Gorilla trekking Guide in Africa’s Rain Forest

Gorilla trekking in Africa is mostly done in three countries namely; Uganda, Rwanda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Seeing these mountain gorillas in the wild is one of the most fantastic wildlife encounters on earth. Kwita Nzina is the naming ceremony of mountain gorillas which is carried out in Rwanda. Gorillas are critically endangered species which makes life experience of viewing them in their natural habitants more extraordinary and beautiful.

The mountain gorillas are less than 900 individuals remaining in the wild, even though according to national geographic, the exact number of mountain gorilla remaining in the rain forests is 700. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of mountain gorillas remaining is 880 individuals. The opportunity to trek mountain gorillas with in rainforests is a once in a lifetime adventure and is one of the wildlife experiences in Africa.

Best Place to Track the Mountain Gorillas -Reviewed

The main three countries which offer gorilla trekking safaris in Africa include; Rwanda, Uganda as well as Democratic Republic of Congo. These three countries are all found in central Africa. These are naturally found in dense rain forests and are also found in moist tropical as well as subtropical forests of the Albertine Rift within central Africa. These are also two forested mountainous places which are inhabited by the African Mountain gorillas. The three national parks where gorilla trekking is done include; Bwindi impenetrable National Park, Virunga national Park, Mgahinga National park, as well as volcanoes national park in Rwanda. These are also the four main national parks where gorilla trekking takes place.

gorillas rwandaGorilla tracking in Mgahinga & Bwindi impenetrable National Park (Uganda)

Bwindi impenetrable national park hosts 13 gorilla groups and it’s located in southern Uganda. Mgahinga National Park hosts one gorilla family. The gorilla groups found in southern part of Uganda in Bwindi impenetrable National Park include; Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura which are found in Buhoma area, Rushaga area which has;Mishaya, Nshongi, Busingye, Kahungye as well as Bweza.Nkuringo family which has one group in Nkuringo area, and Ruhija area which has three families including; Oruzogo, Buitukura, and Kyaguriro. More so Mgahinga National Park has one gorilla family which is called Nyakagezi. This group moves between Uganda and Rwanda, at the time of writing, the gorillas are now in Rwanda.

Bwindi impenetrable National Park is known to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it lies in south western Uganda, it harbours half of the wild mountain gorilla population totalling to 400 which is half of the remaining mountain gorillas in the world. The park covers an area of 331km of this thick montane as well as lowland rainforest.

Mgahinga National Park is also located in the Far East western part of Uganda and it borders Rwanda near volcanoes national park as well as Democratic Republic of Congo near Virunga National park. This is also a gorilla territory which falls in Virunga volcanoes region and spans three main central African countries. This park is also the smallest national park and is about 34km2 forming part of the bigger virunga Conservation Area, which is 434km of the bigger volcanic mountains. The park is also home to one gorilla family which moves between Uganda and Rwanda and this has made it difficult for trekkers to trek this family in the wild.

In Uganda these national parks are managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), and it takes over 12 hours to drive to both Bwindi impenetrable national Park as well as Mgahinga National park. This drive gives guests the real picture of what a rural area looks like and also passes through the most beautiful scenery which is so fantastic to the eyes of the viewer. There is also an alternative way of reaching these parks in time, this is by taking a domestic flight from Entebbe international Airport by charter to Kayonza Air strip which is near Bwindi, and here the guests can be driven for a short while in order to access the park.

gorilla safaris

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes national Park covers an area of about 125km2 of this unique scenic forest covered with mountains as well as six volcanoes, this is why Rwanda is referred to as a land of a thousand hills. Over a total number of 480 mountain gorillas are found along the border of Virunga Conservation Area which are the Virunga Mountains. The conservation area also includes Volcanoes national Park which is well managed in Rwanda. This is where the great primatologist Dian Fossey lived and worked with the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorillas that live here are habituated more than in other areas and these are used to Human being around them. The national park has got over ten gorilla families including; Susa Gorilla family, Karisimbi gorilla family, Sabyinyo gorilla family, Amahoro, Agashya, Umubano gorilla family, Kwitonda , Hirwa, Ugenda and Bwenge gorilla family.

