What is Gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is a popular adventure activity that involves hiking through the forest to observe and interact with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. It typically takes place in the rainforests of central and East Africa, including Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visitors are led by experienced guides who take them on a trek through the forest to locate the gorillas. Once the gorillas are found, visitors are allowed to spend a limited amount of time observing and interacting with them at a safe distance, under the guidance of the park rangers. Gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people and is often considered one of the most exciting and fulfilling adventure activities in the world.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a bucket-list experience that offers visitors the opportunity to observe and interact with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, making it one of the best places in the world to go gorilla trekking.
The gorilla trekking experience in Uganda typically takes place in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is located in southwestern Uganda. The park is home to 19 habituated gorilla groups that visitors can trek to see.
To go gorilla trekking in Uganda, visitors must first obtain a permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The permits are limited and must be booked well in advance. The trek itself can be physically demanding, as visitors must hike through dense forest and steep terrain to reach the gorillas. However, the reward of seeing these incredible animals up close is well worth the effort.
During the trek, visitors are accompanied by an experienced guide who helps them locate the gorillas and ensures their safety during the encounter. Visitors are allowed to spend a maximum of one hour with the gorillas, during which time they can observe their behavior and take photos.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is not only a thrilling adventure activity but also an important part of conservation efforts to protect these endangered animals. The revenue generated from gorilla trekking permits is used to fund conservation programs and support local communities.
In addition to gorilla trekking, Uganda offers a range of other wildlife experiences, including chimpanzee tracking, birdwatching, and game drives. The country is also home to stunning natural scenery, including waterfalls, lakes, and mountains, making it a must-visit destination for any nature lover.
Gorilla trekking permit in Uganda
To go gorilla trekking in Uganda, you must obtain a gorilla trekking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The permits are issued on a daily basis and allow you to trek to see one of the habituated gorilla groups in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda cost $700 per person for foreign non-residents, $600 per person for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 (approximately $70) for East African residents. The permits are limited and must be booked well in advance, sometimes up to six months in advance, especially during peak season from June to September and December to February.
To obtain a permit, you can either book directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a reputable tour operator like Bashem safaris. The permits are non-transferable and non-refundable, and you must present a valid passport or identification card at the park headquarters on the day of your trek.
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda are an important part of conservation efforts to protect these endangered animals. The revenue generated from permits is used to fund conservation programs and support local communities living around the national parks. By obtaining a permit and going gorilla trekking in Uganda, you are not only experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime adventure but also supporting important conservation efforts.
Where to see gorillas in Uganda
In Uganda, gorillas can be seen in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda and is home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The park has multiple habituated gorilla groups that you can trek to see. Bwindi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique biodiversity, including over 120 mammal species, 350 bird species, and over 400 plant species.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, near the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is smaller than Bwindi but still offers the opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat. You can trek to see one of the habituated gorilla groups in the park, which are often found at higher elevations than those in Bwindi.
Both parks offer a unique and unforgettable gorilla trekking experience in Uganda.
Habituated gorilla groups
Mubare group. This was the first habituated gorilla group in Bwindi and has 9 members.
Habinyanja group. This group has 18 members and is known for its unique behavior of splitting into smaller groups during feeding.
Rushegura group. With 19 members, this group is known for its playful juveniles and peaceful nature.
Bitukura group. This group has 14 members and is known for its calm and gentle nature.
Nkuringo group. This group has 19 members and is known for its large silverback and scenic views of the park.
Oruzogo group. This group has 23 members and is known for its lively and playful nature, especially the juveniles.
Kahungye group. With 13 members, this group is known for its dominant silverback and aggressive behavior.
The Mucunguzi. This group consists of about 8 members, including one silverback. It is known for being quite active and playful.
Busingye group. This group has 9 members and is known for its recent formation from the Nkuringo group.
Bweza Group. This group is located in the Ruhija sector of Bwindi and has 9 members, including 1 silverback.
Other habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi impenetrable national park are; Mishaya, Kutu, Nyakagezi, Christmas, Bushaho, Bikyingi, Rwigi, Mukiza
Nyakagezi Group. This is found in mgahinga national park, it is made up of 9 members, including 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 2 infants. The Nyakagezi Group is known for its calm and friendly demeanor, making for a great trekking experience. However, this group sometimes crosses over into Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo, so their availability for trekking can be limited.
