gorilla tracking uganda

Gorilla trekking Uganda and Rwanda is probably the most exhilarating thing to do on an African Safari, many travelers have reviewed the experience as a life-changing, magical and once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are three countries where you can do Gorilla tracking; Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla trekking safaris Uganda takes you to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Bwindi is known to be home to half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas left in the world. Rwanda gorilla trek tours are carried out in Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) whereas, in The Democratic Republic of Congo, a gorilla tracking safari takes you to Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga) As of 2013 gorilla population census, there were only about 800 mountain gorillas left in the world but we are very happy to say that they are now over a thousand and the population is steadily growing. Mountain Gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda are by far the biggest of all the primates, gorillas you see in zoos are actually Lola mountain gorillas who are smaller than the ones you see in the wild while on a gorilla tracking Uganda or Rwanda safari.

Gorilla Trekking Safaris Tours


Why you should trek mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas are very rare with only about a thousand or so mountain gorillas remaining in the world which should give a proper reason to consider one of our best gorilla treks. The gentle giants are considered critically endangered species however the good news is that their numbers are slowly increasing due to conservation efforts. Every year we get good news about a baby boom going on with the gorillas so their numbers are steadily increasing but their species is still under threat due to some significant challenges they are still facing which include;  habitat loss as populations increase in both Uganda and Rwanda, their natural habitat decrease. Climate change also means uncertainty because mountain gorillas live on the slopes of mountains therefore they can only go up so high to keep within the same kind of temperate region which exposes them to poaching. Poaching is an issue not particularly poaching of the gorillas themselves but indiscriminate methods like snares and traps catch gorillas. Mountain gorillas also have the most robust immune systems, they are not evolved to cope with human diseases which makes it easy for them to get infected especially with respiratory diseases like flu. Civil Wars within the region like the Civil War currently going on in the DRC and then even looking back at the Rwandan genocide of 1994, these had really detrimental effects on gorilla population numbers. Mountain gorillas are threatened from all kinds from all sides but the good news is that one of the best things that you can do is visit them in Uganda or a Rwanda gorilla trek so that revenue from tourism can help to fund parks, conservation programs, and community involvement. The communities have gotten involved recognizing that this iconic species if they thrive then it’s a valuable resource for local communities and for these countries so both the countries and communities have recognized this and they’ve really gotten on board with trying to help conserve these gentle creatures.

The Gorillas

Gorillas share 97% biological makeup with humans and of all apes, gorillas are known to be the largest. It is believed that these large primates used to inhabit a swathe of land that covered most of central Africa but the ice age diminished the forests which divided their population into three; the eastern lowland and mountain gorillas than the western lowland gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are distinguished from lowland gorillas by longer hair, broader chests, and wider jaws which you can visibly witness on your gorilla trek safari. Some experts also suggest that the gorillas in Bwindi are distinct species from the ones in the Virunga mountains as the gorillas in Bwindi are less shaggy which is major because of the lower altitude.

Daily Life

Coming to face with the mountains on a Uganda or Rwanda mountain gorilla trek, is one of Life’s greatest experiences; These gentle giants spent 30% of their day feeding, another 30% moving and foraging, and the remainder resting. Gorillas are herbivores and are only seen to stand which trying to reach food. Their diets mainly consist of Bamboo shoots, giant thistles, and wild celery. Most of these items contain water which allows the mountain gorillas to survive a long while without drinking water. Most Uganda gorilla safaris comprise mainly having to watch these gentle lads as they feed and interact. A silverback can eat his way through more than 30kg of bamboo a day. The Alpha Silverback dictates the day’s movements and every night each gorilla makes its own nest. The gentle giants are known to travel about 1km a day unless they have met another which in the case they would have to move further.

Gorilla Families

Mountain Gorillas live in varying families of about 10 to 15 gorillas but in some cases, they do exceed 40; the families comprise of one of two older silverback males, females with infants, younger black males, and other females and infants with their hierarchy as listed respectively. It is common that most gorillas leave the group when they clock maturity which helps to prevent interbreeding among such a small population.

How to plan Uganda and Rwanda Gorilla trekking: Complete Guide

Gorilla trekking Rwanda and Uganda is one of the highlights of an African safari but it’s very confusing to organize especially for independent travelers. Basic requirements for booking gorilla trekking in Uganda are the same steps you will require if you opt for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Congo. These requirements include a gorilla permit, tourist visa, credible tour operator as for the start.

