With not more than 1004 mountain gorillas that are left in the worldwide, Uganda is undoubtedly one of the only 3 African countries where you can visit to track these great, intelligent, humble creatures in the wild. For those of you who love eco-tourism, gorilla trekking should be a must on your travel plan and you won’t regret in life. A trek to see a group of these massive creatures is remarkably a rare wildlife experience you need not to be miss. Ideally, it is a life changing adventure that takes you through the thick, lush forested Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda.
Where to go for gorilla trekking
Gorilla treks in Uganda are only possible in habituated families and about 17 of them have been habituated and readily available for visitor experiences. In Bwindi National Park treks are done within the 4 main trailheads of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Each of these sectors have habituated families and while on gorilla safari, the available gorilla groups for you to track include Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Bitukura, Mishaya, Nkuringo, Katwe, Christmas, Busingye, Kahungye, Bweza, to mention but a few.
Uganda also protects a small population of the Virunga gorillas in the Mgahinga National Park, one of the three national parks within the Virunga Conservation Area. Mgahinga has one habituated gorilla family that can be visited by tourists. In addition to gorilla tracking, visitors to the park can also enjoy hiking expeditions to three Virunga Volcanoes; Muhabura Mountain, Sabinyo Mountain and Muhavura Mountain.
What to expect on gorilla trek in Uganda
While on Uganda gorilla safari, treks are done in only Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park southwestern side just along the Albertine rift valley-at the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. These parks boast of rare attractions as well as different most rewarding safari activities for instance bird watching, hiking, cultural encounters a mention but a few. On gorilla trek, you will be assigned to only one habituated family to track in a group of 8 visitors. While with a group of these large apes, you have only an hour to spend with them face to face-take as many photos as possible, explore their behaviors and body gestures. The treks start with briefing on dos and don’ts for gorilla trekking by park official. You will be led by a park ranger guide and trackers who take you through a 2 to 8 hours’ trek via a steep slopes, dense vegetation with your packed lunch and bottled water. To be part of this life changing experience, you have to be well-prepared and physically fit to complete your trek. Note only persons above 15 years are allowed to track mountain gorillas.
Gorilla permits in Uganda
Visitors who wish to take part in this life changing experience need to have a permit. Interestingly, the cost of gorilla trekking permits in Uganda is relatively cheaper with each permit costing $600 compared to $1500 in Rwanda. You are advised to book for your permit early enough before the actual trek and you can do so through a ground tour company or through a reservationist at Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Getting to Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park
To get to these 2 national parks, you can opt for road means of transportation or take a flight. By road, you need a good 4 wheel safari vehicle that takes you from Kampala/Entebbe via Masaka-Mbarara route and it will take you about 10 hours or more on road to reach to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Alternatively, you can take a flight from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield and land into Kihihi or Kisoro airstrip where you can easily connect to any park of your choice to track mountain gorillas.
When to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking
A trek to see mountain gorillas can be done at any time of the year however, most trekkers prefer tracking gorillas in the dry season which starts from June to September and December to February. Besides, you can as well track these creatures in the wet season which begins from March to May and from October to November. Each of these season have advantages and disadvantages. The dry spell is ideal for gorilla trekking the fact that the habitat remains drier hence making it easier for trekkers to hike through the steep slopes and thick forests. The challenge with this season is that there less food for these creatures to feed on compared to wet season. However, it is also possible for you to track mountain gorillas during wet season although the challenge with it is that the ground remains wet/muddy thus making more challenging for trekkers to hike through the dense vegetation and slippery steep slopes.
Where to stay
The available safari lodges for your overnight stay in Uganda include Clouds Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Mahogany Springs, Gorilla Forest Camp, Mutanda Lake Resort, Travelers Rest Hotel, Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Resort, Engagi Lodge, Silverback lodge, Lake Kitandara Tented Camp, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Cuckooland Lodge, Mount Gahinga Lodge and others.