Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is one the most popular tourism activities that tourists engage in when they visit the pearl of Africa. Uganda is one of the three countries with mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and is also home to over half the world’s population of Mountain gorillas.
The rare and endangered mountain gorillas that live in south western Uganda in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park are a delight to see by different tourists who endure the moderately tiresome treks into the mountainous forests to have a chance to see these unique gorillas.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda happens throughout the year in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Tourists that visit any of these parks have an opportunity to see mountain gorillas that are clustered in one of the 22 families distributed in both parks.
Bwindi National Park is currently home to 21 mountain gorilla families well as Mgahinga National Park is home to one mountain gorilla family. All these families in both parks have been habituated for the sake of mountain gorilla trekking activities. This means these mountain gorillas have been familiarized with the presence of humans so they are able to be in the presence of humans for a given period without attacking the humans or running away from the humans.
Mountain gorilla trekking experiences in Uganda are part of the mountain gorillas’ conservation programs by the Ugandan government to effectively conserve these endangered species, so a fee is attached to the mountain gorilla trekking experience to help fund the cause of conservation in these two parks.
For that reason a mountain gorilla trekking experience in either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National park will cost a trekker 700 USD for a mountain gorilla trekking permit. A mountain gorilla trekking permit can be purchased online from Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a certified tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris, Focus East Africa Tours and Explore Rwanda Tours.
Normally the mountain gorilla trekking permits are on a high demand so it’s advisable to purchase your mountain gorilla trekking permit at least 3 months in advance.
To aid the mountain gorilla conservation work, several rules apply when you are going for a trek in either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National park and these rules include:-
- Mountain gorilla trekking permits are not transferable
- Only persons 15 years and above are permitted to trek
- If you are ill or have any communicable disease, you are not allowed to trek
On a mountain gorilla trekking experience:-
- always maintain a 7 meter distance between you and the mountain gorilla
- don’t drink, eat or smoke in front of the gorillas
- don’t feed the gorillas
- don’t irritate the gorillas in any way
- avoid direct eye contact with the gorillas
- don’t litter the forest during the trek
- always stay with your trekking group
Among other rules.
The trekking experience in Bwindi National Park, takes you through the thick impenetrable rain forest to high altitudes deep inside the forest, where you find the rare apes. The mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park are scattered into four sectors of the park, so trekkers have a chance just to explore one of the four sectors on their trekking experience. The treks up this mountainous forest are adventurous and refreshing crowned with an hour spent in the presence of the rare and endangered mountain gorillas.
The trekking experience in Mgahinga National Park takes you up the Virunga Volcanoes midway into the bamboo forest where you find this one mountain gorilla family going on with its business. Standing midway virunga volcanoes gives you a delightfull opportunity to gaze at the virunga massif conservation area that cuts across Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
Unlike the trekking trails in Volcanoes National Park that are more easier to trek, the trekking trails in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National are quite cumbersome to trek and since the gorillas in these parks live in high altitudes, you will need to prepare according for your trekking experience.
You will need to carry plenty of water to refresh, trek at favourable pace for your body and health, and have trekking breaks to catch your breath as you climb up among other things. Sometimes you may need help, it’s advisable to hire a porter to help you will your luggage on the trek; porters are always available at the starting point of the trek.
On a typical trekking whether you are in Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park, you will be up early have breakfast at your accommodation. It’s important to note that you have to spend the night before the trek in the part of the park you are trekking in.
After breakfast at your accommodation you will then head to the park headquarters where you will receive a briefing for the trekking experience and then head into the forest in a group of 8 led by the trekking ranger.
The entire trekking experience will take between 6 to 8 hours depending on which family you are trekking. On the trek, you will spend one hour with the mountain gorillas and the other hours will be spend moving up and down the mountainous forest.
The best time for a mountain gorilla trekking experience in either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park is anytime of the year though many trekkers prefer the dry seasons because there is less rain in the parks and trekking trails are actually dry and ease to climb.
The preferred clothing for mountain gorilla trekking include rain coats, insect repellents, hiking boots, long sleeved clothing, caps/hats, gloves. Also remember to carry a snack and some water for your trek.