Gorilla trekking safari in Uganda
Gorilla trekking safari in Uganda : Gorilla trekking is the most popular activity where visitors move into the tropical rain forests in search of the habituated gorilla destinations and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. According to the 2018 gorilla count there are about 1063 mountain gorillas in the world and Uganda harbors about 459 which makes it the best destination to visit for gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking is Uganda is carried out in two destinations that is Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park. There are also other gorilla trekking destinations in Africa which include Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Virunga national park and Kahuzi Biega national park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Where to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda
Bwindi impenetrable national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park is the most visited gorilla destination in Uganda in that it harbors over 400 mountain gorillas which is half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. Bwindi impenetrable national park is situated in southwestern Uganda in Kanungu district. The national park was gazetted in 1991 mainly to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to its ecological importance.
Bwindi impenetrable national park harbors about 19 habituated gorilla families which are found in 4 sectors namely Buhoma sector which is located in the northern park of the park harboring 4 habituated gorilla families namely Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe gorilla families, Nkuringo sector which is situated in the southern part of the park with 3 habituated gorilla families namely Nkuringo, Bushaho and Christmas gorilla families, Ruhija sector in the eastern part of the park with 4 gorilla families which include Bitukura, Kyaguriro, Oruzogo and Mukiza gorilla families, Rushaga sector in the southern part of the park with 8 gorilla families including Bikyingi, Mishaya, Mucunguzi, Rwigi, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza and Busingye gorilla families.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters about the rules, regulations and expectations. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla group to trek. Mountain gorillas in Bwindi forest live in steep areas and grouping of individuals is done according to personal preferences, age, physical fitness among other so that visitors who are not physically fit are allocated a gorilla group that is easy to trek.
Trekking of the mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park starts at around 8:00am with a park guide who is well conversant with the trails in the jungle. Trekking takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on the location of the mountain gorillas and once found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their habits, behaviors, taking photos and recording the moments to show people back home which gives you unforgettable experiences.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park also offers gorilla habituation experience a process where the wild gorillas are trained to get used to human presence. Gorilla habituation experience is an incredible activity that is only carried out in Rushaga sector southern part of the park. During the habituation experience only a maximum number of four visitors are allowed to participate in the activity where they will spend four hours with the mountain gorillas under habituation process.
Mgahinga gorilla national park, this is the smallest national park in Uganda situated in southwestern region in Kisoro district bordering with Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Mgahinga gorilla national park was gazetted in 1991 to conserve and protect the endangered mountain gorillas and it harbors two habituated gorilla families namely Nyakagezi gorilla family which was the first family to be habituated and Hirwa gorilla family which migrated from Volcanoes national park is Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts in the morning with a briefing at Ntebeko headquarters where after you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla group to trek. Trekking starts at around 8:00am with a park guide who will be sharing information about the gorillas and trekking takes 30 minutes to 6 hours. Once the gorillas are found you will spend one hour with them in their natural environment.
Cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda
A gorilla trekking permit is a document that is issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority to any visitor above the age of fifteen allowing him or her to visit a gorilla family in either Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park. A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens. The permit was however increased by $100 effective 1st July 2020 therefore the foreign non- residents will be paying $700 per person and $600 per person for foreign residents.
A gorilla habituation permit for visitors who want to spend more time with the gorillas costs $1500 per person for foreign non-residents, $1000 per person for foreign residents and UGX 750,000 for East African citizens.
How to book a gorilla trekking permit
There are two options of booking a gorilla trekking permit for example booking directly through UWA whereby you will contact the head offices via email or telephone calls or booking through a trusted tour operator. When booking through a tour operator, you will contact Achieve Global Safaris with the date, month, year and destination where you want to visit the mountain gorillas. We will check for availability of the gorilla trekking permits and if available you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit. You will also be asked to send a scanned copy of your passport which will be used to register for your permit. Money transfer takes about 2 to 3 working days and when we receive the money we will purchase your gorilla trekking permit and send you a scanned copy of the receipt as confirmation.
A gorilla trekking permit should however be booked 3 to 6 months before the trekking date because the permits are competitive and get sold out quickly especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February therefore to avoid last minute disappointments you are advised to book in advance.
Where to stay on your gorilla trekking safari in Uganda
There are a wide range of accommodations in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park where you can stay on your gorilla trekking safari. the lodges range from luxury, midrange, budget and they include Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Community Camp, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mucha Lodge, Travellers Rest Hotel, Mgahinga Rest Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort and Campsite, Gift of Nature Lodge, Cuckooland Tented Lodge, Ruhija Safari Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Lake Kitandara Camp. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Silverback Lodge, Volcanoes Safari Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Jungle View Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Gorilla Friends Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Eco Marvels Gorilla Resort, Chameleon Hill, Agandi Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge among others. You are however advised to book a lodge near the area where you will be trekking from for easy accessibility.
When to go for gorilla trekking safari in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be dine anytime throughout the year though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. the dry season is also known as the peak season and during this period there is less rainfall in the national parks therefore access roads to the sectors in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park will be passable, the gorilla trekking trails in the jungle will also be passable compared to the rainy season when the trails are muddy and slippery. Though the dry season is the best period it has some drawbacks like competition of a gorilla trekking permit which requires visitors to book in advance.
Regardless of the heavy rains during the rainy season in the months of March to May and October to November gorilla trekking can still be done in that daily activities in the park still continue because it doesn’t rain all day. Visitors who visit during the rainy season will enjoy some advantages like fewer crowds in the national parks and less competition of the gorilla trekking permit which favors the last minute travellers.
in order to have a successful gorilla trekking safari you are encouraged to carry various essentials like hiking shoes, long sleeved shirt and trousers, rain jacket/poncho because it can rain anytime of the day regardless of the season, energy snacks, garden gloves, insect repellent, backpack, camera to capture the moments and take photos, hat and sun glasses, warm sweater, a pair of binoculars among others.
How to get to the gorilla destinations in Uganda
Both Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park are located in southwestern Uganda and can be accessed by road and air transport means
When using road transport to Bwindi impenetrable national park you will drive form Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale and then to Bwindi impenetrable national park which takes about 8 to 9 hours’ drive.
When using road transport to Mgahinga gorilla national park you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then to Ntebeko park headquarters which takes 10 to 12 hours’ drive. It takes a full day to the gorilla destinations in Uganda but on the way you will have spectacular views of the landscapes, hills, local people, homesteads among others.
When using air transport, there are domestic airlines in Uganda such as Aerolink which operate scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe airport or Kajansi airfield to Kihihi airstrip when travelling to Bwindi impenetrable national park or Kisoro airstrip when travelling to Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to the national parks by road via Cyanika border in Kisoro or Katuna border in Kabale. The journey from Kigali to the national parks takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive and it’s the best option for visitors who don’t like travelling long distance journeys.