Going hiking in the Virunga Mountains’ rainforests, searching for and spending time with a troop of habituated gorillas, is known as “gorilla trekking.”
Only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is it possible to go gorilla trekking. Almost half of all mountain gorillas are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, where 19 gorilla groups have been habituated to gorilla tourism.
The Virunga Mountains, which split Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo, form the second gorilla habitat, where gorilla trekking takes place.
The Virunga ecosystem includes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Volcanoes National Park, and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, where two gorilla populations are available for tourists to walk among.
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 for mountain gorilla safaris with in rainforests is a once in a lifetime adventure and is one of the wildlife experiences in Africa.
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.
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.
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 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 is the best place to see the gorillas in the wild. 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.
Please note that choosing Rwanda will cost $1500 per gorilla permit as opposed to the $700 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.
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 , golden monkey tracking and bird watching in Ssemliki national park, mountain climbing on the Rwenzori mountains as well as wildlife viewing in Murchison falls national Park.
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.
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. 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.
A gorilla permit must be obtained from ORTPN, Rwanda Development Board, or Uganda Wildlife Authority in order to hike with mountain gorillas in any of the three habitats: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park (Uganda) and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.There are two armed rangers and a professional tracking guide included in the gorilla permit so that you may feel safe in the bush.
With seven other trekkers in tow, your guide will bring you into the jungle, protected by armed rangers, to ensure your safety from wild animals and other threats to your well-being.Upon locating the designated gorilla family, you will have exactly one hour in their company under the terms of your gorilla trekking permit.
When it comes to gorilla trekking, though, the process might take anything from 30 minutes up to 9 hours.Most travelers can discover them in less than three hours, though.
It costs USD 700 (£495 or €575) per day for a Uganda gorilla permit.Permits can only be issued to those who are at least 15 years old.
UGX 250,000 per person for EAC nationals and $600 for international residents (with work licenses).
Regardless of where you get it, you’ll pay the same fee for a Uganda gorilla permit issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Special permit offers, such as the ones listed below, do become available from time to time.
In Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks, discounted gorilla trekking permits are available.
Ending on June 30th, 2021, the national EAC budget is $150,000.
Non-citizens—$300 in total.
In June 2021,
Through June 30, 2021, foreign non-residents will be charged $400.
A Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1,500 per person and per day. A Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1,500 per person and per day (£1,062/€1,232).
Permits can only be issued to those who are at least 15 years old.
As stated in the table below, there are currently a number of special permits on the market.
Volcanoes National Park sells gorilla trekking permits.
$200 for EAC nationals.
Residents of countries other than the United States: $500.
Corporations and organizations that obtain more than 30 permits will receive a 10% discount.
a 15% discount for visits by members of one’s own family (couples and children over 15 years old).
Mountain gorilla treks in Africa will be discounted by $500 for African residents.
A discounted price of $500 will be given to mountain gorilla trekking for international visitors (non-African citizens) traveling in groups of 100 or more.
Tourists can participate in the habitation process by obtaining habitation licenses.
This is done by gradually allowing the gorillas to get more comfortable with humans, which is vital for the success of tourism in this area.Due to the additional time spent with the gorillas, permits are more costly.
You must carry a complete passport with you at all times.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) mandates it as a condition of entry.
They can check your age on your passport, too, in order to make sure you’re old enough to go gorilla trekking.
They will use the passport’s birth date to verify that the holder is of the requisite age.
Permits will not be provided if it is determined that the trekker is under the legal age of majority.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority maintains a list of all tourists who have gone gorilla trekking in Uganda, even those who have never done so.
With this approach, Uganda’s wildlife is able to identify the country that visits the country the most frequently.
In order to attract more tourists from nations with a low number of visitors to Uganda, Uganda would next devise promotional and marketing methods in the tourism business.
It is for this reason that the authorities seek passport information when issuing gorilla permits.
Genuine tour operators will always ask for passport information before making any arrangements for Gorilla permits since wildlife authorities may need to know the nationality and age, but we should know whether one requires a porter or a specific guide for Gorilla trekking.
All guides in Uganda are fluent in English, but some visitors don’t understand the language, so we need to know what sort of traveler you are.
Because the Uganda Wildlife Authority is in charge of granting permits, the authorities will have complete information about the trekkers in the event of an emergency.
People from all over the world are flocking to the gem of Africa to experience its exhilarating adventure.
To have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one must get gorilla permission.
Visit a tour operator in Uganda affiliated with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators to secure a gorilla permit (AUTO).
More than a thousand tour companies in Uganda are ready to assist you in obtaining the appropriate gorilla permit.
Obtaining permission will not add to the price they offer; they will only charge what it really costs.
Only by working with an AUTO member tour operator do you have a chance of securing the necessary permissions.
During Uganda’s peak tourist season, we advise booking early to avoid overcrowding.
Stay away from overpriced permits and the scams of a few phony operators who try to take advantage of tourists by offering them reduced permits that don’t exist.
