Uganda, Rwanda & Congo are the lucky three countries where it’s possible to see the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is an amazing tourist activity that has been rated excellent by most travelers coming to East Africa. It involves moving in groups of 8 people to track a habituated group of mountain gorillas and once close to them, it is an overwhelming experience. In Uganda, the mountain gorillas can be found in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, located in south western Uganda. Bwindi forest park is also UNESCO world heritage site with many birds, primates and other forest species. The Volcanoes in Rwanda are famous destination for gorilla trekking and this is where the Dian Fossey grave site is located. Visitors from across the world have traveled all the way to enjoy this breathtaking activity. In the volcanoes, visitors have to hike through the steep hills and thick jungles to get to see the gentle giants.
GORILLA TREKKING IN BWINDI FOREST, UGANDA
The Bwindi impenetrable forest is one of Africa’s oldest rain forests with an estimated population of almost half of the world’s remaining gorillas. Quite Interesting, right? The rain forest is also home to birds, primates, butterflies and tree species. Also recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site – Bwindi is among Uganda’s best tourist attractions according to ratings from most travelers. Bwindi has several locations where the gorilla trekking takes place including Nkuringo, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Buhoma. You can choose to enjoy your trekking from any of these places but it also depends on where you will be staying. Visitors are required to obtain a gorilla trekking permit to get access to enjoy tracking. The trekking experience starts early morning at 7 or 8 am with a briefing at the park offices and then head into the Jungle led by a guide. In groups of 8, you will be allocated to a specific mountain gorilla family/group. Once you get to see the gorillas, you will be allowed a maximum 1 hour to see these creatures. After this, visitors receive a tracking certificate from park authorities (UWA).
BWINDI GORILLA PERMITS COST & HOW TO GET THEM
Gorilla permits for tracking in Bwindi forest park are currently (2018) at US $600 for all seasons. Previously the low seasons May, April & November prices were cut to US $450 but the new changes came into effect in 2018 and the price is the same all year. It is advised to book the gorilla permits in advance (At least 1 month before) to avoid being inconvenienced. Since there are a specific number of permits sold per day, this enables visitors to plan better for their gorilla safaris in Bwindi. Visitors can easily make bookings for gorilla permits online through recognized and registered Local tour operators in Uganda. Alternatively if in Uganda, you can visit the UWA head office – reservations department on Kira road – Kamokya. Payments for the permits can be made in USD currency (preferred) or UGX currency or cheque deposits.
GORILLA TREKKING IN THE VOLCANOES, RWANDA
In Rwanda, visitors can enjoy gorilla trekking in the Virunga Volcanoes Located in the north western part of the country. The volcanoes have a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas with about 10 habituated mountain gorilla families / groups. The gorilla trekking experience starts with a briefing at the park head-quarters in Kinigi. Thereafter in groups of 8 tourists led by a park ranger, hike up into the mountains in search for the mountain gorillas. The activity might take between 1 to 6 hours depending on how far these creatures might have moved. This is undoubtedly the best adventure you will experience in Rwanda, so don’t forget to carry along your cameras to capture the moments. To see the gorillas, visitors require a gorilla permit which can be obtained from the park authorities. Also health checkup is necessary before gorilla trekking since the mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. There are a number of safari lodges / hotels located within or close to the Volcanoes national park and it’s advisable to stay nearby to allow easy transfers. Apart from Gorilla Trekking in volcanoes national park, visitors can also hike to the Dian Fossey grave site or track the golden monkeys.
GORILLA PERMITS COST IN RWANDA
Mountain gorillas in Rwanda can be seen after obtaining a gorilla permit which currently (2018) costs US $ 1500. Previously, the permits in Rwanda were at US $750 but the price changes came into effect towards the end of 2017. Visitors planning to enjoy a Rwanda gorilla safari are advised to book the gorilla permits in advance to avoid inconveniences. Alternatively they can book through trusted and recognized local tour operator in Rwanda.
RECOMMENDED GORILLA TREKKING TOURS
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR GORILLA TREKKING SAFARI
- These come as a ‘must’ or one of the items you don’t want to forget while planning for your gorilla trekking safari. The terrain in both parks Bwindi and volcanoes will require you to move through Jungles and steepy hillsides. The boots will also give you stability to hike up the mountains and are a very important item you need to pack.
- It could rain while you are in the forests of Bwindi in search for the endangered mountain gorillas. The rain forest has higher chances of rain but some months are drier i.e. June, July, August, January. The rainy seasons in the volcanoes national park are also unpredictable
- The long sleeved shirts will help you not to get any insect bites while moving through Bwindi impenetrable forest or hiking in the volcanoes. Also it’s recommended to tuck in your pants into your boots to avoid the safari ants from entering your trousers.
- Well, there are quite a number of birds, butterflies, primates and other species in both Bwindi & volcanoes national parks. A pair of binoculars comes in handy to easily see most of these species.
- The adventure in Bwindi impenetrable forest and Volcanoes national park is quite a thrilling experience you wouldn’t want to miss to capture this. Carry along a nice camera with good optical zoom, and a few extra batteries so that you take photos and videos of the amazing mountain gorillas.
- Although some might not carry the gloves but they also come in handy especially if hiking up steep hills. The gloves help if you are holding onto branches while hiking and also prevent your hands from being harmed by itchy plants.
- The trekking activity might take longer than you expected and carrying some water in your bottle is good for your strength. It is not advisable to carry other bottles which are not re-used to limit you from littering the areas where the gorillas live. Most tour operators will offer free drinking water but ensure to carry your own bottle.
- It might get very steep as you climb up into the Volcanoes, but a walking stick will help you most of the journey. These can be bought from the areas near the park or you can ask from the Tour operator to get you one.