Uganda Travel News

Plan your gorilla trek in advance

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of the best tour activities in Africa and you need to plan it way in advance. Please start planning at least six months in advance as there things you need to put into consideration if you want to have a successful gorilla tour. Lets take a look!

Decide on which country-Uganda or Rwanda

You need to decide on which country you want to visit. Mountain gorillas can be viewed in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, there is still some insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo and as such we don’t recommend clients to trek gorillas in Congo until further notice. Gorillas in Uganda are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park while Rwanda gorillas are located in Volcanoes National Park. One gorilla family exists in Mgahinga national Park which is part of the Virunga ranges shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo and keeps on migrating to and from Uganda to Rwanda. Bwindi on the other hand has 12 gorilla families located in different regions of the forest so thats why you need to be careful when buying your gorilla permits. You may choose to visit both countries and compare experiences or trek in one country. Once you have made you decision on whether it will be Uganda or Rwanda then contact a tour operator to get you a permit or book you a full inclusive tour.

Purchase your gorilla permit.

You will need a gorilla permit for a given day in a given National Park in Uganda or Rwanda for you to be able to trek gorillas. You can contact any tour operator in Uganda to get you a gorilla permit. We recommend that you contact a tour operator registered with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) in order for you not to be reaped off. Most tour operators will check and advise you on the availability of gorilla permits leaving you to make a decision. Once you have purchased your gorilla permit, you are good to go. In Uganda, gorilla permits are issued out by Uganda Wildlife Authority through registered tour operators on a first come first serve basis. In order to avoid shortage of gorilla permits, please do organize this in advance. There is a possibility of booking a gorilla permit by yourself but it is very hard as Uganda wildlife Authority is slow at returning calls or responding to emails. Better to use a tour operator.

This to consider before buying your permit

As earlier mentioned, the gorilla permit you will be holding will determine the accommodation to be booked for you among other factors. You need to establish your interest first. If you need a simpler trek, then it is better to book permits for either Buhoma or Ruhija at worst. If you want a more challenging trek, you can try some given families or Rushaga region. If you have a problem with altitude, then avoid the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National park as it has the highest altitudinal point. Please contact your tour operator about this before you make any decision.

On which of Bwindi will you be trekking?

Gorilla permit allocation in Uganda is based on regions. There are four regions with gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and are separated by long distances. Buhoma Region is located in the north of Bwindi and is home to three gorilla families namely, Mubare, Rushegura, and Habiyanja. Ruhija region is located in the east of Bwindi National Park and has three gorilla families such as Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro. Rushaga Region is in the south of Bwindi and is home to five gorilla families including Kahungye, Mishaya, Nshongi, Bweza and Busingye while Nkuringo region in the south has Nkuringo Gorilla Famly.

Transport and accommodation

Once you have decided on which side of Bwindi. It’s better to seek advice from a tour operator as they no better which side might suite your interest. Then its time to book your accommodation and transport. Let your tour operator know the level of accommodation and the type of vehicle you want to use. There several accommodation options in all regions of Bwindi Impenetrable national park so its up to you to explain to your tour operator whether you would like to stay in a budget, mid range or upmarket Lodge. The same applies to transport. You may choose to travel in safari vans, land Cruisers or land Rovers depending on your budget. In Uganda, there daily scheduled flights to Bwindi so if you prefer flying to save on time then contact your tour operator to book you on these scheduled flights to Bwindi.

Gorilla tracking rules and regulations

You know mountain gorillas are endangered species and according to 2013 census, only 800 individuals are remaining in the whole world. Your visit to these gorillas should not reduce their numbers but should increase on it. Please ask your tour operator to send you gorilla trekking rules and regulations and how to behave while you are with these great apes. Basic things you need to know is that, each gorilla family is visited by a maximum of eight people per day for one hour. You are supposed to leave at least seven meters between you and the gorillas. Avoid eye contact with the gorillas and turn off you flash while taking photo graphs. The most important thing is to listen and follow what your guide will tell you.

