Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla Trekking is the most popular wildlife adventure for visitors to Uganda as it brings one closer to the endangered Mountain Gorillas in the dense Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda is one of the best places in the world to do the mountain gorilla trekking adventure as the park is home to habituated gorilla families that are open to visitors and the Uganda Wildlife Authority has played a commendable role in conserving these gentle giants. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is also done at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, a beautiful and diverse national park located in Southwestern Uganda and is also home to the active golden monkeys.
There about 1004 mountain gorillas left in the world and Uganda is home to half of this population. The gorilla trekking activity is not only fulfilling but also magical as it brings one face to face with the mountain gorillas in the jungle, an opportunity worth experiencing! Uganda currently has 20 habituated gorilla families that are available to visit, habituated means that these gorilla families have gone through the habituation experience by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The gorilla habituation experience involves a numerous process of spending time with the gorillas and getting them to accommodate human interaction without them feeling threatened or attacking humans. This habituation experience is done by trained park rangers and key researchers so by the time they declare a gorilla family habituated they have spent ample time with the gorillas in the wild and determined that they can tolerate human presence for a short period of time, the habituation process can take up to 4 years or even more.
The habituated gorilla families have been named that is why the gorilla trekking certificate that is given to the visitor after the gorilla trek in Uganda always includes the name of the gorilla family you have tracked. The names of the gorilla families are – Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Katwe, Binyindo, Nkuringo, Busheho, Christmas, Nshongi, Bweza, Kahungye, Busingye, Bikingi, Mishaya, Mucunguzi, Kutu, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro and Mukiza.
Information about Gorillas
Mountain Gorillas live in groups of 6-20 individuals that are led by a dominant adult male known as the Silverback, the silverback is generally larger in size and has silver grey hair on its back. Gorilla’s main diet consists of herbaceous vegetation and fruits that’s why while on a gorilla trek in Uganda one will often see the gorillas feeding on fruits and green leaves.
Gorillas move within the forest in search of food to eat and feed their infants. The movement is determined by the location of the mountain gorilla groups, mountain gorilla groups living in lower altitude areas in Volcanoes national park move less as they tend to have an abundance of fruits and herbaceous vegetation. However mountain gorillas in high altitude locations have to move more and longer distances in search of food to eat so as one treks depending on the gorilla family you visit, you will notice movement depending on where the gorillas nested the previous night.
Gorillas communicate through vocalizations and different behavior patterns, gorillas are famously known for the chest-beating pattern which appears to be a display of intimidation among the gorillas. Gorillas groups tend not to have territories in the forest however several groups are free to wander around within a home range.
What you need to know about the Gorilla
Trek in Uganda
The gorilla trek in Uganda is done through a process of acquiring a gorilla trekking permit that is issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), this can be arranged by your tour agency. The gorilla trekking permits tend to sell out very fast especially during high season so one is encouraged to book in advance.
After the gorilla trekking permit has been paid for and secured one waits for the assigned date to head to either Bwindi Impenetrable national park or Mgahinga Gorilla national park for this thrilling and magical wildlife adventure.
On the morning of your gorilla trek you have breakfast at the lodge and are then transferred by your driver guide to the starting point of the trek which is at the park headquarters at 7:00am. At the park headquarters you are assigned a gorilla family to track on that day and a walking stick that helps in supporting you while you walk through the forest. After this you meet your park guide who will give you a briefing on the guidelines and how to behave in the presence of the mountain gorillas, pay attention to all the guidelines because they will be helpful while on your trek. The briefing ends and you begin your journey in search of the gorillas with the help of your ranger guides and park guide. The journey through the thick forest is an experience on its own as it gives you a full jungle experience and for the keen birdwatcher you can even spot some beautiful bird species along the way.
Once you locate the gorillas you are allowed to spend one hour with them. The face to face encounter with the mountain gorillas is definitely an exciting experience as during this time you are able to watch the gorillas as they feed and exist in their natural habitat. In addition you are allowed to capture photos and shots of these amazing gentle giants. UWA only allows 8 people to visit one gorilla family per day and this is a reasonable number that makes the experience effortless. The entire gorilla trekking adventure can take from anywhere between 2 hours – 8 hours depending on how far the gorilla family is situated and the fitness levels of the group members.
