Gorilla Trekking: How to Do it Right
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
The largest primates, mountain gorillas continue to act as the major tourist attraction in Uganda. This may be due to their endangered status and the fact that they can only be found in three African countries; Uganda, Rwanda, and DR.Congo.
To go for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda, you need a permit that is issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Luckily, your tour operator can as well get you the permit at the same rate. The earlier, the better since the daily number of tourists is limited to eight to prevent congestion in the natural habitat of these gorillas.
Where to see gorillas
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
There is no better place than Uganda for gorilla trekking. Both cost-wise and for the best trekking experience. It’s not worth seeing through the lenses of a camera, you’ve got to see this for yourself.
In Uganda, you will only find mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga National park. However, Mgahinga is located at the border of Rwanda and DR. Congo and has different names in the different countries. It is called Volcanoes National park in Rwanda and Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are five gorilla trekking locations in Uganda, four in Bwindi, and one in Mgahinga National park. Those in Bwindi include Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija, and Nkuringo. And at Mgahinga, there is Ntebeko. All these locations consist of eighteen gorilla families waiting for you to trek and see them.
Going on a gorilla trekking tour will take you between 2 to 8 hours at the National park with a guaranteed gorilla watching time of one hour. These mighty gorillas build their nests the night before, and the adventure kicks in as you have to locate them.
Find the right gorilla trekking tour here
How to do it right
Just like all the other trips you’ve ever made, mountain gorilla trekking also requires some preparation. To enjoy the whole experience, there are specific things you should pack and certain things to be aware of before setting off on the trek.
Gorilla trekking is done in the mornings, therefore, have enough rest in one of the safari lodges for the following day’s hike if you happen to arrive in the evening.
Be sure to be faced with falling branches, thorns, vines, stinging nettles, harmful plant species, and several other things in the forests. The tropic rain forests receive rains most times increasing the chances of having wet and slippery grounds during trekking.
Therefore, precautions need to be taken when going on these safaris. First of all, tourists are advised to dress in long-sleeved shirts and pants as opposed to shorts and short sleeves. This is meant to protect your arms and legs from any injury as well as insect bites. These clothes should also be waterproof. You might as well pack a lightweight jacket in case of rain and a hat for when it is too hot.
You need thick and long stockings in which you’ll tuck your pants to prevent crawling insects from climbing into your clothes. Furthermore, you need waterproof hiking boots to ensure that water doesn’t enter your warm stockings.
To protect your hands, you might need gloves and insect repellants. A waterproof day pack to carry your stuff like water bottles, packed lunch from your safari lodge, anti-malarial medicine, binoculars, flashless cameras with extra batteries, toiletries for when the need arises.
At the site, you will be equipped with walking sticks by the park rangers to help you climb to higher grounds, steady yourself and push aside obstacles on your way. Park rangers usually cut through the thick tree branches using a machete to clear the way for tourists.
And about safety, be a hundred per cent sure to return in one piece. Tourists are accompanied by two park rangers and a tour guide who are well experienced with mountain gorillas and the wildlife in the forests. They’ll give you advice like keeping a distance of 7m and not talk loudly near the gorillas. This is all meant to enhance your experience by keeping the gorillas in view. These animals are gentle but there is still a need to take precautions.
To enjoy gorilla trekking to the fullest, you ought to love hiking and adventure. These two activities are combined since you have to hike through the thick vegetation of Bwindi Impenetrable forest, water bodies, hills, valleys, and terrains to reach the gorillas.
After seeing the gorillas, you’ll then have a picnic along a riverbank or stream. The snacks are usually packed by the safari lodges that accommodate the tourists.
What’s the best time to go gorilla trekking?
Doing it right also involves knowing the best time to go gorilla trekking. Since most of the mountain gorilla habitats are rain forests, it would be disastrous to penetrate through Bwindi Impenetrable forest while it’s raining. Nevertheless, that’s a whole other experience.
You can go gorilla trekking anytime you want throughout the year but the best time would be during the dry seasons. This way, you can enjoy the experience without having to worry about it raining or how wet you are.
The temperatures in Bwindi Impenetrable forest are between 7 to 20°C, with June and July being the coldest. The best time for gorilla trekking would be between December to February, and also from June to the start of September. This way, you can avoid the heavy rain season between September to November and the short one between March to May.
You will have to pay $700 to get a permit for gorilla trekking in Uganda compared to the $1500 in Rwanda.
This revenue is used to conserve the mountain gorillas since they are endangered species and also take good care of the National parks. This is why gorilla trekking is more than an experience to watch gorillas in their natural habitat, it is giving to keep them alive and prevent the gorilla species from becoming extinct.
Additionally, gorilla trekking involves other activities like bird sightings and hiking through a forest full of green scenery. You can as well see other animals like golden monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, and elephants.
Accommodation may cost you about $100 per night depending on your choice of a safari lodge, services, food, and other facilities. Or you could opt to hire a touring company to cater to all your needs on arrival. Gorilla trekking will be one of the best experiences in your life.
In a large family of apes, gorillas are known for being the most gentle species. Gorilla trekking tours have become the norm for very many tourists seeking to accomplish their bucket lists as well as make their eyes happy while in Uganda.