The Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking Adventure in Uganda

Set off on a once-in-a-lifetime journey into the rugged, lush rainforests and walk with the great apes of Uganda on a gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure. Spend a day observing the snobbish chimpanzees bands with a primatologist, and track mountain gorillas in the misty mountain jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Meet Africa’s Great Apes on a Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking Safari in Uganda

Embark on a thrilling and unforgettable journey into the untamed and verdant rainforests of Uganda. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to walk amongst Africa’s magnificent great apes on a gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure. Immerse yourself in the world of chimpanzees, observing their behavior and social interactions with the guidance of an expert primatologist. Then set out to track mountain gorillas through the misty mountain jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Throughout your adventure, savor the comforts of luxurious safari lodges, including a savannah resort nestled at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains and a forest cabin perched on a ridge offering breathtaking views of the rugged Rift Valley and Virunga Mountains chain. This once-in-a-lifetime summer experience is perfect for solo travelers, colleagues, or groups of friends seeking a genuine wilderness experience that will reignite their passion for adventure.

Adventure Highlights

  • The entire journey has a moderate activity rating. All trip participants should be physically fit and prepared for many hours. There’s walking or hiking over uneven jungle terrain on some days. 
  • During trekking excursions, you may be out in the forest for up to 8 hours. You’ll be hiking through the impenetrable jungle at elevations reaching 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). Treks are unpredictably arduous, navigating steep, uneven, wet, and often muddy terrain. 
  • All participants should be at least 15 years old. 
  • Expect long driving days of up to 10 hours transferring between locations unless you prefer regional flights.
Walking with the great apes of Uganda - Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking Safari in Uganda
A chimpanzee in Kibale walks the trail as tourists follow in the back.

One Night in Entebbe To See the Shoebill Bird

Your gateway to Uganda for your thrilling gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure is likely to be the Entebbe International Airport, situated on a picturesque peninsula by the northern shores of Lake Victoria, just 35 km outside of Kampala city. Consider spending a night here to rest and prepare for the long journey ahead.

Entebbe boasts several notable tourist attractions you can explore at the start of your Uganda safari, such as Ngamba Chimps Island, UWEC Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, and local markets. However, the most popular among visitors is the opportunity to track the prehistoric shoebill bird in Mabamba Swamps on Lake Victoria. This is an optional activity that you can choose to include or skip.

During your stay in Entebbe, you can comfortably relax at one of our highly recommended partner properties, including the Papyrus Guesthouse, Hotel No.5, Protea Hotel, or The Boma Guesthouse. These lodgings offer excellent facilities and amenities to ensure you are well-rested and ready to embark on your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure.

Insider Tip

Visit the shoebill in Mabamba Swamps if you arrive in Entebbe early. The shoebill is a unique bird restricted to the region; very few people see this humongous bird. Travel to gorillas and chimpanzee destinations in the cool morning temperatures the following day.

A grown male chimp takes a break from the daily jungle hustles for a quiet nap. - chimpanzee habituation experience in Uganda
A grown male chimp takes a break from the daily jungle hustles for a quiet nap.

Two Nights: Chimpanzee Trekking (or Habituation Experience) in Kibale Forest

Kibale National Park is a natural wonderland that should be a top priority for wildlife enthusiasts visiting Uganda. Nestled in western Uganda, this park is renowned for its thriving primate population, which includes over 13 species and the world’s largest population of chimpanzees. Visitors can choose between the standard chimpanzee trekking experience, which provides an hour-long visit with a habituated troop, or the chimpanzee habituation experience, which offers a full-day adventure with researchers and their assistants. Both activities commence at 7:30 am at the visitor center, with an experienced guide leading the way.

During the chimpanzee trekking or habituation experience in Kibale, a knowledgeable guide and researcher will lead visitors on the trail while sharing insights into the behavior and ecology of these primates. The experience involves following the chimpanzee community as they move through the forest, observing their feeding habits, and witnessing their interactions with other group members. Visitors will have an opportunity to observe various chimpanzee behaviors, including hunting, feeding, grooming, fornicating, struggling for dominance, and resting. The experience allows visitors to get up close and personal with Africa’s intelligent primates and learn about their group dynamics.

It’s important to note that wild chimpanzees are typically fearful of humans and may hide or even attack if they feel threatened. Chimpanzee habituation is the process by which primatologists repeatedly expose human observers to a chimpanzee troop to reduce their fear response to human presence. This process can take more than two years and is considered complete when the chimpanzees treat observers as neutral elements in their environment.

