Gorilla trekking in the “Pearl of Africa” (Uganda), is a very marvelous experience compared to Congo and Rwanda. The environment of trek in the thick, traversable jungle is un imaginable. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is confirmed to be one of the most interesting parks for gorilla trekking. The park is located in the south western Uganda and was gazette as a National Park in 1991 with Mubare as the first habituated gorilla group to be formed in 1993 by Uganda Wildlife Authority. It has been established that the mountain gorillas have reduced due to poaching all over the World. According to 2018 census there are 1000 mountain gorillas in the World and Uganda holds 50% of the total population.
WHAT IS GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA?
Gorilla trekking is taking along walk in the thick forest such as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in search of the endangered mountain gorilla families. The trek involves getting dirty, tired, walking through the thick forest “Impenetrable” together with an experienced local guide to find the family of the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking is wonderful and always leaves tourists with memorable stories to tell in life.
WHERE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS ARE IN UGANDA
Uganda has two national parks that offer mountain gorilla trekking, which is, Mgahinga Gorilla National park and Bwindi Impenetrable National park. Research shows that Uganda has got a half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas and about 450 gorillas are confirmed to be living in Bwindi Impenetrable National park. Bwindi is located in the south-western Uganda and is most known for gorilla trekking. It is divided into four sectors namely Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija sectors. These sectors have a spectacular assemblage of luxurious lodges, campsites, restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services.
RUHIJA SECTOR IN THE EAST
The Ruhija sector has three Gorilla groups called the Bitukura which was named after a river where they were first seen, Orusogo is the most playful family especially the juveniles and babies who entertain the guests and has 17 members in the family. Lastly Kyagoriro, the oldest and less visited by tourists or rather less permits are issued to go there. This sector has accommodations like Gorilla Mist Camp, Ruhija Gorilla Safari lodge and Trekkers Tavern lodge among other.
RUSHAGA SECTOR IN THE SOUTH
The Rushaga sector is located in the southern part of Bwindi, has the highest number of gorilla families like the Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, kahungye and Bwesa. Gorilla trekking in Rushaga gives the tourists an opportunity to enjoy the great views of Virunga ranges in Rwanda and Mgahinga, Muhavura, Karusimbi, Sabinyo among others in Uganda. Some of the accommodations found in Rushaga sector include Gorilla Valley lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Nshongi Camp, Gorilla Safari lodge, Bwindi Jungle lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge, Chameleon Hill lodge and Mutanda Lake Resort to list the few.
Nkruringo sector has a Gorilla group called Nkirigo which name originated from a Mukiga word meaning “Round Hill”, and Christmas gorilla family which is the newly habituated family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with one Silver back named as Christmas, one black back, three females and one baby. It has available accommodation options such as Chameleon hill camp, Nkrurigo gorilla camp to mention the few.
BUHOMA SECTOR IN THE NORTH
Avery popular sector for gorilla trekking and it is made up of different groups of gorillas who are familiar to human beings like Rushegora, nkurigo, Habinyanja, katwe and Mubare. The accommodation facilities available are Sanctuary Govilla Forest Camp, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest camp.
WHAT IS LIKEY TO HAPPEN WHEN TREKKING GORILLAS IN UGANDA
The memorable gorilla trekking experience begins at the Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA] headquarters where the game rangers hold a brief meeting with the guests on the rules and regulations of mountain gorilla tracking and shows them some few video clips. There are four gorilla sector with over 14 habituated gorilla families with each group comprising of 10 to 40 members, so you will be divided into eight groups per gorilla family with one well-armed game ranger to lead you into the jungle. You will enjoy the experience for only one hour after finding the endangered mountain gorilla, you will be allowed to interact with this giants, take photos and see how the silver back gorilla protects its family.
WHERE TO START FROM FOR GORILLA TREKKING
It depends on the gorilla group and the sector you are assigned to trek, hence some tourists will start their trek right away from the headquarters of the different sectors say Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkrurigo and Buhoma, while other tourists will have to drive to the forest to begin tracking the mountain gorillas.
HOW LONG IS A GORILLA TRACK
Roughly half an hour to 8 hours depending on the movements of the gorillas and where they built their nest the previous night, since they are so mobile looking for food.
WHAT NEXT AFTER FINDING THE GORILLAS
After successfully finding the gorillas or the gorilla group assigned to you, you will be allowed to have only one hour with them, view, ask questions, take photos and videos with the gorillas but eating, drinking and taking flash photos are not allowed.
