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The appeal of watching wildlife in their natural environment continues to capture the imagination of millions around the world. Multiple generations of exceptionally talented natural history filmmakers and wildlife cameramen have brought Africa into our living rooms. Collectively, they paint a vivid picture of the habitat and lifestyle of those creatures with which we share our precious planet. But there’s something especially captivating about watching an animal whose mannerisms and body language can be so similar to our own. Gorillas enthrall and terrify in equal measure, their immense bulk a threat and yet intensely beautiful. Charismatic, engaging and expressive, it’s not surprising we see so much of ourselves in their faces when we learn that over 98% of our DNA is shared.
But for many, it’s simply not enough to watch on the small screen. We yearn to venture into the world of these magnificent creatures and see for ourselves how they interact with their environment and each other. Mountain gorillas are among the most critically endangered of the planet’s species and though conservation efforts continue, numbers are still worryingly small. To be able to watch from such a close distance is an enormous privilege and one that we cannot take for granted that our grandchildren may be able to replicate.
Travelers to Uganda and Rwanda can incorporate a gorilla trekking safari into their holiday itinerary and enjoy a wildlife adventure of a lifetime. Hiking through verdant rainforest, it’s possible to follow experienced guides and trackers deep into the heart of the gorillas’ territory. The terrain is challenging, the gradients steep and the paths slippery, but the reward is immense. Though such an experience doesn’t come cheap, this is one bucket list experience that you cannot afford to put off. These gentle and shy beasts deserve our respect, and our time.
GORILLA TRACKING AFRICA
6 Day Uganda gorilla Tour
If you’re looking for a tour that offers everything, you will be tempted by our gorilla and Big Five package. Travel to Queen Elizabeth National Park to spot rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and lions before transferring to Kibale National Park for a chimpanzee tracking experience. Round off your magical six days with a trek to observe Uganda’s gentle mountain gorillas in beautiful Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
13 Days Uganda Wildlife Safari
Travelers with a keen sense of adventure will love this 13 day wildlife package which offers the chance to witness some of nature’s most incredible safari experiences. With game drives in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, chimp tracking in Kibale National Park and gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, this is a comprehensive offering which will surely be the trip of a lifetime.
5 Day gorilla and Chimp trekking
This shorter tour focuses on Uganda’s primates. Following the sound of screaming chimps, we’ll trek in search of them in Kibale Forest. Later we’ll drive to Bwindi, keeping our eyes peeled for tree-climbing lions on the way, to spend an unforgettable and magical hour with its mountain gorillas. Finally we’ll board canoes and slip through the flog-shrouded waters of Lake Bunyonyi on the lookout for endemic birds.
3 Days Rwanda Gorilla tracking
Because Volcanoes National Park is enticingly close to Kigali International Airport, you’ll only need a weekend to shorten your bucket list or add this tour onto a business trip. The thrill of observing gorillas in their lush mountain habitat is matched by the knowledge that a significant proportion of the money you’ve spent is funding conservation efforts to protect this critically endangered species.
Rugged and lush, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park could not be more aptly named. In fact, the name Bwindi even means impenetrable as if reinforcing that message. Its steep ravines and slippery slopes conceal over half the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas. Lush vegetation and the rugged terrain it conceals make any trek a challenge. For those who venture into its heart, the reward is an encounter that far surpasses any other safari experience on the African continent.
Volcanoes National Park
Situated within the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans (known locally as PNV) is just a two hour drive from the nation’s capital Kigali. Yet it’s a world away. Visitors from across the globe are drawn to this tiny corner of Africa for one reason: to track the endangered mountain gorillas who call the park home. But this unique and magical experience is only part of the story – a trek along the Dian Fossey Tomb Trail to the summit of Mount Bisoke is another must.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is one of the highlights of a visit to southern Uganda. Vast swathes of evergreen montane forest form a wildlife corridor with neighbouring Queen Elizabeth National Park. A safari here is a delight; you’ll find twelve species of primates in addition to its sizeable population of habituated yet endangered chimpanzees. Elephants migrate in and out of the park on a regular basis and you might also spot leopard, mongoose, duiker, warthog, buffalo and even the occasional lion.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Less well-known than Volcanoes National Park but no less beautiful, Nyungwe is one of the most pristine high altitude rainforests in Africa, as well as one of its oldest. Covering an area of over a thousand square kilometres, it offers myriad wildlife encounters. The park is most famous for its chimpanzees, but you’ll also find a 400-strong troop of Ruwenzori Black and White Colobus monkeys and over 300 species of birds. Access them via a dramatic canopy walkway suspended 60 metres above the forest floor.
Gorilla Tracking Information
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO UNDERTAKE YOUR GORILLA TREK?
There’s nothing to stop you visiting the gorillas at any time of year. However, depending on your tolerance for mud underfoot and rain trickling down your neck, there’s some variation in how comfortable you might be.
Broadly speaking, in Uganda dry season runs from December to February and from mid-June to mid-August. Note that you’re still likely to get some rain. Wet season is March to May and again in September through until November. In Rwanda, you’re likely to find that June to September and January to February are the driest months. The long rains stretch from mid-March to mid-May with seasonal rains also affecting the trekking area in October and November.
