Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park is by far a unique wildlife experience that gets you the opportunity to see mountain gorillas in the wild up close and spend an hour with them.
Currently, mountain gorillas remain fewer than 1004 in the entire world and they are only inhabited in the lush rainforests of Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park in southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, mountain gorillas still remain among a few most endangered primate species in the world and more efforts are needed to protect them from extinction.
Where to trek mountain gorillas in Uganda
Mountain gorillas are rare giant primates that only thrive in the wild and not at the zoo. In Uganda, these massive creatures are found in the rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in the southwestern part of the country. The two parks straddle at the border with DR Congo and you need about 8-10 hours to drive from Kampala to Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park.
Regions of Bwindi Forest to trek Gorillas
Bwindi national park is a very large rain forest comprising of 4 sectors with each sector having 2 – 7 gorilla families individually. Each of these gorilla trekking regions has habituated families for visitors to trek gorillas in the wild that make up about 20 habituated groups in Bwindi National Park. They include Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma and Ruhija region.
Rushaga area is found in the southern side of Bwindi National Park and it is an area with many habituated families. Gorilla trekking in Rushaga region can be done in any one of the following habituated groups; Kutu, Mucunguzi, Mishaya, Busingye, Rwingi, Kahungye, Nshongi, Bweza and Bikingi; Nkuringo region is a southern area of Bwindi National Park and if you wish to have challenging gorilla treks, it is that one area not to miss to explore. It features habituated groups such as Nkuringo, Bushaho and Christmas.Buhoma area is remarkably that one most explored area by visitors on gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi National Park. It is found in the northern side of Bwindi National Park and consists of Habinyanja gorilla family, Mubare family, Rushegura and Katwe while Ruhija region is located in the eastern side of Bwindi National Park and composed of habituated gorilla families such as Kyaguliro, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Bitukura gorilla group.
Is it safe to trek gorillas in Bwindi National Park?
Trekking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is safe and secure. Compared to other gorilla destinations like the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo, Bwindi National Park is safe for gorilla trekking. Trekkers are accompanied by armed park ranger guide on trek to see mountain gorillas. The park rangers work together with other security organs including tourism police, army and police to ensure safety of gorilla destinations.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi National Park is an all year round gorilla destination. However, while planning for Uganda gorilla trekking, many visitors prefer going in the long dry season which starts in the months of June, July, August, September and December, January, February. During the dry season, the habitat remains relatively drier thus making it a bit easier for trekkers to hike through the dense rainforest and steep slopes while in search for these massive creatures.
But this doesn’t mean that it is not possible to trek mountain gorillas during the wet or rainy season. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can also be visited during the wet season which is also regarded as the low season to trek mountain gorillas. The wet season in Bwindi National Park starts in the months of March, April, May and October, November. This season is characterized by plenty of forage for gorillas to feed but the disadvantage with it is that the ground tends to be muddy and the steep slopes become slippery thus making it a bit challenging to trek gorillas.
Age limit for gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking is restricted to only persons above 15 years. Persons below 15 years are considered to be children and they can easily be frightened, a behavior that may irritate mountain gorillas. As well, only 8 visitors are allowed to track one habituated family each day and this is aimed at minimizing spread of human infectious diseases. Note, mountain gorillas share about 98 percent of their DNA with humans making them to be very susceptible to human infectious diseases.
When to purchase Uganda gorilla permit
Visitors intending to embark on gorilla tours in Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park are required to secure their gorilla permits earlier enough at least 2-6 months or even year before actual trek given the high demand. Do not wait for the last minute bookings as they can disappoint you.
How much is gorilla trekking permit in Uganda
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda cost $600 per person per trek-for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents. But for gorilla habituation experience, you need $1500 to secure a habituation permit. You can secure your gorilla permit in Uganda through wild Rwanda Safaris, a registered local tour operator in Uganda and Rwanda or reserve directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
What are the chances of seeing gorillas in Bwindi National Park?
Seeing gorillas in Bwindi national park is a 90% guarantee on a single trek to the gorillas in the wild. Whether its raining or dry, you will see your gorilla family for sure when you buy your gorilla permit. Trekking mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park takes about 2-6 hours but this has been simplified the fact that trackers are always sent to the forest to ascertain location of these creatures before visitors embark on actual trek.
Do I need to hire a porter?
Hiring a porter plays a significant role especially to help you carry your pack to allow you concentrate on your gorilla adventure in Bwindi National Park. You can hire a porter at $10-$15. Porters are at the park headquarters and hiring one means, huge contribution to their lives as some of them are locals or students.
How should I prepare for gorilla trekking?
For any plans to embark on mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park, you need to be well-prepared. Most importantly, bearing in mind which essential items to pack but in order for you to get the best of your gorilla trek, consider the following items a must in your packing list.
Water proof hiking boots that are light weight and offer adequate support to your ankles
Camera with no flash light Dress well and most importantly, you need environmentally friendly cloths especially long sleeved shirts/t-shirts, long trousers, sweater and others.Rain jacket/ponchoDrinking waterEnergy giving snacksHat/scarfGardening glovesWater proof daypackBinocularFirst aid/medical kit
What are the rules and regulations for gorilla trekking?
There are many set rules and regulations to be observed while on trek to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park and they include;
Maintain a distance of 7 meters at all times from gorillasKeep your voices low Only 8 visitors are to trek one habituated familyNo flashlight is allowed when taking photos of gorillasNo trekking gorillas if you are illDo not smoke, eat or drink near gorillas