Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: Questions and Answers.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a unique and unforgettable wildlife experience that allows you to witness the magnificent apes of Africa in their natural habitat. However, planning a gorilla hike can be overwhelming if you don't have all the information you need. In this article, we aim to answer some of the most common questions you may have to help you plan your expedition.

20 Questions and Answers on Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: Your Ultimate Adventure Guide

The gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda is one of the most exhilarating wildlife experiences that brings you face-to-face with Africa’s great apes in their natural habitat. From the dense forests to the heart-pounding encounters, this article will provide you with all the essential information, questions, and accurate answers you need to plan an unforgettable gorilla trekking expedition.

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is gorilla trekking?
  2. Where can I go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
  3. How much does gorilla trekking in Uganda cost?
  4. How do I obtain gorilla trekking permits in Uganda?
  5. How physically demanding is gorilla trekking?
  6. Are there any age restrictions for gorilla trekking in Uganda?
  7. What is the best time of year to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
  8. How long does a gorilla trekking experience usually last?
  9. How close can you get to the gorillas during a trekking safari?
  10. Are there any safety considerations or risks involved in gorilla trekking?
  11. Are there any rules or guidelines I must follow during gorilla trekking in Uganda?
  12. What should I pack for a gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda?
  13. Is it safe to trek gorillas in Uganda?
  14. What are the chances of seeing gorillas in Uganda?
  15. Is gorilla trekking worth the cost?
  16. What is the experience like trekking gorillas in Uganda?
  17. Is it better to see gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda?
  18. Should you hire a porter on the gorilla trek?
  19. How much do you tip guides on a Uganda gorilla trek?
  20. How to book a Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari

1. What is gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking is a guided adventure into the forested mountains of Central Africa to find a troop of gorillas and spend some time observing them in their natural habitat. It’s a carefully managed and permitted activity designed to offer a unique and respectful wildlife experience. It involves obtaining permits and following prescribed guidelines. It provides a unique opportunity to witness Africa’s great apes up close and appreciate their behavior, social interactions, and captivating beauty.

Gorilla trekking is most commonly associated with countries in East and Central Africa, where the two species of gorillas, the mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri), are found. Countries like Rwanda, Uganda the Pearl of Africa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are well-known for their exhilarating gorilla hikinging experiences.

During a gorilla trek, visitors are accompanied by experienced guides and trackers who lead them to gorilla families. Once the gorillas are located, visitors have a limited time to observe and photograph the gentle giants while maintaining a safe distance to minimize any potential threat on the wellbeing of gorillas and their environment.

Gorilla hiking not only provides an unforgettable wildlife experience but also contributes to the conservation of these endangered species by generating revenue for conservation efforts and raising awareness about the importance of protecting their natural habitats.

2. Where to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?

In Uganda, you can go gorilla trekking in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Both parks are located on the country’s southwestern border and are home to more than half the world’s total population of endangered mountain gorillas.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Located in southwestern Uganda, Bwindi is renowned for its dense, ancient rainforest. Bwindi is home to several habituated gorilla families in four sectors, offering easy access to the trekking experience. The four sectors include Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. That is where you will find the most decent accommodation, near the trekking centers.

You can access Bwindi by road (500 kilometers from Entebbe International Airport and 164 kilometers from Kigali International Airport) or by air, with the nearest Kisoro and Kihihi Airports an hour and a half away from the main entrances.

Travel Guide to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

map showing Where to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Map showing how to access mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Also situated in southwestern Uganda, Mgahinga is part of the Virunga Mountains that it shares with Rwanda’s Volcanoes and DR Congo’s Virunga National Park. Mgahinga has one habituated gorilla family available for trekking via Ntebeko Park Headquarters. 

The park is separated 48 kilometers southwest of Bwindi by human settlements. You can reach Mgahinga by road and air (using the same route as Bwindi), and the nearest town is Kisoro (38 kilometers).

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: Gorillas, Monkeys & Volcanos

Each park offers its own charm and challenges, making the trek an adventure of a lifetime. The gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi is more adventurous, with vast ancient rainforests, challenging trails, and a greater number of habituated gorilla groups. On the other hand, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park provides a laidback gorilla encounter amidst a volcanic landscape, with the opportunity for volcano hikes and a single habituated gorilla group. Gorilla treks in both parks allow visitors to witness the natural behavior of mountain gorillas and offer unique landscapes, wildlife, and activities, ensuring an unforgettable adventure in Uganda’s wilderness.

