Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

trek to see gorillas in uganda

Gorilla trekking is arguably the best wildlife adventure the African continent has got to offer! It involves trekking through the dense mountain forest, on grounds never walked on before, to access and view a habituated family of Mountain Gorillas. The awe-inspiring African jungle experience and time spent with these massive but gentle apes is a remarkably thrilling adventure that shall forever stay in your memory.

Uganda is one of the few destinations home to the Mountain Gorillas, hosting more than half of the 800 or so individuals left in the world. These are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The other Mountain Gorillas are found in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Up to 14 Mountain Gorilla groups have been habituated in Uganda for the gorilla trekking adventures. Habituation is the process of making the wild Mountain Gorillas accustomed to human presence. It involves continuous visits from humans (trained rangers and trackers) until they realize that humans pose no threat, at which point they will not flee or charge at them. This process takes up to three years to fully habituate one Gorilla group. 13 habituated groups are in Bwindi which makes it the favorite for the gorilla trekking tours. One group is in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park but this often crosses the border into Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. It is advisable to check for its availability on the Uganda side before booking to track it.

To protect the Mountain Gorillas and their habitat from the negative impact of the Gorilla tourism a set of regulations have been put into place, including: a group of tourists should NOT exceed 8 individuals that track a family of Mountain Gorillas in a single day. Plus, only one hour is allowed to be with the Gorillas.

A Gorilla Permit goes for USD600 (six hundred US dollars). It could seem expensive but this money goes into conservation efforts and fighting poaching in the parks. A percentage is also channeled into developing the local communities around the Gorilla parks.

Note, given that only 8 travelers can track a single Gorilla family in a day, and the high demand for Gorilla trek expeditions, the Gorilla permits get sold out way in advance. You are highly advised to book for your permit or gorilla safari way in advance, at least 4 months advance, especially if you plan to travel during the peak season (June, July, August).

The age limit for Gorilla trekking in Uganda is 16 years

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Gorilla trekking in Uganda

The best time to do the Gorilla trek in Uganda:

The Gorillas can be seen all year round, but the less wet months of June, July and August, December, January, and February, offer favorable trekking conditions.

How long is the trek to see the Gorillas in Uganda?

The different Gorilla families live in different areas and at different altitudes. Trekking will vary from a few minutes, say 30 to several hours or even a full day. It can not be predicted therefore given that the Gorillas move from place to place everyday.

How tough is the trek to find the Gorillas and what level of physical fitness is required?

The toughness really depends on the location of the Gorillas that you are tracking. Some groups live just at the edge of the park, while others live in the interior and some at the top of the highlands. Tracking takes place at altitude of 2,600 meters and more, hence you require moderate to average fitness. Advance trackers are sent out into the park to find the location of the different Gorilla groups basing on the knowledge of where they slept the previous day. The trackers then relay information to the park rangers. Therefore during allocation of the Gorilla groups to the travelers, closer groups are given to the elderly travelers while the youthful and more physically sound travelers are allocated to the distant groups. The trek is also conducted at a slow pace dictated by the last travelers. Competitive hiking is therefore discouraged! Also you are advised to take advantage of the porters who carry your backpack and offer that push or pull at the challenging spots.

What type of temperatures will I be hiking in?

Temperatures range from 7 to 18 degrees Celsius (44 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit).

What should I bring?

  • Rain jacket/coat
  • Thick trousers and long sleeved shirts
  • Warm jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Hiking shoes

 Other tips

When you encounter the Mountain Gorillas, take note of the following:

  • Keep your distance about 7 meters, and remember the Gorillas have freedom of way
  • Always be submissive
  • When the Gorillas approach you do not look them straight in the face, but rather a sideways glance
  • Do not stand over them, instead crouch and stay in a tight group
  • Do not speak loudly, rather in whispers.
  • Do no provoke the Gorillas in anyway, however calm and gentle they may be they are still wild
  • Do not entice them to get into contact with you in any way
  • Do not eat in the vicinity of the Gorillas
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