What to pack for gorilla trekking

Mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National park live in thick forests and in an area dominated by steep hills and I feel, that’s where they derive their name “Mountain gorillas”. Because of the thickness and terrain in Bwindi, you need to prepare what to wear. You will therefore need hiking boots, long sleeved shirts and trousers. You need garden gloves as some shrubs and climbing plants can itch you. Long socks are advised and you should tack in your trousers to avoid safari ants and other insects to enter through your trousers. A hat and sun glasses are highly recommended as well plus energy giving food. You should pack you insect repellent, your camera for your photography. For more details please ask your tour operator.

Best time to trek gorillas

While planning all the above, you need to know the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda. While gorillas in Uganda can be trekked throughout the whole year, drier months of June, July August and September are always preferred. During these months, there is less rain and chances are that the trek will be a bit easier since the trails will be less slippery as well. April, May and November are the wet seasons and clients tend to avoid them but the good news is that during these months, Uganda Wildlife Authority announces annual discounts and in 2013 and 2014, gorilla permits were discounted from USD600 to USD350 thus enabling tourists to save USD250 which they can then use for transport and accommodation.

Porters and Walking sticks

These are the best companions on your gorilla trekking adventure. You will require q walking stick to help you trek those hills. Walking sticks are provided by most lodges and if the lodge cannot provide, then they are always available for sale for around about USD10-15 Dollars. If less fit clients, we advise that you take a porter with you who will in turn give you a push or a pull when the going gets tough. He/she will carry your backpack and stay with most of the thing you may not require as you approach the gorillas. For example, you are not supposed to move with your packed lunch up to the gorillas as gorillas might check you and if they find you with food and they taste it, they might change their behaviours something not good for gorilla conservation.

How is gorilla trekking like?

The whole process of gorilla trekking starts with you waking up early in the morning to prepare your self. Dress up accordingly and then go to the restaurant for an early breakfast and to pick your packed lunch and walking sticks. Make sure you have all that you need to have for your gorilla trek. After you breakfast and depending on which lodges you would have slept in, you may drive or walk to the pack head quarters for registration and allocation of gorilla families depending on your interests and physical fitness. Some lodges are closer to park headquarters while others are not so take care of this before making a decision. You will definitely be divided into groups of eight people per gorilla family and after briefing, each given a guide, a ranger and a tourism police officer who has to ensure that you are safe while trekking gorillas. Remember that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to un habituated chimpanzees, forest buffaloes and Elephants among other wild animals? So this police man is there to scare away any of these animals if they dare come closer. You will then walk/drive to the starting point as each gorilla family has several starting points depending on its movements with in its territory. Please note that mountain gorillas are not territorial but they at least tend to stay in a given dimensional area. From the starting point, you with start your trek which may take 30 minutes to even six hours and once you have seen the gorillas, you will then spend an hour with them before returning back to the park head quarters. At the park head quarters, each of you will be given a certificate in recognition of your contribution to the conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas. The experience varies from one family to another, from one day to another and from hour to hour depending on the mood and activity of a given mountain gorilla family.

Combining Gorilla tracking and other excursions or destinations

Uganda is the Pearl of Africa meaning that it is a summary of what Africa has to offer. It’s not about gorillas only. Uganda has lots to see and you may choose to spend more days and these are just few of them. You may choose to visit the source of the Nile which is the longest river on planet earth, combine you gorilla tour with chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park. Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park for game drives and boat cruises on Kazinga Channel. In a nut shell, Uganda has 10 National parks, different cultures, so many water bodies including Lake Victoria which is the largest flesh water lake in Africa and Lake Bunyonyi the second deepest lake in East Africa. You can this ask your tour operator what you can do before and after your gorilla tour.

Read about Uganda

Yes, you are coming to Africa, a different continent and country all together. Ugandans are very friendly people and they respect their culture. We don’t want you to experience a cultural shock while on your tour. Ask your tour operator to provide you with information about Uganda, its people and culture, Visa, banks, flights etc.

If the above information was useful to you please drop us an email and we will be greatful.

Leave a Reply

3 − three =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WhatsApp chat