Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, What you should know
Gorilla trekking is a popular activity that involves hiking through dense forests in search of endangered gorillas in their natural habitat. This activity typically takes place in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are home to the three species of gorillas: mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and western lowland gorillas.
To go gorilla trekking, visitors need to obtain a permit from the national park authorities in the respective country where they plan to visit. The permit allows visitors to join a guided tour group led by trained rangers who will take them on a trek through the forest to the gorilla's habitat. The trek can be physically demanding and challenging as it involves hiking through steep and muddy terrain, dense vegetation, and unpredictable weather. However, the reward of seeing these magnificent animals up close and in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is well worth the effort.
During the trek, visitors are only allowed to spend a limited time with the gorillas to minimize disturbance and the risk of transmitting diseases. Visitors are also required to keep a minimum distance of 7 meters (23 feet) from the gorillas and to follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of both the gorillas and visitors. Gorilla trekking not only provides visitors with a unique wildlife experience, but it also helps to support conservation efforts in protecting these endangered animals and their habitat.
Where are Gorillas Found in Uganda?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda and is home to more than half of the world's remaining population of mountain gorillas. The park covers an area of 331 square kilometers and is comprised of dense rainforest, steep hills, and narrow valleys. Bwindi is home to several habituated gorilla families, which can be visited by tourists with a permit and a guided trek.
- Buhoma: This is the most popular and busiest trailhead for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It has four habituated gorilla groups that are available for trekking, namely Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja, and Katwe.
- Ruhija: This trailhead is situated on the eastern side of the park and is less crowded than Buhoma. It has three habituated gorilla groups that are available for trekking, namely Bitukura, Oruzogo, and Kyaguliro.
- Rushaga: This trailhead is located on the southern side of the park and has the highest number of habituated gorilla groups available for trekking, with a total of five. These are Nshongi, Busingye, Kahungye, Mishaya, and Bweza.
- Nkuringo: This trailhead is located on the southern side of the park and has one habituated gorilla group available for trekking, called Nkuringo.
There are four main trailheads for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and these are:
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park covers an area of 33.7 square kilometers and is part of the Virunga Mountains range. Mgahinga is home to one habituated gorilla family, which can be visited by tourists with a permit and a guided trek.
- Nyakalengija trailhead: This is the starting point for the popular three-day trek to the summit of Mount Muhabura, which is the third highest peak in Uganda.
- Ntebeko Visitor Center: This is the main entry point to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the starting point for gorilla trekking. There are two habituated gorilla groups available for trekking in Mgahinga National Park, namely the Nyakagezi and Hirwa groups.
- Batwa Trail: This is a cultural trail that takes visitors through the forest and allows them to learn about the Batwa people, who are indigenous forest-dwelling communities that have lived in the area for centuries.
- Mount Gahinga Trail: This is a day hike that takes visitors to the summit of Mount Gahinga, which is one of the Virunga volcanoes that straddle the border between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Sabinyo Gorge Trail: This is a moderate hike that takes visitors through a lush gorge and offers views of the Sabinyo volcano and the surrounding landscape.
There are several trekking points in Mgahinga National Park, including;
Please note that the availability of gorilla groups for trekking may vary depending on their location and movements. It is recommended to check with a reputable tour operator for the latest information and to book your gorilla trekking permit in advance.
Both parks offer visitors the opportunity to observe these magnificent animals up close in their natural habitat. However, due to the limited number of gorilla permits available each day, it's important to book in advance to ensure that you can secure a permit for your desired date and park.
What is the Best Time to Trek Gorilla in Uganda?
The best time to trek gorillas in Uganda is during the dry seasons, which are from June to August and from December to February. During these months, the trails in the national parks are drier and easier to navigate, and the gorillas tend to move closer to the lower slopes of the mountains in search of food.
Additionally, the dry seasons offer clearer skies and better visibility, making it easier to spot the gorillas and enjoy the surrounding scenery. However, it's important to note that these months are also peak tourist season, so you'll need to book your permits and accommodations well in advance.
If you're looking for a more affordable and less crowded time to trek gorillas, you may want to consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, which are from March to May and from September to November. Although these months are considered the rainy season, they still offer good trekking conditions, and you may be able to secure discounted permits and lodging.
