Complete Guide to Trekking Gorillas in Uganda – 2023
Trekking gorillas in Uganda or gorilla trekking in Uganda will take you deep into a verdant rainforest world where the endangered mountain gorillas share their home with monkeys, butterflies and hundreds of unique bird species.
There are few wildlife encounters that rival spending time with gorillas in their natural habitat, while observing the fascinating family dynamics of our ancient relatives.
It is the chief reason why many travellers visit Uganda for safaris and one of the top things to do in Africa. About 1063 mountain gorillas are left in the entire world, and Uganda is home to more than of half of this population.
The rest of the mountain gorillas are found in the neighboring countries of Rwanda and Congo. These gentle giants only live in the forests of the Albertine rift region.
Unlike other gorilla species, Mountain Gorillas cannot survive in zoos.
The only way to see them is by trekking into their natural habitat. Once on the verge of extinction, their survival is one of Africa’s greatest conservation success stories.
Here is everything you need to know about trekking gorillas in Uganda:
Where Can You Trek Gorillas in Uganda?
Uganda has two national parks that offer mountain gorilla trekking – and you can visit either of them with Tulambule Uganda Safaris.
1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is the number one park for trekking gorillas in Uganda. Also called “The Place of Darkness” due to its dense treetops, Bwindi has over 459 mountain gorillas.
19 gorilla families have been habituated for visitors.This park covers 321km2, and there are four gorilla trekking regions:
- Buhoma Gorilla Region, home to 4 habituated gorilla families
- Ruhija Gorilla Region, home to 4 habituated gorilla families
- Rushaga Gorilla Region, home to 8 habituated gorilla families
- Nkuringo Gorilla Region, home to 3 habituated gorilla families
Bwindi is a World Heritage Site thanks to its incredible biodiversity and the large number of endangered species that call it home
2. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Tucked on the borders of Rwanda and DR Congo, the 33km2 Mgahinga National Park protects the vital Uganda portion of the Virunga Mountains.
The Virunga consists of 8 major volcanoes, of which 3 are in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – these include:
- Mount Muhabura (4,127 meters/13,540 feet)
- Mount Sabyinyo (3,674 meters/ 12,050 feet)
- Mounts Gahinga (3,474 meters/ 11,400 feet)
With Congo’s Virunga National Park in the west and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to the southwest, Mgahinga is part of the Greater Virunga Ecosystem.
The park is home to one habituated gorilla family. It is also known for its golden monkey trekking and the Batwa Pygmies cultural experiences.
What Can You Expect When Trekking Gorillas In Uganda?
To meet the Gorillas in Uganda, you need to venture through the parks’ dense rainforests on foot, through weaving vines, stinging nettles, and bamboo.
You are no longer just an observer of the natural world, but part of it.
Attuning to the crunching sounds of your exploring feet, the intoxicating smell of the forest and marveling at incredible sights.
A proper gorilla trek can take anything from 2 to 7 hours, depending on where the families are found, and it’s best to wear the most comfortable shoes.
You will be accompanied by a professional guide and expert tracker who will keep you riveted with their passion and knowledge along the way.
You will learn fascinating insights into the lives of these magnificent creatures, as well as the more intricate details of the landscape and its vegetation, insect life and exotic birds.
You could also come across other species including forest elephants, antelopes, chimpanzees, and forest dwelling monkeys.
Once you have hiked across the terrain and meet a family of gorillas, you’ll spend up to an hour with the Mountain Gorillas.
And to make them feel safe, your movements will be careful, slow and quiet, keeping in mind camera manners with no flash photography and your hands to yourself.
While there is an element of risk when dealing with wild animals, your guide and tracker will never put you in harm’s way.
And they have intimate knowledge on how to make the experience as rewarding as possible. It will be a soul-stirring hour of observing our closest genetic relatives.
How Difficult Is Gorillas Trekking In Uganda?
Trekking gorillas in Uganda can be easy, moderate, or difficult.
It depends on your fitness levels and the movement of the gorillas that day and their general location across the mountains.
The gorilla trek may involve 2 to 7 hours of hiking uphill and downhill in hot and humid conditions and through thick tangles of vines, roots and stinging nettles.
The appropriately named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is only accessible by foot. There may be mud underfoot which will make the trekking slippery.
And there are no paths, no signs, no directions – and more often, no clearings, which is why the park rangers carry machetes.
However, the reward seems that much better after all of the hard work.
This is an adventure of a life time. At the pre-trek briefing, travellers will be divided into groups of 8 based on their age and fitness.
The rangers usually have a good idea of where each gorilla family group is and the expected trekking time for each family. The fitter groups will trek the families in more challenging locations, or longest distances away.
You’ll be expected to carry your own personal items for this gorilla trekking adventure including drinking water, a rain jacket and cameras.
However, you can hire a porter to assist you. Hiring a porter on a gorilla trek Uganda tour is highly encouraged even when you feel energetic and fit enough.
The porters will carry your bag, and help to you navigate some of the steeper or trickier sections of the trek. Not only does it make the trek easier for you, but you’re also providing a valuable source of employment for local people.
A Porter is always a local resident and occasionally a reformed poacher.