Furthermore, tourists are advised to keep away from the animals at least 7 meters because they are susceptible to contagious human diseases.
BEST TIME FOR GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
It is done throughout the year and the gorilla permits issued out every other day. But many tourists prefer to do trekking in dry months of January- February, and from May –September because in these months the land is a bit drier making it comfortable for tourists to trek.
However, Bwindi impenetrable national park being a rainy-forest expect rain any time of the day either rainy season or during dry season.
PERMIT COST FOR GORILLA TREKKING
Gorilla tracking permits in Uganda cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents to US, UGX 250,000 East African Residents and then $1500 for gorilla habituation experience.
HOW THE GORILLA TREKKING PERMITS ARE AQUIRED?
It is very difficult for foreigners to get gorilla permits if they go alone, so the best way is to go through local tour operators like Chosen Expeditions and Tours, hence tourists are requested to book for safari two months in advance so as to enable us to process for permits early enough due to high demand of the gorilla permits in Uganda.
WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
Gorilla permit is one of the requirements that is a must for all tourists to get in order to trek mountain gorillas and a tourist can get gorilla trek permit from the Uganda Wild Life Authority or through local tour operators, and other requirements include passports, Yellow fever card, trekking boots, rain gear and hat, insect repellent, Binocular, Sun screen, Drinks and snacks
WHAT ARE THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF GORILLA TREKKING?
- Tourists are to maintain a 7 meters’ distance away from the gorillas.
- Eating, drinking and smoking are not allowed while with the mountain gorillas
- A maximum of 8 tourists to trek a group of habituated gorillas per day
- Sick people are not allowed to trek the mountain gorillas
- Flash photography is not permitted
- Littering is impermissible in the park premises
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A GORILLA PERMIT
Inclusive in the gorilla permit is a park entry fees, Wild life Authority guide and a trekking certificate which is issued to the trekkers after successfully trekking the Mountain gorillas.
WHAT IS THE AGE LIMIT FOR TREKKING GORILLA?
The age limit for trekking is 15 years below, children who are 15 years below are not allowed to trek mountain gorillas so tour operator should ensure that strictly clients are 15 and older to avoid bad incidents of refusing client’s children to trek.
WHAT SHOULD I PACK FOR GORILLA TREKKING?
You should prepare for the gorilla safaris well. We advise the tourists to pack energy snacks and drinks, sun glasses, hike boots, trousers, long sleeved shirts and blouses, long socks, mosquito repellents, hats and garden gloves to enable you trek well and enjoy it.
WHAT IS GORILLA HABITUATION EXPERIENCE?
Gorilla habituation experience is a process whereby mountain gorillas are trained to get familiar with human beings and It may take 2-3 years for the process to get complete, during this time the researchers continue to visit an identified wild gorilla group on daily basis to learn more about them and the way they behave, in long run they become used with researchers and each gorilla is given a name.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National park 2 gorilla families have been put a side for habituation experience in Rushaga and Nkruringo sectors. In gorilla habituation experience, tourists spend over 4 hours with mountain gorillas yet in gorilla trekking they spend only one hour.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO TREK UGANDA GORILLAS VIA KIGALI?
Yes, it is possible to trek gorillas from Bwindi or Mgahinga national park via Kigali. You can land in Kigali and then trek in Uganda so as to avoid long distance between Kampala to Bwindi which takes 12-13 hours’ drive hence landing in Kigali reduces on the drive hours, because from Kigali to Bwindi takes 4-5 hours to drive. The tourists only need to pay for visa fee of $50 to cross over the Pearl of Africa.
HOW MANY PEOPLE PER GORILLA FAMILY?
A maximum of only 8 tourists are allowed to trek a gorilla family. For the case of Bwindi which has 14 habituated gorilla families the tourists will be divided in to 8 people to trek per day unless otherwise and for gorilla habituation only 4 people are allowed to spend 4 hours with gorillas under habituation.
CHANCES OF SEEING MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
There are high chances of seeing the mountain gorillas at 98%, both in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park because the UWA sends its game rangers who follow the gorillas from morning to evening and after locating them they communicate to the guides and they will lead the group into the jungle following the same trail which was communicated by team ahead of them.
WHEN TO BOOK GORILLA PERMITS
The gorilla permits are on high demand so we as Chosen Expeditions and Tours do advise our tourists to book earlier enough like 2 months before to avoid inconveniences such as failing to get permit and so on.