Uganda gorilla trekking guide
Uganda gorilla trekking guide: Gorilla trekking is an interesting activity where visitors move into the tropical rainforests in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Mountain gorillas are the largest primate species that are found in four destinations namely Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the three gorilla trekking countries, Uganda is the best and most visited gorilla trekking destinations in that it harbors half of the world’s mountain gorillas. A gorilla trekking guide in Uganda helps you to know more about gorilla trekking so as to be able to plan for your gorilla trekking safari.
Where to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda
Bwindi impenetrable national park, the national park is the most visited gorilla destination in Uganda in that it harbors the highest number of the mountain gorillas. Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in southwestern Uganda in Kanungu district and harbors about 19 habituated gorilla families which are found in four sectors namely Buhoma sector with 4 gorilla families including Mubare, Habinyanja, Katwe and Rushegura, Rushaga sector in the south with 8 gorilla families including Mishaya, Nshongi, Bweza, Busingye, Bikyingi, Mucunguzi, Rwigi and Kahungye, Ruhija sector in the east with 4 gorilla families including Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Kyaguriro and Nkuringo sector in the south with 3 gorilla families including Nkuringo, Christmas and Bushaho.
Bwindi impenetrable national park also offers gorilla habituation experience an activity where the wild gorillas are trained to get used to human presence. The habituation process is currently carried out in Rushaga sector and Bwindi is the only destination in Africa where the activity is being carried out. Gorilla habituation process takes a period of 2 to 3 years to be complete and is carried out by a team of researchers, park ranger, trackers among others. Gorilla habituation experience only allows a maximum of four visitors and they are allowed to spend four hours with the gorillas under habituation.
Mgahinga gorilla national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park is another visited destination that offers gorilla trekking activity in Uganda. The park is located in southwestern Uganda in Kisoro district at the border with Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of two habituated gorilla families namely Hirwa gorilla family which migrated in October 2019 from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Nyakagezi gorilla family.
Uganda gorilla trekking experience
Gorilla trekking in both destinations is carried out in the morning with a briefing about the rules and regulations of trekking at the park headquarters. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 individuals to trek each habituated gorilla family and grouping of individuals is done according to age, physical fitness, personal preferences among others therefore visitors who are not physically fit will communicate with their guides so that they are allocated a gorilla family that is near to trek.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park starts at around 8:00am with a park guide who will be showing you the gorilla trails to follow in the jungle that will lead you to the mountain gorillas. Trekking of the mountain gorillas in the national parks takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on the location of the gorillas and once they are found, you will be able to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat taking photos, recording videos, learning about their lifestyles, habits, behaviors among others.
After the one hour in the presence of the gorillas, you will trek back to the starting point where you will be issued a gorilla trekking certificate indicating that you participated in gorilla trekking activity in either Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Cost of a gorilla trekking permit
For any visitor who is interested in gorilla trekking activity in either Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park you are supposed to first purchase a gorilla trekking permit which is a document/card that is issued by UWA to any visitor above the age of fifteen years allowing him or her visit a habituated gorilla family in one of the gorilla destinations in Uganda.
A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens. Uganda however increased the price of a gorilla trekking permit by $100 therefore effective 1st July 2020 a gorilla trekking permit for foreign non-residents will cost $700 and $600 for foreign residents.
Visitors interested in gorilla habituation experience will also purchase a gorilla habituation permit which costs $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents and UGX 750,000 for East African citizens. A gorilla trekking permit is an important item for visitors who want to come on a gorilla trekking safari in that it allows you to spend one hour with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat while a gorilla habituation permit allows you to spend four hours with the mountain gorillas under habituation process.
When to book for a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda
Gorilla trekking permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance before the actual trekking date because they are competitive and usually get sold out especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February when most visitors prefer to travel due to the fact that there will be less rainfall in the forests. Visitors should therefore book in advance to avoid disappointments at the last minute.
How to book for a gorilla trekking permit
There are two options of booking a gorilla trekking permit for example booking directly through UWA where by you will contact the head offices in Kampala via email or telephone calls or booking through a tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris which is registered with tourism associations in Uganda such as AUTO, UTB among others. When booking through a tour operator, you will contact us with the date, month, year and destination where you want to trek the mountain gorillas. We will check for availability of the permits and once there are some permits available you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit. Once you have made the deposit, you will be asked to send a scanned copy of your passport details which will be used to register for the permit. When we receive the money, we will then purchase the permit on your behalf and send a scanned copy of the receipt as confirmation.
What to pack for a gorilla trekking safari
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is carried out in the tropical rain-forests therefore it can rain anytime of the day regardless of season therefore you are encouraged to carry various gorilla trekking equipment’s such as long sleeved shirt and trousers to protect your body from thorny bushes, hiking shoes to keep your feet dry, warm sweater, garden gloves, cotton socks, insect repellent to protect your body from stinging insects like tsetse flies, walking stick, energy snacks like drinking water and packed food, camera to take photos, a pair of binoculars, rain jacket/poncho, back pack to carry all your equipment’s among others.
Where to stay
There are many luxury, midrange and budget accommodation facilities where you can stay on your gorilla trekking safari in Uganda including Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp, Nshongi Camp, Agandi Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Friends Lodge, Eco Marvels Gorilla Resort, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Haven Lodge, Bwindi Guest House, Jungle View Lodge, Mahogany Springs Camp, Bwindi View Bandas, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Travelers Rest Hotel, Mgahinga Rest Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Gorilla Lodge among others.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park can be done all year round though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. the dry season is also known as the peak season and during this period there is less rainfall in the forests therefore access roads to the national parks and gorilla trekking trails in the jungle will be passable compared to the rainy season when the gorilla trekking trails are muddy and slippery due to heavy rainfall which makes gorilla trekking difficult.
Though the rainy season is the period when the gorilla destinations receive heavy rainfall gorilla trekking can still be carried out and visitors who visit during the rainy season will enjoy advantages like less crowds in the national parks, discounts on luxury accommodations and less competition for the gorilla trekking permits due to less visitors therefore even the last minute travelers will be able to acquire a gorilla trekking permit.
How to get to the gorilla destinations in Uganda
Both Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park are situated in south western Uganda and can be accessed by both road and air transport means.
Road transport, when using road transport to Bwindi impenetrable national park you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale and then to Bwindi forest park headquarters which takes about 8 to 9 hours’ drive.
Bwindi impenetrable national park can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest national park in Uganda. When coming from Queen Elizabeth national park, you will drive via Ishasha sector where you will view the tree climbing lions lying up in the fig tree branches and then continue to the park headquarters and the journey takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
When getting to Mgahinga gorilla national park, you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then Ntebeko park headquarters which takes about 9 to 10 hours’ drive.
Air transport, there are domestic airline companies in Uganda such as Aerolink which operate scheduled and chartered flights daily from Entebbe airport or Kajansi airfield to kihihi airstrip in Kanungu when going to Bwindi impenetrable national park and Kisoro airstrip in Kisoro when going to Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Both Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national parks can be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to any of the parks through Cyanika boarder in Kisoro and Katuna boarder in Kabale.
Other activities in Uganda
There are other interesting activities that you can engage in apart from gorilla trekking such as chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest national park, wildlife viewing in Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth or Kidepo valley national parks, birding, nature walks, mountain climbing in mount Rwenzori national park, golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park, boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth national park and Murchison falls national park, community encounter, horse riding in Lake Mburo national park, hot air balloon, Canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi among others.