Best Practical Gorilla Trekking Information -Tips – Advice for Uganda

Posted by on September 1, 2019

Practical Gorilla Trekking Information for Uganda

All you need to Know – Practical Gorilla Trekking – Information -Tips – Advice


 Useful Gorilla Trekking Information -Tips – Advice for Gorilla Trekkers coming to Uganda. The information is updated as changes occur.

This is your online Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Uganda is the only country with two distinctly different gorilla parks.

Uganda has been and is the Premier Mountain Gorilla Trekking Destination. Affordability is the crucial reason without a compromise in the quality of the gorilla encounter or the variety of lodges. 

Affordability, and the availability of permits. Uganda is home to over half of the remaining Mountain Gorillas.                

When it comes to Gorilla Trekking – Uganda’s Gorilla Permits will remain at 600 USD making it the best safe and affordable country to trek Gorillas in.

  Rwanda, though safe, the permit price remains at an out-of-reach 1,500 USD.  DR Congo is affordable at 350 USD for permits but comes with the added risk factors that make the Eastern Congo, including Virunga National Park a no-go zone for most unless you are Indiana Jones.

Practical Gorilla Trekking Information -Tips – Advice-Your Total Guide to Gorilla Trekking. We offer you all the information that you need to enhance your experience of your Encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest. 

Practical Gorilla Trekking Information -Tips – Advice – Whether you are on a Gorilla Safari with us or not, the Information we offer will put you into the Know.  Based on our experience, you will have the best Gorilla Trekking Experience knowing about what is involved in Gorilla Trekking. 

It is all about Know before you Go. You are knowing means that you will avoid the pitfalls and mistakes commonly made by those who do not Know before they Go.

Gorilla trekking is the most expensive Tourism Activity in Africa, take the Time to get the most return for your money in the form of a Memorable Experience that far exceeds the investment.

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda – Know Before you go – Be Informed


The Uganda Gorilla Guide – Practical Gorilla Trekking Information -Tips – Advice


 Mountain Gorilla Facts- Background – Information

Mountain Gorilla Background Information – Mountain Gorilla Background Information-Facts-History-Behavior of Mountain Gorillas, Habitat and Diet and Predators – chief predator being a man.

The endangered Mountain Gorillas of Uganda will not be found in any zoo in the world (they do not survive in captivity, and there are no surviving mountain gorillas in zoos), you can only find them in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Mountain Gorillas, thanks to Conservation Efforts supported in large part by Gorilla Tourism and Permit Revenue are dramatically growing in numbers.

Preserving and enlarging their habitat remains the biggest Challenge,  Larger buffer zones between parks the local Communities are also a Priority.

Fun & Serious Facts about Mountain Gorillas

The Father of Gorilla Tourism in Uganda– Walter Baumgartel 


The Parks where you can track Mountain Gorillas in Uganda:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

This ancient, Afromontane Rainforest is home to most of the endangered Mountain Gorillas. It is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site, CNN Travel’s Choice for the most beautiful place in the world.

There are four areas in the park where Gorilla Trekking takes place. In the north of the park, there is Buhoma which was the original gorilla trekking site in the park. It also has the most lodges in the park. There is also Ruhija where trekking takes place at higher elevations.

In the south is Nkuringo, known for tougher treks since you descent 600 meter and ascent a 600-meter ridge at the end of the Gorilla Trek. Three groups are trekked here. Nkuringo is known for its rugged beauty, and it is home to the exclusive Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.

Rushaga has become the best place for Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest having the most gorilla families to trek. It is not as developed but has a wide array of mid-range lodges and one upmarket Lodge, but you can stay in Nkuringo and trek in Rushaga. South Bwindi Forest is easily accessed from Kigali, Rwanda.


 Mgahinga Gorilla Park:

Mgahinga Gorilla Park is the Gorilla Park without the crowds. There is only the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family that you can trek here. There is also only one lodge in the mid-range or luxury category, and that is Mount Gahinga Lodge.

Here you trek in the shadows of the Volcanoes. The trek resembles trekking in Rwanda with one big difference. You save hundreds in some cases, thousands of dollar trekking on the Ugandan side without a compromise in the quality of experience.

