Where To See Gorillas in Africa

The best places to go on a gorilla trek and see gorillas in Africa are Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. These two destinations offer the best gorilla trekking safaris that can easily be extended to other epic wildlife experiences like Masai Mara and Serengeti. Read on for more.

The best five countries in Africa, where you can go on a gorilla trek and see gorillas in their natural habitat.

Watching gorillas in their natural tropical jungles in Africa has become a phenomenon for adventure travelers worldwide. Seeing them behind cages in zoos just doesn’t cut it anymore. Besides, some of the gorilla species can’t survive outside their natural habitats in central Africa, and those are the crowd pullers: the mountain gorillas of East Africa. Watching the majestic silverbacks, playful toddlers, and tender mothers is like a scene from an enchanting wilderness story—it’s magical. So, which are the best places to see gorillas in Africa?

Mountain gorillas live in the Rift Valley mountains of East-Central Africa, and you can see them in the lush mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo. There’s no doubt that the best places where go on a gorilla trek and see gorillas in Africa are Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. These two destinations are the safest and have the best infrastructure for mountain gorilla trekking adventures combined with wildlife safaris.

Lowland gorillas, on the other hand, live in the tropical forests of central and western Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The best places to see them are the Central African Republic’s Dzanga-Sangha National Park, Congo Brazzaville Odzala-Kokoua National Park, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

Let’s explore which countries offer the best gorilla trekking experiences in Africa.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, best place to see gorillas in Uganda

1. Uganda

Uganda is home to the largest population of endangered mountain gorillas, making it the best place for gorilla safaris in Africa. The two national parks in southwestern Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park – offer gorilla habitat and protection to over half of the last mountain gorilla population. Both parks are approximately 491 km (305 mi) from the capital, Kampala, and can be reached by either a 10-hour drive or a 1-hour local flight to two small airports outside the sanctuaries.

To experience the thrill of observing these majestic creatures, the Uganda Wildlife Authority offers gorilla permits at $700 per person, with a recent increase to $800 effective from July 2024. The permit allows visitors to trek with a skilled guide and spend one hour observing gorillas. For a more in-depth experience, tourists can book a 4-hour gorilla habituation experience permit for $1,500, which is only offered in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the best destination to see gorillas in Africa as it offers more options for gorilla treks, is relatively affordable, and is close to other wildlife experiences within Uganda, such as classic wildlife safari game drives, boat safaris, birding, and mountain hiking.

Insider tip: Spare at least 8 days in Uganda for the gorilla trek, go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park, and do a classic Africa wildlife safari. Queen Elizabeth National Park, a few miles north of Bwindi, offers tree-climbing lions, hippos, elephants, buffalo, and crocs on Kazinga Channel banks. Kibale Forest is home to troops of wild chimpanzees and a dozen other primate species, it’s the best place to see chimpanzees in Africa. 

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Volcanoes National Park, best place to see gorillas in Rwanda, and go gorilla trekking in Africa

2. Rwanda

The slopes of the Virunga Mountains are where the celebrated primatologist, Dian Fossey, began her work on gorilla conservation, thus launching the gorilla trekking experience. Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s side of the Virunga Mountains, and it is the best place to fly in to see gorillas in Africa. The park is less than a 3-hour drive from the international airport, with good-surfaced and clean roads.

However, the pricey gorilla permit makes Rwanda an expensive destination for gorilla trekking safaris. A Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1,500, double Uganda’s price. If you want a luxury gorilla safari experience, head to Volcanoes National Park. You will find some of the most expensive safari lodges and hotels on the edge of the jungle forest with indulgent amenities.

Insider tip: A Rwanda gorilla trek is typically one week, with a day or two spent exploring the vibrant Africa cultures in Kigali capital and at least 3 nights outside the gorilla forest. Rwanda offers chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park, a few miles south of Volcanoes National Park, and the Big Five classic safari in Akagera National Park, northwest of the capital. The best option to see gorillas and do a classic Africa safari is to extend your gorilla safari to Masai Mara, Serengeti, or Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.

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Virunga Volcanoes in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) best destination for gorilla trekking

3. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a wild and affordable destination for adventurous people who want to see gorillas in Africa. Despite ongoing civil wars on the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, where gorillas live, the country has sufficient tourist infrastructure to support gorilla viewing. DRC is the only country in the world with western lowland, eastern lowland, and mountain gorilla species, and it offers some of the best opportunities to visit gorillas in their natural habitat. 

Eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s gorillas, can be found in the forests and swamplands southwest of the Virunga Volcanos in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Mountain gorillas can be seen in the Virunga National Park, located on the DRC side of the Virunga Mountains, which is one of the best places to see gorillas in Africa. 

Virunga’s security has improved significantly, and visitors can access it from Kisoro in Uganda or by flight through Goma town on the northern bank of Lake Kivu. The park’s accommodation options, including Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, and the newly built Kibumba Tented Camp, offer stunning views and a chance to unwind after a day of gorilla trekking. Virunga gained international attention after Netflix’s documentary “Virunga,” which tells the story of the rangers who risk their lives to protect the national park and its endangered mountain gorillas.

The eastern lowland gorilla—also known as Grauer's gorilla - The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) - best places to visit gorillas in Africa

4. The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)

The Republic of the Congo is one of the best places for travelers seeking an extraordinary gorilla trekking experience in Africa. With about 125,000 western lowland gorillas living in the largely unexplored rainforest reserves, visitors are guaranteed an unforgettable African jungle adventure. The Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in particular, offers some of the best Africa gorilla treks and viewing adventures in the country. Tourists can expect to head out every morning on foot with a small group of 3-4 tourists, an expert tracker, and a guide to spend an hour with the gorillas.

In the north of Congo lies the famous Mbeli Bai in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, a true untamed African wilderness for the intrepid traveler. The park’s swampy tropical rainforests are filled with animals, including a population of about 100 western lowland gorillas and the highest number of forest elephants in the world. Visitors can view the massive silverbacks on a forested island from a boat and head out to view rescued western lowland gorilla orphans being rehabilitated back into the forest in the Léfini Reserve.

For those looking for affordable rustic gorilla safari accommodations, Mbeli Camp and Mondika Camp provide the best options. With opportunities for unique wildlife encounters, including gorilla groups wading into the marsh to forage for water plants alongside forest elephants, buffalo, and antelope such as sitatunga, Congo is a gorilla destination that should not be missed.

Lowland gorillas in The Central African Republic (CAR) - Dzanga-Sangha National Park

5. The Central African Republic (CAR) – Dzanga-Sangha National Park

The Dzanga-Sangha National Park, located in the Central African Republic, is home to two out of three human-habituated western lowland gorillas. These gorillas are among the highest concentration of western lowland gorillas and forest elephants in the world, making the park one of the best places to visit gorillas in Africa. 

Visitors can embark on an adventure to the remote rainforests of the Dzanga Sangha Reserve, where they can track endangered western lowland gorillas and observe forest elephants, bongos, and mangabey monkeys. They can also join the local Ba’Aka people on a net hunt in the dense jungle rainforests. This experience is sure to leave unforgettable memories.

However, exploring the undiscovered wilderness of the Central African Republic’s southern tip in search of wildlife can be quite challenging. It is not for the faint-hearted, although it is equally one of the wildest and most rewarding African jungle encounters on the continent.

All in all

If you’re planning a tour to visit gorillas in Africa, the lush rainforests of Uganda, particularly Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, provide a unique and immersive setting for gorilla trekking. You can stay in affordable yet idyllic forest cottages that are truly amazing. Another renowned place in Africa where you can visit gorillas in a safe, comfortable natural environment is Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The mist-covered volcanoes in the park create a dramatic backdrop for encounters with the endangered mountain gorillas. These two destinations offer the best gorilla safaris in Africa and the opportunity to contribute to conservation efforts and gain a profound appreciation for the importance of preserving these majestic great apes and their habitats.

How to book a gorilla trek to see gorillas in Africa

Nkuringo Safaris is a local safari operator that conducts gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda, with wildlife safari extensions in Kenya and Tanzania. They take care of all the small details of planning your gorilla trekking itinerary, so you don’t have to. This includes booking your gorilla permits – which can be cumbersome for many travelers – as well as booking your accommodation and organizing your local transport and transfers. If you’re interested to see gorillas in Africa without the stress of choosing the best places and planning your own African safari, simply browse the local operator’s website for packaged tours, verify their authenticity, and give them a call or send them an email.

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Where To See Gorillas in Africa
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