Volcanoes National Park is also located in northern Rwanda and its 80kms away from the city of Kigali. Access this national park is easy and quick than getting to Bwindi impenetrable National Park. Which is located in Uganda. This park is also two and half hour’s drive from Kigali. And in case you are traveling on a tight budget, you can opt to take a mini bus to Ruhengeri town which is situated at the park entrance or you can also take a tax.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is more strenuous than in Bwindi impenetrable National Park, this is mainly because these gorillas move around less some times. The park’s open terrain amid the bamboo forests allows light in the environment, which makes an opportunity for taking photos than in Bwindi Forest which is so thick. Trekking gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda is completely different. In Uganda, a purchased gorilla permits gives you chance to track that real gorilla family, while in Rwanda, the permit is not specific to a particular family and the gorilla group allocated to you depends on several dependant factors. After, the briefing about gorilla trekking, the visitors are also split into groups according to fitness level, age, as well as the location of the gorilla family at the same time.


Gorilla trekking In  Congo

Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is done in Virunga National Park, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and borders both Uganda and Rwanda. Virunga National Park covers an area of about 7800km and is home to over 200 of gorillas living mostly in the southern part of the park. This park is also managed by Congolese National Park Authorities with the Institut Congolais Pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), these also partner with Africa Conservation Fund. After, the decline in these mountain gorillas numbers due to the brutal attacks which killed atleast 10 gorillas, the gorilla population has increased and more stable now. Many thanks are given to the brave efforts of the rangers who live within Virunga National Park.

Virunga National Park is also 32km west of Goma which is the capital city of North Kivu province. Transportation from Goma to Virunga National Park can also be arranged with Virunga National Park. The roads to the park are so bad and it’s also best to travel with someone who knows the place. The other option might be to join a guided tour since tourism infrastructure is not well developed as in Uganda and Rwanda. It also advisable that the best way to reach Goma is by passing via Rwanda on a well maintained roads from Kigali. This is also a three hours’ drive to reach the border of DRC which is near Goma. This border crossing is unproblematic and from there, it’s a short walk of 10 minutes to Goma. Another option would be to cross the border of Bunagana in south western Uganda, where you can access an affordable local Visa which can be purchased.

Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, Which is the best destination for Gorilla trekking.

The exact location of mountain gorillas living in Virunga Volcanoes keeps on shifting as these apes keep on moving between the forests of Rwanda, Uganda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Gorilla trekking is mainly selected based on the location of gorilla populations at the time of the safari. This is usually done by the professional tour operators, and therefore you might find yourself trekking the gorillas in either Rwanda or Uganda which are the most popular destinations.

  • Difference in Prices

The bad side of choosing Rwanda is that its gorilla permit costs $750 As opposed to the $600 in Uganda. Also in terms of costs, same safaris in Uganda and Rwanda can be competitive and one can find good deals in either of the countries. However, you can get a better deal in Uganda due to the cheap gorilla permit. The advantage of trekking in Rwanda is quick and easy given that the park is located near the Airport of Rwanda. It’s just 116km from Kigali city to Volcanoes National Park.

  • Cheaper gorilla permits in Uganda and variety of what to do and see

The main advantage of trekking in Uganda is the cheap gorilla permits and here you can also combine both gorilla trekking as well as other wildlife highlights. A gorilla trekking tour can be combined with lake Bunyonyi which is close to Bwindi , game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park , chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park , bird watching in Ssemliki national park, mountain climbing on the Rwenzori mountains as well as wildlife viewing in Murchison falls national Park.


  • Distance in Driving & accessing the gorillas.

Bwindi impenetrable national Park is located far away from Entebbe international Airport and this adds more traveling costs on the side of Uganda. Even though the drive to Bwindi is long, but it’s scenic and offers great insights into rural areas. The short drive in Rwanda is not as scenic as that of Uganda but the visitors can easily access the park. In case, you find the long drive devastating, then you can fly from Entebbe to Bwindi and land in the nearby towns of Kisoro and Kihihi. Aero link has got cheap and affordable rates that can facilitate these domestic flights.

