How to dress for your gorilla trekking

One of the most asked questions by tourists planning for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or gorilla trekking in Uganda is how they will need to dress up or what to wear on the day of the trek? For experienced trekkers this is not much of a challenge to figure the suitable clothing for the outdoors, but for many that will have the gorilla trek presenting a rare opportunity they trek in the jungle, picking the right outfit is something they think critically about.

Below I discuss how you should dress up for a comfortable and safe trek in the gorilla mountains in Uganda and Rwanda.

Sleeved shirt – lightweight breathable

A shirt with long sleeves is essential to protect your arms from insect bites and being pricked by thorny or rough plants. Stinging nettles are the true menace in the jungle, a slight rub off a leaf instantly puts your skin on fire. Guides will try to point out a stinging nettle for you when its seen.

You should also consider lightweight breathable material to keep your body cool and fresh in the heat of the trek

Long pants/trousers

Long pants like long sleeves will help protect your legs from scratches and insects constantly trying to climb up your legs. The long pants also protect from mud and dust depending on the weather conditions.

Neutral colors (khaki) – nature blending colors

Choose neutral or nature blending colors. Bright colors such as red are easily noticed by wildlife especially birds that will flee. Meanwhile insects are attracted to dark colors so you will end up having to constantly be wading off insects hovering all around you causing great inconvenience.

Colors green and brown are the best.

Khaki is almost a standard for the safari.

Hiking shoes

Many that have attempted to trek the gorillas while putting on crocs, heels, slippers, office shoes have had a miserable experience. You need trekking/hiking shoes with good traction to keep you from slipping as you trek on uneven ground that can get very slippery in case of rain. Mid-cut to high-cut would be the ideal especially for the inexperienced to protect your ankles.

Your sneakers may be just fine if you are used to using them for trekking.

Gaiters or long socks

Gaiters will protect your pants from dirt and keep away insects from crawling under your pants. If you can’t get gaiters carry long socks that you can tuck your pants in.

Hat/cap or hood

A hat or cap is essential to protect your head from small particles. It also provides shade over your face. A hood would also be help if a hat is unavailable.

Rain jacket

This is very essential if you will be trekking during the rainy season (March to May & Oct to Dec), but it is also not unusual to experience sporadic rains even during the dry season. You are trekking in a rainforest on a highland so expect rain any time and have a rain jacket on you.

Garden gloves

Not so essential but useful to protect your hands as at some point you will push tree branches and shrubs out of your way using your hands. They also keep you warm in the chilly mountain forest.

Where to see chimpanzees in Uganda

With a big population of chimps in Uganda and having many places to see them, the country by far offers the best opportunities to see and learn about chimps our closest relatives. You can see chimps within ten minutes of leaving the Entebbe International airport at a sanctuary, or you can travel towards the far ends of the country and embed with a community of chimps in the pristine jungles on a chimpanzee trekking tour. Whatever your trip itinerary to Uganda is and the kind of chimp experience you want, it is easy to include a visit to see chimps in Uganda.

There are also opportunities for kids to see chimps and I will start off with these.

Family friendly places to see chimps with kids in Uganda

Traveling with kids? Below are family friendly places where parents with children can visit to see and learn about chimpanzees.

Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary

Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary is probably the best place to see and learn about chimpanzees. This forested island on Lake Victoria measuring only 100 acres is home to more than 50 chimps. The island is a project to host chimps rescued from several situations in Uganda and across the world such as from poaching, circus, bush meat trade, etc… An electric fence separates the forest from a small area where viewing takes place from behind the fence. It is exciting watching the different individuals and learning about their history and their unique abilities, and learning about the chimps’ leadership hierarchies, classes, etc… in the community which you can observe it all playing out.

Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) – behind the scenes experience

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) is nearest place to see chimps in Uganda. In addition to many other animals and wildlife the zoo has 21 chimps that you can see from behind a fence. You can also join the more interactive “behind the scenes experience” where you join caretakers during their routine feeding of the chimps & other wildlife, cleaning their enclosures, etc.…

The adventurous chimpanzee trekking (15+ years)

If you want to embed with nature and trek the rainforest to see the chimps up close with no barrier in between below are the best places to go

Budongo forest, Murchison falls national park – best chimp & big game safari experience in one place

Budongo forest is the largest forest in east Africa. Part of the forest lies within the boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park the prime destination for wildlife safaris in Uganda. This part of the Budongo forest that lies in the Murchison has a large habituated community of chimps numbering over 100 chimps. This community is so far the only one available for chimp tracking in the forest, as another group is still undergoing habituation. The chimps may be difficult to see during some time in the year when they venture beyond their known home territory at Kaniyo Pabidi after depleting the food here. However when they are at Kaniyo Pabidi this community offers by far the best chimp tracking experience in the forest in Uganda, as the community is quite large offering great views of different individual chimps, and in addition the forest is beautiful to walk in having some of the most gigantic trees in the region. The little undergrowth enables great views and photography!

If you want a great wildlife safari experience in the savannah bush and a wonderful chimp experience all in one place then a safari trip to Murchison Falls National Park with chimpanzee tracking in Budongo forest is the best option.

Kibale forest national park

Kibale National Park is touted as the primate capital of East Africa, because of the up to 13 species of primates in this jungle that include the biggest population of chimps in Uganda with more than 1500 individuals. Due to many habituated chimps available for chimpanzee tracking activities, Kibale forest national park is the most popular destination for trips exclusive for chimpanzee tracking. It also offers 100% chances of seeing the chimps. However, this popularity also means big crowds of tourists.