The chimpanzee habituation experience can be physically demanding, as visitors must keep up with the active and boisterous apes as they move through the forest canopy. While chimpanzees are busy throughout the day, drumming tree trunks, jumping, and hooting, they do take occasional breaks to rest or take a break from foraging. 

Insider Tip

For a truly immersive experience in the lush forests surrounding Kibale National Park, consider spending three nights in a charming forest cottage outside the park. This will give you ample time to explore the stunning mountainous region on foot and spare a day for the unforgettable chimpanzee habituation experience. After your chimpanzee encounter, continue your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure by heading southwest to Bwindi.

Exploring The Rainforests of Kibale, The Primate Capital of Africa.

Exploring The Rainforests of Kibale, The Primate Capital of Africa.

Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda
Wildlife viewing on a boat safari at Kazinga Channel – getting closer to big game.

Two Nights: Wildlife Game Drives & Boat Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Welcome to Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the most popular and diverse national parks in Uganda. Located in the southwestern part of the country, it takes about three hours to drive from Kibale National Park. This park is home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippos, buffalo, and over 600 species of birds. You can enjoy exciting game drives through the savannah, take boat safaris along the Kazinga Channel, or go on guided nature walks through Kyambura Forest. You should definitely check out the remote Ishasha Park sector, where you can see the tree-climbing lions – it’s a fascinating highlight of this gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure.

Experience the beauty of African wildlife on a safari adventure in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Start your day with a sunrise drive in a four-by-four safari truck, exploring the grasslands and searching for lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, antelopes, and more. In the afternoon, embark on a boat safari along the Kazinga Channel. This 32-kilometer-long waterway bisects the park and is home to the largest hippo population in Uganda. As you float along, you’ll have the opportunity to see hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, and hundreds of bird species up close.

A tree-climbing lion in the Ishasha sector lounging on a branch in the afternoon heat.
A tree-climbing lion in the Ishasha sector lounging on a branch in the afternoon heat.

One of the park’s most fascinating highlights is the tree-climbing lions in the remote Ishasha Park sector. Researchers are still unsure why these big cats climb trees, but it’s a unique behavior that you won’t find anywhere else. As you journey southwards to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you’ll have the opportunity to see these incredible felines lounging in fig trees with a full view of the flat plains.

Insider Tip

Spend two nights in two Queen Elizabeth National Park sectors: Kasenyi Sector for game viewing and Ishasha Sector for the tree-climbing lions. Ishasha Sector places you closer to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Gorillas in The Wild Adventure
Silverback, family head (right) with his family among thickets in Bwindi. Gorilla Habituation brings you the closest you can get to a wild troop of mountain gorillas and spend four hours observing their rudimentary lives.

Two Nights: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Buhoma Sector

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Uganda’s most iconic and biodiverse national park in the southwest. This park is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, making it a top destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The park’s thick forest is also home to various other primates, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, baboons, and over 350 bird species. The park also offers guided nature walks, bird watching, and community visits, providing visitors with a wealth of opportunities for our gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safari.

You’ll visit gorillas in the Buhoma sector, north of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is one of the most popular areas for gorilla trekking in Uganda. This sector is home to several habituated gorilla families, making it an ideal destination for visitors seeking a chance to observe Africa’s gorillas up close.

Gorilla trekking in the Buhoma sector typically begins early morning, meeting your guides at the park headquarters. After a briefing on the trekking rules and safety procedures, you’ll embark on a challenging hike through the dense forest to locate the gorilla family. The trekking experience can last anywhere from one to six hours, depending on the location of the gorillas and the difficulty of the terrain.

Once the gorilla family has been located, visitors are allowed to spend up to one hour observing their behavior and interactions. This hour spent with the gorillas is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience you can’t equate to the chimps adventure.

Spend a night in a luxurious cottage overlooking the lush Impenetrable Forest. The following day, join local guides on a nature walking trail across the forest from Buhoma to Nkuringo in the south of Bwindi.

The Gorilla Habituation Experience on the walking with the great apes journey in Uganda
Juveline Mountain Gorilla Swings on Bwindi Forest Vines.

Three Nights: Gorilla Habituation Experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Nkuringo Sector

The southern trekking sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are renowned for offering an adventurous and challenging experience, with habituated mountain gorillas being the main attraction. Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors boast stunning scenery, characterized by steep hills and deep valleys covered in dense forest.

