Are you looking for budget or luxury gorilla safaris? Are you interested in mountain gorillas but you are confused with which destination to go for trek? Uganda is one of the best destinations that tourists can visit for gorilla trekking in the heart of East Africa. Unlike the ordinary walks on flat land or in the city centre, gorilla trekking in Uganda is a true breathtaking experience where visitors meet value for money and authentic tourism products. Any endeavor that visitors invest to reach to the jungles of South Western Uganda comes with a spark of magical experiences from the only mountain gorillas that are still living in the world.
Currently, there are less than 900 mountain gorillas in the whole world! Besides, remarkable moments that you get within the one hour with the mountain gorillas, think about the moment when you are challenging yourself in the steep slopes within gorilla habitat and probably trying to grab some of the near by plants or trees species to gain grip; add that experience with that of trackers when they are clearing the dense vegetation using their machetes to create a path for you, certainly you will appreciate that gorilla trekking is indeed a life changing experience. No need to miss this incredible experience because it comes once in a life time!
Where is Gorilla Trekking Conducted?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in either Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These two national parks are some of the 10 magnificent national parks that Uganda offers to its world visitors. You stand to make the right choice between the two national parks to enable you achieve your long term dreams. The world heritage site of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is UNESCO world heritage site that lies in South-Western, Uganda and it is surrounded by Kisoro, Kabale and Kanungu district. Within the jungles of Bwindi, there are 400 mountain gorillas while Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (in the extreme South Western Uganda) is a home to 80 of the rare mountain gorillas hence a reason why Uganda takes more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
There are several gorilla families that have been habituated for gorilla trekking within Uganda. Tourists who are interested in gorilla trekking tours within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are assigned to one of the 11 (eleven) fully Habituated Gorilla Families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and visitors interested in tracking the Mgahinga mountain gorillas, there is only one Habituated Gorilla Family that is set for tourism purposes. The trek is conducted for Nyakagezi Gorilla Family and those who get in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can choose to track from Buhoma Gorilla Families in the North-especially on Mubare gorilla group which is an ancient gorilla group to be habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Habinyanja gorilla group, or Nkuringo gorilla group or any of the Rushanga Habituated Gorilla Families.
To reach to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, tourists can travel on road or alternatively by air. You can use aero link scheduled flights to Kisoro Airstrip where you will be transferred to either Mgahinga or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or land in Kihihi Airstrip and be transferred on road to your accommodation facility. If you decide to take the road access, from Kampala-you will get via Mbarara-Kabale-Kisoro and then connect to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This route is also convenient for visitors who are interested in tracking the mountain gorillas in the Southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For those who need to track in the North or East, you will break off from Ntungamo-Kagaba-Rukungiri-Kihihi-Butogota and finally to Buhoma. Alternatively, you can take Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese-Kihihi and Buhoma route. This route is full of exciting things especially when you make a stop over Queen Elizabeth National Park-Ishasha area to see the rare tree climbing lions as they relax on the tree tracks, abundant wildlife that you have ever thought in life or make a stop over at the Equator and take photos.
What is required of you?
You must have a gorilla permit if you are planning to go for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In total, Uganda has 96 gorilla permits each day for visitors to purchase; out of 96, 88 permits are available in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and 8 permits can be purchased for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Luckily, Uganda’s gorilla permits are still purchased at USD600 for foreign none residents during the peak season (June-September and December to February), USD500 for foreign nationals and shs250000 for East African nationals while in the low season (April, May and November), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offers discounted permits at USD450 for foreign none residents and USD400 for foreign residents, shs.150000 for East African residents. Note that gorilla trekking is limited to only 8 visitors per day.
In addition, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has introduced a new product called Gorilla Habituation Experience which is offered in the Rushaga Area. While here, you will spend the whole day following the mountain gorillas while discovering their daily behaviors and after enjoy a total of 4 hours of face to face interaction with them unlike gorilla trekking where you have only one hour. Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience requires only 4 visitors per gorilla group and tourists visit Bushaho and Biking gorilla families. The habituation experience costs $1500 per gorilla permit per visitor, this applies to foreign none residents, while $1000 is paid by foreign residents and shs750000 for East African Residents.
What to Wear
Besides, possessing the gorilla permit, both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience requires you to be dressed properly, basically on long sleeved shirt or T-shirt, shocks, caps, trousers, waterproof hiking shoes but light in weight as well, never forget trekking stick to aid you at steep slopes as well as energy snacks and bottle of water to boost your energy. Tack into the shock to avoid injuries or harmful plants or forest insects. While enjoying the good moments with the mountain gorillas, the park management recommends visitors to keep 7 meters away from them and visitors should not be feeling sick or suffering from flue, cough or any diseases that can be transmitted to these creatures. The mountain gorillas are enlisted in IUCN red book as “critically endangered species.” All the rules and regulations should be observed as your tour guide will still remind you about them when you on your trek or during your early morning briefing at 7:30 am Ugandan time but you will need to be at briefing center as early as possible. Basically the outlined rules and regulations that visitor must observe are protective and conservation measures that are meant to safe guard the life of mountain gorillas. Let us all involve ourselves in conserving for generations as we enjoy our closet relatives in the wild!!
Where to Stay
However, there are also several accommodation facilities for you to choose from, they range from budget to luxury. They include, Gorilla Forest camp, Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Resort, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Cuckooland Lodge, all these can be found in Bwindi National Park. In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the notable lodging facilities include, Mount Gahinga Lodge and Mutanda Lake Resort.
In conclusion, Uganda offers tourists with two destinations in order for you to see the mountain gorillas. A tourist can choose to track in either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South Western Uganda. These two parks are the only places where visitors can explore the reality about the world mountain gorillas in Uganda. You can either choose to do gorilla trekking or Gorilla Habituation Experience. However, you should be physically fit to hike because gorilla trekking/tracking is one of the breathtaking experiences that take you through the higher altitudes.