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.

How To See Gorillas in Africa

To see wild gorillas in Africa, you must go on a guided gorilla trekking tour in the lush jungles of Uganda and Rwanda. These East African countries offer the best opportunities to observe mountain gorillas, the most sought-after species, in their natural habitat.

Gorilla trekking involves hiking through dense forests, rivers, and marshes, led by experienced local trackers who know the gorillas’ whereabouts. The thrill of encountering these gentle giants in their natural home is unparalleled. Watching majestic silverbacks, playful toddlers, and tender mothers is a scene straight out of an enchanting wilderness story.

To participate in gorilla trekking, you’ll need a government permit. These permits are essential for conservation efforts, as revenue generated from them directly supports habitat protection and anti-poaching initiatives.

While mountain gorillas are the main attraction in East Africa, you can see lowland gorillas in the dense forests of Central and West Africa. However, the trekking infrastructure here is more challenging and less accessible.

No matter where you choose to go in Africa—Uganda, Rwanda, or Congo—seeing gorillas in the wild is a truly magical experience that will leave you with lasting memories. Seeing them behind cages in zoos just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The five best places in Africa where you can go on a gorilla trek and see gorillas in the wild.

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. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Uganda is renowned as the gorilla trekking capital of Africa, boasting the world’s largest population of endangered mountain gorillas. With over half of the remaining mountain gorillas residing within its borders, Uganda offers two exceptional national parks for gorilla trekking adventures: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Both are accessible within a 10-hour drive or a quick 1-hour flight from the main airport in Entebbe.

Bwindi is a top choice for gorilla trekking adventures in Africa for several reasons:

  • More Gorilla Trekking Options: Bwindi offers a wider variety of gorilla families (over 19 habituated groups) and trekking trails to suit different preferences and fitness levels.
  • Affordability: Gorilla permits in Uganda are currently priced at $800 (July 2024), making it a more budget-friendly gorilla trekking option compared to neighboring Rwanda.
  • Gorilla Habituation Experience: For a truly immersive encounter with gorillas in Africa, Bwindi exclusively offers the 4-hour gorilla habituation experience ($1,500), allowing you to spend more time observing gorillas as they become accustomed to human presence.
  • Combined Adventures: Easily combine your gorilla trek with other incredible wildlife experiences in Uganda. Explore Queen Elizabeth National Park for classic safaris with tree-climbing lions and diverse wildlife, or venture to Kibale Forest, the chimpanzee trekking capital of Africa.

Insider Tip: Plan an 8-day primates itinerary to fully experience Uganda’s wonders. Combine your gorilla trek in Bwindi with chimpanzee trekking in Kibale and a wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park for an unforgettable African safari adventure.

8 day uganda primates safari map

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12 day uganda gorilla tours map

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

2. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is a legendary destination for gorilla trekking in Africa, steeped in history as the site where renowned primatologist Dian Fossey dedicated her life to studying and protecting these magnificent African gorillas. Nestled amidst the Virunga Mountains, the park offers a unique blend of breathtaking landscapes and remarkable wildlife encounters, making it one of the best places to see gorillas in Africa.

Accessibility and Luxury: Volcanoes National Park is easily accessible, just a 3-hour drive from Kigali International Airport on well-maintained roads. This convenience, combined with its proximity to luxurious lodges and hotels boasting top-notch amenities, makes it a preferred choice for those seeking a high-end gorilla trekking Africa experience.

Price Considerations: While Rwanda offers unparalleled convenience and luxury, it’s important to note that gorilla permits are pricier here, currently at $1,500 (July 2024). This is double the cost of permits in Uganda, making Rwanda a more expensive option for budget-conscious travelers.

Insider Tip: Plan a week-long itinerary to fully immerse yourself in Rwanda’s offerings. Spend a couple of days exploring the vibrant city of Kigali, venture into Nyungwe National Park for chimpanzee trekking, and consider extending your trip to include a classic safari in Akagera National Park or even the iconic Masai Mara or Serengeti.

Rwanda Luxury Gorilla Safari

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

3. Kahuzi-Biega National Park & Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is an adventurous and budget-friendly destination for intrepid travelers seeking to see gorillas in Africa. Despite ongoing challenges, the country boasts sufficient tourist infrastructure to support gorilla trekking, making it a unique and rewarding option for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience.