This part of the gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure is designed to immerse you in the breathtaking views and untamed African wilderness. You’ll rise early in the morning to join rangers, trackers, researchers, and their assistants as you embark on a trek to track a semi-habituated gorilla group. The gorilla trek through tangled growth, uneven and muddy terrain is undoubtedly challenging, but the four hours you’ll spend observing the gorillas will be a truly unforgettable experience.

The following day, you’ll have the opportunity to spend time with locals in the rural communities and visit the Batwa Pygmy people on a forest trail. As the cherry on top of your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safari, you’ll enjoy a sundowner at the top of the world. This soccer field, used by the local youth, offers incredible 360-degree views of the rugged landscape of the Rift Valley and the Virunga Mountains chain, providing a perfect climax to your adventure.

Insider Tip

If you only participate in the gorilla trek, you may spend less time in Bwindi. However, you will miss out on the opportunity to fully experience the region like those who explore both the south and northern sectors of the park. While gorilla trekking is a common activity in both areas, each sector offers unique nature walks and breathtaking scenery. Keep in mind that obtaining gorilla trekking permits can be difficult, so be sure to book them several months in advance and plan your chimpanzee and gorilla trekking safari around the permit dates.

Silverback's eyes - gorilla habituation experience in the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Locking eyes with this giant ape will leave you forever connected.

Best time for the gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safari

The ideal time for gorilla and chimp trekking adventures is during the two dry seasons, from June to August and December to February. During these periods, the trails are dry, and the likelihood of rain is lower. However, it’s essential to note that as Uganda is a tropical country, rain can occur at any time, even during the dry season. To prepare for this, it’s advisable to carry a light rain jacket, waterproof backpack, and shoes.

The wet season, which occurs from March to May and September to November, is characterized by heavy rains, which can make trekking more challenging. However, visiting the primates during this season has some advantages. For instance, the primates tend to stay closer to the forest periphery because it’s warmer, making them easier to locate. Additionally, the lush vegetation provides a more colorful and vibrant backdrop for photography.

Moreover, the wet season has a certain wilderness charm that allows you to appreciate nature better. This is especially true during periods of heavy rainfall, which can create a sense of solitude and peace in the forest. Lastly, the wet season is also known as the Low Season, and many forest lodges offer discounts, reducing the trip cost by almost 35%.

Insider Tip

While the dry season is the preferred time for gorilla and chimp trekking, the wet season offers unique advantages, including closer primate sightings, lush vegetation, and lower costs. It’s essential to be well-prepared for any weather conditions and to embrace the unpredictability of nature in the rainforest.

Batwa People  - Conservation & Sustainable Gorilla and Chimps Adventures
A tourist amazes the Batwa forest people on a community visit. Great Apes tourism in Uganda has played a vital role in enriching surrounding communities and contributing to conservation as a whole.

Conservation & Sustainable Gorilla and Chimps Adventures

The gorilla and chimpanzee trekking and habituation experiences are essential to the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s conservation efforts. The conservation programs require significant funding, and the revenue generated from primate tourism helps to alleviate the financial burden.

Habituation of the great apes also requires the presence of humans for scientific studies. Therefore, researchers appreciate your presence. Although some people are concerned about the risks associated with primate habituation and tourism, scientists view them as an effective conservation tool. Researchers argue that habituation allows for precise animal identification and the study of their behavior. Furthermore, gorilla habituation facilitates easy access to veterinary interventions in case of disease outbreaks within the ape communities.

In addition, chimpanzee and gorilla tours ecotourism, generating economic benefits for neighboring communities while financing conservation activities and research. 

Insider Tip

Fixed Costs on the chimpanzee and gorilla trekking safari

  • Chimpanzee Habituation Experience permit in Kibale – $250 per person
  • Or Chimpanzee trekking permit in Kibale – $200 per person. 
  • Gorilla trekking permit – $700 per person
  • Gorilla habituation experience permit – $1500 per person
  • Safari Lodges – $300 – $500 per person for mid-range or $700 – $1200 per person for Luxury with all meals

How to book this primates tour

Diana, a local safari specialist with Nkuringo Safaris, a fully licensed operator since 2007, will be excited to help you plan your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking adventure. She can book your permit, reserve your accommodation, organize your transport, and find you the best English/French/Italian-speaking local guides. 

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