Ultimately, the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda depends on your preferences and travel schedule. No matter when you visit, you're sure to have an unforgettable experience encountering these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.
Communities around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
There are several communities around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , which is located in southwestern Uganda. These communities are mainly made up of indigenous Batwa people, as well as other ethnic groups such as the Bakiga and Bafumbira.
The Batwa people are one of the oldest forest-dwelling communities in Africa, and they have lived in the Bwindi forest for thousands of years. They have a unique culture and way of life that is closely tied to the forest, and they rely on its resources for their livelihoods. However, the creation of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1991 led to their eviction from the forest, which had a significant impact on their way of life.
Today, many of the Batwa people live in settlements around the park and have adapted to a more sedentary way of life. Some of them have also developed cultural tourism programs that allow visitors to learn about their traditional way of life and support their livelihoods.
The Bakiga and Bafumbira people are mainly farmers who live in the surrounding hills and valleys. They grow crops such as bananas, beans, and potatoes, and also rear livestock. Some of them also work in the tourism industry, as porters, guides, and other support staff.
There are several community-based organizations like Friends of Batwa International and initiatives around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park that aim to support the livelihoods of local communities and promote sustainable development. These include initiatives that focus on health, education, conservation, and cultural preservation.
Gorilla Trekking Tips
- Remember to get a permit before you arrive
- Be prepared for any weather
- Take food and water with you
- Waterproofing for your camera and absolutely no flash
- Train before you leave and know your fitness levels
- Travel in the dry season
- Respect the gorillas' space
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Gorilla Trekking Trips to Bwindi
Are you in Rwanda and would wish to compare gorilla trekking on this side of Uganda? Do not worry, It only costs you a few extra dollars and a short distance. The tour takes you through the Rwanda - Uganda chyanika board to kisoro town on the Uganda side. Short as it is but its very scenic and surely rewording.
The 4 day Budget Gorilla Trek and Charitable Cultural Tour takes you to Lake Bunyonyi and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This is the forest that houses the largest number of the world's remaining wild mountain gorillas. You will get a chance to see various birds, interact with the local population and also have a chance to know about the Batwa people and their culture.
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Gorilla Trekking Trips to Mgahinga
Mgahinga National Park is the only park in Uganda where mountain gorillas co-exist with Golden monkeys hence a saying that its where “Gold meets silver”. This safari is meant for those who would wish to spend a week away on safari and want to trek mountain gorillas and participate in golden monkey experience or golden monkey trekking, more wildlife in queen Elizabeth national park and then visit Lake Bunyonyi the deepest Lake in Uganda. This safari starts and ends in Kigali.
Our 3 Day Mgahinga gorillas will take you to Mgahinga National Park in south western Uganda. Arrival and departure will be through Kigali, Rwanda. Mgahinga National Park is the only park in Uganda where mountain gorillas co-exist with golden monkeys. Hence the saying, that it's where “gold meets silver”.
This short wildlife tour takes you to Western Uganda as you explore beautiful landscapes and wildlife in a short period. This tour takes to the smallest Savannah National park Lake Mburo national park with beautiful animals such as zebras and giraffes before you transfer to queen Elizabeth national park for a boat cruise and game drives through Uganda's second biggest national park where you are expected to see animals such as Uganda kobs, elephants and cats such as lions and leopards. After lunch you will relax as you prepare for an evening game drive and scenic views of the park. Drive back to the lodge for dinner and overnight.
The typical 3 days safari is more suitable for those that are already in Kampala or arrive in the previous day's night, so that you will immediately be transferred to Murchison falls national park the next morning. Otherwise an extra day will be needed to make it. Covered in the safari will be all the major activities that are usually carried out to this exclusively special Uganda safari park, though an additional fourth day is important if you are interested in chimpanzee tracking.
Despite some negative press, Uganda is a safe country for gay and lesbian travellers. However, Uganda is a conservative country and we recommend discretion this applies to people who intend to reside in the country for quite a long time.
There are mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo in the Virunga Mountains, a range of extinct volcanoes that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. 53.9% can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and the remainder in Virunga and volcanoes Nationals parks in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda respectively.