Are you going on safari in Uganda? Do you want to go gorilla trekking? This blog post contains important information for those independent travellers that want to trek the gorilla's. We've listed everything you need to know to organise your gorilla trekking experience.
Covered in this section:
Where to go gorilla trekking?
When is the best time to go trekking?
How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit?
How does the day look like?
Some practical tips
The king of the jungle
Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only a mere 800 mountain gorilla’s left in the wild. Almost half of the worlds’ population can be found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda. Gorillas are BIG. The spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe.
Where can I visit the gorillas?
For many travellers visiting Uganda, gorilla trekking is the highlight of their trip. In Uganda, you can visit the Gorilla's at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Bwindi is Africa's oldest rainforest and has beautiful ridges, steep valleys and waterfalls. Be prepared for some steep hikes though. Both parks protects an estimated 350 mountain gorillas, including 17 habituated groups which can be tracked. There are four departing places: Buhoma and Ruhija which are in the northern part of the park, and Nkuringo and Rushaga, which are in Kisoro District in the southeast of Bwindi. Buhoma is the most accessible trekking location, whereas in Rushaga you can find the largest gorilla family. Mgahinga is much less visited, as occasionally the gorillas decide to hop the border to Rwanda. But not to worry, if you don't find them, you get a replacement ticket for Bwindi.
Roadtrip Uganda partners with Mutanda Lake Resort, from where you can visit the Nkuringo or Rushaga family. Roadtrippers recieve a special rate at this lovely lodge.
When is the best time for gorilla trekking?
Uganda is nice to visit year-round and has a very, very pleasant climate. The average temperature year round is about 26 degrees Celsius, and it hardly gets hotter than 29 degrees.
The rainy season is from March till May and October till November. Light down pour occurs around November to December. The climate is slowly changing but the normal dry seasons are from December to February and June to August. Even during the rainy season your travel will not be hindered too much as the rains can be heavy but are typically short and sunshine will follow.
The warmest regions in Uganda are around Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and everything further north (Kidepo). The cooler regions are obviously at higher altitudes - around Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi/Virunga National Park and Lake Bunyonyi.
Probably the best time of the year for gorilla trekking would be December to late February and from June to September. But that's also peak season. Although the parks don’t feel crowded whatsoever, you have to reserve your car, gorilla permits and accommodation many months in advance. Despite it being dry season, it is always humid in Bwindi, as gorilla's live in a montane rainforest. Se be prepared fo steep, muddy hikes.
How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit
If you are planning to visit the gorillas or chimpanzees, it is recommended that you reserve the permits well in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquartered in Kampala issues the permits only upon cash payment in full (no pre-booking). Permits cost US$ 600 per person.
Roadtrip Uganda can arrange the gorilla and chimp permits for you after you have hired a car with us. In order to do so, we need (1) full names corresponding with your passport, nationality, date of birth and passport number of all the people tracking, (2) preferred starting location and date (3) second best date in case the preferred date is fully booked. Once proof of payment has been sent, we will purchase the permits on your behalf. Kindly note that UWA does not have a refund policy in case of any cancellation or change of data. For this service we charge a handling fee of US$ 25 per gorilla permit and US$ 15 per chimp permit. Note that the minimum age for gorilla tracking is 15 years.
Contact us to arrange your gorilla trekking permits.
What to expect on my gorilla trekking day?
You probably get up in the dark to get ready, have breakfast and make sure you arrive at the trekking location at 07:45 AM. Depending on where you sleep, that can still be an hour's drive off-road. The UWA guide will give an introduction. Every group consists of maximum 8 tourists and some UWA rangers. You can opt for a porter to take your bag. Don't feel obliged to ask. These are local men and women who can earn some income by carrying your things.
The trekking starts at 8.30AM. Depending on where the gorillas were the previous day, the tracking can take 2 to 6 hours. Once the rangers have found the gorilla's, you can spend 1 hour with the gorilla family. Walk at your own pace. The 1 hour watching starts when the whole group is together, so don’t feel hurried by fellow trekkers who want to reach there quickly. Gorillas are wild animals and the UWA would like to keep it that way.For them not to get too much used to human interaction, gorilla's are left without any human presence for 23 hours a day.
After the gorilla sighting, you’ll go back to the starting point where you have parked your Roadtrip rental car. A tip for the rangers and porters is appreciated.
Some practical tips for your gorilla trekking day:
- Wear long sleeved clothes to protect yourself from scratches and insect bites as you are walking through thick bush.
- Go on good walking/hiking shoes that are comfortable for handling slippery slopes.
- Gloves can be great addition as you need to grab a lot of twigs and trees.
- To put in your bag: waterproof jacket / poncho, insect repellant, sunscreen, enough water ( 2L) and food for during your tracking
- Has it rained? Grab a walking stick at the beginning of the tracking
- Close-ups are very appealing, try a close-up of a hand, feet or face.
- Take some time to watch the gorillas without taking pictures. Put your camera away and simple realise where you and enjoy.