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Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda Bwindi safari

Trekking the endangered mountain gorillas remains one of the undisputed highlights of any visit to Uganda, meeting these incredible primates deep in the rainforest can only be described as an emotionally overwhelming experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.

Looking deep into the expressive brown eyes of gentle giants is surely the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter that Africa has to offer, but we should not let it distract from Bwindi’s broader biodiversity, a result of its immense antiquity and an altitude span of from 1,160 to 2,607m. The National park has 90 mammal species, including 11 primates, of which the black-and-white colobus monkey, with its lovely flowing white tail, is prominent. The forest birding ranks with the best in Uganda, with 23 highly localized Albertine endemics present.

Mountain gorillas are one of two subspecies of the eastern gorillas listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the total population is estimated to comprise 1,004 individuals as of 2018 and the population lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the others live in the Virunga Mountains in three adjacent national parks, namely Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorilla trekking is considered to be one of Africa’s greatest wildlife encounters however a level of fitness is required to hike up the mountains as you trek down the silverback hanging around his babies and females in the dense rainforest south west of Ugandan capital Kampala. With limited gorilla permits sold daily clients are advised to plan their gorilla trekking safaris in good time.

Where to see mountain gorillas in Uganda

Uganda is one of Africa’s best destinations for mountain gorilla trekking, the country’s western mountain ranges with tropical rainforests are where the mountain gorillas live in the wild. Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park bordering Rwanda’s volcanoes national park and DR Congo’s Virunga national park are the only places in Uganda where you can trek the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda

Besides the Democratic Republic of Congo Uganda has the second cheapest gorilla permit prices at USD 700 per gorilla permit per person that’s including the park entrance fees for that day, however, the gorilla permits are sold on a first come first serve basis which may require an advance booking in order to guarantee the permits.

By far gorilla trekking permits are some of the most difficult safari essentials to arrange, a gorilla permit or pass is a document issued by the government of Uganda through the Uganda wildlife authority after tourists have paid fully the fees required, these permits are usually printed few weeks to start of the safari to the tour operator.

Uganda has 5 gorilla trekking regions meaning travelers need to be very careful while planning their safari, you must ensure before booking your safari lodge you must have booked your gorilla permit first because the region where you will trek the mountain gorillas will determine where you will stay as the distance between these trekking zones range from 1 hour to 6 hours of drive.

Gorilla trekking age limit in Uganda

Uganda’s gorilla trekking age limit is currently at 15 years and any child below the age of 15 may be prohibited from visiting gorillas in their natural habitat as it is for Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park.

However, we still advise that all travelers should ensure that they have a certain level of fitness as these mountain gorillas are wild and they can move anytime and anywhere depending on the conditions in that specific habitat.

Normally mountain gorillas will cover an area of 1Km of radius daily if there is enough food for the family however if mountain gorillas are disturbed they can move longer distances some of the factors include encountering other wildlife, availability of food.

How long is the mountain gorilla trek in Uganda?

This is pretty unpredictable to tell how long you will take during your gorilla trekking adventure but according to starts the best and the shortest experience is usually two hours (2 hours) meaning you hike for only 30 minutes view the gorillas for one hour and make your way back in 30 minutes and the real trek and harder experience is about nine (9 hours) meaning you will hike for four hours (4 hours) view the gorillas for one hour (1 hour) and trek back four hours (4 hours).

The actual encounter with mountain gorillas of Uganda

Sharing time with the mountain gorillas in the wild in Africa’s dense rainforest is utterly magical; nothing is intense like preparing you for the sheer beauty and Braun, those soulfully brown eyes, their astonishing human-like expressions for their extraordinary gentle demeanor.

The special encounter normally just lasts precious one hour but the Uganda wildlife authority has offered a new gorilla habituation experience where you can actively participate in habituating semi- wild gorilla family during the process you will spend 4 hours.

Refunds/ Cancellations of Gorilla Permits in Uganda

Due to avoidable circumstances, the following incidences may be considered for a refund, withdrawal for a gorilla trekking experience from between 46 and 90 days to the scheduled tracking Date, you will be refunded 50% of the total tracking fee and UWA shall hold the remaining 50%. Cancellation from 91 days and above calls for a 75% refund and UWA holds 25% of the gorilla permit fee paid. However, all this is subject to changes over time please contact Wilderness Explorers Africa for up-to-date information before making a decision to cancel a gorilla safari.

Photographing Mountain gorillas in Uganda

Photographing mountain gorillas in Uganda was definitely not an easy task. The foliage in the jungle was extremely dense and made moving in the area quite difficult. Trying to get a solid foothold was impossible at times and I was constantly being attacked by fire-ants and other insects. As the Gorillas moved around quite often, we always had to follow them, and at times this became quite dangerous and at the end of the day, I came away with many cuts, bruises, and insect bites.

Equipment Used

The lighting conditions went from bright sunlight to dark shadows depending on where they were at the moment. I chose to shoot this entire experience with a 50mm prime, at or as close to an aperture of f/1.8 (on an APS-C size sensor). This allowed me to get a fast shutter speed to capture their expressions in high, sharp detail, and create a shallow depth of field to make them the focal point, and make them really stand out against their surroundings. While I only had access to 50mm at the time, I would recommend going into such an environment with a lens range from 50mm to 200mm for best opportunities.

Domestic flights to Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla national park

Uganda’s tourism has grown over years and this has seen a significant increase in the number of tourists that visit Uganda for a vacation, Aero link Uganda which is a partner in Uganda operates daily scheduled and charter flights to Kihihi airstrip and Kisoro airstrip respectively saving time for those that may not fancy the Road trip.

Bwindi has four areas around the 321 sq. km area where you can trek the Mountain gorillas, the gorilla trekking regions included Buhoma gorilla sector, Ruhija gorilla sector, Rushaga gorilla sector, and Nkuringo gorilla sector however there is no airstrip close to the forest, Kihihi, and Kisoro airstrips are just over an hour drive to Bwindi impenetrable national park.

Accommodation in Bwindi impenetrable national park

Buhoma is the Northern sector of the Bwindi forest and it doubles as the first area in Uganda where gorilla trekking started way back in 1993 making it atop area for gorilla trekking in the Bwindi forest, the region has 6 gorilla families and some of the top Luxury Lodges Like Sanctuary gorilla forest camp, Buhoma Lodge and Bwindi Lodge where you can stay while gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Rushaga is located in the Lower south about 2 hours’ drive from Kisoro airstrip, the region has about 8 gorilla families making it an area in Bwindi with the biggest number of gorilla families in the whole of Bwindi forest some of the Lodges stay include Chameleon Hill Lodge located on Lake Mutanda, Ichumbi gorilla Lodge and the four gorillas Lodge which are some of the best places to stay while gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest.

Ntebeko is located in Mgahinga gorilla national park and its one of the best places to trek mountain gorillas when you are on a flying safari, Ntebeko park headquarters are located 45 minutes from the Kisoro airstrip making it an easier drive and clients can stay at the Luxury Mt Gahinga Lodge located 5 minutes’ walk to the park for gorilla and golden monkey trekking safaris.

Best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is an all year safari adventure but the best time is usually during the dry season which runs from May to October and from December to February, this is the time forest receives less rainfall or no rainfall making the trails drier and easier for hiking during your gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla national park.


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