3. How much does gorilla trekking in Uganda cost?

The cost of gorilla trekking in Uganda is mainly hiked by the permit fee, which is currently priced at $700 per person but, starting July 1, 2024, will increase to USD 800 per person. Foreign residents will pay $700, the rest of Africa $500, and East African Community citizens UGX 300, UWA announced on Jan 22, 2024.

It is essential to note that this fee contributes to conservation efforts and ensures the protection of these remarkable creatures. Additional expenses such as transportation, accommodation, and park fees may vary depending on your preferences.

Read What is The Average Cost of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda & Rwanda?

4. How do I obtain gorilla trekking permits in Uganda?

To obtain a gorilla trekking permit, contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or a trusted tour operator. To avoid the logistical nightmares, use a tour operator verified by local authorities like AUTO. Due to the limited number of permits available each day, it is advisable to book well in advance. Securing a permit is crucial as it guarantees your entry into the park and your encounter with the gorillas.

Read The Gorilla Permit – All You Need To Know

get quote from best tour company for gorilla trekking safaris in uganda
get quote from best tour company for gorilla trekking safaris in uganda

5. How physically demanding is gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is no easy feat. It involves hiking through rugged terrain and dense rainforests, which can be physically demanding. To reach the mountain gorillas, you’ll have to navigate uphill or downhill through thick tangles of jungle vines, roots, and thorns. The duration and intensity of the trek can vary, lasting from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the gorilla family’s location. It’s advisable to maintain a good fitness level and be prepared for steep slopes, muddy paths, and challenging conditions. Additionally, gorilla treks are at high altitudes of around 2,600m (8,500 ft).

The journey to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be just as challenging as the trek itself. Travel access to the park is only on foot, with no paths, signs, or directions to guide you. Park rangers carry machetes to clear the way through the dense jungle. However, the reward at the end of the trek is truly worth it. Many travelers who have hiked in the high altitude and challenging terrain find the gorilla hike in Uganda to be the adventure of a lifetime.

6. Are there any age restrictions for gorilla trekking in Uganda?

To ensure the safety of both visitors and mountain gorillas, a minimum age requirement of 15 years is in place for gorilla trekking. This age limit ensures that visitors are physically capable of trekking and are mature enough to follow the rules and regulations of the trek. 

However, visitors who cannot participate in the gorilla hike have several alternative activities available. These include nature walks and cultural experiences that provide a unique and immersive way of experiencing the area’s natural beauty and culture. For more information regarding the alternative activities, please inquire with our safari experts, who will gladly assist you.

7. What is the best time of year to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?

Uganda is undoubtedly a top destination for gorilla trekking, which can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, to make the most out of your trekking experience, it is advisable to visit during the dry seasons that run from June to August and December to February. During these periods, the trails leading to the gorillas are more accessible, and the weather is relatively stable, creating an ideal environment for trekking. Therefore, if you’re planning a gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda, it’s best to plan your visit around these times to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Know the best time to go month-by-month 

8. How long does a gorilla trekking experience usually last?

The duration of a gorilla trekking experience can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the gorilla group, their movements on the day of the trek, and the overall conditions in the forest. However, the actual time spent with the gorillas is limited to one hour.

Here’s a general breakdown of the timeline for a gorilla trekking experience:

Pre-Trek Briefing: Before the trek begins, there is usually a briefing at the park headquarters. This includes information about gorilla behavior, guidelines for the trek, and safety instructions. It typically starts at 7:30 am.

Trek to Gorilla Group: When preparing for your gorilla trekking trip to see gorillas, you’ll need to be ready for a bit of a journey. Depending on where the gorilla group is hanging out on that particular day, the trek could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. And let’s just say it, it’s not a walk in the park – you’ll be navigating some pretty tough terrain, with lots of uphill and downhill walking through dense vegetation.

One Hour with Gorillas: Once the gorilla group is located, participants are allowed to spend one hour in their presence. This hour is to observe, take photographs, and enjoy the unique experience of being close to these remarkable creatures.

Return Trek: After the one-hour observation period, visitors trek back to the starting point or park headquarters. The return trek can take a similar amount of time as the initial trek to the gorilla group.

The entire gorilla trekking experience, including the briefing, trek to the gorillas, one-hour observation, and return, can last around 3 to 8 hours. It’s essential to be physically prepared for the trek and to follow the guidelines provided by the park authorities for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Gorilla trekking in uganda, how close can you get
The official monitored distance is 10 meters but the mountain gorillas can decide to break that rule.

