Gorilla Trekking in Uganda & Rwanda, Bwindi Forest, Gorilla Safari Tours

Updated  September 29th 2020

A Gorilla Trek is a highlight of all visits done in Uganda and Rwanda and certainly mountain gorillas are the major reason as to why very many people visit these 2 destinations Find information about gorilla trekking holidays to see gorillas in the wild, how to acquire a permit, as well as tour companies arranging such treks. Gorilla trekking is defined as a hike to the tropical forests of Africa to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Covid 19 Updates:  Bwindi and Mgahinga parks have been reopened. You can now trek the gorillas of Uganda. Covid restrictions of social distance and other guidelines still apply.

When To Go To See The Mountain Gorillas In Africa?

Gorilla trekking can be conducted all year around in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. The best time to go gorilla trekking in during the months of June, July, August, September and December. This is because there are less rains and the parks are drier, making it simple to hike and see the gorillas .In Bwindi the average temperature throughout the year is 11°C/52°F in the morning and 23°C/73°F in the afternoon.

  • January and February: Low season offering less huge crowds. Very little or on rain.
  • March, April and May: Its rains a lot during these months. Most challenging during the trek, the slopes are slippery.
  • June, July & August: Peak season, its important to buy your permits early since they run out. Best time for gorilla safari in Uganda and Rwanda.

Which Company Should I Use For Gorilla Trekking ?

Best Gorilla Trekking Companies in Uganda
1. Insight Safari Holidays
2. Wild Whispers Africa
3. Kori Safaris
There are so many gorilla safari tour operators in Uganda and Rwanda. How to choose a tour company will depend on various factors including price, availability of gorilla permits, online reviews and recommendations on various websites.

bwindi gorilla trek

Where To Stay ?

Choosing the best safari lodge or accommodation will depend on how much you can afford. Some lodges charge as high as, $2500 while the budget ones can pocket as low as $ 50 for a double room. Its all about the facilities, location, food, services and so much more.

Average Cost of Hotels & Lodges

  • $50 to 100 for budget accommodation
  • $150 to $200 for midrange
  • Luxury from $300 to $2500 per night.
  • book close to the tracking point, ask your tour operator.

Best 5 Gorilla Safari Lodges in Uganda

  1. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, from $760
  2. Gorilla Height Lodge from $ 700
  3. Mahogany Springs from $ 240
  4. Gorilla Safari Lodge from $ 233
  5. Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge from $ 173
    See our list of safari lodges here >>

How much does a Gorilla Safari Cost?

  • 1 day Gorilla Trekking Uganda Costs about $1100

  • 2 Days Gorilla Safari Costs about $ 1280

  • 3 day Gorilla Tour Costs about $ 1450

Of course, various tour operators will give you quotes, roughly the cheapest gorilla safari should have a price of about $ 1100 of course depending on the number of people. The super luxury should be cost you between $ 4000 to $ 6000 per person. Based on reviews of most gorilla tour operators in Uganda, most tourists prefer the mid-range, not so budget, but affordable.  Booking your safari during the low season should get those costs lowered! In Case you are not interested in Uganda, Click here for Rwanda Gorilla Trekking or Congo Gorilla safaris, otherwise, proceed with the rest of the article.

You may wonder why gorilla trekking is expensive and whether it is worth the money. Here is the breakdown.
A Gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $ 700 and 75% of the money raised is to conserve the gorilla surviving population. The government pockets 15% while 10% is meant for the local communities around the parks. As you purchase the permit, note that the cost includes park entrance fees, gorilla watching for an hour, advance trackers and ranger fees.

Other Trekking Costs To Consider

Cost Of Food
Food and Drinks about $50 per day. Most Tour Operators include meals and soft drinks.

Transport Costs
Air ticket from your country should cost $ 500 to $ 2400.
Chartered flights from airport to close to gorilla trekking points, $ 600.
Hiring a car should cost you about $80 per day.

Cost of Items For Packing
insect repellents, sunscreen and more.

Visa and Border Crossing
East African tourist visa costs $100, which can take you on safaris in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.

Cost of Porters
$ 20 dollars, and  $500 to hire a Sedan chair for porters to carry you.

