Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red list, there is only an estimate 1004 individual mountain gorillas in the whole world. The population of these endangered species is found in three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, over 400 individuals have been recorded in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and a lesser population in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is said to have an estimate 240 individuals and a good number has been recorded in DRC’s Virunga National Park.
Yaneta safaris offers gorilla trekking tour packages for tourists desiring to trek gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. To track any of the habituated families, one must first acquire a gorilla trekking permit which is acquired at a reasonable cost. Due to high demand, tourists are advised to pay for their permits several months in advance. Several habituated families are availed for trekking in the various parks, they include; Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Oruzogo, Bitukura, Kyaguliro, Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Busingye, Bweza and Nkuringo, found in Bwindi. Nyakagezi is the only habituated family found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Susa, Karisimbi, Sabinyo, Amahoro, Umubano and Kwitonda are the groups living in Rwanda.
An African safari is incomplete without a Uganda gorilla trekking experience. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a major tourist safari highlight. Gorilla trekking alone draws thousands of tourists to Uganda all-year-round.
Several tour operators have come up with a varied range of gorilla safari packages to meet the high demand in the tourism industry.
Besides having attractive tour packages for both solo and group travelers out for short and lengthy trips, Yaneta Safaris stands out for her tailor-made gorilla trekking safari packages. For every tourist, we create a package that matches their unique needs, adventure hype, and income.
Whether you’re the tourist willing to spend more for a seamless and polished gorilla trekking experience, or you are the cost-conscious adrenaline junkie, out for adventure, diversity, fun, and typically wild trekking experience, Yaneta Safaris is the ultimate choice!
Uganda is a country found on the African continent in the East – Central region. The country is bordered to the north by South Sudan, to the East by Kenya, to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to the south by Tanzania, and to the south-west by Rwanda.
With exception of those coming from visa-exempt countries, tourists intending to embark on Uganda gorilla trekking tours are supposed to obtain a Uganda visa.
Tourists can access Uganda visas via the official online portal or they can acquire it on arrival in Uganda.
A single entry visa valid for 3 months costs $50 while a multiple entries goes for $100 when valid for 6-12 months, $150 when valid for 12-24 months, and $200 when valid for 24-36 months.
The Ugandan Shilling is the currency of Uganda. The Ugandan Shilling currency code is UGX and the currency symbol is still UGX.
Uganda’s currency rankings show that the most popular Ugandan Shilling exchange rate is the United States Dollar (USD) to Ugandan Shilling (UGX).
Currently, the equivalence of 1 U.S. dollar in Ugandan Shillings is about 3770. 1 UGX, on the other hand, equals about 0.00026 USD. The exchange rates change daily and every other minute of each day.
Although the U.S. Dollar is the most commonly exchanged foreign currency in Uganda, other currencies are exchanged too. The British Pound, Euro, Yuan, Yen, Rupees, Dirhams, Canadian Dollar, and the Swiss Franc, are among the currencies also commonly exchanged to Ugandan Shillings.
When traveling for their Uganda gorilla trekking tours, tourists are advised to have dependable currency converters.
The best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda is during the dry months; December, January, February, June, July, August, and early September.
During the dry season, the ground underfoot is dry, the trails are not slippery making the treks less exerting. Also, the roads and routes within the parks are passable at this time of the year.
When it rains heavily, some roads become impassable due to flooding, and several lodges are forced to close down.
For tourists working on a tight budget, however, the best time for a Uganda gorilla trekking tour may be the wet season. The wet season is usually a low season since fewer numbers of tourists frequent the parks.
To boost business, most lodges cut their accommodation costs and parks give discounts on several tourist activities. Also, the dry season is the peak season; lodges and other service providers tend to hype their prices because of the high demand.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is taking a trip to the barely tamed wild. Prior preparation makes for a great safari. Here is a list of things to consider packing for a great Uganda gorilla trekking tour:
Uganda gorilla trekking permits are issued all-year-round by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Tourists are advised to book their Uganda gorilla trekking permits at least 3 months or more prior to their desired trekking dates.
Tourists are required to pay 30% of the total permit fee to confirm their booking. Pre-payment is aimed at ensuring the proper and timely allocation of gorilla families to trekkers.
A Uganda gorilla trekking permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 for all East African nationals. The permit for foreigner non-residents and residents will increase by $100 with effect from July 2020.
