Gorilla trekking in Uganda, trek costs, when to go and all you need to know
Uganda should be a preferred destination for gorilla trekking because of the fact that it offers affordable gorilla safaris and the country is very peaceful for tourists. Here we bring you a detailed guide on gorilla trekking in Uganda, trek costs, when to go and all necessary information to help you plan;
Gorilla trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is more preferable because of the affordable costs which are US$ 700 for a gorilla trekking permit for foreign nonresidents, US$ 600 for foreign residents and UGX 250000 for East African citizens. This is way less than the US$ 1500 for a permit in Rwanda. In the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a gorilla permit costs US$450, however, the area where the park is located has in previous years been highly affected by rebel groups.
To trek gorillas in Uganda, one requires to be of age 15 and above and as well have purchased a gorilla trekking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority through a Uganda tour operator or individually.
Every day, a total of 8 tourists trek each of the 19 wild gorilla families in Uganda. Trekking starts at 8:00am with a briefing on the guidelines and allocation of a specific gorilla family to trek. Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes an unpredictable time as the gorillas keep moving through the forest. You could see the gorillas in 30 minutes or after several hours.
After meeting an allocated gorilla family a maximum of 1 hour is spent watching the family interact. It is an amazing experience and you are allowed to take several pictures and videos using non-flash photography cameras.
Where to trek gorillas in Uganda
Uganda gorilla safaris can be undertaken in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The highest population, 51% of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas are in Bwindi Forest with about 18 habituated gorilla families. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi gorilla group.
Both parks are in south western Uganda and can be visited any time of the year. If a tour is solely for the purpose of gorilla trekking, a 3 days Uganda gorilla safari to Bwindi or Mgahinga could be the perfect itinerary.
How many gorilla families are in Uganda?
Here are the gorilla families open for gorilla trekking in both Bwindi forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park;
The Buhoma gorilla trekking sector of Bwindi is home to 4 gorilla families and these are Rushegura, Habinyaja, Mubare, and Katwe Gorilla groups.
Ruhija Gorilla trekking sector of Bwindi has 4 habituated gorilla families which are Bitukura, Kyaguliro, Mukiza and Oruzogo Gorilla groups
The Nkuringo gorilla trail head of Bwindi forest has 1 habituated gorilla group for gorilla safaris in Uganda and this is Nkuringo gorilla group.
Rushaga gorilla sector of Bwindi has almost the highest number of gorilla families and these are Nshonji, Mishaya, Bweza, Kahunjye, Businjye, Rwiji, Muchunguzi and Bikyinji Gorilla groups.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one gorilla group known as the Nyakagezi group with 10 members. The group is led by silverback Mark and assisted by his brother Mafia.
Is it safe to trek gorillas in Uganda?
Uganda is becoming a must-visit destination for mountain gorilla trekking and the question is always whether trekking gorillas in Uganda is safe. Yes, Uganda is safe for a gorilla safari.
To ensure tourist security, each group of 8 tourists is accompanied by 2 armed park rangers to ensure the safety of those trekking. The rangers carry along firearms just to ensure safety incase wild animals behave in a non-safe way to the tourists. When there is need the rangers to shoot in space to scare away animals.
To ensure safety for individuals who are gorilla trekking, the Uganda Wildlife Authority ensures there are trained rangers who check through the jungles each day. The tourism police ensure the jungle is free from any kind of threat to tourists. This is done by making sure rangers visit the forest early enough before the tourists are brought in. This is what is referred to as gorilla tracking, the rangers not only identify where the gorillas are but also get to know whether the trails are safe for trekking.
Best time to go gorilla trekking in Uganda
The best time of the year for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris in both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is during the dry season months of June –August and December –February which makes it easy to go through the trails.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
- Always keep your voices low no matter the excitement. Though this does not prevent you from asking the guide questions about the gorilla family you have met.
- Keep a minimum of 7 meters (21 feet) from the gorillas to protect gorillas from human disease transmission.
- You must always stay in a tight group when you are near the gorillas
- DO NOT drink or eat while you are near the gorillas.
- Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example – crouch down slowly and DO NOT look the gorilla in the eye. Then, wait for the gorillas to pass. DO NOT attempt to run away. This is because running away increases the risk of attack.
- Flash photography is not permitted. When taking pictures move slowly and carefully.
- Do NOT touch the gorillas. They are wild animals
- The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the gorillas is ONE hour. If the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.
- After the visit, keep your voices down until you are at least 200 meters away from the gorillas.
- Human waste should be buried 30cm deep. Do not leave open waste in the forest.
With the above information, you are much more aware of what is required for gorilla trekking in Uganda. Gorilla trekking can also be tailored with other Uganda wildlife safaris, chimpanzee trekking or birding. Within East Africa, you can also customize a combined tour with a safari in Rwanda, Kenya safari or Tanzania wildlife safari.
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