Tips On Cutting Costs

  • Do not travel alone.
  • Stay in best budget lodges.
  • Choose Uganda over Rwanda.
  • Avoid public transport buses do not leave on time.
  • Avoid chartered flights.
  • Book Your gorilla tour during low season.

 

gorilla tracking experience

 

What Country Provides the Best Option for Seeing The Mountain Gorillas ?  Comparing Uganda vs Rwanda

This is quite a tricky question since they are all mountain gorillas living in the forests! Almost same environment. Comparing Uganda to Rwanda is not a good idea since Uganda has more wildlife than Rwanda. Besides the mountain gorillas, you can visit Murchison Falls, or see other primates in Kibale Forest National Park. If its about the cost, please note that, Gorilla permits within Rwanda were recently increased up to $1500 per individual and then in Uganda they go each for USD 700 as of 2020 and beyond.

The permit offers you one hour with the mountain gorillas in a group of 8 people. In case you are threatened by the price look at it in this point of view that you are contributing to the conservation of mountain gorillas and as a form of thank you, you will be rewarded with an hour in the midst observing and enjoying their company.

Keep in mind that just 80 people are allowed to see the gorillas in their natural habitat each day. Because their habitat is very fragile, every time you walk in this forest you leave a footprint. Conclusion, Uganda is the best place to see gorillas.

 Where Can I See Gorillas in Africa?

You can see gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. However, note that gorillas are mainly divided into the mountain and the lowland with a couple of other sub-species in that. We suggest Rwanda, Uganda for views of the mountain gorillas and the Republic of Congo for the lowland gorillas. It is also possible to find mountain gorillas within the DR of Congo however due to the instabilities within the country, it has been challenging in some areas.

Some tourists think that you can find gorillas even where you opt for safaris in Tanzania ! This is wrong. However Tanzania and Kenya can be a great addition to your safari tour especially during the great wildebeest migration where herds of animals cross the Mara river into the Serengeti plains! On google, you find searches as Kenya gorilla trekking. There are no gorillas in Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa. These are multi destination safaris which we always encourage you to visit especially in East Africa.

Generally, the lowland gorillas are smaller and have brownish-gray far coats and a distinct brow ridge, whereas the mountain gorillas are larger with darker black coats. The Mountain gorillas are the most uncommon primates in the entire world with less than 800 surviving in the African wilderness. on the contrary there are more than 100,000 lowland gorillas just in the Republic of Congo.

Where to Go For Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Uganda has 2 sections for gorilla safaris namely, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In total there are 18 gorilla groups or families and you can only track only one group a day.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has 17 gorilla group making it the best place or park where you can see the gorillas in the wild. Bwindi an ancient forest has 90 mammal species, 11 primates including the black and white colobus monkey.

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Groups

  • Ruhija Trek : with gorilla families, Mukiza, Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguliro
  • Buhoma Trek: Habinyanja, Katwe, Mubare, Rushegura
  • Nkuringo Trek: Christmas, Nkuringo, Bushaho
  • Rushaga Trek: Kutu, Bikingi, Mishaya, Bushigye, Kahungye, Rwigi, Bweza, Nshongi, Mucunguzi

Mgahinga Gorilla Family
In Mgahinga Park, you can track the Nyakagezi group which is surrounded by the Slopes of Virunga Volcanoes, Mt. Muhavura(4,127m) Mt Gahinga (3474m) Mt. Sabinyo(3645m),

Packing List For Gorilla Tours in Africa

  • Waterproof hiking boots.
  • Day pack.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Light weight rain jacket.
  • Poncho
  • Camera.
  • Binoculars,
  • Bottled water
  • Boots: hiking boots,
  • Gloves, old pair of gardening gloves
  • Long pants or trousers
  • Energy snacks.

How Difficult is Gorilla Trekking?

Gorilla Trekking has a numerical rating of 50 to 100
Difficult Rating: Moderate Hike

There are many factors that influence the gorilla trekking difficulty and the commonest is your physical fitness. Others include weather conditions and your pack weight. It is possible to ask for a gorilla group that will march your fitness levels. A porter is important, Gorilla Trekking is not very hard, some people in their 60’s and 70’s have done it.

So how strenuous is the hike? To begin with 60% of Bwindi Forest National park has an elevation of over 6,600ft. Elevation of the entire park is from 3,904 to 8,553 ft. It has steep slopes in some areas. The experience takes between 2 to 6 hours depending on the gorilla family.

