10 must-know tips for planning a gorilla safari in Uganda
Gorilla safaris in Uganda are a top tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all around the world. These magnificent creatures can be found in two national parks in Uganda: Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park. The primary reason for most visitors coming in to join the daily gorilla trekking tours a thrilling experience that involves traveling through lush tropical forests in search of these endangered primates. Once located, guests can spend up to one hour near the gorillas, observing their behavior and learning about their habitat.
Mountain gorillas are not exclusive to Uganda; they can also be found in other national parks, such as Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, most visitors come to Uganda due to its reputation as a safe and accessible destination for gorilla trekking. So if you are planning a gorilla safari in Uganda, here are 10 tips you must know to help you plan a great trip.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda happens in five sectors spread over two national parks.
Gorilla trekking takes place in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, located in the Kanungu district in southwestern Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the only gorilla destination with the most gorillas, accounting for half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to 19 habituated gorilla families, found in four sectors: Ruhija sector in the east with Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Bitukura, and Mukiza families; Rushaga sector in the south with Nshongi, Kahungye, Mishaya, Bweza, Rwigi, Bikyingi, and Mucunguzi families; Nkuringo sector in the south with Nkuringo.
Bwindi National Park also offers gorilla habituation experiences, a process that helps wild gorillas become familiar with the presence of humans in their natural settings. The gorilla habituation process in the Rushaga region lasts around 2 to 3 years, including a team of researchers, park rangers, park guides, and tourists.
Mgahinga gorilla national park in southern Uganda’s Kisoro area also offers gorilla trekking safaris. Mgahinga gorilla national park is home to one habituated gorilla family known as Nyakagezi, which means that 8 gorilla trekking permits are available daily.
Only 8 tourists can track a gorilla group in a day.
In Uganda, each gorilla family may only be trekked by a maximum of eight people, and tourists are only permitted to spend one hour in the company of the mountain gorillas once they are discovered in their natural environment. During the one-hour session, attendees will take photographs using flash-free cameras, learn about gorilla behavior, and document the moments.
However, the Rushaga sector gorilla habituation experience allows four tourists to visit a gorilla family and spend four hours with the gorillas in their natural environment. At the same time, they learn and see how they are being habituated.
Bwindi national park has 19 habituated gorilla families, implying that there are 152 available gorilla trekking permits for visitors daily. In contrast, Mgahinga gorilla national park has one habituated gorilla family, meaning that there are 8 available gorilla trekking allows for visitors daily.
The gorilla permit costs $700 for foreign tourists but is discounted for residents.
A gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park costs $700 per person for Foreign Non-Residents, $600 for Foreign Residents, and UGX 250,000 for East African residents.
What is included in a gorilla trekking permit?
- One hour in the presence of the gorilla family though gorilla trekking itself takes about 2 to 7 hours in the jungle, depending on the location of the gorillas.
- The permit includes park entrance fees.
- Security, once you are in both national gorilla parks, be assured that you are safe because Uganda has well-trained park rangers and tourism police who offer protection to the parks.
- Uganda Gorilla trekking permit also includes the services of a guide or pack ranger who will be taking you around the forest.
- The permit also includes gorilla trackers who wake up early and move into the jungle to search for the mountain gorillas to tell the guides where to take the visitor when trekking.
You can book the gorilla permit yourself or through a licensed local tour operator
You can book through a trusted tour operator to acquire a gorilla trekking permit for you. Adyeri Creations Ltd is one of the best tour companies in Uganda that will help you acquire your gorilla permit for your Uganda gorilla safari.
When you are booking via Adyeri Creations, you will contact us with your travel date, and we will check the availability of the permits and get back to you. We will send you the account number where you will deposit 30% money and also send scanned copies of your passport which will be used to process your permit. Once the money has been deposited, we will obtain your gorilla permit and will send you scanned copies of the permit as confirmation.
Booking your gorilla permit through a trusted tour operator is the best option in that we will not only acquire your gorilla trekking permit but also plan for the whole gorilla safari, where we will plan for your transportation, meals, accommodation, and exciting activities to engage in while on your safari and destinations to visit which make your Uganda gorilla trekking safari fascinating and unforgettable.
Book the gorilla permit at least 3 months before you travel
You should book your trekking permit at least 3 to 6 months before your travel date because the gorilla trekking permits are competitive and usually get sold out, especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the peak season, the permits are in high demand hence should be booked in advance to avoid disappointments.
You can reach the gorilla destinations by road or local flight
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda and may be reached by road or plane. When flying, you will book chartered or regular domestic flights from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to Kihihi or Kayonza airstrips, then connect by road to the park headquarters.
By road, you will travel from Kampala to one of the sectors where you will be hiking gorillas, which will take around 8 to 9 hours on a tarmac road.
Mgahinga national park may also be reached by road, which takes around 9 to 10 hours from Kampala through Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, and finally to the park headquarters.
You will arrange chartered or regular domestic flights from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to Kisoro airstrip and then connect to the park headquarters via car.
It’s best to see Africa gorillas in the dry seasons
Both gorilla destinations have two rainy seasons, from March to May and October to November, and two dry seasons, from June to August and December to February. You can see Africa gorillas any time of year, but the best time to visit Uganda for a gorilla safari is during the dry season because the forests receive little and less rainfall, and the trekking trails are always passable compared to the wet season when the trails become impassable.
Because both Africa gorilla destinations are tropical rainforests located at high elevations, it can rain at any time of year, and gorilla trekking operations will not be halted by rainfall. However, the rainy season is also a good time for bird watching because it is bird breeding season; thus, bird watchers will be able to see a variety of migrating birds and bird species.
What to pack for your Uganda gorilla safari
- A gorilla trekking permit is the most important item to carry when going for gorilla trekking in any of the parks because without a valid gorilla trekking permit you will not be allowed to visit any gorilla family.
- Long-sleeved shirts and trousers to keep your body warm and also protect you from stinging insects and thorny trees
- Insect repellent to protect you from insects like safari ants and tsetse flies
- Hiking boots to protect your ankles and keep your feet dry, especially during the wet season when the trails are muddy and slippery.
- Flashless Camera, which will be used to capture the moments and also take photos during the one hour with the mountain gorilla family.
- Waterproof rain jacket which will protect you from rain since it can rain anytime in the forest.
- Garden gloves will protect you from thorny trees and germs
- Energy snacks include a packed lunch and drinking water for energy when trekking in the jungle.
Backpack to carry your items like a rain jacket, insect repellent, and camera, among others, when going to trek Africa gorillas.