  • How to get to the mountain gorillas

Within Uganda, the gorillas are found deeper in the forests in groups of Between 10 and 20 individuals, with one silverback.  In Rwanda, the gorilla groups range from 9 to 39 individuals including 1 silverback. Trekking in Bwindi is more challenging given that the gorillas are away and after the treks, the visitors normally have to take steep slopes out of the forests to access their lodges or hotels. Rwanda’s gorilla groups are found close to the park entrance, which requires shorter hikes. However, in Rwanda, you can’t request for a gorilla group to track and the groups might shift further into the forests.

  • The political considerations

Political stability is an important factor to consider when deciding where to go gorilla trekking; these also include the local political conditions in these three countries as well as the availability of the gorilla permits.

Uganda; this country is stable and safe, this is because it has rebuilt itself after the many years of conflict and unrest especially in northern Uganda. Travelling in southern part of the country is so safe and the country is generally a peaceful country.

Rwanda; Rwanda in the recent years is also politically stable after recovering from the genocide which took place in the early 1990s, its Volcanoes national park can be visited safely and is well managed by Rwanda development Board, its gorilla permit system is functioning efficiently and effectively.


 Democratic Republic of Uganda; In this country, civil wars as well as conflicts are still a problem, and the safety conditions need to be checked well before visiting the country. There are militant groups as well as the army still fighting in the Virunga area, and the poachers are a great threat to the gorilla population as well as poverty of the people near the national park leading to habitant destruction. This is the main reason why many advisory organisations consider this area to volatile for the travellers and therefore recommend the tourists to avoid visiting DRC at present.

Why Visit Uganda For Gorilla Trekking?

More than half the population of the world’s mountain gorillas is surviving in the lush forest habitats of south western Uganda. It is the only place you’ll find the endangered giant apes (besides it neighbor Rwanda) in a harmonious habitat-almost unspoilt by global warming.

An estimated 6 families of mountain gorillas (a family has 8-10 adult members) are found in Bwindi Impenetrable forest park. This dense forest creates a challenge for gorilla tracking but the immense exercise that often last up to 3 hours pays off after finding silver back headed family feed on leaves somewhere within the deep forest canopy. The lens of a camera best captures the one hour experience. Mgahinga National park on the slopes of Rwenzori Mountain is another habitat for Uganda’s mountain gorillas. Your Gorilla tracking expedition will take you to other countries like D R Congo and Rwanda that share a habitat of the gorilla mountain ranges with Uganda. There are also other primates in Bwindi such as the Albertine rift endemic golden monkeys and many others.

What To Carry on Gorilla Tracking?

Gorilla tracking is a laborious trek so be prepared by:
1-Endaevor to wear shoes having good quality traction, to enable you hike the steep muddy mountain slopes

2-Carry along with you rain gear and a hut in addition to any other because the weather is so predictable.

3-Carry plenty of water and food

4-Carry binocular to enable you view so much more, you can also hire from the park’s office

5-As you take photographs, bear in mind that flashes are not allowed.


Trekking with the Gorillas of Uganda

Africa has always been known for having the most amazing species of wild life, lions, baboons, giraffs but there is almost nothing as awesome and interesting as the gorilla. One of the most uniquely fun activities for anyone travelling around Africa is gorilla trekking. There are 3 countries where Gorilla Trekking is possible: Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. In Uganda they are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. And in Rwanda on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. So the next time you are in East Africa make sure you go see some gorillas! Being such a carefully monitored activity, there are quite a few guidelines to follow when goriilla trekking or planning for a gorilla trekking adventure.

Guidelines for Gorilla trekking

To go gorilla trekking you need a permit. This is a requirement in every country.Only a certain number of permits are issued every year, so you need  to book the tour early, and keep in mind both the permit cost and  the tour cost. Gorilla permit prices are $600 and $750 in Uganda and Rwanda respectively. Although Uganda wildlife authority increased permit price to $600 as of  January 2016. Permit prices can go as low as  $250 in Uganda and Rwanda during seasons of low demand  for example in september and October.

How Much Does a Gorilla Tour cost?

Tour prices range from $1000 to more, depending on the tour and travel companies chosen and how large the group is. Individual costs go down if the group is larger, since transportation costs are shared and larger can fill up the transportation vehicle.
If luck is on your side you could find a group of people and you could share costs. Meals are usually included  in the tour package.

