Gorilla Trekking

Without doubt gorilla trekking is one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences – the thrill of a close encounter with reclusive gorillas in their natural habitat is a lifetime experience that never fades in one’s memory.

There are several gorilla trekking safaris offered by tour operators to get you up close and personal with these gentle giants. These trips are conducted responsibly, taking care not to disturb these fascinating creatures and as well promote conservation in Africa. On gorilla trekking trips, visiting tourists always keep a respectful distance (about 7 metres) – but it’s not unusual for an inquisitive gorilla to come closer to tourists!

Where to Go Gorilla tracking in East Africa

There are several places to go gorilla trekking in Africa. The best places to see mountain gorillas in Africa are;

  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in South Western Uganda
  • Mgahinga National Park in Southern Uganda
  • Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda
  • Volcanoes national Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Like mountain gorillas, there are several tourists interested in watching the lowland gorillas. The best countries to visit to see lowland gorillas are;

  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Gabon
  • Cameroon

Gorilla trekking is one of the ways of the ways you can save the gorillas in Africa. Find info on how to plan a trek, places to go and guides to gorilla trekking in Africa.

Mountain Gorilla tracking in simple terms is the process off searching for the gorillas in the wild. The mountain gorillas are primate specie believed to share DNA to human beings after the chimpanzee.

Mountain gorillas are only found in the Virunga mountain ranges and in Bwindi National park which is in South Western Uganda.

The Virunga Mountain Ranges

The Virunga mountain ranges covers Volcanoes national Park in Rwanda, Virunga National park in Democratic republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda, these parks, to which share half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and the other half lives in Bwindi national Park in Uganda.

Mgahinga gorilla National park in Uganda is located in the south western Uganda in Kisoro District, and shares three of the Virunga Mountain Ranges, Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. There is one family of habituated Mountain gorillas called Nyakagezi that is is visited by tracked by the tourists.

How About Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

On the other hand, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a home to half of the remaining mountain gorillas is located in the southwestern part of Uganda on the rim of the Rift Valley, and shares 3 districts; Kisoro, Kabale and Kanungu districts. This is the most visited national park in Uganda and thousands of travelers have taken gorilla safaris to this impenetrable forest and have seen the endangered creatures in the wild. The park is hilly and is always covered by Mist due to the high altitude and forest cover. The forest is all covered by the thick forest with different tree species, and thus, the name Bwindi impenetrable National Park.

The forest comprises of three parts; Buhoma sector which is in the northern part of the park, Ruhiija sector which is in the central of the park and has the highest altitude of this park, Rushaga sector which is in the southern part of the park and this also shares Nkuringo sector also in the southern part of the park.

There are six habituated gorilla permits in the southern sector; Nkuringo in Nkuringo sector, Mishaya, Kahungye, Nshongyi, Busingye and Bweza in Rushaga sector, Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro in Ruhiija sector, Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura in the Buhoma sector.

These are the gorilla families that are sought after for gorilla tracking by the tourists. Travels from all over the globe come to Uganda from to enjoy this Ultimate adventure in Uganda – Mountain Gorilla trekking / tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Guide to Gorilla Trekking

The gorilla trekking experience is one of the most stunning activity which would not be missed by any traveler to Africa. The mountain gorillas are among the rare primates that travelers look for on their holiday in Africa. Mountain gorillas are found in three African countries i.e. Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo (former Zaire). Within these countries, thee are several habituated gorilla groups that permit tourist visits. In all these countries there are uniform rules and regulations that are followed by tourists taking gorilla trekking expeditions such as

  • There are few habituated groups to be visited by tourists.
  • Only 8 clients are allowed to visit a particular group a day.
  • Travelers with communicable diseases are not allowed to visit the gorillas.
  • Tourists should keep a distance of at least 8 metres.

For a traveler to enjoy this adventure, there are three important factors (accommodation, booking agent and guide services) that should be in your minds. While planning your gorilla safaris to any of the gorilla parks, it is advisable to plan in time given that the gorilla permits are always prebooked in time. In some parks such as Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable national park, it is advisable to book gorilla permits atleast 3 months to your tracking date most especially if you are looking to take your trip during the peak months of June – September.

Most gorilla tours offered by tour operators are tailor made safaris guided by professional guides within spacious trucks. For independent travelers it is advisable to arrange for your accommodation through a local travel agency. There are several safari lodges within the perfect locations that offer travelers overnight accommodation. These lodges are found in strategic sectors near the different habituated gorilla groups to trek the gorillas.

The D-Day for Gorilla Trekking

The typical day for gorilla trekking begins walk to the briefing point where the park officials will instruct you what to do and don’ts while in the mist with or not yet with apes and later with your guide follow the trail to search for the group allocated too.

Important Tips to Know

Gorilla tracking involves trekking and penetrating the thick vegetation cover with the help of park guides and rangers who help in creating way through the bushes with pangas and machetes in search of where the gorillas are.

This experience may at times be exhausting, but rewarding when one encounters these beautiful apes and one hour allocated to stay with these creatures seem to be 30minutes because of the exciting experience exhibited with these animals.

How to start the process of Gorilla Tracking

The process of gorilla tracking starts with acquisition of gorilla tracking permits which are obtained through Uganda wildlife authority either directly or through the local tour agent. The permit cost USD600 and allows one to visit the gorillas once for the specified day.

