Gorilla trekking is the main safari highlight on all Uganda and Rwanda tours. The two countries are perfect places to locate the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Trekking with the rare mountain gorillas in the wild is a lifetime experience, often takes visitors 2-6 hours inclusive of one hour for up close with these large apes.
Where to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda & Rwanda?
Uganda and Rwanda are amazingly the best and safest places in Africa to find mountain gorillas. In Uganda, tourists can track mountain gorillas in its 2 protected areas: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A total of about 20 habituated gorilla group families are open for tracking in Uganda alone, and they can be visited in anyone of the five sectors.
Four sectors exist in Bwindi alone and they include Ruhija, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Buhoma while in Mgahinga National Park, there is Ntebeko. The gorilla groups to visit while in Bwindi National Park include Kutu, Mucunguzi, Nshongi, Bweza gorilla group, Busingye, Nkuringo, Bushaho, Bikingi, Christmas, Kyaguriro, Bitukura, Habinyanja, Katwe, Mubare, Mishaya, Kahungye, Mukiza and Rushegura. At Ntebeko area in Mgahinga National Park, Nyakagezi is the only habituated gorilla group to be tracked.
It is in Uganda where the largest population of mountain gorillas lives, about half of these endangered species all reside in the country’s two parks –Bwindi & Mgahinga NP. This makes Uganda an exceptional destination with not only the biggest mountain gorilla population but also with more opportunities to find a gorilla family to trek compared to any other destination.
Mountain gorillas trekking in Rwanda reside in Volcanoes National Park, which is part of the Greater Virunga Region. This 160sq.km protected area is home to 12 habituated gorilla families and includes Umubano gorilla family, Susa A, Titus, Susa B, Amahoro gorilla family, Sabyinyo, Agashya, Bwenge group, Uganda, Agashya, Pablo, and others. This park alone protects up to 30% of the world’s 1063 mountain gorillas left on planet earth.
The cost of gorilla trekking permits in Uganda and Rwanda all varies. In Uganda, one gorilla permit is issued to visitors at USD 700 per person and this is specifically for the foreign non-residents, USD 600 for foreign residents and Ugandan plus other citizens in East Africa Community member state pay shs. 250,000. There is even an alternative of undertaking gorilla habituation experience and you enjoy 4 hours with gorillas and permits for this primate adventure cost USD 1500.
In Rwanda, normal gorilla trekking permits cost USD 1500 per person. These gorilla permits and the entire gorilla tour can be arranged by the local tour operator on the ground. Consider booking your permit and gorilla safari holiday in advance at least 2 to 6 months before the actual date that you plan to visit mountain gorillas.
Note, gorilla permits are issued to only persons above 15 years and below this age bracket, such persons are categorized as children.
Gorilla trekking regulations & rules
The gorilla trekking rules are the same whether you travel to Uganda or Rwanda to see mountain gorillas. Before the actual trekking begins at 8:00 am, you will be briefed about the gorilla trekking guidelines at the respective park offices. They include;
- Anyone with flu/cold or sick won’t be permitted to go trek mountain gorillas.
- Gorilla permits in Uganda/Rwanda are only available for purchase by persons above 15 years.
- Viewing mountain gorillas upon finding is strictly for one hour.
- All gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda will be done with lead of an experienced park guide.
- Maximum number of visitors to track one gorilla group is strictly 8 people.
- A distance of 8-10 should always be maintained away from gorillas.
- Use of flashlight cameras is never allowed while taking pictures of gorillas.
- Try as much as you to keep low your voice while in the forest tracking gorillas.
- The gorilla habitat/environment must be left clean/cleaner than you got it.
- You can stand a chance to track gorillas if you have a valid gorilla permit.
Gorilla trekking packing suggestions
A well-planned gorilla tour includes packing right, and this means considering essentials first. Your packing list for gorilla trekking shouldn’t miss any of the following; long-sleeved shirts, sun hat, rain jacket, pair of socks, long trousers, insect repellents, visas, waterproof daypack, first aid kit, personal toiletries, gardening, waterproof hiking boots, energy giving snacks and bottled drinking water.
How gorilla treks work
All gorilla treks are conducted during day time. They begin with briefing at 7:00 am and at 8:00 am, the normal trekking starts with the park guide leading visitors through the forest. On all gorilla tours, treks will be done on already habituated gorilla families and a single group is visited by maximum of eight tourists per day. The entire trek takes 2-6 hours inclusive of one hour for a close interaction with gorillas and taking pictures.
The whole adventure involves hiking through the forest, steep slopes and at times on muddy ground depending on the season. Visitor fitness levels matter when it comes to gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.
Where to stay on a gorilla tour
All gorilla safari parks in Uganda and Rwanda have a variety of lodges for visitor overnight stay and they range from budget to luxury. The lodges to stay on a gorilla tour in Uganda include Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp, Buhoma View Bandas, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Wagtail Camp, Nshongi Campsite, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Buhoma Lodge, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Kisoro Travelers rest Camp, and others.
In Rwanda, the available lodges to book include Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Garden Place Hotel, Faraja Hotel, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Hotel Muhabura, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Garr Hotel, Le Bambou Gorilla Village, Virunga Lodge, La Palme Hotel and Kinigi Guesthouse.
Best time to travel to see mountain gorillas
Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda can be done all year-round. However, the best time is the dry months of the year; June, July, August through September and December, January through February. These are the months with less rains and the park’s ground is drier making it easier trekking through in search for mountain gorillas.