Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of the top safari activities one can get to do or take part in where travelers get to trek the endangered primate species. Uganda as one of the three countries in the world with mountain gorilla habitats provides its visitors with this memorable mountain gorilla trekking experience in two habitats, thus Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
The two parks have a combined total of over 400 mountain gorillas living in these separate habitats which make Uganda a home to over half of the world’s total population of mountain gorillas. Bwindi National Park currently has 19 habituated mountain gorilla families available for mountain gorilla trekking activities and Mgahinga National Park currently has one habituated mountain gorilla family available for gorilla trekking activities; though as of 2019 the park is home to the Hirwa family from Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. In 2019 Rwanda’s Hirwa mountain gorilla family migrated from to Mgahinga National Park is currently staying in the park with other Mgahinga family.
Bwindi National Park is located in south western Uganda and is mainly known for its unique biodiverse impenetrable rain forest and the huge number of mountain gorillas that stay in the forest. The forest has some steep trails so one needs to have some minimal physical fitness before they take on a trekking experience in the impenetrable forest. Bwindi National park is 8 to 9 hours from Uganda’s capital Kampala and 4 to 5 hours from Rwanda’s capital Kigali. The park can be accessed easily by road though there are options of flying to the park, from Uganda’s Entebbe International airport.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda in Bwindi National Park is done in four sectors thus Buhoma in the north, Ruhija in the east, Nkuringo, and Rushaga in the south. The mountain gorilla families that are trekked in Bwindi National park are:-
Mgahinga National Park is located in south western Uganda and is part of the virunga massif that cuts across DRC and Rwanda. The park consists of three distinct volcanoes that is Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m) and Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m). The park also has a thick rain forest with a variety of tree species that create the perfect habitat for the mountain gorillas. Mgahinga National park is also known as one of the habitats with plenty of food for the mountain gorillas; perhaps it’s one of the reasons gorillas from Rwanda and DRC normally migrate to the park.
The park is about 3 to 4 hours from Bwindi National park, 3 to 4 hours from Rwanda’s Kigali city and 8 to 10 hours from Uganda’s capital Kampala. The only habituated mountain gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park is the Nyakagezi gorilla group; this group can trek by visitors all year round. Though Rwanda’s Hirwa gorilla family now lives in the park, it’s not yet clear whether it can be trekked there or not.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is done all year round in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National park and trekking activities are normally at the peak in the dry seasons that’s in December to February and June to July because the mountain trails are a bit drier and easier to trek in the dry season compared to the wet season.
For a mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda, one needs to acquire a mountain gorilla trekking permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority and this permit is acquired at least 3 months in advance; most tourists opt to use a tour operator to acquire their permits, which is much easier because the tour operators are on the ground.
Mountain gorilla trekking permits in Uganda currently 600 USD but will cost 700 USD in July 2020. This permit allows you to access the trekking trails in a group of 8 and gives you one hour with the mountain gorillas.
The Uganda mountain trails in both Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National park are a bit steep though they can be trekked by even first-timers; travellers are advised to have some physical fitness before they embark on the trekking experience. Travellers are also urged to have the right trekking gear that includes but not limited to:-
- hiking shoes or boots (preferably waterproof)
- long sleeves clothes (moderately thick)
- trekking or walking stick
- insect repellents
- hat and rain jacket
- water bottle with water
- And other things that you dim necessary for the trek.
On the day of your trek, you will be assigned a ranger at the briefing point before you enter the forest. The ranger will lead you through the trails of the forest until you find the endangered gorillas. You will spend one hour with the gorillas and then after your ranger will lead you out of the forest. The whole experience normally starts at 7:30 am and takes about 6 to 7 hours or more in some sectors because the gorillas keep moving deeper into the forest so your trekking experience may take longer than expected, its wise to plan for a whole day experience.
All the guidelines on the dos and don’ts of the trekking experience are communicated to you at the briefing session and by your tour operator plus your assigned ranger will guide you on the trek to help you observe all these gorilla trekking guidelines; which are very important for the continued conservation of these endangered species and for your safety in the forest. The guidelines include:-
- Always keep a 7-meter distance between you and the mountain gorillas
- Stay in your trekking group when in the forest
- Follow the ranger’s instructions
- Avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas
- Don’t use flashes while taking pictures
- You must be 15 years and above to take part in the trekking experience
- Don’t irritate the gorillas by doing anything that may cause them to cause at you
- Don’t trek while you are ill
- Don’t cough or sneeze directly in the gorillas always cover your mouth or nose when you need to do so
- Adhere to the one-hour time cap you have with the mountain gorillas.
On your visit to either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park, there are several accommodation facilities that are well-vanished and equipped to meet all you’re sleeping and feeding needs on your trekking safari. The accommodation facility prices range from budget, midrange, and luxury.