Mgahinga Gorilla Park gives you the additional choices of Golden Monkey Trekking and three one-day Volcano Climbs. The Batwa Cultural Trail is a must-do while you Trekking Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. It is a small park with many activities.


Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park are located in southwest Uganda. Most Tour operators still have you fly into Entebbe International Airport, and then they take you on a 9-10-Hour drive to the Gorilla Park. For practical purposes, less drive-time, we suggest that you fly into the other international airport that is a gateway to southwest Uganda and that is the Kigali International Aiport. From Kigali to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest it is a 4-hour drive. To Mgahinga Gorilla Park it is just three-hours.

You can also fly into Kigali Rwanda and fly out of Entebbe as the majority of our clients do. This allows you to take in other parks such as Queen Elizabeth Park, Kibale Forest, Lake Mburo Park, and Murchison Falls Park. For those that fly into Rwanda, the East African Visa is the best option. A Yellow Fever Certificate is required to enter Uganda.

The more costly, but a time-saving option is flying from Entebbe to Southwest Uganda. That is either a 75-minute flight to Kihihi or 90-minute flight to Kisoro.


 Gorilla Trekking Lodges

We recommend a mid-range or luxury lodge for a gorilla trekking safari rather than a budget or shoe-string lodge. Let your focus be on the once-in-a-lifetime Gorilla Encounter Experience and not on a lodge that is not up to your expectations.

You will need a tour operator such as Kabiza Wilderness Safaris to book you into the lodge that is closest to where you will trek the gorillas. There are four trailheads in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Mid-Range Lodges abound in and near Bwindi Forest around each gorilla trailhead. Luxury Lodges are concentrated in the Buhoma area where gorilla trekking first took place in the 1990s.

Luxury lodges and exclusive Lodges are available in a more limited manner in the Rushaga and Nkuringo in South Bwindi Forest. Mount Gahinga Gorilla Park has a wonderful luxury lodge that is just at the park entrance.

All lodges have on-site security. There have been no breaches of security reported at lodges in both Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.


G orilla Trekking – What is it like-the Experience

Most coming to Uganda are clueless about Gorilla Trekking. We can say this. It is unlike any other Safari Experience in Africa. For most, it is a once in a lifetime experience that mere words cannot describe. It is a personal encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest. They are a close cousin to Human Beings being 98% plus similar to us in genetic make-up.

The Gorilla Trekking cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world but only in the wild of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Mountain Gorillas do not survive in captivity, only in the wild. One reason that this sought after an encounter is on the bucket lists of thousands around the world.

Gorilla Treks are anywhere from three to six hours in duration. For one-hour, you are in the presence of a Gorilla Family. For some, that is not enough, and they choose to trek the gorillas twice or opt for the more extended ~Gorilla Habituation Experience.


Gorilla Tracking – is it worth it?

A South African wrote some time back that he felt that gorilla tracking was not worth it.  Too much hassle, too much money, too many bugs, too much effort.  How wrong he was and is.

The Thousands that go on a gorilla trek each year will tell otherwise, and one never hears a bit of regret, only wishing that they could track the gorillas once again.

Gorilla Tracking, like all priceless things in life, has a price – a 600 USD for each permit in Uganda. Add-on top of that lodging, transport, guides, tips and yes, it is a bundle of money – no one has ever complained but the writer of a blog that I answer in the link above, who never tracked gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking – the most expensive Tourism Activity in Africa


Is Uganda the best Gorilla Trekking Country – You Compare

The above is a question one often receives from clients.  One also sees such questions on forums, TripAdvisor, and blogs.

Uganda and Rwanda offer similar experiences when it comes time to spend that hour with the Mountain Gorillas.

If you are in doubt regarding which country to visit take a look.  Our suggestion – Track the Mountain Gorillas in both Rwanda and Uganda.  Even better track the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and go on 4 hours with the Gorillas on a Gorilla Habituation Experience.


