With less than 2,000 mountain gorillas surviving on earth today, Uganda is home to more than half of its population making it a prime gorilla trekking destination. The “dream come true” adventure of trekking and a face-to-face encounter with these endangered apes in their natural habitats is electrifying. Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in two national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park both located in the southwestern corner of the country. Bwindi has about 20 habituated gorilla families always available for trekking all year round while Mgahinga boasts one habituated gorilla family called Nyakagezi.

In Bwindi national park, gorilla trekking is done in any of its 4 trekking sectors; Buhoma sector in the north, Ruhija sector in the east, and Rushaga and Nkuringo in the southern part of the park. Gorillas in all the sectors are the same and trekkers are granted only one hour to spend with a given gorilla family. However, the experience is never the same due to the varying landscape and terrain of the regions and in general, this is a natural setting that will always offer a unique experience each day.

Mgahinga Gorilla national park is an alternative destination for trekking gorillas in Uganda. Of the only three mountain gorilla countries in the world, it is only Uganda with two destination options for conducting trekking, Rwanda and the DRC each have one mountain gorilla park; Volcanoes national park and Virunga national park respectively. The two parks adjoin Mgahinga national park to make the Virunga Massif, a great home to the other half of the world’s remaining population of gorillas. Mgahinga national park is found on the northern slopes of the three Virunga Volcanoes in Uganda; Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Sabinyo, and Mt. Muhabura.

Gorilla trekking experience in Uganda in 2023/2024

Gorillas are very mobile creatures known of changing their overnight location daily. They start their day early morning by rising up to roam around the forest to search for food. For this reason, gorilla trekking starts in the morning to be able to spot the gorillas before they move to distant locations in the park. The activity starts with a briefing of the trekkers at the park offices after which they are divided into groups of a maximum of 8 and each of them is allocated a gorilla family to track. The trekking groups are assigned trained and knowledgeable UWA ranger guides who are familiar with the trails and as they lead the tourists, they share a lot of information about the gorillas and other attractions they may come across.

The duration of gorilla trekking in Uganda is not specific. The trek can last for as low as 2 hours, go for 6 hours, or even more depending on how far the gorillas have moved. Once the gorillas are found, you are allowed to stay with them for a maximum of one hour and then return to the park offices to pick up your trekking certificates.

Apart from gorillas, there is much more the forest offers; different species of birds, and monkeys and a chance to spot other mammals although they are rare.

Tourists who want to stay with mountain gorillas for more than one hour are advised to go for Gorilla Habituation Experience. This activity is available for tourists only in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park in Rushaga sector. It allows you to visit the mountain gorillas together with researchers and UWA rangers who prepare these primates for trekking by taking them through a process that makes human presence familiar to them.

The Gorilla habituation experience starts much earlier than gorilla trekking so that the primates are met before they leave their nests. Just like gorilla trekking, it also starts with a briefing before entering the jungle to move to where they spent their night. When you come across the gorillas, you will have 4 hours with them together with the habituating team to monitor their behaviors, follow up on their habits and learn how the naming process is done among other things.

Gorilla trekking and the habituation experience require you to be physically fit because the gorillas live at a higher elevation.

Cost of gorilla trekking in Uganda in 2023/2024

The cost of a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda combines several elements including the gorilla permit, accommodation, transport, and services of an experienced safari guide among others. The basic item of the safari is the gorilla trekking permit. Once this one is secured, the rest of the items are prepared next.

A gorilla permit in Uganda costs $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents, and UGX. 250,000 for East African residents. It grants a single trek to an individual (to move in a group) allowing them to trek a given gorilla family and stay with it for only one hour.

In case you wish to engage in gorilla habituation in Bwindi, you need a Gorilla Habituation permit that costs US$1,500 per person for a foreign nonresident, US$1,000 per person for a foreign resident, and UGX. 750,000 per person for an East African resident.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done any time of the year although the best time is during the dry season. Uganda experiences two dry seasons (December-February and June-September). The rest of the months are mostly wet and make trekking quite strenuous due to slippery trails. However, note that rain is expected at any time, even during the dry season, but it may not be too much to interrupt gorilla trekking.

Gorilla trekking can be done during the wet season, especially for travelers who wish to travel on a tighter budget. It is a low season characterized by fewer tourists and therefore the rates of some lodges are discounted. Trekking gorillas in the wet season also comes with the advantage of easily finding the gorillas because the forage is plenty and the apes don’t need to move so far in search of their food.

What to pack for gorilla trekking in Uganda

When packing for gorilla trekking, it is advised to pack appropriately and keep the bag light. Essential items to first think about for your packing list include long-sleeved shirts/t-shirt, trousers, lightweight rain jacket/poncho, waterproof hiking boots, sweaters, reusable water bottle, camera with no flashlight, waterproof day pack, energy-giving snacks, insect repellents, sunglasses, hat, bottled water, first aid kit, and gardening gloves.

As you look forward to your gorilla safari this season, let the above tips help you have a smooth trip. Uganda and East Africa at large have a lot more interesting attractions and things to do for travel enthusiasts. For more information about safaris in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, feel free to contact us.

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