Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Coming face to face with mountain
Gorillas in Uganda

The fascinating idea to venture deep into the jungle of Eastern Africa in search of the endangered mountain gorilla is — in the mind of many— nothing but something out of National Geographic. Well, I have great news for you; Uganda has gained popularity in recent years for being a tourist-friendly destination and for being just one in a handful of African countries homing mountain gorillas. And despite the physical effort required, emerging into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has never been so doable for all of us in search of life’s most daring adventures for a chance to come up close to our planet’s most incredible wildlife. In this article, I’ll tell you how you can also experience a gorilla trekking in Uganda like me.

Before you head over to Uganda you must know trekking down gorillas is not a walk in the park. It does require some sort of physical endurance. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is just as its name indicates, truly impenetrable. But thanks to the knowledge of a group of dedicated official gorilla trekkers and rangers from the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority), walking on imaginary ground over dry leaves, branches, and roots to reach the gorillas is a challenge that can be completed safely and successfully.

Understanding what a gorilla trekking is

A gorilla trekking is, basically a trek through the dense jungle in search of gorilla families called troops. Only 8 people can trek with one gorilla family. The trek can be easy, medium or hard depending on the location of the families. In my case, it took me 3 hours through the jungle to reach the family I was trekking. It’s estimated that 15 to 16 gorilla families with roughly 10 individuals (one silverback male, females and their offsprings) are tracked in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, the country with the highest population of mountain gorillas followed by Congo and Rwanda. When I say “families that are trekked” mean that these gorilla troops have been habituated to humans, meaning despite being completely wild animals, they seem not to be disturbed by human presence. However, the rangers and trekkers will make sure we don’t possess a danger to their well-being and natural habitat, as well as making sure we are safe from a potential gorilla attack. There are also more gorilla families in Bwindi that are not habituated to humans, therefore, can’t be trekked and the UWA plan on keeping that way.

A maximum of 8 trekkers are allowed per gorilla family!

How can you do a gorilla trekking

Unlike any other African safari, gorilla trekking requires a specific permit from the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority). Permits should be booked in advance as only roughly 32 permits are being issued every day. Permits cost around 600 USD and should be paid in cash with bills series 2009 and above. Damaged bills or series below 2009 will most likely be turned down. Make sure you keep that in mind when coming to Uganda. If you book your trekking with a safari company, I highly recommend Shaka Tours runned by Joshua, they will take care of that for you. However, if you are self-driving to Bwindi, you must head to the UWA office in Kampala and book for the next available date.

How to book a gorilla permit

The best way to experience this fascinating activity is by booking a gorilla trek with official safari companies specialized in such activity. The downside of it? It is a pricey experience that many will probably turn it down. But trust me, it is worth every single cent. I have aligned with my trustworthy gorilla company to offer you the chance to go on the same gorilla tour as I did. For the ultimate adventurers, you may book a gorilla permit yourself (read below) and self-drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest from Entebbe or Kampala with your rented car.

A gorilla trekking permit comes at a pricey cost of 600 USD!

Best time to see Uganda’s mountain gorillas

Visiting Uganda’s mountain gorillas is a year-round activity, however, it is always recommended to visit Bwindi in the dry season as the road to Bwindi tend to become a challenge in the rainy season, especially if you are self-driving and are unfamiliar to rough terrains. The following calendar shows the dry season in Bwindi only. Gorilla trekking can be done all year-round.

Hi, I'm Lipe, The World Hopper!

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Written & Photographed by

Lipe Planells (The World Hopper)

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