On the gorilla trekking day, you gather at the park headquarters for briefing about the dos and don’ts while with these amazing apes. Rules and regulations are well explained by the park rangers after which, you are allocated different gorilla families in the groups of 8 people.

Your driver will then drive you up to the starting point where you embark on gorilla tracking either by descending or ascending the forest depending on the location of the gorillas. One requires to be realistically physically fit to take part in this mountain gorilla tracking / trekking adventure because it may involve climbing the steep terrain and sometimes can be exhausting depending on the location of the gorillas.

Tips for Trekkers / Hikers

  • On your trek carry the packed lunch and bottled mineral water, sun screen, hut, insect repellent and rain gear. Some hikers come with socks for both legs and hands.
  • when you meet the gorillas you calm down as you spend your allowed one hour with the apes.
  • You can have your lunch but not in the provoking way to the gorillas.
  • Feel free to ask the guide all your questions concerning the primates.

After this tiresome activity return to the lodge and welcoming and friendly staffs will be at your service as you wait for African cuisine dinner and stunning overnight in the African setting camps which blends with nature.

After your long and strenuous adventure day Bwindi provides other perfect activities eligible to adventurous travelers like the community walk which leads you to the local healer, pygmy/Batwa cultural performances local villagers making banana wine, craft shops or take the Nkuringo walk or visit the Munyaga River falls. Therefore we recommend our visitors to stay more days longer and do the gorilla tracking, nature walks or Community Walk which are much fun and educational conservation criteria, through benefit sharing hence protecting the habitats of mountain gorilla.

Getting There

One can get to Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga gorilla national park either by road from Kampala which is an eight hours drive or by road from Kigali-Rwanda which is 3 hours drive or by plane which is 45 minutes flight from Entebbe plus one hour drive to the National park.

Where to Stay

There are several accommodations in Bwindi National Park where one can stay to suitably transfer to the park headquarters in the morning at 7am for pre-tracking briefing.

  • In Rushaga sector, there is Gorilla Safari Lodge, Gorilla valley Lodge, Nshongi gorilla lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge among others.
  • In Nkuringo there is Nkuringo gorilla camp, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge among others.
  • In Ruhiija there is Gorilla Mist camp, Bakiga Lodge, Trekkers Tavern, Ruhiija Lodge, Broadbill Forest camp among others.
  • In Buhoma sector, there are several accommodations but most notably there is Silverback Lodge, Mahogany springs, Buhoma Community campsite, Sanctuary gorilla forest camp among others.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Gorilla Trekking?
Gorilla Trekking/Tracking is a wonderful experience, that allows you to get up close to these gentle giants of the jungle in their natural habitat.

Where can gorilla Trekking be done?
The gentle giants apes can only be tracked in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. When it comes to Uganda, gorillas can only be trekked in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park of Congo.

When should I track Mountain Gorillas in Uganda?
Tourists want to get the best out of the fee they pay for gorilla tour and usually some tourists ask questions like; when is the best time for gorilla trekking?. While Mountain Gorillas can be trekked throughout the whole year, it is more pronounced during the drier months of June, July, August and early September then December up to February are the most preferred moths for Gorilla trekking. No is guarantee is there that it will not rain in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest since it is a tropical rain forest and it is influenced by micro conditions of the area.
How much is Gorilla Tracking Permit in Uganda or Rwanda?
To obtain a gorilla permit, you should pay USD 600 to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. There are some months where there discounted permits at USD 350 and this during the months of April.

When should I book my Gorilla permit/Tour?
Your Gorilla permit should be purchased three (3) months in advance to shortage most especially during the high season. The date you wish to travel should known by the tour company you wish to travel with.
What is included in a gorilla permit?
A gorilla permit allows you one hour with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga or Volcanoes National Park. Included in the cost are park entry fees for the respective parks, services of National Park guides/rangers who will escort you to the forest. Gorilla Tracking Uganda will ensure that you secure permits in advance.

How long is a Gorilla Trek in Uganda or Rwanda?
The activity of mountain gorilla tracking can take from twenty minutes to three quarters of the day so one needs to prepare for both. This depends on several factors that include, mountain gorilla movements, where the gorillas stayed the previous night and the mood of the gorillas. It may also depend on the people in your group since the guides/rangers move following the slowest person in the group.

What is the age limit for Trekking Gorillas?
The age limit for gorilla tracking (Uganda and Rwanda) and golden monkey trekking (Uganda) is 15 years. The authorities are very strict on this, so kindly make sure all clients and children are 15 or older in order to avoid any sad incidents like guest(s) kids being refused to track!
The age limit for trekking chimpanzees in Uganda is 12 years old and children 10 years and older are allowed to trek golden monkeys in Rwanda as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Children under 15 years are allowed to Dian Fossey’s tomb – although the latter hike is a stiff one so we do not recommend that either to children under 12-13 years.

What should I pack for Gorilla trekking?
You need to prepare very well for your gorilla trek, we advise trousers, long sleeved shirts or blouses, long socks to enable you tack in your trousers, garden gloves, a hat, sun glasses, hiking boots, insect repellents and some energy giving foods.

What is gorilla habituation experience?
The Gorilla habituation experience is an activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National park where tourists are allowed to stay four hours with mountain Gorillas after paying USD 1500 for a gorilla habituation permit. The Gorilla habituation safaris are currently taking place only in Rushaga located in southern part of Bwindi Forest.