Bwindi Gorilla Trekking – Tours, Cost, & FAQs

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Uganda gorilla trekking cost

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking – Tours, Cost, & FAQs

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Trekking Bwindi takes you into the heart of a rainforest and face-to-face with humankind’s distant relatives.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the number one destination for trekking gorillas in Uganda. Most people visit Uganda, specifically, to see the rare mountain gorillas and Bwindi Forest is the most accessible place to do so.

Within this “Impenetrable Forest”, 22 habituated, and several semi-habituated gorilla families roam. This pristine rainforest has 4 different t sectors, acting as different destinations from which you can trek gorillas. Bwindi Gorilla trekking tour is hard work, but the rewards are immense.

Your tour will matter in not only creating treasurable memories, but also in the contribution it will make to the conservation of the highly endangered mountain gorillas and keeping the surrounding landscape pristine and protected.

Silverback Mountain Gorilla, Bwindi Gorilla trekking
Silverback Mountain Gorilla, Bwindi Gorilla trekking

About Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is composed of square kilometers of both montane and lowland rainforest. Bwindi is only accessible on foot due to the improbable steepness.

It was gazetted as a National Park in 1991. And in 1994, the park was declared a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is an astonishing piece of land; it endured the last Ice Age – about 15,000 years ago when most other forests on African continent disappeared.

Of course famously, Bwindi Forest is home to half the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas – about 459 individuals at last mountain gorilla population census of 2018. It is certainly the biggest safari attraction in Uganda.

Besides the endangered and gigantic Mountain Gorillas, the incredibly bio-diverse park also has almost 350 bird species (including 23 Albertine Rift endemic species), 120 mammal species, over 220 butterfly species, 27 species of frogs, over 1,000 flowering plant species and 400 species of trees.

Read More: Things to do in Bwindi – Before or After Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking Trips, Holidays, & Vacation Packages to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

There are many Bwindi gorilla trekking tours available.

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Sectors

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park divided into four sections, named after the surrounding villages:

Mountain Gorilla with baby gorilla, Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Tour
Mountain Gorilla with baby gorilla, Bwindi Gorilla Trekking

1. Buhoma Sector (Northern Bwindi)

The most visited sector of Bwindi; Buhoma is the largest of the 4 sections and has the highest number of luxurious safari loges and tented camps.

As the first area of the park to open to guests, this is where Bwindi gorilla trekking first started, when the Mubare gorilla family was habituated in 1992.

Aside from the Mubare, 5 other habituated gorilla families including Habinyanja, Rushegura, Katwe, Muyambi, and Binyiindo also call Buhoma home.

Here, you can also explore the neighbouring communities, bird watch, or take a hike on some of the most spectacular forest trails on the continent.

2. Ruhija Sector (Eastern Bwindi)

Ruhija Sector is less-visited than Buhoma, and home to four habituated gorilla families including Mukiza, Oruzogo (Kasumali), Kyaguliro, and Bitukura.

In additional to gorilla trekking, keen hikers many aim for the summit of Rwamunyonyi Peak (“the hill of many birds”) – the park’s highest point which offers extraordinary views. As the name suggests, the forests around Rwamunyonyi offer amazing bird watching in Bwindi.

While forest elephant sightings in Bwindi are uncommon, Ruhija provides the chance to see one of these elusive grey ghosts.

3. Rushaga Sector (Southern Bwindi)

The Rushaga region of Bwindi is famed for its gorilla trekking, with multiple habituated gorilla families in the region, including Mishaya Family, Kutu Family, Bweza, Posho, Mucunguzi, Shongi, Bikyingi, Busingye, and Kahungye – the largest of all the Bwindi gorilla families.

The major drawcard of the Rushaga region is that a Gorilla Habituation Experience is offered for one of these gorilla families, which allows visitors to spend up to 4 hours with the family, rather than the standard 1 hour on a normal gorilla trek.

4. Nkuringo Sector (Western Bwindi)

Home to the Nkuringo gorilla family, Bushaho Family, and Christmas Family the Nkuringo section is arguably the most scenic area of Bwindi.

The dramatic landscape and break-taking views of the Virunga volcanoes do come at a physical cost; this particular region is better suited to more physically active visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Tours

1. When Is The Best Time To Go Gorilla Trekking Bwindi?

You can visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park at any time of the year. People commonly come to Uganda for Bwindi gorilla trekking safaris, and sightings are pretty much guaranteed throughout the year.

However, June to August and December to February which are the dry season months offer the best condition gorilla trekking conditions. In the wet season months, the trails tend to be more slippery and harder to hike. As gorilla trekking in Bwindi is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it could be disappointing if it rained on the day.

But, the park guides will go out of their way to make the encounter special, whatever the weather. If it rains so hard, they may decide to wait somewhere for the weather to improve before approaching the mountain gorillas.

More about Best Time to Visit Bwindi

2. How Long Is The Drive To Bwindi?

Coming straight from Kampala or Entebbe, the driving time is 8 to 9 hours.

However, the quickest and easiest way to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is by scheduled flight from Entebbe International Airport, but many people opt for Uganda tours by road.

You can also approach Bwindi National Park from Queen Elizabeth National Park or Kibale Forest National Park with the drive taking 3 to 5 hours. Alternatively, you can access Bwindi from Lake Mburo National Park; the drive takes about four to 6 hours.

3. How Much Does It Cost For A Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Tour?

The Bwindi gorilla trekking permit price is currently US$700 for a foreign nonresident, US$600 for a foreign resident, and UGX250,000.

Although this might seem expensive, it is a bargain compared to what the same activity costs in Rwanda (US$1500), which is the other popular country where these gentle giants can be observed in their natural habitat.

