Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Uganda offers the highest number of gorilla families (20) that can be tracked in the wild, with 19 habituated in Bwindi and 1 family in Mgahinga. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is one of the most exciting wildlife activities you can partake in. To get up close to one of our closest living relatives in their own environment is truly unique, so much so that going on safari in Uganda has featured in numerous travel publications over the last few years as a "must see destination" on account of its Wildlife, Culture and Scenery:
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is made even more incredible due to the fact that there are only 3 places in the world where it can be done, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and the gorilla's natural habitat is very limited.
Gorilla Trekking Conservation Information
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has 4 sectors with each having its headquarters you can see the different sectors and Gorillas families within each sector below. After a briefing with the Uganda Wildlife Authority guides you will be assigned a Gorilla Family to track and you Gorilla Trekking adventure will begin. An advance party of guides will have gone ahead into the forest to locate where the gorillas slept the previous night and will have began to track their movements. These guides will communicate with your team via a walkie-talkie and the trek into the forest will begin.
Gorillas Trekking itself can take anywhere from a few hours or the whole day depending on how far the gorillas have moved from the place they spent the previous night. For conservation purposes, the time allowed with the Gorillas is 1 hour. There are also a multitude of other animals that you might encounter including antelopes and rare monkeys not to mention the beauty of the forest itself. Once you have completed Gorilla Trekking you will return to the lodge, for a well earned rest and time to reflect on a truly magical experience.
Gorilla habituation is the process that is undertaken to enable wild mountain gorillas to be able to be visited and observed by tourists. All gorilla groups that are tracked have gone through the habituation process. The mountain gorilla habituation experience for tourists was introduced in 2016, is a pilot program by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. The gorilla habituation experience gives tourists a more immersive experience with the gorillas and more of an insight into gorilla behaviour as you spend more time with gorillas than if you were doing the ordinary gorilla trek.
Trekking groups are limited to no more than 4 trekkers that join the rangers and researchers for a maximum of 4hours; the experience only starts once the group arrives at the spot where the gorillas nested the night before. The UWA rangers do an in-depth inspection of the nests and the paths taken by the gorillas for clues that will help them to better understand the gorillas, and even mimic gorilla sounds to alert them of their presence. The full purpose of the habituation process is to keep within the eyesight of the gorillas at all times, so it can be a gruelling expedition battling through the jungle keeping up with them as they forage for food.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
1 - Follow the Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers instructions at all times
2 - Each gorilla family is only allowed to have a maximum of eight visitors per day.
3 - Visitors have to be a min of fifteen years old
4 - Once located visitors are only allowed 1 hour with the mountain gorillas
5 - Maintain a seven meter gap between yourself and the mountain gorillas at all times.
6 - Do not touch the mountain gorillas
7 - Flash photography is prohibited
8 - Do not touch the mountain gorillas
9 - Flash photography is prohibited
10 - Don’t look directly in to the mountain gorillas eyes
11 - Keep your voices down whilst in the vicinity of the mountain gorillas
12 - If you need to cough or sneeze do so into a tissue or handkerchief having turned away from the mountain gorillas
13 - If you need the loo / toilet during the trek please ask the UWA Ranger for instructions and follow them
14 - Do not throw litter whilst in the park
Gorilla Families in Bwindi
There are 4 Sectors of Bwindi. 2 in the North ( Buhoma and Ruhija ) and two in the south ( Nkuringo and Rushaga ). You cannot drive from north to south or vice versa, but you are able to drive from east to west or vice versa. Kihihi Airstrip serves the North and Kisoro Airstrip serves the south. This means that if you choose a lodge in the north you can’t visit a gorilla family in the south and if you choose a lodge in the south you can’t visit a gorilla gamily in the north.
What to wear Gorilla Trekking
1. Shirts made of a material that dries quickly or wick away moisture.
2. A fleece layer for when you stop for a rest just in case you begin to cool down and for evenings as it can get quite chilly in Bwindi.
3. A third rain layer just in case rains. (a cheap poncho will do)
4. Long pants, also made of a synthetic material. The length of the pants are important as this will help with the combat stinging nettle plants and red ants.
5. Waterproof pants to wear on top of regular pants is optional
6. Boots that fit above the ankle are crucial as you might encounter ankle-deep mud at certain points, and even knee-deep mud that will attempt to suck the boots right off your feet!
7. Gaiters (are garments worn over the shoe and lower pants leg. They are worn over your boots that go up to the knee). These are optional and are based on personal preference as well as the type of boots and trousers you choose to wear.
8. Smart Wool socks
9. All clothing should be neutral coloured, loose-fitting and relaxed clothing.
10. Sunscreen and moisturising cream 11. Sunglasses with neck strap
12. Insect repellent with DEET, please note that DEET can affect man-made fibres and plastics.
13. Daypack / small rucksack
14. Bush hat with a brim for sun protection
15. Binoculars – Optional
The Dry season from mid-December – February and June – September is ideal because navigation through the thick vegetation that lines the steep slopes of Mgahinga and Bwindi is much easier.
Gorilla trekking can also be done in the wet season from March-May and October – mid-December but the journey is significantly harder and requires stronger resolve on the part of the trekkers.
Of course, the beautiful Ugandan weather dictates how it goes in the end, so it is not uncommon at all for heavy rain to fall on occasion, even in the dry season.
Only 160 permits in Bwindi each day, for a maximum of 8 trekkers per gorilla family
Trekking and Habituation Experience permits must be booked well in advance through a registered safari operator
To protect the gorillas, trekkers that are ill are not permitted on these experiences
Permits are not issued to anyone below 16yrs