9. How close can you get to the gorillas during a trekking safari?

During a gorilla trekking safari, you are allowed to get quite close to the gorillas, about 10 meters (32 feet) from a gorilla. However, there are guidelines in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both the gorillas and the visitors. However, it is not uncommon for gorillas to approach visitors out of curiosity, creating unforgettable and intimate moments.

The exact distance may vary depending on the behavior of the gorillas and the specific regulations of the park, but in general:

Minimum Distance: Regulations typically require visitors to maintain a minimum distance of 10 meters (about 32 feet) from the gorillas. This distance helps minimize the risk of disease transmission between humans and gorillas.

Gorilla Behavior: The behavior of the gorillas also plays a role. Sometimes, gorillas may choose to approach visitors out of curiosity. In such cases, visitors need to remain calm and follow the guidance of the rangers.

No Direct Eye Contact: Direct eye contact with the dormant male silverback gorilla is generally discouraged as it can be perceived as a threat in gorilla communication. Guides will often instruct visitors on appropriate behavior during the trek.

Despite the minimum distance requirement, there are instances where gorillas may come even closer to visitors. It’s crucial to stay calm, follow the guidance of the guides, and respect the gorillas’gorillas’ space. The aim is to minimize stress for the gorillas and create a positive and natural encounter for both the wildlife and the visitors.

10. Are there any safety considerations or risks involved in gorilla trekking?

While gorilla trekking, it is important to follow the instructions of the guides and rangers, who are experienced in gorilla behavior and can ensure your safety. Some of the park regulations and guidelines to follow during the gorilla hike include staying in a group, keeping a distance of at least 10 meters from the gorillas, avoiding direct eye contact with the gorillas, not using flash photography, and minimizing noise and movement.  

While gorilla trekking is generally safe, there have been incidents in the past where gorillas have charged at tourists. This can happen if the gorillas feel threatened or their personal space is invaded. It is important to respect their space and follow the guidelines to avoid such incidents. Additionally, there may be risks associated with hiking in remote areas, such as altitude sickness, insect bites, or injuries from falls. However, these risks can be minimized by preparing adequately and following safety guidelines.

Additionally, it is advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and to consult a healthcare professional regarding necessary vaccinations.

11. Are there any rules or guidelines I must follow during gorilla trekking in Uganda?

Yes, there are specific rules and guidelines that you must follow to ensure the well-being of the gorillas and the safety of all participants. These guidelines include maintaining a distance of 10 meters from the gorillas, avoiding direct eye contact, keeping voices soft-spoken, not using flash photography, and refraining from eating or drinking in the presence of gorillas. Your guides will provide a comprehensive briefing before the trek, ensuring you are well-informed and ready to follow these guidelines.

12. What should I pack for a gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda?

When preparing for a gorilla hike in Uganda, it is essential to pack appropriate gear. Some essential items include sturdy hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts, lightweight rain gear, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, a daypack, a refillable water bottle, and a camera to capture those magical encounters.

Read Gearing up for the gorilla experience? Here’s what to wear

13. Is it safe to trek gorillas in Uganda?

Contrary to common belief, gorilla trekking in Uganda is typically safe. The gorillas encountered during treks are accustomed or habituated to human interaction, and armed park rangers accompany visitors for added security. Uganda has implemented measures to enhance the safety of tourists exploring its national parks, including those designated for gorilla trekking. Notably, no security incidents have been reported over a decade.

Experts who habituate mountain gorilla families for tourism purposes have established safety protocols to ensure secure interactions. While these gorillas are accustomed to people, they remain powerful and unpredictable wild animals. The dominant male, or silverback, could potentially cause harm if it perceives a threat. However, adherence to established safety guidelines and the presence of experienced guides contribute to a safe and enjoyable gorilla trekking experience in Uganda.

Read: Is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda Safe?

14. What are the chances of seeing gorillas in Uganda?

The chances of seeing gorillas in Uganda during a mountain gorilla trek are quite high, around 97%. Reviews suggest that it’s considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with visitors having a very good chance of encountering these majestic primates in their natural habitat. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, along with dedicated researchers and guides, prioritizes ensuring the best possible chance of gorilla sightings. Guides stay in constant contact with field workers, making the chances of seeing mountain gorillas in Uganda approximately 99%. While wild animals are unpredictable and there are no guarantees, the dedicated team, including scouts and guides equipped with walkie-talkies, maximizes the likelihood of a successful gorilla trekking experience.