The price for a three-day road trip from Entebbe/Kampala, including a Bwindi gorilla trek, accommodation and transport, starts at around US$1250. A similar three-day fly-in gorilla safari starts at about US$2600.

Three days is the minimum time required to travel from Entebbe or Kampala to Bwindi to trek for gorillas. However, I would, recommend spending more time in Uganda as there a variety of other things to see and do.

The price for 5 Day Uganda Safari including gorilla and chimpanzee trekking start at around US$1600 and 7 days Uganda tours (including gorilla trekking) start at around  US$2000.”

A unique activity offered in Bwindi Impenetrable National park only is the Gorilla Habituation Experience. One semi-habituated gorilla family can be trekked by a limited group of 4 visitors daily, who can stay for 4 hours with gorillas.

Viewing is less easy because these gorillas prefer to keep their distance since they are not yet fully habituated. This special adventure cost US$1500.

4. How Much Time Do I Get With The Gorillas On A Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Safari?

You get to spend one hour with the gorillas.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is a morning activity and it can take any time from 2 to 7 hours to find the mountain gorillas. Once your group gets close to the gorillas, you’ll regroup and leave some of your belongings with the trackers who will stay behind.

You then get in close for the actual seeing of the gorillas.

The guide will facilitate viewing during that time by getting you in good positions to take photos and by moving you around the family of gorillas to try to see different members of the family, including the Silverback.

5. Are Mountain Gorillas Aggressive?

Mountain gorillas are often referred to as gentle giants.

They are not at all aggressive.

The only reason you can approached closely on foot is because they lack aggression. If they were aggressive, their massive size would make them too dangerous to be close to.

However, males especially Silverbacks may sometimes show aggression to other male gorillas and they can at times fight. These fights for dominance typically result in a male departing the family or a family splitting up, but rarely a fight can result in death.

A gorilla may occasionally mock charge guests, but this has never led to actual injury. Before heading off for the gorilla trekking adventure, you’ll get a full briefing, including what to do in case a mountain gorilla approaches you or shows any sign of aggression.

You’ll be totally safe if you follow the instructions of your guide.

6. Are The Hiking Trails In Good Condition?

The mountains gorillas of Bwindi move around freely and they do not stick to any trails.

So, your trekking guide will take you on the area in Bwindi forest to get you in the general vicinity of a gorilla family first.

When you get closer, you will possibly have to leave the trail and follow the guide and trackers while they make their way through forest undergrowth. They will try to find the easiest way through for you and they’ll use machetes to clear branches along the way.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is aptly named and vegetation tends to be very thick. Even the actual trails can be quite overgrown. In addition, the trails might be slippery when it rains. It is advised that you hire a porter who will not only carry your bag but also assist you along the trek.

7. Are Gorilla Sightings Guaranteed On Gorilla Trekking In Bwindi?

Mountain Gorillas roam freely through their territory and it can be tricky to find them sometimes.

During the briefing you will be given by the head ranger before you begin any Bwindi gorilla trekking tour, you are rightly warned that sightings are not guaranteed.

But, in recent years, the success rate has been 100%, so you can assume you’ll get to see the mountain gorillas.  The only reason some people don’t succeed is if they are not physically up to it and decide to turn back.  

8. What Fitness Is Required For Gorilla Trekking Bwindi?

You will need to be reasonably fit for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. If you are in good health and you are used to hiking, trekking, or walking, you should not have any problems though.

As a last resort, you can book a ‘gorilla chair,’ where a team of strong local men literally carry you on your chair through Bwindi to the mountain gorillas. However fit you are, it is always important to come suitably prepared.

Bwindi National Park sees high levels of rainfall throughout the year. So, you need waterproof clothing and good hiking shoes.

Strong gardening gloves are not essential, but you are advised to come with them to protect your hands from stinging nettles and when supporting yourself on branches.

A good walking stick always helps on the slippery slopes. You might be offered a wooden stick at the park. Also porters are available at the trail head.

9. What Lodges/Camps Would You Recommend For Gorilla Trekking Bwindi Trip?

There are many lodges and camps in or near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

When you are choosing where to stay in Bwindi, it is important to understand there are four different sectors in the park: Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo as discussed above.

These four sectors act as destinations from which the trekking to different gorilla families commences. When booking a gorilla trekking permit for Bwindi, you book for a specific sector.

It makes sense to select accommodation at the sector you will be departing from.

This is because the drive from one sector to another is long and the gorilla trek starts early in the morning. Keeping location in mind, there are many good lodges to choose from, including:

  • Buhoma Lodge
  • Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp
  • Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge
  • Mahogany Springs
  • Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
  • Chameleon Hill Lodge
  • Mutanda Lake Resort
  • Gorilla Mist Camp
  • Agandi-Uganda Eco-Lodge
  • Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge
  • Trekker’s Tarven Cottages

10. Can I Add Bwindi Gorilla Trekking To A Safari?

It is very easy to add your Bwindi gorilla trekking tour in Uganda to a general Kenya safari or Tanzania safari.

A short flight from Kenya or Tanzania gets you to Entebbe, a leafy town on the shore of Lake Victoria – Africa’s largest lake in Uganda. From here drive or fly to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

While gorilla trekking fits into the East African safaris, you can also slot it into a Uganda safari holiday. The highlights of best safari tours in Uganda packages include the following:

  • Bwindi for gorilla trekking
  • Kibale National Park for chimpanzee trekking
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park for a classic wildlife safari in the savannah and the possibility to see tree-climbing lions.

Also Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary to track wild white rhinos on foot and Murchison Falls National Park for a boat trip on the Nile and more general wildlife game viewing.

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