Gorilla permit: Gorilla permit cost

This is your ticket to a Uganda or Rwanda gorilla trek tour; Uganda has the most officiated gorilla groups and it’s also the cheapest with permits costing only four $450 in the low season of April and May and $700 in the peak season. ln Rwanda it costs $ 1500, in the DRC a gorilla permit goes for $450. However, due to Covid 19 affecting travel, gorilla permits have been discounted with a permit in Uganda costing $400 and Rwanda has its permit at $500. These discounted rates are valid for gorilla permit bookings not later than May 2021

How to get a Uganda Gorilla trekking permit

To secure your ticket to a gorilla trekking Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park Safari, you have to contact a credible tour operator who will provide you with relevant information on the availability of gorilla permits for your desired travel dates. It is best to book your Gorilla permit a year or 3 months in advance of your travel dates, this is because these permits run out 3 months or more prior to their dates. Gorilla tracking Uganda is organized by the Uganda Wildlife Authority from where your tour operator and must purchase your gorilla permit. There are four different gorilla trekking sections in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda but we recommend Rushaga and Buhoma. Rushaga has the most gorilla families and Buhoma is the nearest to track.

How to acquire a Rwanda Gorilla trekking permit

To book a gorilla trekking Rwanda permit, you can contact a credible tour operator to help you book your gorilla permit, or alternatively, you can visit the RDB website to check for the availability of the gorilla permits, if they’re still available, there are two ways to book. The first way is to use the service of a Rwanda tour operator who can purchase your gorilla permit to confirm your booking. The second option is to pay online after confirming the availability of the permit for your travel dates. You can go ahead and deposit the money on Rwanda DB accounts which are provided upon inquiry.

How far in advance should one book a gorilla permit? 

This depends, in the high season we recommend that visitors book as early as three months let’s say three months or four months to make sure they secure their bookings. Alternatively, visitors can arrange their permits once they in Rwanda or Uganda if they didn’t come mainly for the gorillas. It is advisable to contact the offices in charge to arrange and see if there are cases of open gorilla permits due to cancellations that are often made by some travelers. However, this shouldn’t be a chance you should so we don’t recommend this option.


What you need to pack for gorilla trekking

You do not need any special besides the usual outdoor essentials such as sunscreen, insect repellent, and good boats are equally important. Shooting mountain gorillas is one of the major activities, of course with a camera so make it a point to carry one. It is also important to plan for rain no matter what month you will be visiting, therefore, a waterproof jacket would be great, also it’s getting cold and chilly in the morning and at night, so might want a warm top

Gorilla Trekking Bwindi Impentrable Forest National Park, Uganda

Bwindi is ranked the number one destination to track mountain gorillas in Eastern Africa which is both because of the amazing jungle scenery behind the name and the highest number of gorilla families as compared to all the three parks. Over the years, gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has drawn many crowds due to easy accessibility but Gorilla tracking Bwindi remains beguiling. Gorilla trekking Bwindi can be hard work due to the steep slopes especially if you a visiting the Nkuringo and Ruhija Sectors. Another downside is visibility isn’t as good since it is a Bamboo forest with open fields where the Virunga gorillas tend to hang out. Bwindi gorillas are most likely to be seen swinging in trees.


Gorilla trekking Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Experience

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest National park starts early morning, this is because the trackers know where the gorillas were yesterday so the task is to find them on this maiden day. The trek in the jungle has no designated path and so for two hours or for ten hours, you embark on a gorilla trek in search of the habituated gorilla families. If you are lucky enough, a gorilla family may be found within just a few hours of your gorilla trek. Upon encountering the gorillas, you all have to crouch down, sit down in a very quiet manner. The immediate rule is that you keep a 7 meters distance away from the gorillas, therefore, you are not allowed to touch or approach them but if they come to you, let it happen, they’re very gentle. Have you watched the famous documentary “gorillas in the mist”? If so, then you have a definite idea of what it is like to be around these gorillas. it’s a life-changing experience. You are allowed to stay around the family for a maximum of one hour before you trek back through the forest and that is your gorilla experience. 

Alternatively, some visitors opt for more hours with the gorilla in an exclusive experience known as gorilla Habituation, this can be prepared at events extra cost. Gorilla Habituation Experience offers visitors exclusive 4 hours with the gorilla, unlike the ordinary one hour a regular gorilla trekking experience offers. In Uganda, a permit to a gorilla Habituation experience costs $ 1500.

Gorilla tracking Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda

Mgahinga is Uganda’s extension of the shared Virunga Volcanoes, which are also shared between Rwanda and Congo. Gorilla trekking Uganda in Mgahinga is popular among independent travelers are accessing the park for a gorilla trek requires a reservation which is not possible more than two weeks in advance.