The minimum cost of hiring a porter on a gorilla trek is USD20, plus any tips you may choose to provide in addition to that.
Your Chances Of Seeing Gorillas On A Gorilla Trek Uganda Tour
You probably have a 99% chance of seeing Gorillas in Uganda.
We haven’t ever heard of a tourist group being so unlucky as to not see gorillas on a Uganda gorilla trekking tour. Gorilla trackers head off at dawn every day to locate gorilla families and radio the co-ordinates back to headquarters.
So, that means that before you even begin your trek the trackers have a good idea of where your allocated gorilla family is or will be.
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Price
Currently, the permit for trekking gorillas in Uganda costs:
- USD 700 for a foreign nonresident
- USD 600 for a foreign resident
- UGX 250,000 for East African citizen
Although this might seem expensive, it is a bargain compared to the US$1500 permit fee for Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
However, you’ll need more than a gorilla permit to trek gorillas in Uganda.
Consider accommodation near the gorillas parks because gorilla trekking start early in the morning. Accommodation usually includes meals.
Also, consider transfers and tour operator fees if you are not backpacking.
Let’s say you travel with Tulambule Uganda Safaris. In that case, we’ll charge you $50 to process your gorilla permit only if you don’t use our other services.
In terms of transport, the 8 to 9 hours road transfer from Entebbe or Kampala to your booked accommodation near in Bwindi may cost from $120 to $300, including fuel, driver fees, and 4×4 car hire.
A scheduled return flight between Entebbe and Kihihi airstrip outside Bwindi is around $350. And all-inclusive descent lodge around Uganda gorilla trekking parks costs between USD 100 to 1000 per night.
Agency fees could come to about 5% – 30% of the quote.
Is Trekking Gorillas In Uganda Worth It?
It is absolutely worth the effort to spend time with gorillas in the wild.
Mountain gorillas can only survive in the wild.
You cannot see these gigantic creatures in a zoo, which makes a trek to see them in their natural habitat a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
A professional local guide will lead you through the rainforests, taking you down secret paths and following clues of mountain gorillas.
The strain of the arduous hike will quickly fade when you stare into the soulful brown eyes of one of our closest relatives.
Many regard a gorilla trek as a life-changing activity. Spending up to an hour with these gentle giants in their natural habitat is an experience that words fail to do justice.
The best part of a gorilla trek is that your experience contributes to protecting these highly endangered species and the conservation of their habitat.
When participating in a gorilla trek, you’re supporting efforts to protect these endangered animals, as well as improve conditions in local communities.
The fee paid for your gorilla permit contributes to gorilla conservation by funding the management of the parks, the monitoring of gorillas, and the salaries of rangers patrolling the forests to protect the great apes from poaching.
Is Gorilla Trekking In Uganda Safe?
Yes – it is safe to trek gorillas in Uganda. And Uganda is arguably one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. The local people are warm and welcoming towards visitors.
Also, gorillas are not dangerous animals, despite their size, fearsome appearance, and unfair reputation.Mountain gorillas are typically shy, gentle giants who usually spend most of their time feeding and looking after their young.
They are even vegetarians (predominantly).
So, while gorillas will defend themselves if attacked, they’re not aggressive creatures. And they are not interested in hurting humans. Moreover, the gorilla families that you visit are habituated – accustomed to the presence of humans.
Also, when you go on a gorilla trek in Uganda you go in the company of a trained ranger guide who is armed in case of an emergence.
And there are rules to follow when observing the gorillas that are geared towards not angering, frightening, or in any other way upsetting the gorillas.
So trekking gorillas in Uganda is a safe and thrilling adventure!
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Rules
Before You Visit the Gorillas
- You must have a Uganda gorilla permit to trek gorillas in Uganda
- The minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15 years.
- If you have symptoms of infectious diseases you’ll not be allowed to trek.
- Only 8 people per group are allowed to trek a gorilla family per day.
On The Way to the Gorillas
- Always keep your voices low in the forest.
- Listen to the guide’s instructions as you trek through the jungle
- You should not litter while in the gorilla habitat.
- In case you need the toilet while on a gorilla trekking, tell your guide and he will dig a hole for you.
When You Are With Gorillas
- Maintain a 7-meter (21-feet) distance from the gorilla
- Flash photography is forbidden.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the vicinity of the gorillas.
- Don’t feed gorillas
- Do not touch the gorillas because they are wild animals.
- If you won’t cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth.
- Your time with the gorillas is limited to 1 hour.
What To Wear Gorilla Trekking In Uganda
Nature Blending Color clothes: Choose a shirt that’s a neutral color such as khaki, green or light brown.
Facemask: Since gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases, you’ll be required to wear a facemask at the briefing point, remove the mask while trekking, and wear a fresh facemask when with the gorillas.
Strong, waterproof hiking boots/shoes: Gorilla trekking in Rwanda occurs on the forest slopes of Virunga Volcanoes. The terrain is rugged and the forest floor can be a muddy and sticky dump.
A Pair of Gaiters: Gaiters cover the vulnerable tops of your footwear to protect your feet from the jungle floor elements entirely. They also prevent bugs, water, dirt, and pebble from entering your boot.