Tourists desiring to go gorilla trekking in Uganda can choose between trekking adventures and habituation experiences, or they can go for both.
The two activities are somewhat alike but are not the same. For gorilla trekking, tourists get to spend an hour with the gorillas once they encounter them. While tourists can spend as many as 4 hours with the gorillas on the habituation experience.
Uganda gorilla trekking permits cost $600, $500, and UGX 250,000 for foreign non-residents, foreign residents, and East African nationals, respectively. And a gorilla habituation permits cost $1500, $1000, and UGX 750,000 for foreign non-residents, foreign residents, and East African nationals, respectively.
One’s choice to travel solo on a privately customized trip or to join a group safari offer determines the much they pay for their Uganda gorilla trekking tours.
Group safaris are much cheaper as compared to solo safaris since there is a benefit of shared costs for group trips. You can be a solo traveler and choose to join a group safari.
When you choose a group safari for your Uganda gorilla trekking tour, the cost you pay for transportation, accommodation, meals and other services may turn out to be 3 times less than what you would pay on a solo safari.
For travelers desiring sophistication and typically tailor-made safaris to suit their unique tastes and preferences, solo safaris are the ideal choice.
There are rules to abide by when on a Uganda gorilla trekking tour. The set of regulations was put in place by the park authorities in the interest of the safety of both the trekkers and the gorillas.
When planning for a Uganda gorilla trek, tourists are better off booking accommodation within the parks. When trekking Bwindi gorillas, it is better to book a lodge or camp in the region where the gorilla family you are to trek lives.
Staying within the park and near to the family you are to trek helps in minimizing transport costs and ensuring you arrive at the park headquarters in time for the briefing to prepare you for your Uganda gorilla trek.
Uganda gorilla treks are exerting especially in Bwindi where the terrain is rugged and the forest is quite thick. Hiring porters is an option the park authorities put in place to ease the difficulty of the treks.
When you hire a porter, they help carry all your luggage; backpacks, video cameras, lunch boxes, and every other equipment you intend to hike with. The porters even give you a pull when you need it during the trek.
As for the elderly, they can hire a sedan chair and up to 8 porters or more to help with carrying them. This can cost around $400 or less. The porters will carry you until you find the gorilla family you’re trekking and still carry you back after your Uganda gorilla trekking excursion.
Porters are usually members of the local community; men making ends meet to help their families survive, and even students who need to raise funds for their school fees. Whenever one hires a porter, they are indirectly contributing to the development of a local community. Hiring porters makes it easier to conquer the exerting Uganda gorilla treks.
Like any other African safari, tipping is not compulsory on Uganda gorilla trekking tours.
Out of courtesy, you can always set aside a small amount to give to the devoted waiter, porter, guide, driver, hotel and park staff, as an expression of your appreciation for their effort and satisfactory service.
With no minimum wage set in Uganda, most employees earn barely enough to live by and support their dependents. Your tips no matter how small make a great difference for those you give it to.
Uganda gorilla safaris
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a prime safari adventure. Uganda gorilla trekking tours are organized in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park all-year-round. The two parks are the only places in Uganda where mountain gorillas are found.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is only possible after tourists acquire gorilla permits. The permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. A Uganda gorilla trekking permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 for East African nationals. The permit for foreign residents and non-residents will be increased by $100 from July 2020.
Uganda gorilla trekking tours include both gorilla treks and gorilla habituation experiences. For a Uganda gorilla trekking tour, tourists are allowed to spend one hour with the gorilla family once they have encountered it on their trek. While the habituation experience allows tourists to spend as many as 4 hours with the gorillas undergoing habituation.
Like gorilla trekking, the gorilla habituation process requires tourists to acquire permits. A habituation permit costs $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents, and UGX 750,000 for East African nationals.
Rwanda gorilla safaris
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is an all-year-round tourist adventure. Rwanda’s mountain gorilla population is found in Volcanoes National Park situated in the north-western region of the country.
Rwanda’s gorilla population includes over 10 habituated families; Titus, Susa, Karisimbi, Amahoro, Umubano, Sabyinyo, Agashya, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Ugenda and Bwenge. To trek the habituated families, tourists need permits. Rwanda’s gorilla trekking permit costs $1500.
When on a Rwanda gorilla trekking safari, tourists can consider engaging in other adventures like; golden monkey trekking, volcano climbing (five extinct volcanoes; Bisoke, Karisimbi, Muhabura, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, are found in the park), visiting the Dian Fossey Foundation, and exploring the Musanze caves.
