Gorilla Trekking is an ultimate African adventure that allows you to explore, the few remaining Gorilla Parks in East Africa. A Gorilla Trek is a highlight of all visits done in Uganda to visit the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in the wild.
Gorilla Trekking in East Africa
Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes estimated that there are only about 1000 left throughout the world. Almost half of them can be found in Uganda, and other populations can also be found in neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. These gentle giants not only share one of the closest matches to our own DNA in the animal kingdom (a staggering 98%) but are critically endangered and unable to survive in captivity. Hiking into their shrinking native habitat is the only chance we get to catch a glimpse.
There are four national parks in central Africa where the world’s 1000 or so mountain gorillas call home. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Odzala-Kokoua National Park in The Republic of Congo is home to a large population of Western lowland gorillas. There’s perhaps no more extraordinary privilege on the planet than trekking up into the mist of the world’s densest mountain forests to come face to face with a habituated mountain gorilla family.
You’ll discover the last remaining wild silverback gorillas as you walk paths no-one else has walked to find them as you spend an hour in the company of the gentle giants, and contribute to the conservation of this critically endangered species. These safaris are not just for recreation purposes but also contribute in the development of these nations where the game parks are located.
Places to see Mountain Gorillas in Africa
In East Africa, gorillas can be found in three countries. In Uganda, Mountain Gorillas can be spotted in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, In Rwanda Gorillas are found in Volcanoes National Park and in DR. Congo, the Lowland Gorillas habit in Virunga National Park.
Trending African Gorilla Safaris
Looking for some trip inspiration? Designed by our specialists using their expertise and knowledge, our tailor-made itinerary suggestions below will give you a taste of the type of trips we can put together for you. Bear in mind, these are just a starting point as all holidays are customized to the specific requirements of our guests.
Gorilla Habituation Experience
This is a very special experience only offered in Uganda offering one of the ultimate encounters for any primate enthusiast. This experience offers travelers a chance to habituate the Gorillas alongside the researchers as they get these animals to get accustomed to being in the presence of human beings without being afraid. This activity takes place in the Rushaga sector and normally lasts 4 hours in the company of the gorillas with only 4 tourists allowed to habituate a gorilla family at a cost of USD 1500. These will truly be the wildest gorillas that you’ll ever witness in the jungle environment. Gorillas families move to new places everyday and never stay in one place twice, there is nothing like closest or furthest gorilla family, trek terrain may be different but the time taken is unpredictable with the location and movements of the gorillas in the jungle.
Gorilla Families in Uganda
Gorillas can be found in the Virunga Volcanoes in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in D.R.Congo. Uganda is home to 13 Habituated Mountain Gorilla Families with 12 gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and 1 gorilla family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Below is a list of the 12 mountain gorilla families for trackers along with their respective Bwindi Impenetrable National Park locations in Uganda.
Gorilla Group/ Families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Mubare gorilla group
- Habinyanja family
- Rushegura gorilla family
- Oruzogo troop
- Bitukura family
- Kyaguriro troop
- Mishaya gorilla family
- Nshongi gorilla group
- Kahungye gorilla group
- Busingye gorilla group
- Bweza group
- Nkuringo gorilla group
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can take up to 8 hours with an one hour once you encounter the gorillas. The most exhilarating part of a gorilla safari is the time spent in the rainforest as you search for a gorilla family, follow ancient trails and discover the history of a people within the forest.
The gorillas move to a new location in the forest every day, so as you trek along the forest trails your guide’s job is to pick up from where they were the day before and try to find them again. Gorilla Trekking can be done the whole year through and is evenly as good though in the rainy season the tracks in the rain forest might be a bit muddier and your tracking might be a bit longer/ tougher rendering the dry season the best time to track gorillas .
Uganda is the best place where to conduct a Gorilla Trekking Safari since it offers more adventure opportunities with a lot wildlife compared to Rwanda with other attractions besides mountain gorillas including Murchison Falls, other primates in Kibale Forest National Park and may more options according to your travel time and budget for your intended travel.
Mgahinga Gorilla Family In Mgahinga Park, you can track the Nyakagezi group which is surrounded by the Slopes of Virunga Volcanoes, Mt. Muhavura(4,127m) Mt Gahinga (3474m) Mt. Sabinyo(3645m).
Where to go for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
In Rwanda, you may only track gorilla within Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), a section of the bigger Virunga mountains. Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga complex and reside on the altitude range of 2,300 to 4,500 meters in the southern area of Virunga National Park (in the DRC), as well as the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and some in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.