The cost of the Gorilla trekking Permit in Uganda and the age limit for gorilla tracking
The gorilla trekking permit costs $700 per person for Foreign Non-Residents.
For Foreign Residents cost of the gorilla trekking permit is $600 per person.
For East African citizens cost of the gorilla permit is Ugx. 250,000 per person.
The age limit for gorilla tracking in Uganda is a minimum age of 15 years. Anyone aged 15 years and above is welcome and allowed to do the gorilla trek in Uganda.
How to prepare for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?
In terms of physical fitness for the gorilla trekking adventure one should be physically fit as the hike can be rather strenuous and require a physical skill set to navigate the muddy and slippery ground considering Bwindi Impenetrable national park is a forested park and Mgahinga gorilla national park covers Albertine rift montane forest and is located in the Virunga mountains.
Visitors can also prepare for the trek by hiring a porter at $10 to help carry their bag as this makes the trek easier and lighter. We highly recommend that you get a porter because the trek might take longer depending on where the gorilla family is situated that day so you might need help along the way. Secondly hiring a porter is a way of giving back to the community as porters are from the surrounding communities that live close to the national parks.
In addition to your preparation we recommend that you pack the following items;
Hiking boots – these you will need because the terrain in the national parks tend to be slippery and muddy especially in the rainy season so hiking boots are ideal and much needed. The hiking boots should be of good quality and water resistant.
A Backpack – a light back pack is needed to carry our essential items like binoculars, camera, phone, batteries and packed lunch that is given to you at the lodge in the morning.
Insect Repellent – You should also pack insect repellent because there are insects that are likely to sting or cause body rush so insect repellent is very essential for protection.
Camera and extra batteries – since it is a trek we recommend you carry your camera so that you are able to take photos and capture some memorable moments while gorilla trekking in Uganda. You should also pack extra batteries that will come in handy in case the battery runs out while on the trek.
Clothing – You should pack a long sleeved shirt and long trousers. In addition you should carry a rain jacket just in case it rains while in the forest you can wear it over you clothes to protect you from the rain.
Snacks – This is optional as usually the lodge arranges packed lunch for you on the morning of the trek and you leave with it after breakfast. However you can carry snacks just in case you maybe need something sugary for an energy boost while on the trek or something salty.
Best time to do Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorillas in Uganda can be seen all year round that is permits are available for booking from January all the way to December however the trek is obviously easier during the dry season that is between June- August and July – September. The drier months are considered as a high season period so gorilla permits tend so sell out fast however the good thing is one can always look at booking during the less busy months.
Other Activities that you can do in Bwindi Impenetrable national Park
Birding – For the specialist birder, Bwindi national park is a birding hot spot as it is home to 24 Albertine rift endemics. Birding in Bwindi is done at Mubwindi Swamp where with your expert birding guide you spend an entire day looking out for Albertine rift endemics and some forest specials. The top bird on your list while on the Mubwindi swamp excursion is the African Green Broadbill. In addition you bird in Buhoma a section of the national park that offers great birding opportunities.
Visit the Batwa Pygymies – this is a cultural visit that can be done in the afternoon after your gorilla trekking activity. The Batwa are the original inhabitants of Bwindi forest and a visit to them gives you a glimpse in to how they lived, hunted and existed in the forest. While on the visit expect to immerse yourself in their culture, way of life and traditional dances.
Gorilla Habituation Experience – The gorilla habituation experience is an opportunity to spend more time with the gorillas as opposed to the gorilla trek. The gorilla habituation experience allows visitors to spend 4 hours with the gorillas in their natural habitat which is more time than the one hour spent with the primates on a gorilla trek. The gorilla habituation only happens in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park and only 4 individuals can do the habituation experience at a time.
Nature Walks – The Waterfall Trail – Bwindi national park offers guided forest walks along different trails in the national park. The day nature walks are another great way to experience Bwindi forest aside from mountain gorilla trek. The most popular is the waterfall trail in Buhoma which takes about 3 hours and once you get to the beautiful waterfalls you have an opportunity to take photos and then start the walk back to your accommodation. The other trails include the Rushara Hill trail and Mazubijiro loop trail which offer spectacular views of the Virunga Mountain ranges.
Below are tailored Gorilla Trekking Tours in Uganda