Gorilla Trekking in Uganda — A Guide to See Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
What is gorilla trekking In Uganda?
Gorilla trekking In Uganda is a wildlife adventure involving hiking through the highlands of Bwindi rainforest jungles to watch Africa’s endangered gorillas in their natural habitat. Guided Gorilla Trekking tours take tourists through rugged, steep terrain, thick jungles and tall tangled scrubs reaching up to 14,763 feet (4,500 meters) elevations.
Daily gorilla trekking hikes begin at visitor centre locations at 08:00 am in small controlled groups of eight tourists per group with an expert tracker and two armed rangers. The Gorilla trekking guides carry a fine-edged machete for clearing your path and a walkie-talkie to communicate with other rangers and trackers who go out at dawn to find the gorillas before they leave their nests and stay with them throughout the day. They then send coordinates to your tracker to make your trekking less challenging.
When the gorillas are finally found, your trekking guide will ask you to wear your facemask and observe them silently for one hour at a safe distance of about 32 ft (10 m). Visitors usually find them at their mid-morning break so there’s less movement during the experience. Sitting and observing these magnificent creatures in their natural environment is an unforgettable experience and a privilege that few people can enjoy.
Where can I see mountain gorillas in Uganda?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park are the two places where you can see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. These two parks offer trekking excursions in the major sectors of Nkuringo, Rushaga, Buhoma and Ruhija in Bwindi and Ntebeko in Mgahinga all under the management of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
All the above-mentioned sectors combined have 20 habituated mountain gorilla families, and 160 gorilla trekking permits are available daily.
About Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the best destination to see mountain gorillas in Uganda and it is home to half of the world’s total population. Bwindi is a prehistoric, montane and lowland forest spanning 131 sq km (128 sq mi). The jungle is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its incredible biodiversity and many endangered species that find sanctuary within its protected boundaries.
Map of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the second gorilla park in Uganda and sits on a 13 sq miles chunk of land from the more extensive Virunga habitat stretching 168 square miles into Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park encompasses three of the eight major Virunga peaks: Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabyinyo.
Map of Mgahinga National Park
The experience of walking with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga is exhilarating and highly rewarding. Which gorilla trekking section you should choose for your adventure excursion will depend on where the gorilla permit will be available when you book. During the peak seasons of June to August and December to February, it can be challenging to own the choice because of the scarcity of permits. But the low season offers you a chance to choose which trailhead suits you.
Last-minute gorilla permits are scarcely available unless you contact a licensed tour operator who usually keeps some away for the drought. Ask Engabi Tours and Travel at firstname.lastname@example.org; they could have some last-minute permits for you.
FAQS ABOUT GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
How Difficult is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be challenging due to the rough terrain, impenetrable misty jungles, and unpredictable weather. Additionally, gorilla treks take place at high altitudes of around 2,600m (8,500 ft).
Is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda Safe?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is typically considered safe because the gorillas you encounter are accustomed to human interaction and armed park rangers will accompany you during the trek for added security. Uganda has continued taking steps to enhance the safety of tourists exploring its national parks which include areas designated for trekking with gorillas and no security incidents have been reported over the past ten years.
We however advise you to always have it at the back of your mind that gorillas remain powerful and unpredictable wild animals that could cause harm if it perceives it as a threat.
Therefore, to ensure your safety while gorilla Trekking, always stay close to your expedition guide, Respect Boundaries, avoid physical Contact, protect their Environment.
Should you take a porter on the gorilla trek?
We strongly encourage you to hire porter services for the gorilla trek especially if you feel unfit or unprepared to cope with the terrain while carrying your daypack. Porters offer their services for a few $20 bucks which provides a livelihood to several inhabitants of a nearby village.
How much do you tip guides on a gorilla Trek?
You should tip of around $10-$20 to each guide or ranger when you go on a gorilla trek in Uganda. It’s best to use the local currency, considering that you’ll be trekking isolated areas where exchanging money could be difficult. In that case, giving each guide or ranger 10,000 to 20,000 Ugandan shillings is a thoughtful way to show your appreciation.
Is Gorilla trekking worth the money?
Gorilla trekking is unquestionably a valuable investment because it offers not only a unique experience but also contributes significantly to the protection of these endangered creatures and their environment. A substantial portion of the fees from gorilla permits directly funds conservation initiatives.
How Much is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda primarily costs $700, the price of a gorilla permit. The permit is discounted at $600 for foreign residents and UGX 250 for East African citizens. However, you’ll need more than a permit to make it to the gorilla sanctuary. Consider accommodation near the park entrance because treks start early in the morning. Accommodation usually includes meals. Also, consider transfers, other activities, and tour operator fees if you’re not backpacking.
Let’s say you travel with a tour operator like Engabi Tours and Travel In that case, we’ll charge you $30 to process your gorilla permit only if you don’t use our other services. Transport by road from the airport to your booked gorilla lodge in Bwindi may cost between $120 – $300 including driver fees, fuel, and 4×4 vehicle hire. A scheduled return flight between Entebbe and Kisoro/Kihihi airstrip (2.5 hours outside Bwindi) is about $500. And all-inclusive descent accommodation around Bwindi ranges between $100 – $1000 per night. Agency fees could come to about 5% – 30% of the quote.
When is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Although gorilla trekking is a year-round activity, the best time to see mountain gorillas in Uganda is during the dry seasons of June to August and December to February. During the dry season, the forest floor is drier and less slippery. Also, there’s a lesser chance of a downpour during your trekking experience, and photography will be more rewarding.