This is due to the only habituated gorilla family’s tendency to take trips into Rwanda or DRC which means they cannot always be tracked. The downside in Gorilla tracking Uganda in Mgahinga is that it always takes longer finding the gorillas while on a trek as compared to Bwindi gorilla tracking but the walking is much easier here. Reservations are available and can be taken through the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Office in Kisoro

Gorilla Trekking Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Many travelers consider Volcanoes as the best place to trek mountain gorillas based mainly on the fact that this is where Dian Fossey was based and where the film about her work was made. Furthermore; appealing to easier accessibility and the towering volcanoes that form a breathtaking backdrop.  Gorilla tracking Rwanda in volcanoes is usually a lot easier than in Bwindi because the mountains offer a more gradual climb and visibility is better too. Another appealing benefit of Volcanoes over gorilla trekking Bwindi safari is since their gorilla families a not far apart; gorilla families to be tracked are assigned on the tracking day, not when reservations are made. Allocations on gorilla tracking day are made depending on your fitness level and preference, if you are not in great shape to take on challenging hikes you are allocated a much simpler hike to meet the gorillas

Uganda or Rwanda, which is a better option for gorilla trekking?

We always try and encourage our visitors to see the gorillas twice better in both countries or in one or the other. An answer to sum up Uganda or Rwanda is a really difficult one.  Uganda is authentic with wonderful scenery, it’s got that crazy African feel, densely populated with villages everywhere but the gorillas are a little bit harder to see due to the deep steeper slopes to the gorilla families however the advantage Uganda I has the Lower price of their gorilla permit literally half the price of a gorilla permit in Rwanda. On the other hand, the advantage of Rwanda is it’s easier to go see the gorillas, it is so near, about a two-hour drive from Kigali the capital. The trekking is definitely easy and it doesn’t tend to be as steep, the vegetation is not quite as thick but they’re both good and blessed with the gentle giants.

Gorilla trekking Virunga National Park, DRC

Due to unstable rebel activity that has led to conflicts, the Congo gorilla trek in Virunga ceased in 2008. When it’s is possible and safe, it is the easiest place to pick permits on short notice since operators and tourists stay away. We do not predict a rapid turnaround in the unstable situation but please feel free to get in touch for the latest advice concerning the Congo gorilla trek


What is the best time to see mountain gorillas?

To secure your ticket to a gorilla trekking Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park Safari, you have to contact a credible tour operator who will provide you with relevant information on the availability of gorilla permits for your desired travel dates. It is best to book your Gorilla permit a year or 3 months in advance of your travel dates, this is because these permits run out 3 months or more prior to their dates. Gorilla tracking Uganda is organized by the Uganda Wildlife Authority from where your Gorilla safari tour operator and must purchase your gorilla permit. There are four different gorilla trekking sections in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda but we recommend Buhoma and Rushaga. Rushaga has more gorilla families and Buhoma is the nearest to track. With about 10 years of experience is organizing gorilla trekking safari tours., At Masai Mara Holidays we are happy to handle your gorilla safari planning to Uganda or Rwanda in the most effective way possible.

How close do you get to the gorillas?

The rule is to stay about 7 meters from the gorillas when you meet them but however there are cases when the gorillas move closer to you in that you could get incredibly close to the family of gorillas probably within arm’s reach. It’s not meant to be an interactive experience but that’s not to say that gorilla might not brush up against your leg when it’s walking past. It is an observational experience which is still incredible but you are close enough to see their teeth see their eyes watch them interact and really sort of understanding their feelings and movements.

How fit you need to be to track mountain gorillas

Gorilla tracking requires a fair level of fitness, if getting a beverage qualifies as an exercise in your life I would say forget about mountain gorilla trekking but again there is an option of being carried by porters all the way through the trek at an arranged cost. The trek is usually hard work but you do not have to be an athlete to make it, just determined. To make it easier, during the planning process; inform your tour operator about your fitness levels. There are certain gorilla families that can be tracked on easier hikes which can be found with two to four hours whereas some take you on a challenging trek wandering the mountain for about 6 to 9 hours.

Limitations 

The minimum age for trekking is 15 years, there’s no maximum age as long as you’re fit enough you can do it but you definitely want to be able to walk for the long hours. 

Top tip for planning your gorilla trekking safari

When planning a gorilla, make sure you buy your gorilla permit in advance because you cannot guarantee a trip unless you have a gorilla permit. To be safe, you could book your permit a year, 4 months or 3  ahead however if you are lucky enough sometimes they can be available the next week sometimes they’re not available for the whole of August so it’s something you really need to plan.

The second tip would be to do two tracks, one where you can take pictures and one where you can put the camera down and really just immerse yourself in the experience.