Congo gorilla safaris
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the only other location where mountain gorillas are found in Africa, besides Uganda and Rwanda. Congo’s gorillas live in Virunga National Park, in the Albertine Rift Valley in the Eastern part of the country.
Virunga National Park has 8 habituated gorilla families including; Kabirizi (19 members), Humba (9 members), Rugendo (9 members), Mapuwa (22 members), Lulengo (9 members), Munyaga (7 members), Nyakamwe (11 members), and Bageni (26 members). A gorilla permit costs $400 in DRC.
While on a Congo gorilla safari, tourists can engage in several other adventures including; volcano hiking (Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira are two active volcanoes found in the park), chimpanzee trekking and habituation, and nature walks.
Though the two terms can be used interchangeably, they are two distinct concepts in the tourism and wild safaris world. Rightly, gorilla trekking is a concept used to refer to the excursions visitors to the parks embark on in search of a habituated mountain gorilla family.
The difficulty and rugged nature of the trails leading to the gorilla family hideouts is part of the reason the term ‘trekking’ was coined to refer to the adventure.
On the other hand, gorilla tracking is a concept used to refer to when researchers, expert rangers and park staff embark on walks through the forests/habitats of the mountain gorillas with the purpose of monitoring the apes, primarily for study, research and habituation purposes.
Tourists desiring to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda can choose either of the adventures; gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking (the habituation process).
Gorilla habituation is a concept used to refer to the process of getting gorilla families adapt to human presence. Before a gorilla family can be exposed to tourists for trekking, it goes through a period of 1 – 2 years of habituation.
During the habituation process, a select team of researchers, conservationists, and park authorities use the time to study the behavioral patterns of the family being habituated while helping it adapt to the presence of humans. When experts determine that the family is ready, it is presented for tourism.
Uganda gorilla trekking tours offer tourists the opportunity of experiencing the habituation process firsthand. A select number of tourists can be allowed to join the habituation team. Tourists get to spend 4 hours or more with the gorilla family under habituation. This is more time as compared to the usual 1 hour spent observing the apes on normal Uganda gorilla treks.
Authorities in charge of Uganda gorilla trekking require tourists to acquire permits before they can be part of the habituation process. Gorilla habituation permits in Uganda cost $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents, and UGX 750,000 for all East African nationals.
“Gorilla permit” is a term that was coined by conservationists to refer to a document or card or temporary license that is issued to allow tourists to trek the endangered mountain gorillas.
A Uganda gorilla permit is issued to allow tourists to trek the gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the only locations where mountain gorillas are found in Uganda.
An issued permit indicates the park a visitor chooses to go trekking, the date of trekking, and park region where to go trekking for those visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
In Africa, mountain gorillas are found in only 3 countries; Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For all these countries, tourists have to acquire permits before they can trek gorillas. Each of the countries has distinct pricing for their permits.
For Uganda gorilla trekking, a permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 for all East African nationals.
However, with effect from July 2020, the cost of a gorilla permit is set to increase by $100 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents.
A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda costs $1500. Rwanda’s permit is by far the most expensive in comparison with the Democratic Republic of Congo gorilla permit and the Uganda gorilla trekking permit.
A gorilla permit in the Democratic Republic of Congo costs $400 for foreigners and $200 for Congolese nationals. A DRC gorilla permit is way cheaper than that of Rwanda and Uganda. Uganda gorilla trekking tours come ‘second’ affordable after DRC’s.
Uganda gorilla trekking permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Visitors can book their permits directly by contacting the UWA head offices in Kampala. This can be done by email or phone call.
Using a trusted tour operator is the other sure way to get a gorilla permit. All one needs to do is to tell their tour operator when they want to go trekking and the operator can check with UWA to see whether a permit for any of the choice dates can be issued.
If a choice date is available, your operator can go on to make the payment on your behalf. Due to high demand tourists are advised to book their permits 3 months or more in advance.
Uganda has more than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species. There are only about 1063 individuals in the entire world, and about 550 of these are found in Uganda.
A recent study conducted by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, a coalition of non-profit organizations and conservationists, showed an increase in Uganda’s mountain gorilla population from about 400 individuals to 550.