Choose the Kind of Gorilla Trek that you would like:

Gorilla Trekking Choices – Time to make Choices, and Uganda does give you more choices. Choose the park for Gorilla Trekking. Some choose to trek in both parks.

Choose whether you want the regular trek where there are 8 participants, and you are for one-hour with a gorilla family. In Uganda, you choose the exclusive (4 participant limit) Gorilla Habituation Experience.  The experience takes place in the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and there is a minimal number of permits available.

Uganda does offer Privater Gorilla Trekking. This is just you and your part with the Mountain Gorillas either on a Gorilla Trek or the Gorilla Habituation Experience. Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers and Porters would be with you.


 What are my chances of seeing the Mountain Gorillas?

This is a frequent question we receive/ At the crack of dawn, which is around 6:30 am, Pre-Trackers head into the forest, to the last GPS location of a Gorilla Family. From there they follow the tracks left by the Gentle Giants.

Gorillas move less than three kilometers a day.  When they find a group, the GPS location and other references are communicated to the Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo UWA Trailhead.

The Rangers and trackers that lead you into the forest on your trek are not the ones to find your group, that has been already done by the pre-tracking team.  This is something most Gorilla Trekking do not realize.

Do Visitors ever miss seeing their assigned Gorilla Families?  It happened once to one of our clients eight years ago, the next day the client did.


 What most do not know about Gorilla Trekking

Here are 5-Things You Never Knew About Gorilla Trekking – What you do not know about Gorilla Trekking-The Reality versus Perceptions and those Perceptions can costs you Thousands of Dollars, Money that you are spending because you do not know. There are Gorilla Trekking Realities you should know since what you read on the internet, what you read in Travel Magazine, on TripAdvisor Posts, in forums such as Fodors or Lonely Planet’s Thorntree Forum are opinions often biased, prejudiced, and they leave out the reality on the ground.  The authors of such post are simply spewing Buffaloes (Uglish -Ugandan English Phrase) as we say in Uganda, they do not know what they are talking about


Activities that you can do before or after your Gorilla Trek:

Often Gorilla Trekkers are focused on the Gorilla Encounter that they pay little attention to the other activities that can be done Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Both parks offer some other activities that we would put into the “Do not Miss” Column. We recommend that you do not miss a cultural encounter with the Batwa People. They are the indigenous people of the area that lived for thousands of years, long before any Bantu People arrived. They lived in harmony with nature and Gorillas. Today they are Conservation Refugees.

You can take hikes or ride a bike in, near or through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Climb a Volcano in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the best parks in Africa for birding. You can do a Village Walk.


  Is Gorilla Tracking Safe in Uganda?

Gorilla Tracking is one of the safest Safari activities in all of Africa.

The safest place to be is on a safari in Uganda. On a gorilla trek, rangers guide you along with an armed military escort.  Pretrackers are out in search of your Gorilla Group, and the way is laid out before you hit the trail.

Gorilla Trekking is a significant source of income for Uganda and both governments have done everything to make it a safe experience for visitors since all it takes is one incident to destroy Gorilla Tourism for a country and that is the last thing Uganda wants.

Safety and Security in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Safety and Security in Mgahinga Gorilla Park

Gorilla Trekking Safaris – Not Guerilla Trekking Safaris

Meet the Rangers from Uganda Wildlife Authority that are your guides you on your trek

Our Travel Advisories for Uganda for our Clients-updated almost daily

Why the Australian Government is wrong about Gorilla Trekking in Uganda


 When is the Best Time of Year to track Gorillas in Uganda:

Gorilla Tracking takes place in Uganda all year-long – there are two rainy seasons where the trails become quite muddy.  One must also realize that it does not rain all day long during the rainy seasons.  Most often it will rain during the night and the early morning hours.  The sun will still come out on most days.

January through March, Mi-June through September and December are usually the best months of the year for Gorilla Trekking Safaris.

In the rainforests of Uganda, it can rain during the dry seasons.  When it rains in Uganda and Rwanda – it is mostly during the night or early mornings, and then it clears up once again as the sun comes out.

Luxury lodges in Bwindi Forest offer seasonal discounts.  Lodges set their dates, and they most often differ from another.