For cost effectiveness it is probabaly best that you reach out to various tour and travel operators to ensure that you get the best rates, and maybe choose a tour with a some people to share costs with. It is very advisable to keep in touch with the operatoers offering the bes rates and finding a date that fits your schedule, and meets the rest of your tour preferences.
Lists of the tour operators in Uganda and Rwanda can be found on their respective tourism  sites, and online directories.
To avoid any inconviniences and unforeseen issues with permits and other bookings, its very smart to arrive atleast a day before. And as a point of concern:If paying in cash, in Uganda make sure you bring larger bills that were printed after the year 2000 otherwise anyone in Uganda won’t accept them.

DRC, Rwanda, Uganda…the big question:  Which country to choose!?

The average Gorilla population in central africa today is about 720 mountain gorillas. Half of these are found in uganda in Bwindi impenetrable forest. This alone is reason enough to make any tourist pck Uganda for their gorlla trekking adventure. Now add that to uganda’s realtively friendly and tolerable process of obtaining visas, permits and booking tours ,and for most tourists uganda would be a winner.
Rwanda has nearly the same permit obatining process like uganda, so between the two countries it comes down price and rates. With permit price in uganda having recently increased from $500 to $600, and Rwanda rates at $750, complete costs of tour and permit is definitely much cheaper in Uganda.

DR Congo has a complex visa process that could be a hindreance to most tourists. From testimonies of a number of tourists who have had significant difficulty at the DRC border, it seems to be the least preferred choice.
It is also very possible and okay to fly into Uganda ahead of time and book your tour . There are many tour agencies that could sell you a package at a reasonable rate. Although permit bookings need to be made early.

The Gorilla Tour, What To Expect.

In Uganda, after landing in entebbe, and traveling to kampala, it takes an entire day to travel to Bwindi national park, where the impenetrable forest is found. Usually there’s a stop made at the equator. The group your permit is assigned to usually determines which town outside the national park you’ll go to. The four towns outside the national park are: Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija, and Rushaga.
And then the fun begins! The next day is all about gorillas! The tour usually starts in the morning, early as 7.45am. There is a quick briefing and off tracking gorillas you go, deep into the mountains, a truly adrenaline-filled experience it is! A brief orientation is given, acquainting everyone with rules and safety guidleines. Simple rules such as: “Don’t approach the gorillas.” The rangers prepare for the search and the gorilla trk in the jungle begins in earnest.
It sometimes takes a few hours to find gorillas, depending on their movements. When one or more are eventually located, the group spends sometime interacting with or watching them until its time to head back to camp, or the hotel. People on longer tours get to see some more gorillas the next day as well.
Some groups get really lucky and spot a gorilla within minutes , so they have more time to watch them do various activities, like playing, eating, resting once in while you mught even see a gorilla squabble or fight.
Gorilla trekking is an amazing experience that anyone traveling and touring should not miss out on. They are interestingly Unique creatures especially the silverbacks which are unusually strong and could cause damage to a human being in the blink of an eye. They are not afraid of humans , they just ignore them and continue with their daily routines. So you do not have to worry about interupting their day. You get to take pictures and videos uninterrupted, so you can keep memories, show others , encourage them to try this adventure, or get inspired to do it again.

What Other Primates To see?

You can visit Kibale Forest National Park which is home to more than 13 distinct species of primates, a total that you’ll not find in any other park or forest reserve in East Africa. Kibaale forest’s primates include the grey checked mangabey, blue colobus monkey, L’Hoest monkey, olive baboons, white & black colobus, chimpanzees, bushbabies, galagos and red tailed monkeys among others. Nevertheless, chimpanzee tracking is the spotlight for Kibale forest tourists. Guided Chimpanzee tracking excursion in the forest often lasts for utmost 2 hours.  More than 5 species of chimpanzees are found in Africa but Uganda is home to the habituated chimpanzees ‘Pan troglodyte schweinfurthii’ also called the East Africa common chimpanzee. With the much concerted wildlife conservation efforts, Uganda has been able to carefully preserve this endangered species that is almost wiped out in other parts of Africa due to intensive poaching practices. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) issues Gorilla trekking permits and chimpanzee tracking permits to regulate the visitors to the different parks and also raise many to run conservation efforts. It is no doubt that Uganda is the best place to have your chimpanzee tracking experiences ( in Kibaale forest) in the whole of Africa.
Uganda safaris are not the same if you ignore a tour of the mountain gorilla living in south western Rwenzori Mountians. Gorilla trekking in Uganda draws more than 500 tourists every year and is major cash-in tourist attractions, the number one in Uganda Safari rankings.

