Embarking on a gorilla trekking adventure in the mountain rainforests of Uganda and Rwanda is an exhilarating experience for travelers seeking unforgettable moments with wild mountain gorilla families. However, careful preparation is crucial to ensure a successful journey in the remote parts of Africa and avoid any regrets along the way. This guide, compiled by the experts at Trek Africa Expeditions, who regularly take travelers on this adventure, will provide you with essential information to help you prepare for your gorilla trekking expedition.
The first decision you’ll need to make is which destination to choose for your gorilla trekking adventure. Both Uganda and Rwanda offer incredible gorilla trekking experiences, but your choice will depend on factors such as budget, permit availability, and your travel schedule.
Gorilla permits are a crucial consideration as they determine the budget for your gorilla trekking safari. These permits grant you access to the gorilla protected habitat and are accompanied by armed rangers and expert trackers. In Rwanda, gorilla permits cost $1,500 per person, more than double the price in Uganda. Additionally, finding suitable accommodation tends to be more expensive in Rwanda. However, Rwanda’s gorilla parks, located near the international airport, offer the convenience of shorter transfers. It’s important to note that Rwanda has only one gorilla park, Virunga National Park, with a limited number of permits available each day, making it challenging to secure permits on specific dates.
On the other hand, Uganda offers a more affordable gorilla trekking experience, with a wide range of accommodation options and permits available in two gorilla parks. The international airport is located far from the gorilla parks, requiring a longer drive (approximately 10 hours). However, this journey provides stunning views of the countryside and is an adventure in itself.
To help you make an informed decision, we have prepared a detailed comparison of gorilla trekking in Uganda vs. Rwanda, highlighting the unique aspects of each destination.
While you may have specific dates in mind for your trip based on your availability, it is advisable to consider the travel calendar of your chosen destination. The timing of your gorilla trekking adventure is influenced by weather patterns, permit availability, and accommodation options.
The drier seasons, typically from January to February and June to early September, are considered the best time for gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda. As gorillas reside in tropical rainforests near the equator, rainfall can occur at any time of the year and affect your experience. Preparing for gorilla trekking during the dry months increases the likelihood of favorable weather conditions, with drier roads and easier hikes through the terrain.
However, it’s important to note that the dry seasons coincide with peak tourist season, meaning there will be high demand for gorilla permits and accommodation. Some travelers opt for the wet seasons to take advantage of lower prices during the low season. Ultimately, the timing of your trip should align with your travel preferences and not compromise your overall experience.
While the internet provides a wealth of information, organizing a gorilla trekking expedition in Rwanda and Uganda can be challenging due to the remote and undeveloped nature of the destinations. Many travelers prefer to rely on the expertise of licensed local tour operators like Trek Africa Expeditions to handle the logistical aspects of their journey, allowing them to focus on the experience itself.
We have compiled detailed information on choosing a local tour operator in both Uganda and Rwanda to assist you in making an informed decision.
Before embarking on your gorilla trekking adventure, it’s essential to manage your expectations. Articles, stories, and reviews from various sources may shape your perception of the journey. However, once you have selected your destination, booked your trip, and chosen a local tour operator, it is advisable to avoid biased information and maintain open communication with your tour operator to shape your upcoming experience. Avoid outdated political channels that may provide information no longer relevant to the current state of affairs.
Gorilla trekking involves walking at high altitudes through steep and uneven terrain where vehicles cannot access. While anyone capable of walking can participate in gorilla trekking, it is advisable to have moderate physical fitness to fully enjoy the experience.
Preparing your physical fitness is recommended at least three months before your trip. Engage in activities such as visiting a community gym, morning and evening runs, and regular stretching to condition your muscles. This preparation will help you trek for hours without experiencing muscle pains, allowing you to fully enjoy the evenings at the lodge.
It’s important to note that mountain gorillas share about 98% of their DNA with humans, making them susceptible to human illnesses. If you exhibit signs of an infectious disease such as flu, cough, you will not be allowed into the jungle. If necessary, reschedule your trip accordingly. Consult with your doctor to ensure you have received necessary vaccinations such as malaria, yellow fever, and hepatitis.
Given the cold temperatures and high altitudes of the mountain rainforests, early mornings and evenings can be chilly during your trek. Ensure your packing list includes warm clothing such as sweaters, warm socks, a neck scarf, and gloves to keep you comfortable during these periods. Additionally, be prepared for long hours of trekking through wet, muddy, and steep forested slopes. Essential items for your packing list should include light trousers, a long-sleeved shirt to protect against thorny vegetation, waterproof lightweight hiking shoes, a lightweight jacket to keep you dry, and a waterproof backpack to carry your lunch and gadgets. Insect repellent may also be necessary, especially if you plan to wear short pants and a t-shirt.
We have prepared a comprehensive packing list that will provide you with additional guidance and ensure you don’t overlook any essential items.
To begin planning your gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda & Rwanda, reach out to Trek Africa Expeditions, a trusted and licensed local operator with extensive experience in organizing gorilla safaris in both countries. Whether you choose Uganda or Rwanda, the overall experience is equally remarkable, although logistics may differ. With our expertise, we can help you secure suitable accommodation, book transfers, and obtain permits for your preferred travel dates.