The DR Congo’s eight habituated gorilla groups cost USD 400 per day to track. A tour operator or directly in the park are the only options for securing gorilla permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Unlike in Uganda or Rwanda, you will not receive a scanned copy to validate your booking.Based on mutual confidence, a park or tour operator will assist you in securing a permit.
In most cases, park authorities, tour operators, and other members of the public who need to be informed are given this information.Gorilla tracking permits at Kahuzi-Biega national park can also be arranged.
Permits to see lowland gorillas can be obtained at the last minute, but making your reservation well in advance is recommended for peace of mind.
Gorilla permits are difficult to sell in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country’s unrest is largely to blame for this.Because of the rich variety and unspoiled African nature that the Congo has to offer, this is truly a pity. Consider the price of a gorilla permit and whether it’s really worthwhile. Approximately 900 mountain gorillas are left in the wild, making them an endangered species.
Only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda can you see mountain gorillas. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see mountain gorillas. The money raised will go toward helping to protect the region’s mountain gorilla population. The job options help the local communities and the ex-poachers, both of whom benefit economically.
Exactly what is included in the gorilla permit fee?
There is no additional charge for the park admission fees or the rangers’ and guides services while purchasing a gorilla permit.To keep you safe from dangerous creatures, the rangers use gunfire to frighten them away (rarely).Prices for gorilla permits don’t include lodging, transportation, porter fees, or gratuities.
Reservations for gorilla permits and safaris should be made many months in advance to ensure availability.During the peal season, this is especially critical.
Gorilla permits for June or August are quite hard to come by, so if you do, consider yourself lucky.Purchasing gorilla permits at a price other than what UWA charges is never a good idea.
If it’s the busy season, it’s best to postpone or cancel your reservation.If you truly want to see the gorillas, there is no need to hurry.
When purchasing a gorilla permit or trip, never transfer funds to a personal account.A bank account is required for every legitimate tour operator.
In the event that you need to follow up, you’ll have this handy.All tour companies are required to allow customers to pay with a credit card.
A gorilla trekking permit may be acquired up to two years in advance, which mainly benefits travelers who want to visit during the peak season, or high season, which is June through September, as well as December, January, and February, which are the driest months.
The sooner you book, the more likely you are to receive a gorilla trekking permit during peak season, when permits sell out quickly.
As a result, if you wait too long to make your reservation, you may have to settle for a Rwanda low-season gorilla trekking permit in May or November, as Uganda eliminated low-season reduced gorilla permits in 2017.
Rwandan Gorilla Permits: How to Obtain Them
Gorilla permits for Rwanda, unlike those for other countries where you can go trekking for the endangered mountain gorilla, can be purchased online through the Irembo Portal.
You may pay directly with your credit card through the system, bypassing the intermediary of a tour operator. You will need to bring a copy of your confirmation email to the park offices in the morning of your tracking session as proof of purchase.
The park wardens will verify the veracity of your reference before printing your gorilla permit on paper. Another option is to use a tour and travel agency to handle all of your trip arrangements, including lodging, transportation, and meals.
There is a saving of $1100 if you visit all three national parks in Rwanda: Volcanoes, Akagera, and Nyungwe Forest National Parks.
You must, however, show documentation that you are also visiting Rwanda’s other two national parks, Akagera and Nyungwe Forest. Nyungwe requires a chimpanzee tracking permit, whereas Akagera requires confirmation of hotel booking or park access. During the dry seasons of June to September and December to February, Rwanda is the ideal place to see gorillas and other primates.
If you’re planning a hike during the rainy season, be sure to pack everything you’ll need, including sturdy hiking boots, raincoats, warm clothes, garden gloves, and a variety of energy foods. For a fairly reasonable fee, travelers can obtain the services of porters to assist them in transporting their luggage.
When it comes to gorilla viewing, there’s always been one unbreakable rule: don’t go if you’re feeling under the weather.
Gorillas can catch our sicknesses because their DNA is so similar to ours.
Human respiratory illnesses can also kill gorillas, rather than just give them the sniffles.
In the past, zoonotic illnesses (diseases that spread between people and animals) have killed mountain gorilla families.
The long-term existence of mountain gorillas and the people who live near them depends on gorilla trekking.
In order to ensure the long-term survival of mountain gorillas and the people who live near them, gorilla treks are still essential.
Gorilla safaris can assist host countries like Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo recover economically after a pandemic.
Gorilla tourism can only be a success if it is done responsibly.
There should be more stringent rules in place, and people should be made more informed of how to travel safely so that neither they nor the gorillas are put in risk.
We can once again appreciate these lovely animals if we follow these rules, as we did during the Covid-19 pandemic when we observed social distancing and cleanliness requirements in our daily life.
Besides going to where the mountain gorillas live, there is more to do on a typical African safari. For example Uganda safari tours offer visits to the top of Murchison falls National Park where you can see lots of animals on a game drive wildlife safari.
You can visit Masai Mara in Kenya before or after your Uganda safari to see the endangered gorillas of Africa. There are many tour companies that can arrange your tip itinerary to Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.