Uganda’s mountain gorilla population lives in only two locations; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
A Uganda gorilla trek is not for everyone. The minimum age for going on Uganda gorilla trekking tours is 15 years. One has to be this old for a gorilla permit to be issued for them.
15 years is also the minimum age for gorilla trekking in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is possible for a tourist to cancel their Uganda gorilla trekking permit but a refund is conditional; If a Uganda gorilla trekking permit is canceled 0-8 days to the trekking date, no refund is made by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
For cancellation from 14-45 days to the trekking date, only 25% of the payment will be refunded and UWA will retain 75%. For cancellation from 46-90 days prior to the trekking date, 50% will be refunded and UWA will retain 50%. Cancellation from 91 days and above before trekking date calls for 75% refund and 25% is retained by UWA.
Yes, mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is safe. Several precautionary measures have been put in place to guarantee safety while on Uganda gorilla treks: Only fully habituated gorilla families are availed to tourists for trekking. After a period of 1 – 2 years of habituation, the gorillas are ready to encounter humans. Till then, they remain under the observation of professional researchers and conservationists.
Before a Uganda gorilla trek, trekkers are briefed and given safety measures to follow from when the trekking begins till it ends. For instance, trekkers are advised not to smoke, eat or make noise when in close proximity with the gorilla because these things can irritate them.
For Uganda gorilla trekking tours, trekkers are assigned experienced guides to accompany them on the excursions. Also, tourists are advised to hire porters to carry their luggage and give them a pull whenever they need it during the treks. This helps in minimizing physical accidents from falls and exhaustion.
Accommodation while on a Uganda gorilla trekking safari isn’t something to worry about. Tourists are sure to have a varied range of accommodation options to choose from when on their Uganda gorilla trekking tours.
There are high-end/upmarket, midrange and budget safari accommodation facilities within Uganda’s mountain gorilla destinations; Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks, and their vicinities.
Most frequented safari lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and its vicinity include:
Buhoma Lodge (high-end), Gorilla Safari Lodge (midrange), Buhoma Community Rest Camp (budget), Engadi Lodge (semi luxury), Mahogany Springs (semi luxury), Chameleon Hill Lodge (semi luxury), Silverback Lodge (midrange), Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp (high-end), Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (high-end), Bakiga Lodge (budget), Mutunda Lake Resort (midrange), and Gorilla Valley Lodge (Budget & midrange), and Gorilla Friends Camp (budget)
Most frequented Safari Lodges in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and its vicinity include:
Mount Gahinga Lodge (luxury), Travellers Rest Hotel (midrange), Mucha Hotel (midrange), Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp (budget), and Kisoro Tourist Hotel (budget).
A typical Uganda gorilla trekking excursion lasts between 2-8 hours. A Uganda gorilla trek can be as short as 2 hours or longer depending on several factors. Due to their varying behavioral patterns, some gorilla families are easier to locate than others. There are families that tend to always be on the move, and trekkers need to cover longer distances before they can locate them.
More exerting treks tend to last longer than easier ones. In the dry seasons, for instance, the ground underfoot is dry making trails easier to conquer. This is unlike the wet seasons when the ground is slippery and some areas experience flooding.
Once trekkers locate a gorilla family, they are allowed an entire hour with the gorillas; observing them, recording, and taking photographs of the experience.
Uganda gorilla trekking can be both adventurous and fun. Besides trekking the gorillas, there is a lot of things tourists can do within and outside the parks.
Going on a Batwa trail experience. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is incomplete without visiting the pygmy Batwa. The Batwa people lived in the forests long before they were gazetted to become national parks. Exploring the culture and way of life of the Batwa is a major highlight of Uganda gorilla trekking tours in both Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
Bird watching, golden monkey trekking, hiking and nature walks, cycling and mountain biking, visiting Mutanda lake, and the forest waterfalls, are some of the other activities tourists can embark on while on their Uganda gorilla trekking tours.
How many people are allowed on a Uganda gorilla trek?Only 8 visitors are allowed on a Uganda gorilla trek. A gorilla family can only be trekked once a day for an hour. Participants who engage in the treks must at least be 15 years. The limited number of visitors and other regulations were put in place by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to ensure seamless gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Yes, it is possible for tourists to change their Uganda gorilla trekking dates. Changes are allowed when there are still several months or days to the originally chosen date. Rescheduling is not possible if it’s only a few days left to the trekking date. Late changes would cause losses to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Also, changing dates come at an extra cost charged on the tourist by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.