Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that allows you to observe and interact with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Uganda is home to approximately half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, making it an ideal destination for this unique wildlife. This endangered primate lives between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ecotourism is one way in which these animals are protected. Revenue from gorilla trekking trips helps fund national parks and provides a financial incentive for locals to safeguard gorillas. Every guest must have a permit to visit the mountain gorillas. Here, we explain everything you need to know about the gorilla permit in Uganda.
Here’s some information to help you plan your gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Both parks are located in southwestern Uganda near the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To participate in gorilla trekking, you must obtain a permit issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Permits are limited and need to be secured in advance through a registered tour operator or directly from the UWA. It is advisable to book your permit well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. In Uganda, this applies to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which has 19 habituated gorilla groups, two of which are only visited as part of habituation treks. It also applies to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which has one habituated group. Habituation Permit?: Habituation permits allow tourists to take part in the habitation process. This involves gradually encouraging wild gorillas to feel comfortable in the presence of humans, which is essential for tourism. The permits are more expensive, because guests spend four hours with the gorillas rather than just one.
A gorilla trekking permit in both Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park costs USD 700 per person for foreign non residents, USD 600 per person for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 per person for East Africa citizens. A gorilla habituation experience permit in Uganda costs US$1,500 per person.
Note that a permit only grants access for a trek and one hour with the gorillas. It does not include any other costs, such as accommodation, transport, meals etc.
Is It Possible To Cancel a Gorilla Trekking Permit:
If you have only paid a deposit, you will not receive any refund on cancellation.
If you have paid your permit in full, the following cancellation rules apply:
If, you cannot trek due to illness (established on site), 50% of the permit fee may be refunded.
Where To Stay During Gorilla Trekking:
When you’r on your mountain gorilla trekking trip, tourists typically stay in lodges or camps located near the park where the gorillas can be found. These accommodations are often basic but comfortable, and provide a convenient base for the trek.
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:
- Buhoma: This is the main tourist area in Bwindi and offers a range of lodging options, including luxury lodges, mid-range lodges, and budget accommodations. Some popular choices include Buhoma Lodge, Mahogany Springs, and Buhoma Community Rest Camp.
- Ruhija: Located in the eastern part of Bwindi, Ruhija provides accommodations that offer beautiful views of the forest. Notable options include Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge and Trekkers Tavern Cottages.
- Nkuringo: Situated in the southern part of Bwindi, Nkuringo is known for its stunning scenery. Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge is a popular choice in this area.
- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
- Kisoro: The town of Kisoro is a common base for exploring Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Lodging options here range from budget guesthouses to mid-range and luxury lodges. Some recommendations include Travellers Rest Hotel and Mount Gahinga Lodge.
When choosing accommodations, consider factors such as proximity to the gorilla trekking starting point, budget, desired level of comfort, and availability. It is advisable to book accommodations well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred choice. Additionally, tour operators and travel agencies can assist in arranging accommodations as part of a comprehensive gorilla trekking package. They can provide insights and recommendations based on your preferences and budget.
Some lodges and camps may also offer additional amenities such as restaurants, swimming pools, and bars. Additionally, many tour operators offer packages that include accommodations, meals, transportation, and gorilla trekking permits, so it is best to check with them for more information on where to stay during your trip.
Gorilla trekking involves hiking through the dense forests of the national parks in search of a designated gorilla family. Treks can range from a few hours to a full day, depending on the location of the gorilla group and their movement patterns. The trek can be physically demanding and requires a moderate level of fitness.
Once you locate the gorilla family, you will have a strictly regulated time (usually one hour) to observe and photograph the gorillas from a close but safe distance. Experienced guides and trackers will accompany you throughout the trek, ensuring your safety and providing insights into gorilla behavior and conservation efforts.
Conservation and Responsible Tourism:
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a conservation-focused activity aimed at protecting these endangered primates and their habitats. Strict guidelines are in place to minimize the impact on the gorillas and their environment. It is essential to follow the instructions of your guides and adhere to the rules and regulations set by the UWA to ensure the well-being of the gorillas.
Wildlife and Activities:
Uganda is renowned for its diverse wildlife and scenic landscapes. In addition to gorilla trekking, you can explore other national parks, such as Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park, to encounter a variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippos, and numerous bird species. Other activities include boat safaris, nature walks, and cultural visits to local communities.
