Trekking through the impenterable forests of Uganda in search of the mountain gorilla is truly a bucket list experience.
The only way you can see a mountain gorilla is by trekking the mountainous regions of Uganda, Rwanda or Congo.
Mountain gorillas can not survive anywhere but their natural habitat
So if think you have seen one at a zoo, that isn’t the case… It was most definitely a lowland gorilla.
Both the mountain and lowland gorillas are subspecies of the eastern gorilla and critically endangered.
With all this in mind, seeing a mountain gorilla in their natural environment is the most amazing encounter ever!
It won’t be easy though. And it ain’t called a trek for nothing… Think dense, muddy, overgrown, thick and steep terrain.
You’re going to get very dirty and sweaty. You will also slip, slide and get stuck in mud. But it will all be worth it to see these gentle giants up close 🦍!!!
Gorilla trekking in Uganda AKA the Pearl of Africa 🇺🇬
Uganda is home to half of the remaining mountain gorilla population. So it should definitely be at the top of your list when deciding which country to trek in!
Here there are two national parks that the gorillas call home: Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga Gorilla national park.
Bwindi has 12 habituated gorilla families while Mgahinga has just the one.
With such a high population found in Uganda, there is a 98% chance of finding a habituated gorilla family on a single visit. Which are great odds!
Habituation familiarises the gorillas to humans while in their natural environment. This process usually takes about two years.
Gorilla families are only allowed a maximun of eight visitors a day
Since we share similar DNA, gorillas are very suspectible to human illnesses and diseases. So limiting their interaction is paramount to their conservation.
For this same reason your time spent with the gorillas is limited to a one hour maximum.
Also anyone with even the slighest hint of a cold will not be able to trek.
So make sure you look after yourself in the lead up to your trek, as you wouldn’t want to miss out!!!
Cost of Gorilla trekking in Uganda
At the time of writing, a permit to trek costs $700 USD. This might seem like a lot of money for just one hour with the gorillas.
But considering 100% of the permit cost is used to help protect the gorillas and their habitat it is definitely worth it.
Uganda is also considerably cheaper than Rwanda where a permit costs $1,500 USD!!! However the Congo offers the cheapest permits at $400 USD each.
Although it’s worth noting it’s also the most unsafe place to trek…. So probably not worth comprising your safety for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars!
Gorilla permits are in high demand and they sell out quickly
Be sure to book permits in advance and as early as you can. Unauthorised third parties can sometimes sell dodgy, invalid permits. So double check that you are booking with a reputable company.
Apart from your permit, a reasonable level of fitness is required and you have to be at least 15 years old to trek.
Gorilla trekking is a year round activity
Although visiting in the drier months is better as it’s less muddy and slippery! The two dry seasons are December to February and June to September.
All treks start in the morning. Read – very early in the morning ha ha! Which can be quite cold.
Wearing a couple of layers of clothes is advisable
As being a tropical forest the weather is unpredictable! A rain coat or water resistant outer wear is recommended. As well as long sleeve shirt and pants.
Wearing hiking boots are also highly recommended. Otherwise enclosed, comfortable and sturdy shoes should do the job. Also socks that you can tuck your pants into offer extra protection against fire ants and leeches.
But probably the most important part of clothing, and I can’t stress this enough… GLOVES!
Wearing a pair of gardening gloves will protect your hands when grabbing on to prickly and thorny vegetation.
Trekking time can take anywhere from 45 minutes to eight hours!!…
The gorillas are free roaming animals and their location changes on a daily basis.
Although park rangers monitor their whereabouts, trekking time and difficulty will vary day to day. But be prepared for a long day either way.
Our roundtrip trek took five hours. Which included our hour with the gorillas and a 20 minute lunch break.
On top of that we had our transfer time to and from Lake Bunyoni. We were up at 4.30am and didn’t return until after 4pm.
It was all worth it though! Not only did we get lots of awesome pics, videos and memories…
But also certificates to prove we completed the trek 😁
Hopefully all this hasn’t scared you off because gorilla trekking in Uganda is a must!
The whole trek and experience far exceeded my expectations!.. It was way better than what I could of ever imagined and can’t recommend it enough. Such a memorable and extraordinary experience!
Stay tuned for Gerard’s account on our experience of searching for the mountain gorillas in Bwindi 🦍🍃🦍🌿!!!