Rwanda gorillas are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only. Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas.
There are also ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes, so these are available for trekkers to visit. At most 8 people may visit each of the gorilla groups every day and you may spend at most one hour. Among these gorilla groups are the:
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Groups
- Susa group
- Group 13 (the Agasha group)
- The Kwitonda.
All these are mountain gorillas, ” Eckhart, G.; Lanjouw, A. (2008). Mountain Gorillas: Biology, Conservation and Coexistence.” The Johns Hopkins University Press
Getting a Gorilla Permit in Uganda
Over 88 people travel into Bwindi to see gorillas on a daily with only 8 people allowed per gorilla family. We strongly encourage you to book your gorilla permit with a safari agent, the most prominent mistake being booking a gorilla family which is far away from your choice of accommodation.
Gorilla permits in Uganda cost $700 offering an individual an one hour with the mountain gorillas in a group of 8 people while the Gorilla Habituation Experience costing $1500 offering an individual 4 hours during the habituation process of a gorilla a group .
Other Gorilla Safaris Permit Prices
- Rwanda gorilla permit Costs $1500
- Congo Gorilla Trekking Permit Costs $400
- East African Citizen pay 250,000 shillings for the permit
Rules and Regulations of Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla Trekking comes along with some mandatory rules to follow while in the company of the gorillas and before encountering the gorillas to ensure the conservation of these endangered species as well achieve a memorable experience with these gentle giants. The rules and regulations include:
- A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a family of habituated gorillas in a day and 4 visitors for the Gorilla Habituation experience.
- Always wash your hands before you head out to see the gorillas.
- Do not leave rubbish in the park.
- Always keep your voices low.
- While with the gorillas keep a minimum distance of 7 meters from the gorillas.
- 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
- Flash photography is not permitted
- Do not touch the gorillas, they are still wild animals.
- The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the gorillas is one hour.
- Each group of participants is accompanied by a ranger guide and a military guide for protection.
What to pack for a Gorilla Trek
Spending time with a family of mountain or lowland gorillas can be a life-changing experience. Tourism in the remote rainforest areas of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda in East Africa contribute directly to protecting these critically endangered species and the conservation of their habitat.
The experience requires a fair fitness level as you will be hiking in humid conditions through thick vegetation and along steep, at times rather muddy, mountain tracks. Clothes and shoes should be appropriate for these conditions. This handy infographic will give you an idea on the best types of clothing to bring for your gorilla trekking experience.
Here now is our definitive list of gorilla trekking clothing to help with your packing and trip preparation
- Long trousers
- A long-sleeved shirt
- Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots
- Thick socks
- Hardy gloves
- A lightweight rain jacket or poncho
- A wide-brim hat
- Insect repellent
- Water bottle
- Malaria prevention medication
We also recommend bringing a few sachets of re-hydration salts. Water is of course provided for the treks, but you can often find yourself dehydrated after a full day of trekking and the salts can provide quick relief.
Where To Stay
Choosing the best safari lodge or accommodation will depend on how much you can afford. Some lodges charge as high as, $2500 while the budget ones can pocket as low as $50 for a double room. Its all about the facilities, location, food, services and so much more.
Accommodation for Gorilla Trekking
Frequently Asked Questions About Gorilla Trekking (FAQs)
Here we bring you the answers to frequently asked question by travellers who wish to know the best East African country to go gorilla trekking Uganda, Rwanda or DR-Congo. Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla.
Gorilla trekking is an activity where tourists/ people go searching for gorillas in the wild (not actual dictionary definition). Gorilla trekking can be done in three countries, that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. To see gorillas involves hiking or trekking in search for the rare mountain gorillas. One needs to acquire a gorilla permit for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park or Virunga National Park to be able to see these mountain gorillas. The process of gorilla trekking normally starts with an early morning briefing at respective park head quarters, then a hike or walk into the forest following the trail used by mountain gorillas and once found, you spend only one hour with the mountain gorillas. You will then return back and be offered a certificate. The trek itself may take up to 30 minutes or three quarters of the day but once you find gorillas, you are allowed to spend only one hour with them.
Every client wants to get the best out of the fee paid for gorilla trekking in Uganda at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or in Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park and the first question that arises is-When is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda? While mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda can be trekked throughout the whole year, drier months of June, July, August and early September then December up to February are the most preferred. There is no guarantee that it won’t rain as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a tropical rain forest and its climate is influenced by micro conditions of the area. During high season gorilla permits to visit gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is USD1500 and Bwindi National Park is USD700 per person respectively. For those who are price sensitive, should take advantage of rwanda low season gorilla permits at USD1050.00 to book a Rwanda gorilla trek.
