Gorilla Trekking is one of the top things on a bucket list for travelers looking to adventures in East Africa. The countries of Uganda and Rwanda offer the amazing opportunity to see the mountain gorillas in the wild. Do you know that there are just a few mountain gorillas left in the world? The remaining number of mountain gorillas in the wild is estimated to be just as few as 880 individuals. These gorillas live in three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Uganda’s star attraction is the endangered mountain gorilla, which is the bulkiest of living primates, and among the most peaceable. Meeting face to face and staring into the pensive brown eyes of these gentle giants who also share 95% of their genes with the humans , is a humbling and thrilling wilflife experience. Uganda has two parks where travelers can go gorilla trekking; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mghinga National Park.
Within Uganda, there are ten habituated gorilla troops, nine in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and one in Mgahinga National Park. Gorilla trekking can be done any time of the year.
Planning a Gorilla Trek
In order to visit the gorillas, one must buy a gorilla permit early enough. A gorilla permit costs USD 450 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, USD 600 in Uganda and USD 750 in Rwanda. The government of all these countries established various agencies where you will purchase gorilla passes. Uganda occasionally have promotions during the low season (September and October) for as low as USD350 per permit.
This activity not only includes nature walks with in the forest but also sits and observes these rare gorillas as they carry out their day to day activities. This is a tiring activity since it includes walking into deep moist and muddy rain forests of Bwindi, but when you meet eye to eye with these primates, the challenging activity becomes an adventurous item to remember.
Gorilla trekking needs good behaviours as well as the respect for the environment since it helps with the conservation of the forest. Along any Uganda safari, there is no wildlife adventure that competes with these unique primates who share 95% of their DNA with the humans.
This is an adventurous activity to any guests who comes for a safari to Uganda. Tracking these primates gives them a chance of surviving since they get to be conserved through the incomes that are collected from the gorilla permits sold. There are about 800 individuals that are remaining in the whole world and Bwindi impenetrable National parks 340 members. Dian Fossey did most of the conservation of these gorillas in Volcanoes National park in Rwanda. The Dian Fossey Foundation has also done great work of conserving these species as well as encouraging the participation of the local people in the conservation of wildlife in the game reserves.
Though these mountain gorillas are related to humans, they have remained the greatest threat to these primates; these have been hunted for heads and hands and are sold off as lamp shades and souvenirs. Many of these have been killed in preventing poachers from stealing their young babies that are illegally sold to the zoos were they have got low chances of surviving.
Gorilla tracking safaris are so interesting and offer you the great opportunity to come close with these serene gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is carried out in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, and this depends on the area conditions and the ease to access the gorilla’s permits. Many of the tourists come to see them which confirm to be so vital towards their general survival. The permit cost is utilized in financing and establishing patrols which are so vital in the protection of mountain gorillas from the poachers.
Where to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
There are two places in Uganda where you may trek mountain gorillas; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, north west of Kabale town and Mgahinga National Park near Kisoro in the far south west of Uganda. Both areas are considered safe to travel and both offer different experiences.
Bwindi has magnificent forests and incredible bird life, both habituated groups in Bwindi number between 16 to 22 gorillas, while Mgahinga has beautiful forests with the backdrop of the Virunga volcanoes, creating the emotions of the “Gorillas in the Mist”. There is only one group in Mgahinga. However the vegetation is in general less dense than Bwindi, need say less actual food (bamboo shoots and plants) than Bwindi and hence the smaller group.. It is true that the Mgahinga gorillas sometimes cross the border into DRC (Congo) however this is seldom and usually only for a few days mainly during the last few weeks of the dry season during September and March. Below is a short write up on approximate costs and how to get there so as to enable you to make a choice on which group you may wish to see. Some people actually visit groups in both Bwindi and Mgahinga. The other place you can see gorillas in Uganda is Nkuringo however one company holds all or most of the permits and it is necessary to book through them.
Bwindi National Park has enormous biodiversity with over 190 species of birds and several species of monkeys. The forests are spectular and earn the name Impenetrable Forest. This does not mean that the forest is so thick that you can not walk or get an excellent view of the gorillas but relates to the lushness of vegetation and the volume of food available to support the enormous biodiversity including the mountain gorillas. There are two habituated groups who are at times very close to the park headquaters, however at times they may be and hour or two walking to find them and may take three to five hours walk however this gives an excellent chance see the may birds, other monkeys and other animals as you search for the gorillas. It does get wet and slippery so we recommend that your wear good hiking boots and carry a raincoat.
Permits for Bwindi National Park must be purchased in Kampala from Uganda Wildlife Authority headquaters. Permits cost $500 each payable in either US dollars or local currency. If you are doing a tour with us (Backpackers Hostel or Travel Uganda Ltd) we will arrange a permit or permits for you.
You may arrange for a private safari either at Backpackers Hostel or with one of the many safari companies around Kampala or choose to travel on public transport as follows;
To get to Bwindi you may catch a bus directly to a village called Butogota about 17km from the National Park. The bus leaves the Kampala bus park at about 6.30 every morning and as there is only one bus to Butogota be sure to be early. Sometimes to bus may leave a little later as it only leaves when every seat is occupied but do not risk missing it. Cost 25,000/- Ush. You can then get a special hire or pick up to take you up to the park for about 45,000/-. The best place to stay at Bwindi is the community campsite right near the park gate where you may camp for10,000/- or stay in a banda for either 20,000/- Ush. They also have drinks and meals. Another good campsite is opposite on the top side of the road and is simular in pricing..
Check in at the park office for gorilla trekking is 7 am the morning of trekking.
If you wish to travel directly back to Kampala after trekking you will have to sleep in Butogota as the bus for Kampala leaves about 5.30am. If you wish to travel to Kabale of Lake Bunyonyi you may opt to stay at Bwindi another night, travel into Butogota early morning a catch a matutu or pickup down to Kabale.
Backpackers Uganda arrange and run tours to Bwindi and other parks in Uganda
Mgahinga National Park
In the shadows of the Virunga volcanoes, Mgahinga National Park is breathtaking inspiring the emotions of Dian Fossey’s adventures. There are several activities you may do in and around the National Park, Climb any or all of the peaks in the Ugandan side, cost $30 each peak and takes most of the morning. Definitely for the fit as it is a constant climb. Community walks through the villages and farms cost –
The Mgahinga gorillas sometimes cross the border into DRC (Congo) however this is seldom and usually only for a few days mainly during the last few weeks of the dry seasons, September and Marc. Cost is $500 for your permit plus transport and accommodation.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Like Uganda, mountain gorillas are the major tourist attraction that brings most tourists to Rwanda. Rwanda is blessed to have nearly a third of the total population of the mountain gorillas within Volcanoes national park. This park located in Northern Rwanda, in a region called Musanze District (former Ruhengeri) is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that as well includes Virunga National Park in Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
The park today has ten habituated gorilla groups that can be visited by tourists. PNV is an all year round destination and gorilla trekking trips to this park depart daily. There are several tours of various durations that can be taken to the park ranging from gorilla trekking day trips to trips featuring multiple gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.