What to wear when going for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking involves hiking through dense forests and steep hills to reach the gorilla habitats, which can be challenging and strenuous. Therefore, it’s important to dress appropriately to ensure comfort and safety throughout the trek.
Hiking boots or shoes are necessary as the terrain can be rugged and muddy, and you’ll need good traction to navigate through the slippery and steep terrain. The boots should be comfortable and fit well, with ankle support to prevent injury.
Long pants are recommended to protect against insects, thorny vegetation, and scratches from the bushes. Additionally, long-sleeved shirts can protect against the sun and insects.
Layers are important as the weather can change suddenly in the forest, and temperatures can vary at different elevations. Wearing layers allows you to easily adjust your clothing as needed and stay comfortable throughout the trek.
A lightweight rain jacket is an essential item to bring along when going for gorilla trekking. Rain can fall at any time in the forest, and the temperature can drop quickly when it does. A good rain jacket will keep you dry and help to regulate your body temperature, so you don’t get too cold.
A wide-brimmed hat is also an important item to bring along. The hat will provide protection from the sun and rain, also help to keep branches and leaves out of your face as you trek through the forest. It is advisable to choose a hat that is breathable and lightweight, as you will be moving around a lot and don’t want to overheat. A hat with a chin strap can also be helpful to keep it secure during windy conditions.
Gloves can be helpful in protecting your hands from thorns and nettles, which can be present along the trails. It’s also important to wear neutral-colored clothing to avoid startling the gorillas with bright colors or patterns.
Overall, dressing appropriately for gorilla trekking is important for your safety and comfort, allowing you to fully enjoy the unforgettable experience of trekking through Uganda’s lush forests to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
What to pack before going for gorilla trekking
Insect repellent: Insects can be a major annoyance during the trek, especially in the forested areas. Therefore, it is essential to carry insect repellent to keep them away and prevent any bites.
Sunscreen: The sun can be harsh in the African wilderness, even on overcast days. Wearing sunscreen with a high SPF can protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
First aid kit: It’s always important to carry a first aid kit, especially when traveling to remote locations. Make sure your kit includes any prescription medication you require, as well as basics like band-aids, painkillers, antiseptic wipes, and any other personal medication you may need.
Plenty of water and snacks: Gorilla trekking can be a physically demanding activity that requires a lot of energy. Be sure to carry enough water and snacks to keep you hydrated and fueled throughout the trek.
Binoculars: Binoculars are essential for spotting wildlife that may be difficult to see with the naked eye, such as birds and other primates.
Camera: Gorilla trekking is an unforgettable experience, and you’ll want to capture as many memories as possible. Make sure to bring a camera with spare batteries or power banks to keep it charged throughout the trek.
Waterproof backpack or daypack: You’ll need a sturdy and waterproof backpack or daypack to carry all your essentials, such as water, snacks, sunscreen, camera, binoculars, and first aid kit. Be sure to choose one that is comfortable and has adjustable straps for a custom fit.
Facts about gorillas
Gorillas are the largest living primates: Adult male gorillas can weigh up to 400 pounds and stand up to 6 feet tall.
Gorillas are herbivores: They mainly eat leaves, stems, fruit, and bamboo. A single adult gorilla can consume up to 50 pounds of food per day.
Gorillas live in groups called troops: A typical troop consists of one dominant silverback male, several females, and their offspring.
Gorillas use sign language: They have been observed using over 25 different vocalizations and more than 20 distinct gestures to communicate with each other.
Gorillas are highly intelligent: They are capable of problem-solving, using tools, and demonstrating emotions such as grief and empathy.
Gorillas have individual personalities: Just like humans, gorillas have distinct personalities and unique likes and dislikes.
Gorillas share a close genetic relationship with humans: Humans share 98% of their DNA with gorillas, making them one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.
Gorillas are critically endangered: Due to habitat loss, poaching, and disease, gorilla populations have been rapidly declining in recent years.
Gorillas have unique nose prints: Like human fingerprints, each gorilla has a unique pattern of creases and ridges on their nose, which can be used for identification.