The mountain gorillas living on the slopes of Rwenzori Mountains are just half of the world’s remaining population. Statistics has it that 800 of them are habitats in the Rwenzori foot slopes and some migrate to further in the lush forested slopes of Volcanoes on the Uganda border with Rwanda. Rwanda is another place to experience the best of gorilla tracking in East Africa, or even in Africa.

Gorilla Safaris in Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in one vast eco-system that boast of more than 6 Gorilla families. The park is found on the southern slopes on the Rwenzori mountains in what is famously referred to as the Switzerland of Uganda. The park is a famous destination for gorilla tracking in Uganda besides is wealth of unique flora, forest canopy, variety of birds, butterflies and its rare golden monkeys. Identify the spoors and trails of the gorillas from their previous night spots and then track them.

In groups of 8 people your tour guide will lead you in the intertwined forest canopy identifying the gorilla spoors and trails from last night’s gorilla settlement. Trekking through the forest’s thick vegetation is not as easy as you think. The hike is for those who are physically fit and are determined to set years on the amazing gentle creatures. The tacking experience is sometimes longer than expected, lasting up to 7 hours, thus you are advised to pack your lunch in a lunch box.

Finding a silverback led family can be a thrilling moment for trackers. You are allowed only one hour of interaction and taking pictures of these amazing creatures. The juvenile are often seen fighting or playing in the forest canopy. It is an amazing safari experience you can experience once in a lifetime!

Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga

Mgahinga is another peak on the Rwenzori Mountains famous for its rugged terrain, dense forests and unique forest vegetation. In a habitat like this, Gorillas will find home and serenity. Mgahinga Gorilla park is less visited for Uganda gorilla safaris when compared with Bwindi Forest park. However the experience is relatively the same except in Mgahinga, the gorillas are found deep in the forest and tracking often lasts up to 7 hours

Mgahinga National Park Gorilla Tracking is more rewarding and fruitful during the mid –morning. One hour is what you have to take pictures, observe gorilla behavior and stare at the amazing creatures.

Gorilla Safaris Accommodation

There are plenty of options for overnight and dinner on Uganda Gorilla Safaris. There are several Uganda safari lodges and hotels that offer excellent dining and accommodation with typical nightly sounds of crocking frogs and screeching crickets.

Check out luxury packages accommodation from Gorilla Forest Camp, Clouds Lodge, Gahinga Volcanoes Lodge and/or Volcanoes Bwindi safari Lodge. Standard or mid range accommodation from Engagi lodge, Buhoma Loage, Traveller’s rest camp, Silverback Safari lodge and cheaper options at Wag tail Eco lodge or Lake kitandara camp. Budget package options include Virunga Hotel, Nkuringo Safari centre, Buhoma Community bandas or Bwindi View bandas.

Uganda Gorilla Safari Packages

Gorilla tracking in Uganda is often a major part of every Uganda safari itinerary is packaged with safari tours to neighboring National parks such as Queen Elizabeth where you’ll be introduced to Uganda’s primates like the crazy Chimpanzees and the colobus monkeys. Other parks in Uganda you can visit on your Uganda Primates safaris include Kibaale Forest National Park and Ngamba Island. Within the serene parks are lions, buffalos, monkeys, impala, Uganda Kob and more than 200 different birds among other species of wildlife.

Uganda gorilla tracking itineraries are normally designed with the tourists and last from 2 day visit to more than 5day safari itinerary. There are several Uganda Safari and tour operators that will gladly organize one for you keeping in mind your personal interests and the places you would like to visit on Uganda safaris

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