Note that opting for a tour in wet season or in the shoulder season immediately before or after the rains, you’re likely to find that the number of people you encounter is significantly fewer. Some people argue that this makes for a better trekking experience.
WHAT ARE THE FEEDING HABITS OF GORILLAS?
Gorillas are vegetarians and that is good news for anyone intimidated by the size – you aren’t going to become their next meal! The subspecies of gorilla found in Uganda and Rwanda is the mountain gorilla. They can’t access the fruit that their relations the lowland gorillas consume, so they content themselves with a diet that largely consists of leaves, stems and buds. Males tend to eat significantly more than females, consuming around 18 to 20kg of food per day to the female’s 12 to 14kg. Crops planted by humans in settlements nearby can be very tempting indeed.
WHAT IS THE PRICE OF A GORILLA PERMIT?
Getting up close to gorillas in the wild doesn’t come cheap. The price of a daily permit for gorilla treks in Uganda is $600 per person. Unfortunately, the reduction in price for a low season permit has been scrapped and although some websites still state that 2018 permits can be had for $450, we have to inform you that’s no longer the case. Across the border in Rwanda, it’s even more expensive with permits now costing $1500 following a significant increase in price in 2017. That said, this will be the experience of a lifetime and more than worth the outlay.
WHICH COUNTRY PROVIDES THE BEST OPTION TO TREK THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS?
That’s a question we get asked a lot. If you’re on a tighter budget, then Uganda has the advantage over Rwanda, with permits costing $600 compared to $1500 per day. But much of the increased fee in Rwanda supports local communities and much-needed conservation projects, so you’ll definitely get the warm and fuzzies if you know a large chunk of your donation helps a worthy cause.
In terms of your chance to see the gorillas, you’ll be interested to learn that there are more gorillas on the Ugandan side of the border than in Rwanda. According to WWF, there are approximately 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild. Many of this critically endangered species live deep in the forest, unseen by human eyes. You’ll find the majority in the Virunga Mountains, straddling Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a smaller population in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are seven groups that can be tracked in Rwanda (Susa, Sabinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Kwitonda and Group Thirteen), compared to four in Bwindi (Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Nkuringo).
The terrain can also factor in your decision. Treks in Bwindi tend to begin at higher altitude, descending to see the gorillas and then climbing back up at the end of the day. In contrast two of the Rwandan groups can be found around a two hour walk from the park entrance, though you can be required to hike for up to five hours in each direction. Note that although you can’t choose which group you follow, your chances of a shorter, easier hike are higher in Rwanda.
WHAT IS A GORILLA HABITUATION EXPERIENCE?
You may have read about something called a “gorilla habituation experience”. Broadly speaking, it is the process of getting wild gorillas to tolerate the presence of people nearby. Visitors are invited to join one of the teams for an intimate and privileged close encounter with Uganda’s mountain gorillas. Instead of being limited to an hour, these small groups of no more than four people will spend four hours in close proximity to the gorillas in Bwindi. If you are keen to do so, note that you’ll need to make your booking well in advance and be prepared to pay an increased fee of $1500.
Inspiration Video – Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
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OUR TOP GORILLA TRACKING TOURS
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Tours
4 day Gorilla Trekking Safari – Uganda
Venture into the heart of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you’ll trek to visit gorillas in the wild. In verdant, mountainous surroundings you’ll have the opportunity to savour a thrilling close encounter with an adult male gorilla, known as a silverback, and his troop.
13 day Gorilla Trekking Safari – Uganda
Journey through the diverse and beautiful scenery of Africa’s Great Rift Valley on this comprehensive Ugandan safari. Encompassing five national parks, highlights include the source of the River Nile, Murchison Falls, Big Five game drives, chimpanzee tracking and the ultimate African wildlife experience – a trek to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
5 Day Gorilla Trekking and Chimpanzee Tracking Safari – Uganda
This shorter tour focuses on Uganda’s primates. Following the sound of chimps screaming, we’ll trek in search of them in Kibale Forest. Later we’ll drive to Bwindi, keeping our eyes peeled for tree-climbing lions on the way, to spend an unforgettable and magical hour with its mountain gorillas.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Tours
15 day Gorilla Tour – Uganda & Rwanda
This comprehensive tour offers a plethora of bird and wildlife spotting activities. Highlights include a canopy walk in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest and go in search of golden monkeys and gorillas in Volcanoes National Park before we cross the border into Uganda to track chimps in Kibale plus go on game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls.
12 Day Gorilla Trekking Safari – Rwanda
Despite their size, gorillas are actually shy creatures that are surprisingly gentle. During our ultimate Rwandan safari you’ll delight in their captivating, almost human, mannerisms. This tour includes visits to three of the country’s national parks as well as the Kigali Memorial Centre.
9 Days Gorilla and Chimpanzee Tour – Rwanda
High above the forest floor, you’ll take an exhilarating canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park tracking playful chimpanzees. Follow up with an experience you’ll never forget trekking the critically endangered mountain gorilla in the verdant setting of Volcanoes National Park.