Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the top activity done in this national park as travelers are meant to hike in search for gorillas in the thick forests. Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Uganda is one of the four natural habitats of the endangered mountain gorillas in the world. The other habitats are Mgahinga National park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DRC, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda; of all the four Bwindi National Park has the largest number of mountain gorillas with over 300 Individuals living in many families in the park’s impenetrable forest. However, as of 2019 only 19 families are habituated for mountain gorilla trekking activities in Bwindi.
Habituated mountain gorillas are gorillas that have gone through the process of getting accustomed to human beings, meaning these gorillas don’t shy away from humans and don’t violently react to human presence.
A mountain gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi National Park is one of the most thrilling adventures for any traveller and wildlife lover. The terrains of the forest are not the easiest to navigate but they give you a worthwhile experience as you move into the different zones of the forest looking for mountain gorillas.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in south western Uganda on the outer edge of the rift valley, the park that sits on an area of 331 sq kilometers consists of a hilly landscape covered by the ancient Bwindi impenetrable forest. The forest is among the most biodiverse rainforests in Africa and its home to almost half of the total number of the world’s mountain gorilla population. The forest is also a hub for unique tree and plant species as well as bird species and a couple of other primates plus a few mammals. The forest is called impenetrable because of its thickness and named Bwindi which means darkness in the local language to put emphasis on the thickness of this forest.
Bwindi forest National Park can be accessed by road, from kampala through Mbarara, Kabale or Kisoro to Bwindi, the journey takes about 8 to 9, sometimes up to 10 hours including stops and considering traffic regulations.
Alternatively, you can get to Bwindi by air, from Kajjansi airfield near Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airstrip which is one hour and about 20 mins from Bwindi forest National Park; the flight from Kajjansi to kisoro is one hour.
You can also access Bwindi forest national park from Kigali; it’s a four to 5-hour drive from Kigali to Bwindi.
Bwindi National Park has four sectors with habituated mountain gorillas that can be trekked on your safari, the sectors are Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga; each sector has habituated gorilla families and each sector is accessed differently.
Buhoma in the most trekked and the most known by the travellers. The sector is in the northwestern part of the park in Kanungu district. Ruhija is the most accessible sector of them all because of its location between the Buhoma sector which is north of the Bwindi National park and Kibale town in the south. Rushaga and Nkuringo are located in the south of the park and Nkuringo is close to Lake Edward.
For your mountain gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi National Park, you will first have to book a mountain gorilla trekking permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority in advance; 3 months prior to being precise. When you book your permit, you will be allocated a family and a sector to trek. It’s important to first confirm your permit before you book your accommodation in Bwindi because the trekking sectors are quite apart from each other, so you can’t sleep in another sector and be in time to trek in another sector.
After acquiring your gorilla trekking permit, you will then schedule your safari in connecting with the dates of your trekking. It’s important to know that the date indicated on your trekking permit, is the only day your trekking permit is valid. So you should plan your safari in such a way that the date indicated on your permit will find you in Bwindi National Park. Mountain Gorilla trekking permits currently cost 600 USD however effective July 2020, the permits will cost 700 USD.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda in Bwindi forest is restricted to persons 15 years and above; persons who are fit enough to hike the steep forest trails and persons who are not suffering from any communicable disease.
On your mountain gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi, you will expect to see: either one of the 19 habituated families in one of four sectors. The families include but not limited to:-
- Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura found in Buhoma sector
- Bitukura, Oruzogo in Ruhija sector
- Nkuringo in Nkuringo sector
- Nshongi and Mishaya in Rushaga sector
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park is done whole year-round, of course depending on availability of trekking permits; the peak seasons which are the dry seasons the permits are normally totally sold out and in the rainy seasons you can find a few permits: this is because during the rainy seasons the forest terrains are slippery making them difficult but not impossible to trek, so travellers normally prefer to trek during the dry seasons. The dry months in Bwindi are June, July, August, September, December, January and February.
On the day of your mountain gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi National Park, you will be up early; you will have a briefing at the trekking offices at 7:30 am. You will be grouped with other 7 people making you the 8th and your group of eight will be assigned a ranger who will take you all on this amazing mountain gorilla trekking experience.
The mountain gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park takes about 6 to 7 hours or more but you spend only one hour with the gorillas. What makes it that long is because the mountain gorillas are nomadic they don’t stay in one place and keep moving deeper into the forest.
Bwindi forest is home to over 300 mountain gorillas making it the habitat with the highest number of gorillas in the world, so on your trekking experience, though it may be quite long and tiring, you are assured of seeing the mountain gorillas and spending an hour interacting with them.
The mountain gorilla trekking gear you will need for your trekking experience will include but not limited to hiking boots (waterproof is best), long moderately thick (between thick and light) clothing to protect you from forest insect bites (waterproof clothes if you can), gloves (garden gloves are good), caps or hats, insect repellents and any other thing you see fit and is permitted by the authorities; also remember to have packed lunch and water for the trek.
On your mountain gorilla trekking experience, kindly follow the mountain gorilla trekking rules and regulations as communicated during the briefing session. The rules mainly ensure the conservation of the mountain gorillas and your safety on the trek.
Apart from mountain gorilla trekking Bwindi National Park also offers mountain gorilla habituation in Rushaga Sector. You can be part of the habituation experience at a permit fee of 1500 USD, however, only four people are allowed to engage in the habituation experience so you need to book your permit way in advance to secure your slot for the habituation experience.