Please note – Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is not in hot and humid jungle. Uganda has one of the best climates in Africa.  Though located on the equator, the elevation, the weather patterns from Lake Victoria, Lake Edward, Lake Albert, Lake Kivu all temper that. Add to that the Rwenzori Mountain range and the Virunga Volcanoes and you have daytime temperatures for your gorilla trek that do not exceed 25 degrees Celsius. Nighttime temperatures drop down to 10 degrees Celsius.

KISORO WEATHER

Rainy Season means trekking without the Crowds.


 Getting the Most Value for your Gorilla Trekking Dollars:

Gorilla Trekking is expensive. There is no doing a Gorilla Trekking on the Cheap. It is the most costly tourist activity in Africa and most likely beyond.

There are some money-saving choices that you can make. Options that can save you hundreds of dollars.  This is where we can be of help and assist you in creating a safari that is within reach, ways of stretching your hard-earned money, getting as the Americans say, More Bang for your Buck.

When it comes to Gorilla Safaris, there are no fire sales, no more seasonal discounts, no Black Friday Sales Days, but wise choice, and a Tour Company that understands your needs and wishes can keep your cost within reason.  Many potential Trekkers come down with a case of  Gorilla Safari Price sticker shock.  There is no cheap gorilla Trekking safari in spite of some tour operators using that term. We like to say, remember the Yugo, the cheapest car made in its time.


How do I get Gorilla Permits?

Gorilla Permits for Uganda and Rwanda are best booked through your Safari Tour Operator such as ourselves. That is the easiest and hassle-free way.

Permits in Uganda are booked through a member of AUTO – The Association of Uganda Tour Operators that work together with the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the promotion and sales of permits.

In Rwanda, Gorilla Permits are booked similarly by Tour Operators who fully understand the routines and ways to obtain permits for your Gorilla Trek in Rwanda.

Discounted Gorilla Permits in Uganda were discontinued at the end of November – 2017 – the reason was one of marketing.

Gorilla Permits will increase from $600 to $700 effective July 1, 2020. 

The Secret to getting Gorilla Permits

Avoid Missing out on Gorilla Permits in Uganda:


 The Trekking Orientation -Gorilla Tracking Rules and Guidelines:

The Gorilla Tracking Safari has some rules, guidelines, etiquette that go along with it, and it is best to know about them before the gorilla safari in Uganda or Rwanda.

The rules for Gorilla Tracking are most similar, and the Rangers strictly enforce them in both countries.

They range as to how much time you will have with the mountain gorillas, to rules about your health and well-being so that you do not infect a gorilla with the flu or a cold, for example.

The distance you will have to be from the gorillas, the use of a camera without flash and more.  Simple things that are good to know. In both countries taking our Ultimate Gorilla Challenge.

Always follow the instructions of the Rangers leading your Trekking Party.


 Can I choose the Gorilla Family I want to trek:

Gorilla Trekking Choices: When it comes to selecting the Gorilla Family that you want to trek, there are some limitations and parameters by which the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers determine which group you will trek. The only exception is the Nyakagezi family in Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

Your input determines the gorilla group that you will trek — your level of fitness, your age, and the ranger’s decision. Our driver/guide assists in the process, and most often, you trek the gorilla group that you like. Permits are issued for an area and not for a gorilla group. The determination is made on the day of the trek and not beforehand.

Focus on the Experience of your encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest.


What are my chances of seeing the Mountain Gorillas?

This is a frequent question we receive/ At the crack of dawn, which is around 6:30 am, Pre-Trackers head into the forest, to the last GPS location of a Gorilla Family. From there they follow the tracks left by the Gentle Giants.

Gorillas move less than three kilometers a day.  When they find a group, the GPS location and other references are communicated to the Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo UWA Trailhead.

The Rangers and trackers that lead you into the forest on your trek are not the ones to find your group, that has been already done by the pre-tracking team.  This is something most Gorilla Trekking do not realize.

Do Visitors ever miss seeing their assigned Gorilla Families?  It happened once to one of our clients eight years ago, the next day the client did.