Gorilla Tracking Rules For Post Covid Visitors

With these apes sharing 98% of our genes, its possible that gorillas can get corona virus. Gorillas can catch flu and other airborne diseases making Covid 19 a big threat to the survival of the gorillas.

  • Observe a distance of 7 meters away from the gorillas.
  • Age limit of 15 years or more stands.
  • You are allowed only 1 hour to see the gorillas
  • Wearing of masks is important
  • Avoid sneezing.
  • Sanitize and observe other SOP guidelines.

What To Expect on A Gorilla Safari

On the day of your trek, expect to leave your comfortable bed early enough, am move to the briefing point by 7:30am. After briefing, tourists will be allocated different tracking routes, each 8 tourists. Head to the forest accompanied by guides and rangers as you begin you search for gorillas.

In the forest, you may see monkey species, butterfly species, mammals and so much more. Sometimes the forest is challenging and a good level of fitness will be required. At the end of the day, expect to be muddy and sweaty.

Once you see the gorillas, its okay to take photos with your camera or iPhone but avoid flash or else the gorillas might charge. You will spend between 40 minutes and 1 hour in company of these gentle giants. It will be such a life changing experience. After the trek, head back to you accommodation or opt for a cultural village experience of the Batwa pygmies.

Other Primate Safaris In Africa

Besides the mountain gorillas, you can track the Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest National Park or the golden monkey in Chimpanzee trekking, golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and a number of other monkey species in Uganda.
After your gorilla safari, you can visit the tree climbing lions of Ishasha, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and PianUpe Reserve for the very best of wildlife safaris in Uganda.

How About The Gorilla Habituation Experience?

Gorilla habituation is the training of wild gorillas to get used to humankind. Gorillas are trained by researchers and park rangers for a period of 3 years. Its during the training that that you can join the group of researchers and park rangers. Only 4 visitors are allowed. This makes it special. The cost of gorilla habituation is $1500 per person per day. The most exciting reality about this experience is that you actively engage in the gorilla habituation!

 

How To Get A Gorilla Trekking Permit in Uganda

Within Uganda, Gorilla trekking is conducted in Bwindi National Park or in Mgahinga National Park. But because of the inconsistency of gorillas in Mgahinga, majority of the sold permits are for Bwindi NP. In Uganda, every gorilla permit goes for US $ 700. In the past years, April, May and November used to cost US $ 450.Please note that these offers no longer exist. On a single day, nearly 72 people travel into Bwindi to see gorillas and only 8 people are allowed to see  a gorilla family. We strongly encourage you to book your gorilla permit with a safari agent, the most prominent mistake is to book a gorilla family which is far away from your choice of accommodation! The routes to Bwindi and its various regions are often tricky; this is a remote area. If you would like to do the gorilla trek on your own so as to save costs, you might end up incurring more. Safari guides have been trained to help you with this.

Gorilla Permit Price

  • Uganda gorilla permit costs $ 700 (1 Hour with the gorillas)
  • Uganda Gorilla Habituation Permit Costs $1500 ( A full Day Experience)
  • Rwanda gorilla permit Costs $ 1500
  • Congo Gorilla Trekking Permit Costs $ 400
  • East African Citizen ,pay 250,000 shillings for the permit

Several travelers intending to trek gorillas have found this process  tiring and they have opted to the quicker less tiring option of reserving their trekking permits through a local Uganda safari operator. These tour operators normally add an extra fee of US$60 to US$100 for each permit. These gorilla tour companies won’t charge you for purchasing a gorilla permit in case you are going to use their other tour services such as transfers however if you simply want only a permit from them then they will put an extra charge of up to US$100 per gorilla permit they book, since they need to make calls, pick the permit, deliver it to you and other administrative costs.

The process is more like the above, although the tour agencies normally speed up the reservation so you will be able to confirm your gorilla permit faster.