Unique Gorilla Species and Diverse Gorilla Trekking in Africa Opportunities: The DRC is the only country in the world where you can encounter all three subspecies of gorillas: western lowland, eastern lowland, and mountain gorillas. This diversity offers a range of gorilla trekking in Africa experiences to suit different preferences.

  • Kahuzi-Biega National Park: Home to the eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s gorillas. These gentle giants inhabit the forests and swamplands southwest of the Virunga Volcanoes, providing a unique gorilla trekking Africa experience in diverse landscapes.
  • Virunga National Park: A renowned destination for mountain gorilla trekking, located on the DRC side of the Virunga Mountains. The park’s security has improved significantly, and visitors can access it from Kisoro in Uganda or by flight through Goma town.

Virunga’s Appeal and Accommodation: Virunga National Park gained international recognition through the Netflix documentary “Virunga,” highlighting the dedicated rangers who protect the park and its endangered mountain gorillas in Africa. The park offers comfortable accommodation options, including Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, and Kibumba Tented Camp, all providing stunning views and a tranquil retreat after your gorilla trekking adventures.

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. Odzala-Kokoua National Park, The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)

The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a hidden gem for adventurous travelers seeking a unique gorilla trekking experience in Africa. With vast, unexplored rainforest reserves and a thriving population of over 125,000 western lowland gorillas, this Central African nation offers an unforgettable journey into the heart of the African wilderness.

Odzala-Kokoua National Park is the best place for the gorilla trekking experience to see gorillas in the Republic of the Congo. Visitors can embark on daily treks with small, intimate groups, accompanied by expert trackers and guides. These treks offer the chance to spend an hour observing gorillas in the wild, a truly magical experience.

Mbeli Bai: A Wildlife Spectacle in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park: In the northern reaches of the Congo lies Mbeli Bai, a renowned wildlife haven within Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. This untouched wilderness boasts a diverse array of animals, including a significant population of western lowland gorillas and the world’s largest concentration of forest elephants. Visitors can witness the majestic silverbacks on a forested island from a boat or observe rescued gorilla orphans being rehabilitated in the Léfini Reserve.

Affordable and Rustic Gorilla Trekking Adventures: Congo-Brazzaville offers budget-friendly gorilla trekking options, with rustic yet comfortable accommodations available at Mbeli Camp and Mondika Camp. These camps provide a base for your adventures, where you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

Unforgettable Wildlife Encounters: Beyond gorillas, Congo-Brazzaville offers unique wildlife encounters, such as watching gorilla groups foraging alongside forest elephants, buffalo, and antelope like the sitatunga. These interactions highlight the interconnectedness of the rainforest ecosystem and make Congo an unmissable gorilla trekking destination.

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

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

Dzanga-Sangha National Park, nestled in the heart of the Central African Republic (CAR), offers a truly wild and immersive gorilla trekking experience. This remote rainforest sanctuary is home to two of the only three habituated western lowland gorilla groups, making it a prime destination for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path gorilla adventure in Africa.

Unique Wildlife Encounters: Dzanga-Sangha boasts one of the highest concentrations of western lowland gorillas and forest elephants in the world. Embark on an unforgettable journey through the dense jungle, where you can track these endangered primates alongside bongos and mangabey monkeys. For a deeper cultural immersion, join the local Ba’Aka people on a traditional net hunt.

Challenging Yet Rewarding: Exploring the untouched wilderness of the CAR’s southern tip is not without its challenges. However, the rewards are immense. This untamed region offers one of the wildest and most rewarding jungle encounters in Africa.

All in All: Where to See Gorillas in Africa and How to Book Your Trek

For an unforgettable experience seeing gorillas in Africa, two destinations stand out:

  • Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: This lush rainforest is home to the largest population of endangered mountain gorillas, offering diverse trekking options and affordable accommodations in idyllic forest cottages.
  • Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park: Trek through mist-covered volcanoes to encounter mountain gorillas in a dramatic setting. Rwanda boasts luxurious lodges and convenient access from Kigali International Airport.

Both destinations provide exceptional gorilla safaris, contributing to conservation efforts and fostering a deeper understanding of Africa’s incredible primates.

Booking Your Africa Gorilla Trek:

Simplify your journey by partnering with a reputable local tour operator like Nkuringo Safaris. They specialize in gorilla safaris in both Uganda and Rwanda, handling all the details, including securing gorilla permits, booking accommodations, and arranging transportation. With their expertise, you can relax and focus on creating lasting memories of your African gorilla adventure. Browse their website for packaged tours, verify their authenticity, and reach out to them for a seamless booking experience.

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