Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
In this guide, you will find essential practical information to prepare for your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. We discuss how to obtain your trekking permits, the minimum age for gorilla trekking and the best trekking locations.
Need some help? Rest assured that Roadtrip Africa is happy to help you plan your Uganda itinerary and arrange your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking permits. Feel free to contact us for more information and guidance.
Gorilla trekking locations in Uganda
Bwindi National Park protects an estimated 350 mountain gorillas, including 11 habituated groups that can be tracked.
Te park offers four gorilla trekking locations:
- Buhoma and Ruhija - located in the northern section of Bwindi National Park
- Nkuringo and Rushaga - located in the Kisoro District in the southeast of Bwindi National Park
Roadtrip Africa partners with the beautiful Mutanda Lake Resort, from where you can visit the Nkuringo or Rushaga family.
Another trekking location is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which borders Rwanda and protects the Ugandan parts of the Virunga mountains.
What's a day of gorilla hiking like?
Your gorilla trek will start early, so make sure you get there on time. Depending on where you are staying, it could be as much as a 60-90-minute drive on dirt roads to get from your lodge to the starting point of the trek. Hence, you'll probably wake up before dawn, take your packed breakfast and lunch, and drive to the starting point during the morning twilight.
Your Uganda Wildlife Association guide will start the hike with an introduction. Every group consists of a maximum of 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 are happy to earn some income by carrying your belongings.
The trekking usually starts at 8.30 AM. Depending on where the gorillas were spotted the previous day, the time to locate them can vary greatly, from approximately one hour to five hours. Once the rangers find a gorilla family, you get to spend one hour with them. The one-hour cap is there to prevent the gorillas from becoming habituated to human interaction. Once the time is up, the gorillas are left without any human presence for the remaining 23 hours of the day.
It's important to know that you can walk completely at your own pace. The 1-hour sighting starts when the whole group is together, so don’t feel rushed by fellow trekkers.
After the gorilla sighting, you’ll return to the starting point where you parked your Roadtrip rental car. A tip for the rangers and porters is highly appreciated.
How to obtain your gorilla trekking permit
If you are planning to go on a gorilla hike in Uganda, it's recommended that you reserve your trekking permits well in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority issues the permits, but only to Tour Operators. As a tourist, there is no possibility of visiting their headquarters in Kampala and arranging it yourself.
Our team at Roadtrip Africa is happy to help arrange your gorilla permits. We can only do this after you have confirmed your tour or car rental booking with us in Uganda. The costs for a gorilla trekking permit are listed in the National Park section of our website, here.
To be able to arrange the trekking permits on your behalf, we'll need the following information:
- Full passport name, nationality, date of birth, and passport number of all the people trekking.
- Preferred starting location and date.
- Second best dates in case the preferred date is fully booked.
Once proof of payment has been sent, we will purchase the permits on your behalf. For this service, we charge a handling fee of US$ 25 per gorilla permit and US$ 50 per gorilla habituation experience.
Kindly note that once your permits are bought, it is not possible to change the start location and/or trekking date.
Where to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Kibale Forest is Uganda's prime chimpanzee trekking location, with a 95% chance of spotting a chimp family. Trips start every morning and afternoon in Kibale Forest National Park. The costs for a chimp trekking permit are listed in the National Park section of our website here.
It is recommended to reserve your permits in advance. Our team at Roadtrip Africa is happy to help you with arranging your chimp trekking permits for Kibale Forest. We can do this only after you have confirmed your self-drive tour or car rental booking with us in Uganda. For this service, we charge a handling fee of USD 15 per chimp permit.
For those travelling on a budget, Budongo Forest, Kalinzu Forest or Kyambura Gorge are cheaper alternatives to spot chimpanzees. These locations also make it easier for you to arrange trekking permits yourself.
- Budongo Forest Reserve is located close to Murchison Falls National Park. The likelihood of spotting chimps is highest in the morning, with an estimated 80% chance of encountering the chimps. The trekking is organised by Uganda Lodges - Budongo Eco Lodge. Permits can be obtained on-site or reserved in advance through Uganda Lodges. Prices for the Budongo Forest are USD 140.
- Kalinzu Forest is situated alongside the road from Mbarara town to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A hiking permit costs USD 40, and the chances of seeing chimps are estimated at 50%. Even if you miss out on the chimps, the hike itself is still a great experience.
- Kyambura Gorge is located in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is a steep walk as you descend to the gorge and enter a different mini-ecosystem. Trekking here is a fun activity, yet hardly done by tourists. There is no guarantee that you will spot the chimps (about 50% chance), but there is plenty of other wildlife to spot, and the gorge is a wonderful destination in its own right. Permits cost USD 50 (USD 100 from July 1st 2024) and can be bought at the Katongo Park Headquarters, or arranged in advance by visiting the UWA office in Kampala.
Tips for a better gorilla and chimpanzee trekking experience
- Wear good and comfortable walking/hiking shoes, suitable for handling slippery slopes.
- Grab a walking stick at the start of your trek.
- Thin gloves can be a great addition as you need to grab a lot of twigs and trees.
- Wear long-sleeved clothes to protect yourself from scratches and insect bites while walking through thick bushes.
- To put in your bag: raincoat, insect repellant, sunscreen, enough water( 2L) and snacks/ packed lunch.
- Picture close-ups are special and usually very appealing. Try a close-up of a hand, foot or face.
- Take some time to watch the gorillas and chimps without taking pictures. Put your camera away to better realise where you are, soak in the moment and enjoy!
What is the minimum age for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking?
The minimum age for a gorilla hike in Uganda is 15 years. For chimpanzee trekking, you'll need to be at least 13 years old.
How fit do I need to be for a gorilla and chimpanzee trekking?
How strenuous the hike is, depends on the weather conditions and the proximity of the gorillas and chimps. Although the hike could potentially last 6 hours, this is rare. A moderate level of fitness (walking) is enough for participating in a gorilla or chimpanzee trek. People of various ages go trekking, including those in their end seventies. A porter can assist, and the use of a local walking stick is an excellent aid. The right clothing and boots with traction will make the experience easier as well. Enjoy!!