Safari by Activity: Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safaris
Uganda prides in being habitat to almost half of the world’s remaining rare Mountain Gorillas. These are habited in the gorilla parks of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park all in the south western part of the country. Both parks have a total of about 20 gorilla families habituated for trekking 19 in Bwindi forest and 1 in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
In the whole world, Mountain Gorillas are known to only be existent in three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo all adjacent to each other and joined by the virunga mountain ranges. Aside from the two national parks in Uganda, in the adjacent Rwanda and Congo are Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park respectively.
Uganda gorilla trekking safaris are common to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park due to the fact that there’s a bigger mountain gorilla population in the park therefore offering higher chances of seeing the gorillas. Gorilla safaris in Uganda started way back in 1993 when gorilla tracking was opened to tourists after a gorilla habituation process.
For Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there is 1 gorilla family called Nyakagezi gorilla group that is available for trekking. Bwindi Forest National Park on the other side has 19 gorilla families and these are;
Rushegura, Habinyaja, Mubare, Katwe Gorilla groups – Buhoma sector
Bitukura, Kyaguriro, Mukizo, Oruzogo Gorilla groups – Ruhija sector
Bishasho, Nkuringo, Christmas Gorilla groups – Nkuringo sector
Nsonji, Mishaya, Bweza, Kahunjye, Businjye, Rwiji, Muchunguzi, Bikyinji Gorilla groups –Rushaga sector
The different gorilla families are found in the four gorilla trekking sectors known as Rushaga gorilla trekking sector, Nkuringo gorilla trekking sector, Ruhija gorilla trekking sector and Buhoma gorilla trekking sector.
How Mountain Gorilla trekking is done
Each morning, a total of 8 trekkers visit a single gorilla family in Uganda. In each of the sectors, briefing at the park headquarters starts by 8:00am by the park rangers, here you are told on the trekking etiquette and allocated a family to trek according to hiking ability.
Trekkers then receive trekking sticks and head off to the park. The movement of gorillas is unpredictable and therefore it can last 4-8 hours depending on where they spent the previous night. Upon finding the gorillas, a maximum of 1 hour is spent in their presence giving ample time for photography and amazing interactions. After this 1 hour, you then return to the start point where trekkers receive Uganda gorilla trekking safari permit congratulating them upon completion of the trek.
Do’s and Don’ts / rules for gorilla trekking in Uganda
The rules and regulations below are what you must know before setting off for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris;
- A trekker must be 15 years and above to trek gorillas
- Do not trek gorillas if you have a cold or other infectious illness, they might catch the disease
- Human waste should be buried 30cm deep
- Keep a 7m (21ft) distance from the gorillas
- Smoking, eating and drinking are not permitted during gorilla trekking
- If you must sneeze or cough cover your face and turn away from the gorillas
- A trek is limited to one hour per gorilla group per day
- Do not use flash photography
Cost for gorilla trekking in Uganda
The cost for a single gorilla trekking permit in Uganda is 600 USD per person per trek for foreign non residents, 500 USD for foreign residents and 250,000 UGX for East African residents. These are prices valid till 1st July 2020.
From 1st July 2020, a Uganda gorilla trekking permit will cost USD 700 for foreign non residents, 600 USD for foreign residents and 250,000 for East African residents. The cost is per person per trek.
Note: The permit costs are applicable for both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
When to trek gorillas in Uganda
The best time of the year to go gorilla trekking is during the dry season in the months of June –August and December –February. During this time, the trails are less slippery and this makes trekking easier. If you plan to trek during this season always book early since permits are on a high demand during those seasons.
What to carry/pack for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris
- Cary long water proof trousers and long sleeved shirts for the trek in the forest
- Pack gardening gloves for hand protection from bristles on trees
- Carry a water proof hat especially in the rainy season
- Carry a small waterproof zip lock bag to put in your camera
- Wear a rain coat, it can easily rain during the trek
- Pack water proof comfortable hiking shoes
- Carry Insect repellent