Kalinzu forest reserve

Kalinzu Forest reserve is small patch of forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park, another prime safari destination in Uganda. It is not popular and often overlooked for chimpanzee trekking but with a high density of chimps, more than 250 chimps, offers great chances of seeing the chimps. If you will be visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park for a big game experience and want to see chimps as well without having to overnight away from the park, this is the best place to add to your itinerary. Kalinzu Forest is located less than an hour’s drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Kyambura gorge forest

Kyamburo Gorge Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park is a unique forest located in a valley and it is famously referred to as the underground forest. The forest is home to a small population of chimps, about 60, which can be difficult to find sometimes. The trek in the Kyambura Gorge is a great addition to your safari experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park, offering a wonderful nature experience with chances of seeing several wildlife including the chimps, elephants, giant forest hog, etc…

Visiting the gorillas in Uganda coming from Rwanda (is it NOW possible)

Did you know it is easier to track gorillas in Uganda coming/starting from Rwanda? Yes, you can come through Rwanda, and the drive from the airport in the capital Kigali to the gorilla parks in Uganda is 4 – 5 hours long, compared to the 8 – 9 hours drive if you come through Uganda’s Entebbe international airport.

Save on the permit

Planning to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking tour but find the 1500USD for the gorilla permit/ticket way beyond your budget? Then you can come through Kigali city in Rwanda and drive to Uganda where the gorilla tracking is 700USD, about half of the cost in Rwanda.

Visiting Rwanda and tracking the cheaper gorillas in Uganda also frees up funds allowing you include on your tour other amazing things to in Rwanda such as chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest, safari trip to Akagera National Park, and golden monkey tracking in the volcanoes among others.

Which border crossing to use

The nearest border from Kigali is Gatuna/Katuna border which is about 2 hours’ drive. From the Gatuna/Katuna border to Bwindi National Park is about 1.5hours. This is the ideal border to cross into Uganda if you will be tracking in the Ruhija and Buhoma sectors of Bwindi (there are four gorilla sectors in total in Bwindi).

The other border crossing is the Cyanika border which is about 3 hours drive from Kigali. From Cyanika to Bwindi National park is about 1.5 hour. This is the ideal border to cross through if tracking in Rushaga and Nkuringo, the other two sectors of Bwindi National Park. Cyanika border is also the nearest border to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda’s second gorilla park. If you will be doing any activities in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park before your gorilla trip in Uganda, Cyanika is the only border to think about.

Therefore, the border crossing to use for a shorter drive depends on the sector (in the case of Bwindi) and park where you will be tracking in Uganda.

It is easy to combine trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Do you wish to combine the incredible experience of tracking gorillas both in the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda and the impenetrable Bwindi jungle of Uganda? Well, it is easy and possible by land as there is just about 1.5 hours of drive separating Rwanda’s gorilla park from Uganda’s two gorilla parks via the Cyanika border.

Borders REOPEN!!

After closed to 3 years when Rwanda closed her land borders to Uganda due to a diplomatic row, Rwanda has announced reopening the land borders on 31st January 2022.

For the last about two years trips staring from Rwanda crossing to Uganda and vice versa were put to a stop and tourists missed out on the cheaper option of tracking the gorillas in Uganda traveling a shorter distance from Kigali and also missed the chance to track the gorillas in the two beautiful countries.

Tourists can now go ahead an plan trips combining the two countries using the land borders.

Akagera national park welcomes hot air balloon safaris

Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only savannah park has added yet another safari experience – the balloon safari – and it is the first in Rwanda. The balloon safari is provided by Royal Balloon, a reputed ballooning company from Turkey.

Akagera national park is famed for her wonderful scenery that is made of varied landscapes including extensive wetland systems & lakes running along one side, lush plains, thickets & forests in the middle and rugged mountains on another side… This scenery is hard to appreciate during the road safari through the park, and so the balloon safari will do it justice as it provides aerial views of the park.

Akagera’s animal population continues to grow and after the addition of rhinos, and lions in the recent past the park promises an amazing game experience equal to the famous game reserves in the region such as the Serengeti of Tanzania, Masai Mara of Kenya and Murchison Falls Park of Uganda. In the meantime, a lot of animals in Akagera can be missed on the drive tracks. This makes the balloon safari one of the best ways to explore Akagera enabling access to the pockets not reachable by car and help one spot more wildlife, while enjoying the magical sunrise across the lakes and breathtaking landscape.

Where the balloon safari starts in Akagera and the time and duration of the balloon safaris

The balloon safari will start in the south of the park where other safaris in Akagera start from. The south is in fact the entrance of the park. Balloon takes off from Kayitaba, a 5 minutes’ drive from the entrance gate.

The balloon safari experience will start very early in the morning at 5am before the official opening time of 7am for the other safaris in the park. The early start has been made an exception for and exclusive to the balloon safari experience, this provides a wonderful opportunity to catch the elusive nocturnal wildlife.

The balloon flight lasts about 45 minutes, but entire experience takes 2 – 3 hours.

After the balloon safari you can continue with the road safari through the park, either exploring the southern game tracks or drive through to the northern Kilala plains and exit the park heading back to Kigali.

There is only one flight per day.

Only 10 slots are available, hence book early. Minimum 2 people are required for flight to take place.

Cost of the Balloon safari in Akagera National Park

Rwandan nationals: 250USD

Foreign residents: 350USD

Foreigners: 450USD

Other activities in Akagera National Park

Game drive

Boat cruise on Lake Ihema

Walk the line

Night safari

Rhino tracking

Book from our safaris to Akagera National Park and do a balloon safari

2 day safari trip to Akagera National Park

3 days Akagera tour