Strong gardening gloves: If you like to grab on to things when you walk, we would advise a strong pair of gloves as there are quite a few thorns in the rainforest.
Hooded, Lightweight Waterproof Jacket or Poncho: Mountain gorillas live in tropical rain forests and as such, it rains throughout the whole year.
Long-Sleeved Shirt or Blouse: If your skin is sensitive to nettles and scratches from branches and vines.
Hiking Pants or Trousers: You’re advised not to trek gorillas in shorts or skirts.
Broad-breamed hat: Broad-breamed hat to protect you from strong equatorial sunshine.
Gear for Trekking Gorillas In Uganda
- A walking stick: You may want a walking stick to assist you on the trek, especially if trekking on a wet day.
- Mini first aid kit with antiseptic, plasters & moist towelettes
- Water bottle or hip flask: Be sure to keep hydrated, especially at altitude.
- A waterproof daypack: You’ll use this to carry all your essentials like your camera and rain jacket.
Best Time for Gorilla Trekking In Uganda
The best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda is during its two dry seasons:
- December to February
- June to September
These times of the year offer comfortable and easiest trekking conditions.
However, you have a Uganda gorilla safari outside side these optimum times. But bear in mind that a gorilla treks in Uganda can be difficult in the rain.
The paths are steep and may be muddy and slippery. You need to be fit and well prepared for the rainy conditions: bring strong hiking shoes/boat and a rain jacket.
Best Places to Stay On a Uganda Gorilla Safari
Here are a few of my recommended lodges in Bwindi and Mgahinga:
- Buhoma Lodge – Luxury
- Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp – Luxur
- Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge – Luxury
- Mahogany Springs – Luxury
- Nkuringo Bwindi Lodge – Luxury
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge – Luxury
- Chameleon Hill Lodge – Luxury
- Mutanda Lake Resort – Luxury
- Gorilla Mist Camp – Midrange
- Agandi Uganda Eco-Lodge – Midrange
- Bakiga Lodge – Midrange
- Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge – Midrange
- Trekkers Tavern Cottages – Budget
- Mount Gahinga Lodge – Luxury
- Mutanda Lake Resort – Luxury
- Lake Chahafi Resort – Midrange
Other Amazing Things To Do Before Or After Trekking Gorillas In Uganda
Seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there are plenty of other amazing things to do. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was voted by African Bird Club as Africa’s number one destination for forest birding.
Even if you don’t know much about birds, I defy you to travel to Uganda without falling in love with them! A dense forest is not the easiest place to spot many birds but a trained bird guide can lure them out of the forest by expertly imitating their songs.
Bird watching is one of the best things to do after tracking gorillas in Bwindi.
About 1000 flowering plants have been recorded in Bwindi, including shrubs, giant fern trees and vines.
Nature walks to see orchids and monkeys, colorful butterflies, and birds can easily be arranged. You can also take a walk to see the series of three waterfalls inside the park is highly recommended.
A visit to the impressive Bwindi Community Hospital in Buhoma, majorly funded by its proximity to the centre for gorilla tourism activity, is a great thing to do after tracking the gorillas too.
It is an amazing health facility in a poor and remote corner of the world.
Make time to meet the Batwa ‘Pygmies’ the original forest-dwelling tribe, who have given up their traditional home in the parks as a result of international pressure to protect the endangered mountain gorillas’ habitat.
The Batwa culture is unique. For centuries, they lived and hunted within the forest.
Meeting the Batwa, observing how they hunted and seeing their shelters in the trees, gives an intriguing glimpse of an ancient way of life. There are a number of Batwa community projects in Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Mgahinga is the only place in Uganda where tourists can see the golden monkeys.
Uganda has so many activities and things to see and do, you may well regret rushing home. Game viewing safaris to see elephants and lions, over 1090 bird species, chimpanzee tracking in Kibale; the friendliest and most welcoming people.
Lake rides in dugout canoes, volcano hike, white water rafting, visits to village community projects, tasting Ugandan food, horse-riding, cycling tours, lively African dance displays, boat cruises to view spectacular waterfalls, huge crocs and hippo, are just a few of numerous things to do in Uganda.
Best Uganda Gorilla Trekking Tours
Our Uganda gorilla trekking tour ideas are exactly that – sample itineraries to give you an idea of costs and how different destinations work together.
All are completely customized to your personal timing, budget and preferences.
- 3 Day Gorilla Trekking Uganda
- 4 Days Uganda Safari – Lake Mburo Wildlife & Bwindi Gorilla Tours
- 5 Days Uganda Safari, Gorilla Trekking, Game Viewing, & Cultural Tours
- 7 Days Uganda Safari, Gorillas, Chimp, Wildlife, Community, & Lake Bunyonyi tour
Are You Ready To Plan Your Gorilla Trekking Tour in Uganda?
Tulambule Uganda Safaris makes booking Uganda gorilla trekking tours very easy.
We will process the gorilla permit on your behalf, and we rarely fail to secure a permit at a reasonable booking date.
Our Uganda safari experts will work with you to customize a trip that suits your taste and style of travel while immersing you in local cultures and nature.