  • You inform them of the dates for your tour to Uganda and specify the date for trekking the gorillas
  • They will inform you if your preferred dates are available for trekking and also temporarily book them.
  • They will send you our bank details so that  you can transfer the money for the gorilla permits or even pay by credit card.
  • They will send you an acknowledgement email for the money transfer. Please remember to instruct your bank to deduct the bank charges for the transaction from your account. they don’t ask for any extra money for the gorilla permit if you are reserving the rest of your tour through them. Any additional costs will be for services like telephony and transport that will be incurred when acquiring the permit.
  • You will send a copy of your passport availing the details which will be used to register for your permit. Normally they need just your full names, nationality and the passport number
  • Your names will be registered and then we acquire the gorilla permit. On receiving the payment they will buy the gorilla permit but then having this permit doesn’t 100% guarantee you seeing the gorillas although chances of seeing them are about 98%

mountain gorilla figure

Important to note is that tour operators in Uganda through their joint organization of AUTO normally buy as much as 80% of the permits for a time of up to two years to the intended date of trekking the gorillas. Each of the member agencies can buy as many as 20 permits in a single month. However individuals as well as those not under the AUTO umbrella can buy at most two gorilla permits every month three months before the intended month of the gorilla trekking when the reservations open on the very-first working days from Monday to Friday of that month. Permits that aren’t sold on opening of the booking days are resold the next day without any limit put on the number of permits sold by a single operator or even individual person.

 What To Wear ?  Choosing the right Clothing

Gorilla Trekking gear guide, Good quality walking boots if trying any hikes or even climbs, warm layers of cloth for the cold evenings and clothing for wet weather remember it becomes cold and wet at this high altitude. A light weight jacket is a must. Gloves, long sleeved shirts, trousers, Knee high hiking gaiters are important. You need to find the best hiking boots for gorilla trekking. More on Safari clothing wear on an African safari as well as the best camera and binoculars to use on an African safari.

Background Information on Mountain Gorilla in Uganda –Behavior, History, Facts of Mountain Gorillas, Predators, Habitat plus Diet

The endangered impressive Mountain Gorillas in Uganda don’t live in any zoo across the planet since they cannot survive in detention and thus there aren’t any known mountain gorillas surviving within zoos. These can only be found and seen in Africa  in just three countries including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Most tour companies such as Gorilla Holidays Uganda do arrange packages to all of these destinations. There are approximately 786 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world with approximately half of them staying in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest plus the Mgahinga Gorilla Park within Uganda found in East Africa.

When you talk about Gorillas imaginative thoughts cross anyone’s mind; with thoughts of Tarzan movies and King Kong. Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda weren’t known about by the western world until 1902.  Rwanda then a German colony, Captain von Berenge was mountaineering Mount Sabinyo on the side of Rwanda together with his friends and at 9300 foot-level where they camped, they spotted a group of Mountain Gorillas and there he shot 2 of them although managed to retrieve just one.  The victim was a young-male approximately five years of age, not too big at 220 pounds, however larger than all apes the Germans had ever seen.  The Bones plus skin were later forwarded to Berlin and there it was acknowledged as a mountain gorilla.

Nobody had imagined that gorillas could stay in a high and colder environment than West -Africa.  The news of gorillas attracted hunters to the region, especially within Congo and there several Mountain Gorillas where shot and others captured.  Actually Prince Wilhelm from Sweden shot fourteen mountain gorillas in an expedition within this region done from 1920 to 1921.

The Belgians launched a Mountain Gorilla preservation’s program and later followed the English who did it in Uganda.  Within Uganda for several years no one was allowed to receive visitors to see these Mountain Gorillas.  Within Kisoro, Walter Baumgärtel was offered permission to establish visits for tourists to his beautiful Traveller’s Rest Inn, a facility where up to date you can stay within Uganda.  Baumgärtel wrote an interesting Book “Up among the Mountain Gorillas” which actually is about his personal encounters with the tranquil giant apes in southern Uganda.  It is a great book with reference to a man, the attractiveness of the Uganda’s countryside and an inn, and generally about the fascinating Mountain Gorillas and Uganda gorilla safari.  Actually Dian Fossey lived there on a frequent basis similar to George Schaller a many other renowned personalities.

bwindi water, gorilla trekking

The majority of Gorillas which you may have seen in a zoo are the lowlands gorillas of western Africa, and the mountain gorillas are actually a subspecies known as Gorilla beringei beringei.    These can only be found  in the wilderness of the Virunga highlands of Rwanda within Volcano Park. Visit Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park as well as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These parks are found only 48 km from each other.  Within Uganda as well as Rwanda these parks can be accessed easily, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the rebel activities that happened, there was a probable threat to the lives of visitors.

