Gorilla trekking in Uganda

A simple guide for planning a safari adventure to see gorillas in Uganda including tailor-made gorilla safari packages.

The Gorilla Trekking Adventure

Gorilla trekking in Uganda unfolds within two extraordinary settings: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a sanctuary for nearly half the world's remaining mountain gorillas, and Mgahinga National Park, nestled within the Virunga Volcanoes shared with Rwanda and DR Congo. Both parks protect diverse ecosystems and the highest number of animal and plant species, offering breathtaking backdrops for your adventure. Bwindi, with its numerous habituated gorilla families, boasts affordability and a high chance of encountering these gentle giants.

To reach these gorilla havens, fly into Entebbe International Airport, situated near Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria. Choose a scenic 10-hour drive through Uganda's lush highlands, or opt for a short domestic flight to a nearby airstrip, placing you just a 2-hour drive from Bwindi's wonders.

Gorilla treks happen every day in four distinct sectors of Bwindi (Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo, and Rushaga), plus one sector in Mgahinga, each offering a unique gorilla trekking experience.

Gorilla permits are essential and must be booked in advance through a reputable tour operator like Valiant Safaris. After securing your permit, choose suitable accommodation near your chosen trekking sector to rest before your early morning adventure.

Your day begins with a briefing from the Park Superintendent, where you'll receive guidelines and be assigned a gorilla group based on your physical fitness. A team of expert guides and rangers will lead your group of eight deep into the rainforest. Hike through dense undergrowth, the air alive with anticipation, following the gorillas' trail. The duration of your trek is unpredictable – it may last from a few hours to a whole day – adding to the thrill of discovery.

Finally, the moment arrives. Encountering a mountain gorilla face-to-face is an awe-inspiring experience that will forever resonate within you. Cherish this precious hour, observing their interactions and recognizing our shared ancestry. Your unforgettable Ugandan gorilla adventure has just begun.

The Gorilla Permit

Securing the Uganda gorilla permit is the key to unlocking a once-in-a-lifetime experience – trekking through lush rainforests in search of majestic mountain gorillas. Permits can be obtained through reputable tour operators like Valiant Safaris, ensuring a smooth and stress-free process.

The cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda varies depending on your residency status. Foreign non-residents pay $800 per person, while foreign residents with work permits pay a slightly lower fee of $700. For African passport holders, the price drops to $500, and East African citizens benefit from the most affordable rate at UGX 300,000 (approximately $80 USD).

Remember, gorilla permits are highly sought-after, and availability can be limited. Booking well in advance, particularly during peak season (December-February and June-August), is crucial.

Partnering with a reliable tour operator guarantees assistance with securing permits, arranging transportation, and booking suitable accommodation near your chosen trekking sector.

Gorilla Trekking Guidelines

  • Stay home if you're sick: Gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses. Even a simple cold could be dangerous for them, so it's crucial to reschedule your trek if you're feeling unwell.
  • Be prepared for a challenge: Hiking trails can be steep and navigate through dense vegetation. Ensure you have a good level of fitness for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
  • Leave no trace: The gorillas' habitat is pristine. Help keep it that way by burying all human waste at least 30cm deep.
  • Give them space: Maintain at least a 10-meter distance from the gorillas. Admire them from afar to ensure their comfort and safety.
  • No snacks or drinks on the trail: Eating and drinking near the gorillas is strictly prohibited. Keep your snacks and water packed away until you're outside the gorilla habitat.
  • Be mindful of coughs and sneezes: If you need to cough or sneeze, turn away from the gorillas and cover your face to prevent spreading possible germs.
  • One hour at a time: Treasure every moment, but remember your visit with the gorillas is limited to one precious hour per day to minimize disruption to their daily lives.
  • Keep your movements calm: Avoid any sudden gestures that might startle the gorillas.
  • Respect their space: Don't attempt to touch the gorillas, even if they approach you. Maintain your distance and let them move freely.
  • Avoid flash photography: Flash can be disruptive to the gorillas. Let their natural beauty shine through in your photographs.

Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safaris

Tailor-made Uganda gorilla safaris for independent travelers

What to pack for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the right gear ensures a comfortable and memorable journey. Remember to pack strategically for your trek - a small backpack should suffice. Here's your essential checklist:

  • Clothing

    • Long-Sleeved Shirt: Choose breathable, quick-drying fabrics for protection from sun, insects, and vegetation.
    • Lightweight Sweater: Perfect for chilly mornings and evenings in the highlands.
    • Rain Jacket or Poncho: Be prepared for sudden rainforest showers.
    • Long, Durable Pants: Lightweight synthetic materials offer protection from stinging nettles and insects.
    • Sturdy Hiking Boots: Opt for shoes with good ankle support to navigate uneven terrain and potential mud.
    • Gaiters or Tall Socks: These tucked-in barriers offer additional protection from insects (optional).
    • Hiking Socks: Pack spares of moisture-wicking socks for comfort.
  • Essentials:

    • Sunscreen & Hat: Protect yourself from the strong equatorial sun.
    • Insect Repellent (DEET): Ward off rainforest insects (note that DEET can damage some fabrics).
    • Waterproof Bags: Protect valuables from unexpected rain.
    • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated with at least a liter of water.
    • Snacks: Packed lunch or high-energy snacks depending on the expected length of your trek.
  • Optional but Helpful:

    • Walking Stick: Provides stability on challenging terrain.
    • Porter: Hire a porter for extra support or to carry gear.
  • Most Important: Don't forget your gorilla permit! While your guide will have a copy, always keep yours handy.

Pro Tip: Opt for neutral-colored clothing to blend seamlessly with the natural environment.

With this list, you'll be perfectly prepared for your unforgettable Ugandan gorilla encounter!