Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Gorilla trekking is one of the most famous safari activities with in Rwanda and Uganda. The population of mountain gorillas is less than 900 individuals according to the last census that was conducted in Bwindi impenetrable national park, Volcanoes National park, Mgahinga National park and Virunga National Park. It has also been observed that this population has increased and thanks to the conservation efforts of many nongovernmental and government support. All these areas are safe for the tourists and gorillas unlike with minimal or no poaching incidences reported due to the alternative sources of incomes that are available to communities in the area due to the increased revenues from the gorilla tourism.

These mountain gorillas are often found in the under growth feeding on the vegetation as they rest and or groom each other. The leader of each of the gorilla family is a silverback which is very protective of its family, if frustrated it will grunt and beat its chest before moving off with the females, offspring and mature males.

In order to enjoy the experience of gorilla trekking, you also need to prepare starting with choice of a tour operator to plan the entire safari, lodges and buy the gorilla permits. The minimum age for trekking gorillas is 15 years. You require purchasing your permit much earlier especially if you want a specific date because only 8 people can trek a gorilla family per day. With in Uganda, gorilla trekking takes place within Bwindi impenetrable National Park and in Mgahinga National Park. Uganda has got 12 gorilla families that are available for trekking. Tracking gorillas in Bwindi is different from that of Mgahinga since the nature of land scape differs. Bwindi is a rain forest with thick under growth and varying land scape, you will have adventures of both uphill and downhill on your hike before locating the gorillas. Bwindi is divided into different sectors each with a number of gorilla families. Before you book your lodge it is important to know which sector you will track because the location is quite far apart. The sectors are Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors.

Within Mgahinga, the mountain gorillas are found in the mid vegetation on the Virunga volcanoes of Mt Muhabura most especially with in the open areas of the bamboo zone. The gorilla family used to go back and forth to Rwanda and these keep on moving. Elsewhere gorilla trekking in Rwanda is carried out from Volcanoes National Park. This national park has got great scenery and good sightings of the mountain gorillas for all those seeking to trek these great Apes with in this area. This is also the setting for the famous gorillas in the mist which was a movie about Dian Fossey’s work of conservation of these primates.

There are many gorilla trekking tips that are to be followed in both Uganda and Rwanda , since these countries have got unpredictable climate, carry rain gears, insect repellent, the recommended clothing’s is long trousers and long sleeved sweaters or shirts while in the forest to avoid the insect and plant stings, you must also have sturdy hiking boots, drinking water and snacks, cameras for photography, the porters will be provided but at a cost, you must not be sick, and many more.

Gorilla trekking is a captivating and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Bwindi has four habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by tourists. Three of the these are in the vicinity of Buhoma and one at Nkuringo.

Gorilla Groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • The Mubare group (‘M’ group) was opened for tourism in 1993 and consists of 10 gorillas with 1 silverback.
  • The Habinyanja group (‘H’ group) was opened for tourism in 1998 and is composed of 21 individuals with 2 silverbacks.
  • The Rushegura group (‘R’ group) is composed of 10 gorillas and 1 silverback. It was opened for tourism in 2002.
  • The Nkuringo group (‘N’ group) was opened for tourism in 2004 and is composed of 19 gorillas and 1 silverback.

Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought after tourism activity. You should book well in advance to ensure that permits for your requested dates are available.

Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga’s most exciting and memorable activity is tracking the mountain gorilla in thick jungle. The park has one habituated gorilla group (Nyakagyezi) which is visited by tourists. This consists of 11 members; 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 4 juveniles and 2 infants.

This group is mobile and sometimes crosses into Rwanda and DRC, so check for updates from Uganda Wildlife Authority (see contacts). Registration and briefing for gorilla tracking commences at Ntebeko at 07.45.
Tracking starts at 08.30 and can take three to eight hours.

Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought after tourism activity. You should book well in advance to ensure that permits for your requested dates are available.

Rules & Guidelines to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

To protect the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, the following rules and regulations must be observed:

  • No one with a communicable disease, such as flu or diarrhoea, is allowed to visit the gorillas.
  • Do not surround the gorillas but remain in a tight group.
  • Leave a distance of at least 5m between you and the gorillas.
  • If they approach you, move back slowly.
  • Flash photography is strictly forbidden.
  • Do not eat or smoke within 200m of the gorillas.
  • If you need to sneeze or cough, turn away from the gorillas and cover your nose and mouth.
  • Bury all human faeces in a hole dug at least 30cm (one foot) deep and ensure that it is properly filled in afterwards.
  • All litter must be removed from the park for disposal.
  • Do not spit on vegetation or soil while in the park.
  • No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas.
  • When with the gorillas, avoid making loud noises or sudden movements.
  • Contact time with the gorillas is strictly limited to one hour.
  • Please observe all instructions from your guide.