A gorilla permit allows you to sight mountain gorillas for one hour with in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Volcanoes National Park. Included in the cost are park entry fees for the respective parks, services of National Park guides/rangers who will escort you to the forest. Trek Africa Tours will ensure that you secure permits in advance.
While we can never guarantee sightings, the rise of the gorilla populations in Uganda combined with the experience of your trekking guide means that encounters are almost always made in Bwindi or Mgahinga.
That said, you have to be prepared to work for it as you might have to trek for 6 hours before finding a habituated group.
If you do end up not seeing the gorillas, the Uganda Wildlife Authority will refund 50% of your permit cost. In all of our years of working in Uganda, we’ve never had anyone not see the gorillas.
It is now possible to trek Uganda or Bwindi gorillas through Rwanda by flying through Kigali International airport. By flying through Kigali International Airport, one is able to reduce the drive time to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to 5-6 hours compared to if one uses Entebbe International Airport where the drive time is 8-9 and sometimes 10 hours from Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With the introduction of the East African tourist visa, one can now visit both Uganda and Rwanda without hassle. The good news also is that one can now apply for Rwanda Visa upon arrival something that is making the process of obtaining Rwanda visa easy. East African tourist visa costs USD100.00 and allows you to visit three east African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Uganda. Contact Trek Africa Tours for details about Bwindi gorilla safaris through Kigali Airport.
Rwanda low season gorilla permits at USD1050 are offered in May and November each year and because of this discount, there is a likely hood that these permits may attract more people. It should be better to book these low season at least two months in advance to avoid short notice disappointments. Feel free to contact Trek Africa Tours about booking your low season Rwanda gorilla permits and safaris to visit Rwanda gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is very safe – accompanied by an expert guide and the right mindset, your experience with the mountain gorillas will be as safe as it is moving.
Gorilla habituation experience is an activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where tourists are allowed to stay four hours with mountain gorillas after paying USD1500.00 for a gorilla habituation permit. Gorilla habituation safaris are currently taking place only in Rushaga located in south.
A gorilla permit is a document/card that is obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority for the case of Uganda and Rwanda Development Board in the case of Rwanda to allow you spend one hour with the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Volcanoes National Park respectively. Currently Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1500.00 for Non residents. Uganda gorilla permits to visit mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park cost $700.00 (Non residents).
We advise you to book your Rwanda or Uganda gorilla permit at least three months in advance to shortage most especially during high season. Please contact us with the date when you intend to book gorilla tracking Uganda holidays and Rwanda gorilla trips and we will advise availability of permits on that day.
Mountain gorilla trekking exercise in Uganda or Rwanda can take from twenty minutes to three quarters of the day so one needs to prepare for both. This depends on several factors that include, mountain gorilla movements, where the gorillas stayed the previous night and the mood of the gorillas. It may also depend on the people in your group since the guides/rangers move following the slowest person in the group. Gorilla Tracking Uganda trading as Encounter Africa Safaris is happy to provide all relevant advice.
The age limit for gorilla trekking (Uganda and Rwanda) and golden monkey trekking (Uganda) is 15 years. The authorities are very strict on this, so kindly make sure all clients and children are 15 or older in order to avoid any sad incidents like guest(s) kids being refused to track. We ensure that before you book our Gorilla tracking Uganda safari holidays, you have all details concerning age!
Officially you are required to keep close by a 7 meters distance from the gorillas. In practice, the mountain Gorillas often violate this rule by coming closer to you as you stand quietly observing or photographing them. It is still helpful to have a telephoto capability on your camera since some animals are shy, and the Silverback may be very protective of the young. You are not allowed to touch the gorillas, though it would be easy to do so.
Gorilla Trekking has a numerical rating of 50 to 100 Difficult Rating: Moderate Hike There are many factors that influence the gorilla trekking difficulty and the commonest is your physical fitness. Others include weather conditions and your pack weight. It is possible to ask for a gorilla group that will march your fitness levels. A porter is important, Gorilla Trekking is not very hard, some people in their 60’s and 70’s have done it. So how strenuous is the hike? To begin with 60% of Bwindi Impenetrable National park has an elevation of over 6,600ft. Elevation of the entire park is from 3,904 to 8,553 ft. It has steep slopes in some areas. The experience takes between 2 to 6 hours depending on the gorilla family.