Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
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