There are more than seven hundred and eighty six mountain gorillas in the whole world.  Uganda hold close to half of their total population, and the majority of them live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, whereas the others are found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park, however these at times cross over to Rwanda.  Fortunately the Gorillas are growing in numbers because of the protection they are offered from the government of Uganda which also included efforts of the adjacent communities to the parks to whom part of the USD 600 fee of Gorilla tracking permits charged from foreign visitors to Mgahinga as well as Bwindi is offered.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking, How do Gorillas look like ?

Usually The Males are two times the size of the females, they may grow to 6 ft tall and even weigh 350 -500 pounds.  These are strong, with long arms and muscular.  The males are referred to as the silverback because as they mature the hair on their back turns somewhat silver, hence the name Silverbacks.  The strength of the males is ten times stronger compared to the strongest boxer, even taking steroids.  The arms of silverbacks can stretch to 7 feet.

Mountain Gorillas possess longer plus darker hair compared to their lowland counterparts because they stay in colder climates and higher altitudes.  Their life span is between 40 and 50 years. The mountain gorillas mainly stay on the ground although they will climb a tree occasionally given that it can support them, however just like children, their young play in the trees. A fascinating fact is that Gorillas plus Humans are share 98% of their genetic composition.

How Do Mountain Gorillas Feed ?

Uganda has two places where these Mountain Gorillas may be seen, one is Mgahinga Gorilla Park; a stunning park and a component of the Virunga chain of towering volcanoes that extend into the DRC and Rwanda, and then in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest supports the hugest Population of Mountain Gorilla.  It is a ancient forest also called the “Place of Darkness.”  The tree cover makes it very dark within this forest.  The forest’s altitudes are between 1,160m and 2,607m above sea level. The Bwindi plus Mgahinga each possess varying characteristics as well as similarities. The Bwindi isn’t an extinct volcanic region while the Mgahinga is.

gorilla feeding

Mgahinga Gorilla Park sits on higher altitudes and the Mountain Gorillas move up and feed on some of the afro-montane vegetation.  Typically Mountain Gorillas eat large quantities of flowers, leaves, fruit, roots, bamboo and shoots in season.  The Adults can consume up to 75 pounds each day.

The day of a Mountain Gorilla starts at 6 am up to 6pm with a snooze around lunch time.  Uganda receives Light just past 6 am and darkness falls around 7pm. These move every day to different locations where they make nests using twigs plus leaves and spend their night.  Some people have found these reasonably comfortable, just enough to actually slumber in.

Are Mountain Gorillas Dangerous Species?

Visitors into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest frequently inquire if mountain gorillas are dangerous?  Although dominant and very strong, these are gentle as well as shy, and in addition the mountain gorillas which visitors see within Uganda have been habituated.  In other words they are habituated to people, which process that takes close to 2 years.  Dian Fossey actually was against the idea of visiting mountain gorillas which is done today, however it’s the money collected that survival of this endangered species, and seen their number increase over the recent years.

While mountain gorillas are threatened they do attack so as to protect their very own.  When different Mountain Gorilla groups meet, there is a fight between the leader Silver backs to death.  Recently 2 Silver backs fought within Democratic Republic of Congo and the rangers had to intervene.

Mountain gorillas exist in groups which differ in size from 2 – 30 or 40, however commonly in groups of 10.  There is no specific mating season while babies are born through the year.  The Males begin breeding at around 15 years while the females start giving birth between 10 and 12 years.  Females can give birth after every 2 to 3 years giving birth to 4 – 6 offspring through their lifetime.  Males leave their group at about 11 years of age, while a little over half of the females will leave their group.  Mountain gorillas communicate through sounds like roars, grunts and shouts, and 25 sounds currently have been documented by researchers.

clouds lodge bwindi

Mountain Gorilla Predators:

The supreme threat to the Mountain Gorillas is human encroachment for settlement around them.  previously there was a slash as well as burn mentality however, through an educational program by the Uganda Wildlife Authority plus cash motivation to the community through the tourism industry that the gorillas within Uganda are today no longer as threatened by various poachers as it was in the DRC. Additionally they are threatened by various diseases transmitted by human visitors into the park, and for that reason the Uganda Wildlife Authority has set up strict rules to prevent spreading of such diseases.

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