Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda & Rwanda; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda offers visitors a chance of a lifetime to go on a guided hike through dense rainforests to walk alongside mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. On the other hand, Rwanda offers an extraordinary gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes National Park. It is also important to note that this exciting activity is carried out throughout the year in Uganda and Rwanda.
What does gorilla trekking involve?
This fantastic wildlife activity involves walking through steep hills, dense forests, rivers and water streams in pursuit of the endangered mountain gorillas. It is led by park rangers, who usually create temporary paths through the foliage using their machetes. The tracking/trekking process can take up to 8 hours, and when you finally meet the gorillas, you are given only 1 hour in their presence. You can take photographs and videos to capture those beautiful life-changing memories during that time! However, ensure you do not use a flash as it could alarm them. Also, keep a distance of at least 7 meters from these gentle beasts and do not touch their food or their young ones.
Best time for Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda & Rwanda
The best time for trekking in Uganda is between its two dry seasons, which run from December to February and between June and August. However, in Rwanda, the best time for gorilla trekking is during the dry season of June to September.
Requirements for a gorilla trekking adventure
The essential requirement for your gorilla experience is a gorilla trekking permit that is issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda and the Rwanda Development Board in Rwanda. Additionally, the age limit for the activity (in other words getting the permit) is 15 years. This is because young children usually carry diseases such as chicken pox, flu, colds and mumps which the gorillas could contract. Also, if you are interested in getting a trekking permit, you must pay a fee of USD 700 for foreign non-residents, USD 600 for foreign residents and 250,000 Uganda shillings in Uganda and USD 1500 for Rwanda.
Besides the trekking permit, there are several other items that you must pack as you embark on your safari to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. Some of them include;
- a long-sleeved shirt
- long trousers
- sturdy waterproof hiking boots
- thick socks
- Gardening gloves
- a lightweight rain jacket
- a wide-brim hat
- insect repellant
- water bottle (and drinking water)
- camera and batteries
- energy giving snacks
- first aid kit
- malaria prevention medication etc
Tips on how to prepare for a gorilla trekking safari
- Do research about the gorilla trekking destinations in your country of interest, and then, based on that, select/choose the place you would like to have from adventure. You can go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. However, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is known to be the best trekking destination. This is because it is home to the highest number of gorillas in the region (half of the world’s population). In Rwanda, the best place to visit for an incredible gorilla trekking experience is Volcanoes National Park.
- Find out the availability of gorilla trekking permits in your destination of interest and ensure to place your booking. It is highly recommended that travellers book at least three months before their travel dates to avoid any inconveniences. You can book through us or directly to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (in Uganda) and the Rwanda Development Board in Rwanda.
- It is essential to work on your physical fitness while preparing for your gorilla trekking safari. This is because mountain gorillas live in areas of high altitude. This means that trekkers have to hike a lot before finally meeting them. You can attain physical fitness by engaging in physical exercises such as jogging, walking and others.
- Pack your bag with all the necessities for your trip. Do not forget your travel documents, medication and credit cards. Carrying hand sanitiser and surgical face masks is also vital for protection against infections.
The actual gorilla trekking experience
Trekkers must arrive at the park headquarters around 7:45 am for the briefing session. Here, they will receive important information such as the rules and regulations of trekking and the safety precautions. They will then be divided into groups of 8 people, each with a ranger guide to lead the way and provide guidance/protection where necessary. Additionally, depending on the national park, each group will be assigned their respective tracking route/sector. The reason for the limited number of visitors that are allowed in per day is to avoid scaring away the gorillas but also to preserve the forest.
The gorilla trek involves walking behind a ranger or guide from whom visitors can learn all about these incredible creatures. The journey may take up to 8 hours as there is no proper route from the one the guide forges. The hike gets more challenging as it progresses because of the rugged terrain, thick vegetation, muddy areas, hills and valleys.
The guides usually track the gorillas based on the last location they could have nested from the previous night. As you embark on your adventure, you will see other wildlife and various bird species. When you finally find the gorillas, you will be given only 1 hour in their presence.
Some of the gorilla trekking rules and regulations include:
- Observe a distance of 7 meters away.
- Time allowed is 1 hour
- Wearing a mask is important
- Wash your hands before you head out for the activity
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- A maximum number of people per group is allowed at a time
- Ensure to keep your voices low during the trekking process
- Do not leave any rubbish in the park
- Avoid eating or drinking while you are near the gorillas
- Do not touch the gorillas, the gorillas’ young ones or their food
- Avoid using the flash of your camera while taking photographs or videos
COVID-19 is a significant threat to the gorillas since they share 98% of our genes hence the need to strictly follow the gorilla trekking rules, especially for those concerned with health/sanitation.
For any further information or if you are interested in making a gorilla trekking safari booking with Early Trails Expedition, kindly contact us. You will surely live to tell the stories about your incredible adventure with your loved ones!