Gorilla trekking Uganda - the highlight of your tour!
Gorilla tracking ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Africa for most travellers, and the spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe.
Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered primates. It is estimated that there are only about 880 left throughout the world. Almost half of them can be found in Uganda, and populations can also be found in neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
What is the cost of Gorilla permits
In Uganda the cost of a gorilla permits is US$600 per permit. Currently Uganda Wildlife Authority has a promotion going for the low season the months of April, May and November for the year 2014/2015) - the gorilla pemit for these months is at US$350 each. It is important to note that the tracking date must fall within the month April, May and November to qualify for this discount.
For Rwanda the official price for a gorilla permit is $750 (2014/2015). Please note there are nO low season discounts in Rwanda for gorilla permits.
The gorilla tracking ticket allows you to go on gorilla trekking. A gorilla permit does not include things like transport, meals, drinks, accommodation, porters or any other activity that you may wish to undertake while in gorilla park.
When is the best time for gorilla tracking?
Tracking gorillas can be done all year round and is evenly as good. There is no higher or lower success rate in the different seasons (96% guaranteed to see them).
In rainy season the tracks in the rain forest might be a bit muddier and your tracking might be a bit longer/ tougher because of that. However; it's a RAIN forest, so difference is not all that big compared to dry season.
Moreover because of the climatic change nowadays, it is hard to predict when the rainy season will be. Climate changes are making it hard to plan. Normally rainy season should be in March, April, beginning of May and November.
How to book a gorilla permit?
Gorilla permits are very popular and not many permits are available (a total of 80 permits per day in Uganda). The permits get sold out as far as 2 years in advance, especially in high season in the months of (June - October, December - february). Gorilla tickets are sold on first come first served basis. It is therefore advisable to book your gorilla tour and your gorilla tracking permits far in advance.
How does gorilla tracking compare between Uganda/ Rwanda
The gorilla tracking process is somewhat different in neighbouring Rwanda. The specific gorilla groups cannot be reserved in advance. Instead, the park ranger will assign visitors to the various gorilla groups according to age, fitness level and preference. For this reason we advise older people, or those wanting only a light hike, to track in Rwanda.
Gorilla permits in Rwanda are more expensive compared to Uganda: US$750,- per permit instead of US$600,-. And the low-season discount of Uganda does not exist in Rwanda.
Out of the 36 gorilla groups in Uganda, 12 are habituated to visit. In northern Bwindi you can track three gorilla groups from the Buhoma area of the park. On the eastern side you can track two gorilla groups from Ruhija. And on the southern side of the park you can track six gorilla groups. In Mgahinga NP you can track one gorilla group but this group is very unreliable as it is always on the move crossing to the neighbouring countries.
Which gorilla group to visit?
Qestions are always asked about the best gorilla groups to trek. In Uganda, it's quite difficult to say which gorilla families are easier or harder to find. Gorillas are not tame therefore their actions are unpredictable. The ease of seeing the gorillas depends on the movements of the gorilla families on that particular day. Some say that the Rushegura group in Buhoma is easy to spot, but we cannot guarantee this.
In Uganda you can find four different areas from which to begin the gorilla tracking. They are each between 2 and 5 hours driving from the other. Therefore, your choice of accommodation also influences the options of the gorilla group you can visit and vice versa.
If you are not very fit and can't afford to walk long distances going up and down the hills, we advise you to go tracking in Rwanda. In Rwanda all trackings leave from the same point, where rangers will select easier and more difficult trackings according to your fitness level. Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda, however, is more expensive.
Rules to observe during gorilla trekking:
- A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated gorillas in a day.
- Always wash your hands before you head out to see the gorillas.
- Do not leave litter in the park.
- Keep your voices low at all times while with the gorillas. This will ensure that you will be able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.
- Keep a minimum distance of 7 meters (21 feet) from the gorillas.
- Keep your voices low at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions.
- Do not eat or drink while you are near the gorillas.
- Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example by crouching down slowly, and do not look at the gorillas in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not attempt to run away (as this will increase the risk of attack
- Flash photography is not permitted; when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.
- Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
- The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the gorillas is a regulated one hour.
How do you know where the gorillas are located:
You will be taken to where the guides left the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow their trail to find them. Look out for the gorillas nesting sites along the way.
When you approach the gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.