GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is more than a spectator’s adventure but rather a special connection with the jungle. The World’s largest Great Apes can be sighted foraging, playing, resting and frolicking just 7 meters away.
Much as there are many adventures to enjoy in Uganda, the4 chance to walk through the dense jungles looking for the Great Apes is not easy to describe in words because travellers are always left speechless. From 1993, thousands of travellers can now have the chance to see mountain gorillas found in the East-Central African jungles as they feed on vegetation, break branches, rest, play or nurse their young ones.
Places to undertake gorilla trekking in Uganda?
If you are planning a gorilla trekking trip to Uganda, you are one of the luckiest people on Earth because so far, two Forest Parks in the country provide indelible gorilla trekking experiences adventures. These places include the 321-square kilometer Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the 34-square kilometer Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Bwindi is the most preferred option by many travellers hoping to meet face to face with mountain gorillas in their natural environment, owing to the higher concentration of these endangered primates as well as presenting many accommodation options.
Whether you choose Mgahinga or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as your nest destination for achieving your desire of getting up-close and personal with the mountain gorillas in their natural environment, you are assured of finally seeing them. Nonetheless, price of gorilla permits as well as the chances of locating them is not different. Given the strategic location of these two National Parks in south-western side of the country, it is possible to combine gorilla and wildlife tours thus maximum experiences.
If you are planning to participate in gorilla trekking within Uganda, it is important to expect walking through rugged and challenging terrains as well as steep Valleys and dense slopes. These treks last anywhere between 30 minutes to 6 hours with phenomenal views, sights and sounds along the way.
Bwindi Gorilla Trekking
If you mention gorilla trekking in Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the first name to pop in everyone’s mind and it would interest you to know that the Park is made up of four trekking sectors that include Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija, which have extraordinary landscapes and terrains, varying number of gorilla groups as well as difficulty levels.
A combined total of 20 habituated gorilla groups are found in all the sectors and for gorilla trekking tours, they begin very early in the morning with briefing lasting 45 minutes to one hour. Travellers are taken through the necessary and must-follow guidelines of trekking these Great Apes, to avoid endangering both visitors and mountain gorillas.
Groups of 8 visitors are guided by experienced UWA Ranger guides who not only provide detailed information on the Giant Apes but also provide an introduction to the unique ecosystem of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park while searching for the Great Apes. The exact location of the mountain gorillas is not always known and given the dense vegetation and absence of clear routes, it could take almost a full day to find them. Thanks to the services of trackers who move ahead and keep updating ranger guides via radio call, typical gorilla treks take 1-5 hours.
Prior to meeting the mountain gorillas, traces of their presence can be seen some few meters away and these include nests of the previous night, then it will take 30-60 minutes to see them. In most cases, they are also excited to meet you hence begin emerging from the thick vegetation. The perfect reward after the struggle and challenges encountered in finding mountain gorillas is one hour of watching and photographing them.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Gorilla Trekking
Sharing borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the 34-square kilometer Mgahinga National Park is another perfect place to achieve your dream of getting up-close and personal with the endangered mountain gorillas and if your plan has been to enjoy cross-border safaris with Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Volcanoes National Parks in Rwanda, this is also the place for you.
Besides the benefit of enjoying cross-border safaris, Mgahinga also offers a more secluded gorilla trekking experience, but it offers only 8 gorilla permits for its one habituated gorilla family known as Nyakagezi.
When to go gorilla trekking in Uganda
In Uganda, your ideal time to spot mountain gorillas in their natural habitats is December to February and June to September when forest trails are drier hence making it less challenging to walk through the jungles while searching for the Giant Apes. Majority of the gorilla treks in Uganda are booked for these months which make it challenging to acquire gorilla permits at the last minute. Travellers planning to trek these Giant Apes during dry months are advised to make bookings at least 6 months in advance.
The wet months from March to May and October to November experience lower visitor influx because most of them avoid the heavy downpours that create muddy and slippery forest trails.
Cost of Uganda gorillaPermits and how to get them
Uganda Gorilla trekking permits cost only $700 per person for the foreign non-residents, $100 less for the foreign residents and about Shs. 250,000 per person for the East African Community Citizens. These costs only apply to tourists planning to enjoy standard gorilla treks whereas $1500 per person can secure a place in the Gorilla Habituation Experience tours. The official issuing body for gorilla permits in this country is Uganda Wildlife Authority, but flexibility in the booking process makes it possible to tour operators to secure them on behalf of visitors.
What to bring for gorilla trekking trips in Uganda
Gorilla trekking is not a simple walk in the leisure parks or gardens but instead involves hiking through hilly slopes and maneuvering dense vegetation for over 1-4 hours or even more. For your comfort and successful completion of gorilla trekking adventures, it is recommended to pack lightweight and breathable clothing (safari pants and long-sleeved shirts), strong and well-fitting hiking boots, safari hat, lightweight rain jacket, sunglasses, gardening gloves for protection from thorns, binoculars, cotton socks, first aid kit, non-flash camera with extra batteries and memory space, re-usable water bottle, energy-giving snacks, rainproof rain jacket, a daypack, insect repellants and toiletries (toothbrush, hair comb, toothpaste, deodorant, wet wipes and sanitizer), to mention but a few.
Important Mountain gorilla trekking rules and regulations
The approach distance when watching mountain gorillas is 7 meters to reduce possible aggression and stress on these Great Apes.
One hour is the maximum time for watching and photographing mountain gorilla once sighted.
Avoid startling mountain gorillas with Flash cameras.
Not more than 8 persons are allowed to trek a habituated gorilla group.
Unwell visitors (flue and cough) are not allowed to trek mountain gorillas in their natural environments.
Touching or feeding mountain gorillas isn’t permitted.
Places of lodging during gorilla trekking in Uganda
Travellers planning to trek mountain gorillas from Bwindi National Park can stay at Silverback Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Lake Kitandara Camp Gift of Nature Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Gorilla Forest Camp, Bakiga Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Ruhija Safari Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Nkuringo Safari Camp, to mention but a few.
Mount Gahinga Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Travellers Rest Hotel and Kisoro Tourist Hotel are the commonest places of lodging while trekking mountain gorillas in Uganda.