Gorillas can live up to 50 years in captivity: In the wild, gorillas have a shorter lifespan due to various threats, but they can live up to 50 years in captivity under the right conditions.
Best time to go gorilla trekking
The best time to go gorilla trekking is during the dry season, which runs from June to September and December to February in Uganda. During this time, the forest trails are less muddy and easier to hike, and the gorillas tend to stay closer to the trailhead as there is plenty of food available.
In addition, the dry season is also the peak tourist season, so it’s important to book your gorilla trekking permits well in advance. However, the high season also means that there are more tourists on the trails, which can make the trekking experience less private and intimate.
The wet season, which runs from March to May and October to November, can also be a good time to go gorilla trekking as the forest is lush and green, and the gorillas are often found at lower elevations. However, the trails can be extremely muddy and slippery, making the trek more challenging. The wet season is also the low tourist season, so it may be easier to obtain permits and have a more exclusive experience with the gorillas.
Ultimately, the best time to go gorilla trekking depends on your personal preferences and priorities. If you don’t mind the crowds and want a greater chance of dry weather, then the dry season may be the best option for you. If you prefer a more exclusive experience and don’t mind the rain, then the wet season may be the way to go.
How easy is gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is a physically challenging experience, as it involves hiking through mountainous and dense forest terrain. However, the difficulty level varies depending on the specific gorilla group you are visiting and the location of the trek. Some treks can be relatively easy and only take a few hours, while others can be more strenuous and last for several hours, or even a full day. Additionally, weather conditions can also impact the difficulty level of the trek, with heavy rain and muddy trails making it more challenging. It is important to prepare physically and mentally for the trek, and to follow the guidance of your guides and porters to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
There are several hotels, lodges, and campsites where tourists going for gorilla trekking can stay around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
Buhoma Lodge – located just a few minutes from the park’s entrance, this lodge offers comfortable and spacious rooms, excellent food, and stunning views of the forest.
Gorilla Forest Camp – located within the park’s boundaries, this eco-friendly campsite provides a unique and authentic experience of staying in the jungle. It has luxury tents, excellent food, and a beautiful setting.
Engagi Lodge – set on a hilltop overlooking the park, this lodge offers comfortable rooms, excellent food, and beautiful views of the forest and surrounding hills.
Chameleon Hill Lodge – located on the shores of Lake Mutanda, this lodge offers beautiful views of the lake and the Virunga Mountains. It has comfortable rooms, excellent food, and a relaxed atmosphere.
Gorilla Trekking Itinerary in Uganda
Day 1: Arrival in Entebbe
You will arrive at Entebbe International Airport and be picked up by your tour guide who will transfer you to your hotel in Kampala or Entebbe for an overnight stay.
Day 2: Travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
After breakfast, you will start the journey to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This journey takes around 8-9 hours depending on the route taken and includes stops for lunch and sightseeing. You will arrive at your lodge in the late afternoon or early evening.
Day 3: Gorilla Trekking
You will wake up early and have breakfast before heading to the park headquarters for briefing and allocation of gorilla families. You will then start the gorilla trekking expedition which can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family you have been allocated. Once you find them, you will spend one hour with the gorillas before returning to the park headquarters.
Day 4: Optional Activity
After breakfast, you have the option to either relax at your lodge or take part in an optional activity such as a community walk or a Batwa cultural experience.
Day 5: Return to Entebbe
After breakfast, you will start the journey back to Entebbe with stops for lunch and sightseeing. You will arrive in the late afternoon or early evening and spend the night in Entebbe.
Day 6: Departure
You will be transferred to Entebbe International Airport for your departure flight.
However, this itinerary can be customized according to your preferences and budget.
In conclusion, gorilla trekking is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience that offers a unique opportunity to observe one of the world’s most amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Uganda is home to over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, making it an ideal destination for this adventure. While the trek can be physically challenging, the reward of coming face-to-face with these majestic creatures is worth the effort. Before embarking on your journey, it’s important to do your research, plan your itinerary, and follow the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and successful trip. With proper preparation and guidance, gorilla trekking in Uganda can be a life-changing experience that will stay with you forever.