During the heavy rains of April and May, the roads may be impassable, and your Uganda safari itinerary could be disrupted by torrential downpours creating some uninvited annoyances. The wet seasons in Uganda are considered the low travel season, where fewer travellers come into the country, and properties lower prices to attract the few that can come.
Some intrepid travellers who can withstand the drenching walks use the low season to take advantage of the discounts and the heavenly privacy at destinations. You could find just yourself in the entire lodge or trekking with only the rangers during the wet season.
Is it better to see gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda?
When deciding where to go for gorilla trekking between Rwanda and Uganda, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each destination. Uganda offers a more affordable option compared to Rwanda, while Rwanda provides better accessibility.
In Uganda, the gorilla treks take place in Bwindi National Park. The trek begins at a higher elevation and follows a downhill path to the gorillas, providing a more leisurely experience at first. However, the trek ends with a challenging uphill climb. The terrain in Bwindi is rugged and challenging to navigate, and unpredictable weather can make it even more difficult.
In Rwanda, you can encounter mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, which features less slippery and steep terrain compared to Bwindi. The landscape in Rwanda is characterized by towering volcanoes and a more open environment as you ascend, making the trek more pleasant. However, Volcanoes National Park is situated at a higher altitude, making the hike more demanding.
While reaching the gorillas may be easier in Rwanda, there is a limited daily allowance of less than 100 visitors. On the other hand, Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda admit significantly more visitors about 160 tourists per day.
What are the chances of seeing gorillas in Uganda?
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is an incredible experience many travellers consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. According to reviews, the chances of seeing these majestic primates in their natural habitat are pretty high, at about 97%. That said, there have been rare occasions where visitors haven’t been able to see them.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority, as well as researchers and guides who closely monitor the mountain gorilla families, make it their priority to ensure that visitors have the best possible chance of seeing these amazing creatures. Guides are in constant contact with field workers from dawn till dusk every day, so they know where the different families are located at any given time. So, your chances of seeing mountain gorillas in Uganda are around 99%.
Of course, wild animals are unpredictable, and there are no guarantees. Factors such as an overnight thunderstorm or an unexpected encounter with a predator can cause a troop to move in a different direction during the night. However, scouts will likely pick up their trail the following day. Before your gorilla trekking excursion starts, a team of scouts goes out to follow the gorilla tracks and stay with the gorillas once found. That’s why your guide will carry a walkie-talkie to keep in touch with the scouts for directions.
Packing Tips for Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking demands a reasonable level of fitness as you navigate humid terrain and steep, sometimes muddy mountain paths. Your clothing and footwear choices should match these conditions. Let’s explore what you should wear when you go gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Clothes to wear to a gorilla trek
Wear nature-inspired hues like greens, greys, and browns to blend seamlessly with your environment. Lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics are key. Avoid camouflage attire, which is often prohibited for civilians, and skip animal prints to prevent gorilla alarm.
Despite the heat, prioritize long-sleeved shirts and trousers to shield against prickly vegetation and bugs.
Consider hiking gloves for better grip and protection from plants during your hike.
Waterproof hiking boots with strong ankle support and traction are essential for muddy conditions during treks that can last up to eight hours.
To prevent blisters, wear layer-thin, moisture-wicking socks under thicker cotton socks.
While not compulsory, trekking poles offer valuable balance and support; practice using them before your trip.
Gaiters, particularly knee-high ones, keep debris out of your boots and your pants dry.
A Camelbak water pouch lets you stay hydrated while keeping your hands free. Staying adequately hydrated, especially at higher altitudes, is crucial.
Prioritize a light packing approach. Remember that light bush aircraft might be involved in transfers to lodges or camps with strict size and weight limits for baggage. If you plan to continue your journey after gorilla trekking, your gorilla safari vacation specialist can assist in safely storing excess luggage.
How to Get to the Gorilla Parks
Most tourists enter Uganda through Entebbe International Airport (EBB), about 46 km/29 mi from Kampala capital city. It is possible to fly by a local carrier from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi Airfield) to Kihihi Airstrip in the north Bwindi or Kisoro Airport in the south of Bwindi near Mgahinga. You can drive to Bwindi or Mgahinga within two hours from the two small airports.
You can reach Buhoma and Ruhija via Kihihi Airport, Nkuringo, Rushaga, and Mgahinga can be reached via Kisoro Airport in the south. Also, small plane chatters and luxury private helicopter transfers are available.
There are four distinct trailheads for gorilla trekking in Bwindi and one in Mgahinga. These trailheads are several hours apart by road and will greatly determine which route you’ll take to reach the gorillas. Buhoma sector is in the north, Ruhija in the northwest, Rushaga, and Nkuringo in the south.
As part of your Uganda safari from Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can reach the Buhoma gorilla trekking trailhead in 2-3 hours (from the Ishasha sector) or 5-6 hours (from more Kazinga Channel).
If driving straight from Entebbe you will take about 8-10 hours to reach the various gorilla trailheads. A drive from Lake Mburo National Park will take about 5-6 hours.
During the rainy season, travel by 4WD vehicle is necessary to navigate the dirt roads from the highways to the trailheads, which are usually between 30-40 km
Booking Your Gorilla Trekking Safari
Engabi Tours and Travel makes booking a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda very easy. We will process the gorilla permit on your behalf and we rarely fail to secure a permit at a reasonable booking date. Our safari experts will work with you to customize a safari trip that suits your taste and style of travel while immersing you in local cultures and nature.
WHY YOU NEED TO BOOK A GORILLA TREKKING SAFARI WITH ENGABI TOURS AND TRAVEL