There are several habituated gorilla families available for trekking in Uganda. Each family consists of several individuals, including a dominant silverback, adult females, juveniles, and infants. The number of trekkers allowed per gorilla family per day is limited to ensure the gorillas’ well-being and minimise human impact.
Obtaining a gorilla trekking permit is essential, and it is recommended to book in advance due to limited availability. Permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and can be secured through registered tour operators or directly from the UWA. Each permit is specific to a particular gorilla family and is valid for one trekking day. Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda for 2022-2023 cost 700 USD per person for foreign non residents, 600 USD per person for foreign residents and 250,000 UGX per person for East African citizens.
Once you locate the gorilla family, you will spend a strictly regulated and unforgettable one hour in their presence. During this time, you can observe their behavior, take photographs, and immerse yourself in this unique wildlife experience. The guides will provide information about the gorillas and guidelines to ensure safety and respect for the animals.
What to Pack:
When preparing for gorilla trekking, consider packing the following essential items:
Comfortable Hiking Boots: Invest in sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with good ankle support. The terrain can be rugged and muddy, so having proper footwear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable trek.
Long-Sleeved Shirts and Trousers: Wear lightweight, breathable, and long-sleeved shirts and trousers to protect your skin from scratches, thorns, insects, and exposure to the elements. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that dry quickly.
Rain Jacket or Poncho: Pack a waterproof and lightweight rain jacket or poncho to protect yourself from rain showers or unexpected weather changes. Ensure it is easy to pack and carry with you during the trek.
Layers for Variable Weather: The weather in the mountains can change quickly, so layering is important. Pack a combination of lightweight, quick-drying shirts, fleeces, and a warm jacket to adjust to temperature variations throughout the day.
Hat and Sunglasses: Bring a wide-brimmed hat or a cap to shield yourself from the sun. Sunglasses with UV protection are also recommended to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare.
Gloves: Consider packing lightweight gloves to protect your hands from thorny vegetation or for extra warmth during chilly mornings or at higher altitudes.
Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent containing DEET or other effective ingredients to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects in the forested areas. Mosquitoes may be present, especially in the evenings.
Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Even on cloudy days, UV radiation can be strong at higher altitudes.
Backpack and Daypack: Bring a comfortable backpack or daypack to carry your water, snacks, camera, and other essentials during the trek. Ensure it has padded straps for added comfort.
Water and Snacks: Carry enough water to stay hydrated during the trek. Pack energy bars, trail mix, or other lightweight snacks to keep your energy levels up.
Camera and Binoculars: Capture the memorable moments and the stunning gorilla encounters by bringing a camera with extra batteries and memory cards. Binoculars can also enhance your wildlife viewing experience.
Medications and First Aid Kit: Carry any necessary medications, personal prescriptions, or medical supplies you may require. It is also advisable to have a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, and blister pads.
Reusable Water Bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle to minimize plastic waste and stay hydrated. Some lodges or tour operators may provide refill stations.
Extra Batteries and Power Banks: Ensure you have extra batteries or portable power banks for your electronic devices as charging facilities may be limited or not available during the trek.
Cash and Identification: Carry some cash in local currency for tips, souvenirs, or any additional expenses. Bring your passport or identification for permit verification.
Best Time to Go:
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done year-round, but the dry seasons from June to August and December to February are generally considered the best times to visit. During these months, the hiking trails are less slippery, and the weather is relatively favorable. However, gorilla trekking is possible throughout the year, and each season offers its unique experiences.
Uganda is culturally rich, and there are opportunities to engage with local communities and experience their traditions and customs. Additionally, you can explore other wildlife areas, such as Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park, to witness diverse wildlife, including lions, elephants, and hippos.
When planning your trip, consider factors such as obtaining a valid visa for Uganda, arranging transportation to the national parks, and ensuring you have appropriate travel insurance. It is also advisable to consult your healthcare provider regarding any necessary vaccinations or health precautions for visiting Uganda.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is an incredible adventure that provides a unique opportunity to connect with these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Remember to respect the gorillas and their environment, follow responsible tourism practices, and cherish the memories of this exceptional wildlife encounter. Gorilla trekking in Uganda offers an incredible opportunity to witness and interact with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Remember to follow the rules and regulations set by the UWA, maintain a safe distance from the gorillas, and respect their natural environment. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is an awe-inspiring adventure that provides an opportunity to contribute to gorilla conservation efforts while experiencing the beauty of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.