One of the top attractions for people travelling to Uganda or Rwanda is to trek mountain gorillas. If only it were possible to go on a hike and see these majestic creatures!
Here are 4 essentials as you plan your gorilla trekking trip at Bwindi Impenetrable national park;
You Need A Permit: Where to get the Permit and Price
Why Trek Gorillas in Uganda?
Uganda is cheaper than Rwanda and safer than the DRC. Uganda also holds more gorillas than neighboring countries and aside from gorillas, you are guaranteed to see some of the 350 bird species in the park (14 of which are recorded no where else in Uganda) and and other wildlife. You can also venture out to see tree climbing lions at Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Permits for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be bought at the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or in advance online on their website (I recommend emailing them a month prior to your travel to find about availability before you go) during my research for this post, the lady at Uganda Wildlife Authority told me that low season discounts for April and May no longer apply in 2018.
You can also acquire gorilla trekking permits with a local operator who offer packaged deals that include accommodation, transport, food, and permits to save you a lot of time when booking. However, it is possible to do the trek by yourself if you have your own transport.
Uganda Gorilla Permit Cost
Ugandan gorilla permits cost $600 per individual for one day or one hour with the gorillas. The Rwandan gorilla permits are now $1500 per individual and DRC gorilla permits cost $400.
As UWA only issues a set number of permits per day, and high season can get busy, it is not advisable to show up to the park without your gorilla trekking permit.
Where To Trek Mountain Gorillas In Uganda
Mountain Gorillas can be found in the Virunga Mountains in the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (one of the most diverse national parks in East Africa) located in the Southwestern part of Uganda. The name Bwindi was from the phrase “Mubwindi bwa Nyinamukari” meaning ”Dark place of Nyinamukali”
The story behind this name dates back to many years ago when it is said; a family migrating north from Kisoro got to a seemingly impenetrable swamp. When the parents asked the swamp spirits for direction they were told that the rest of the family could cross, only if they sacrificed their most beautiful daughter Nyinamukari.
After 2 days of deliberation, the family decided that they could not turn back south and so threw the girl into water to drown and went on their way safely to the other side. When news of the sacrifice spread, people began to avoid the swamp calling it Mubwindi bwa Nyinamukali.
Uganda has 60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to about 360 gorillas.
It’s best to book your accommodation where your gorilla trekking permit is issued or ask your accommodation for assistance in getting permits. Bwindi has four regions: Buhoma region, Ruhija region, Rushaga region, and Nkuringo region.
- Buhoma region is the most popular region for trekkers with three groups of gorillas near Buhoma that are habituated to humans.
- Ruhija region has two groups, is accessible and a good range of accommodation options.
- Rushaga region has five groups and this region is also home to some elephants
- Nkuringo region has one group, which is very relaxed, close to Lake Edward and Nyiragongo
Length Of The Gorilla trek
The best time to go gorilla trekking is during the dry season as the terrain will be easier to navigate. This will be around May-September and January and February. We went gorilla trekking at the end of March; low and rainy season in Uganda.
Crowds tend to be fewer in this period and rates can sometimes be cheaper. We were extremely lucky with the rains, during our trek. There were short amounts of heavy rainfall throughout the day keeping us comfortable and cozy in the morning and evening.
As these are wild animals, the guides have to locate where they have gone each day, so finding them can take anywhere from one to five hours. It took our group about three hours to find the Rushegura group deep in the jungle. The trek was mildly difficult, so I recommend being in good physical condition and health to maneuver the terrain and enjoy the trekking experience.
What To Wear For Gorilla Trekking
- A good pair of hiking shoes with a high ankle and good grip.
- Hiking gaiters or long hiking socks are recommended through the thick bush and to avoid those biting ants!
- Wear long pants with a long-sleeved shirt in neutral colors. Lightweight and waterproof safari clothes are best. Go for greens, khakis or dark colors. Layers will be vital as the altitude changes, one minute you’re cold and next you’re sweating!
- A rain jacket as it may just start pouring and a small good backpack that can hold your water energy bars, camera and lunch.
- Sunscreen and Insect repellent with DEET
- Walking Stick: we were provided one of these where we stayed at Silverback Lodge.
- Your Binoculars are always a good idea.
- One of the ladies we hiked with brought her gardening gloves, as she wasn’t sure if her allergies might act up. These might also come in handy if you grab onto trees and plants when you hike, as some might have tiny thorns on them.
Happy Gorilla trekking,