gorilla trekking for those interested in staying in super luxury lodges on international standards compared to Bwindi. These lodges offer great and luxury services some are ranked among the best in Africa and the country at large for example Bisate Lodge and Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National Park. However for those looking for much budget offers then Uganda and Congo is best option for you given the fact there are many options to choose from where to stay ranging from $30 to $100 as per your booked package.
In terms of Gorilla families, Uganda has more gorilla families open for trekking than Volcanoes National Park. Bwindi has 20 habituated gorilla family groups this means 160 Gorilla permits are available every day for gorilla trekking in Bwindi. Volcanoes National Park has 12 Gorilla families hence 96 Gorilla permits are available each day for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and Congo has 10 gorilla families that is 8 in Virunga National Park and 2 in Kahuzi Beiga National Park. This makes it more flexible to get gorilla trekking permits in Uganda than in Rwanda and the Congo, especially during the peak season months.
In terms of the best gorilla trekking experience, the whole truth is that Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo have gorillas and there is no big difference when it comes to the experience obtained at the end of your trek. Chances of seeing gorillas in all countries are 98% so which ever country you visit you will be able to see these great apes in their natural environment. However Uganda is unique given the fact you an option to spend more time with the mountain gorillas through Gorilla habituation experience which is only done in Bwindi forest, a gorilla habituation permit costs $1500 per person giving you an opportunity to spend 4 hours encounter with the semi habituated mountain gorillas under the guidance of trackers and researchers as opposed to one hour for the normal trekking. Congo as well gives you a unique opportunity to see the Eastern Lowland gorillas which are found in Kahuzi Beiga National Park.
In terms of distance to see Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, The issue of walking longer or short distance depends on the given gorilla family allocated to you on the day of trekking at of the national park in the country you choose to go for gorilla trekking. In all the 3 countries gorilla families are allocated depending on the interest and physical fitness of given individual. If for example, you want a shorter trek, you will have to inform the park authorities on the very day of trekking so that you are allocated, such family. If you want a medium or longer trek, then you do the same. It should be noted that while they will try to give you a family that requires shorter walks, the behavior of gorillas might affect the experience if for example gorillas decide to move further as you look for them you will need to move a longer distance still.
Why Book your Gorilla Trekking in Uganda with Eco Adventure Safaris
Eco Adventure Safaris will help you book your gorilla trekking permits for trekking in Bwindi or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Contact us and we advise you on the booking process. We as well have different gorilla trekking safari packages ranging from budget, mid-range to luxury options that we can book for you including the gorilla permits.
Feel free to check out our trip advisor reviews and read from a community of happy satisfied clients. With us, you can rest assured of a memorable gorilla trek. We are devoted to providing excellent service and customer satisfaction. Our team of excellent tour consultants is always willing to help answer all your safari questions. We guarantee you a great gorilla tour in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo with us.