15. Is gorilla trekking worth the cost?

Absolutely! Imagine standing face to face with a 400-pound silverback gorilla in its natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is unquestionably worth the investment, providing not only a unique experience but also contributing significantly to the protection of these endangered creatures and their environment. A substantial portion of the fees from gorilla permits goes directly towards conservation initiatives.

Moreover, choosing an all-inclusive gorilla trekking expedition in Uganda is considerably more affordable than trekking in Rwanda. Typically covering local flights, transportation, a gorilla permit, and accommodation for three or more days, the expenses for such an adventure are well worth the memories created.

What is the experience like trekking gorillas in Uganda?
Tourists interact with a dominant male silverback mountain gorilla in Bwindi, Uganda

16. What is the experience of viewing gorillas in Uganda like?

Mountain gorilla viewing in Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime exilerating adventure that happens only in three countries and Uganda is one of them. The experience is hard to put to words, but let’s try to give you the picture.

Imagine traversing the dense jungle guided by a tracker, wiping sweat from your brow, and appreciating your hiking gear. Suddenly, your tracker signals your group to stop – the moment has arrived to encounter these majestic creatures. Your guide turns to you with a smile and whispers the words you’ve been waiting for: “There they are.” Excited, armed only with your camera and a rush of anticipation, you step forward to meet the gorillas.

You witness the contrast of glossy black gorilla bodies against the vibrant green backdrop of the rainforest – this is why you saved up for this experience. Finally, you are face to face with a family of mountain gorillas led by a vigilant and gentle silverback male.

In that instant, all the preparations and efforts leading up to this encounter fade away. For that enchanting hour spent with these magnificent forest inhabitants, a feeling of connection washes over you. Young gorillas playfully engage, females groom one another, and the watchful silverback oversees it all.

Undoubtedly, the unique opportunity of gorilla trekking in Uganda, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is well worth the financial commitment.

17. Is it better to see gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda?

When choosing between Uganda and Rwanda for gorilla trekking, the decision depends on factors like cost and accessibility. Uganda is more affordable, while Rwanda offers better accessibility. In Uganda, the treks in Bwindi National Park are more affordable but involve rugged terrain and unpredictable weather. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has less challenging terrain, but the hike is more demanding due to higher altitude. Rwanda allows fewer daily visitors, while Uganda admits more tourists per day. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preferences and priorities.

Read Uganda vs Rwanda: which is better for gorilla trekking?

18. Should you hire a porter on the gorilla trek?

Yes, you should consider taking a porter on the gorilla trek. Local porters offer their services at the park entrance for a small fee, usually around $20. Hiring a porter not only helps you cope with the terrain and carry your daypack but also provides a livelihood to the local inhabitants. Many porters are former poachers or individuals who depend on the protected forest for a living. By hiring a porter, you contribute to gorilla conservation efforts, help prevent illegal activities like poaching, and support the local community. It’s a small fee for a significant impact on both your trekking experience and conservation efforts.

You will this related article: The Importance of Safari Guides: Why A Bush Guide is Essential

19. How much do you tip guides on a Uganda gorilla trek?

Although tipping is not compulsory in Uganda, you can tip around $10-$20 to each guide or ranger on a gorilla trek. We advise using local currency, so consider giving them 10,000 to 20,000 Ugandan shillings. There’s no need to tip the porters separately, as you’ve already hired and compensated them directly for their services, which usually cost about $20 or 70,000 Ugandan shillings.

Read Etiquette of Tipping on Safari: A Comprehensive Guide

20. Booking a Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari

Gorilla trekking in Uganda offers an extraordinary adventure that allows you to connect with nature in a profound and unforgettable way. From the physical challenges to the heartwarming encounters, this experience immerses you in the world of these majestic creatures, fostering a deep appreciation for their conservation. 

Nkuringo Safaris makes booking a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda very easy. We will process the gorilla permit on your behalf, and we rarely fail to secure a permit at a reasonable booking date. Our safari experts will work with you to customize a safari trip that suits your taste and style of travel while immersing you in local cultures and nature. We own two multi-award-winning lodges in Entebbe and Bwindi that will give you the exclusive treatment that travelers have come to love over the years.

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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: Questions and Answers.
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