 What  to Wear When tracking Gorillas:

Here is practical advice about what to wear for a while Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda.  Often Trekkers are not dressed right for the occasion, and that can spoil your day, and your focus might not be the Gorillas but personal discomfort and misery.

Wearing the right clothing is about protection. There are not many mosquitoes found on a trek, but there are flies and ants.  You need protection from nettles, thorns, branches that can scratch you.

This is the day where you need to dress for the occasion, Gorilla Trekking in the African Wild of Volcanoes National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Just look at what the Rangers are wearing.

Boots for your Gorilla Trekking Safari

Best Insect Repellent


 Essentials for a Gorilla Trek – a porter- a walking stick:

One of the complaints that one hears about Gorilla Trekking – actually two.  I wish I had hired a porter to free me up for the trek and the second one is – I wish I had used a Walking Stick to steady myself along the steep paths during gorilla trekking.

When you hire a porter, you make it easier for yourself, and it allows you to focus on the trek, it also empowers a Ugandan with an income that exceeds most public servants in government.

A Walking Stick is one of the handiest things you can have along on your gorilla trek. It will steady your hike in and out to your gorilla family and give you the support that you need.

You can even buy a carved walking stick that you can take home as a souvenir of this day.

Porters make a difference in the Quality of your Trek.


 Am I fit enough for Gorilla Trekking?

In 2013 a 94-year-old woman was carried on a stretcher on her Gorilla trek and fulfilled her lifelong dream to see the Mountain Gorillas in her lifetime – she did.  She was transported by 12 men in relay teams and did it – most that go gorilla tracking are a bit younger, though we have clients that were 80 years old and did just fine.

One should be in reasonable shape and state of fitness to track the gorillas.  The gorilla group requiring the most stamina and strength is the Nkuringo Gorilla group since you have to ascend and descend 600 at the beginning and the end of the trek – however, Porters can be used to carry your daypack, and walking sticks can be purchased, or some lodges have them available for their guests.

Both Uganda and Rwanda have tough groups to track and easier ones – we will work with you according to your fitness level and stamina.


 Taking great pictures while Gorilla Tracking:

Gorilla Photography is a bit different, at times it can be the lighting since often you will have you’re one hour encounter in the forest where the conditions are a bit different.

Here is practical advice for you to get the best results while taking pictures of the Mountain Gorillas while tracking them in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Photography of gorillas made a bit easier for you…enjoy your Trek while taking some great photos of the mountain gorillas in both Rwanda and Uganda.

Best Tip – take many pictures – keep the best ones.

Gorilla Photography Safari

Gorilla Trekking Photography Tips


 Tipping on a Gorilla Trekking Safari:

Uganda is a non-tipping country. It is not part of the culture here. It has found its way into the Tourism sector in Uganda with some seeing it as an entitlement and not something that is given because of excellent or exemplary service. Some Tour operators have a long list that takes in Ranger Guides, Porters, Lodge Staff and drivers. Some of the tip suggestions asked for are over the top in our opinion.

Tipping is not mandatory. Tipping is a matter of the heart, not an art. Our Drivers will assist you in all ways, including in the appropriate tipping practices.

Do keep this in mind. You are an ambassador of your country and you are remembered by what you do and how you tip.

Tips, in our opinion, are a form of empowerment. When you tip you empower a Ugandan to do something and often it is excellent and long-lasting.


 Kabiza Wilderness Safaris – Your one-stop Gorilla Tour Operator:

Gorilla Trekking and Gorilla Trekking Safaris are what we do best.  We know all about the Gentle Giants of the Forest.

We use tried and proven quality mid-range and luxury Lodges, and most of all we as a member of the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators we partner with Uganda Wildlife Authority as an authorized Sales Agents.  All of our Primate come with permits, and AUTO Members have the first access to the permits.

Value+ Plus Mid-Range Gorilla Safaris

Luxury Gorilla Safaris

Best Gorilla Safaris- Add-Ons

Over a Decade we have taken Clients on their Incredible Up-Close Encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest.