When considering booking a gorilla habituation safari, there are several factors to keep in mind. Many travelers have questions about gorilla habituation, including why it’s necessary, where it takes place, and how to obtain permits. The Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced the gorilla habituation experience in 2014 as a way of diversifying tourism products in the southern region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Since then, various gorilla families have undergone the habituation process, with two groups in the Rushaga sector currently undergoing the process every day to acclimate the gorillas to visitors. The gorilla habituation experience is a unique and unforgettable experience, and before booking, you should consider the following factors.
Gorilla habituation experience is an incredible opportunity for visitors to witness mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. During this process, researchers work to train wild mountain gorillas to get accustomed to visitors and prevent them from acting aggressively. The habituation process can take anywhere from two to three years, during which researchers visit a specific group of gorillas daily to learn more about their behavior and habits. Over time, the gorillas become accustomed to the presence of the researchers, and each individual gorilla is given a name. Once the researchers are confident that the gorillas are comfortable with visitors, they conduct a mock exercise where a small group of visitors, such as scientists and guides, are introduced to the group.
Gorilla Habituation is a crucial step towards habituating gorilla groups to human visitors before daily gorilla trekking can be introduced. This activity is conducted in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park between Rushaga and Nkuringo Sectors. At present, only the Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families in the Rushaga sector are undergoing habituation, and a maximum of four tourists are allowed to participate in each habituation. It is advisable to book mountain gorilla habituation permits early since there are limited slots for tourists, and the activity is in high demand. Upon successful completion of gorilla habituation, tourists are awarded a certificate. Considering the importance of the gorilla habituation experience is crucial when booking a gorilla habituation safari.
Before visitors can participate in gorilla habituation experience, they need to obtain a special permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The permit allows visitors to spend up to four hours with the gorillas, providing a unique opportunity to observe them as they go about their daily activities. However, visitors need to be physically fit, as the trek to reach the gorillas can be strenuous and last for several hours. Visitors should also wear appropriate clothing and gear, including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sturdy hiking boots. It’s essential to maintain a safe distance from the gorillas to avoid disturbing their natural behavior, and visitors are advised not to use flash photography or make loud noises. With proper preparation and adherence to guidelines, gorilla habituation experience can be an unforgettable adventure.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in the southwestern part of Uganda, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an ancient forest that is believed to be more than 25,000 years old. The park was established in 1991 and designated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994. The park is home to over 400 species of plants and around 120 species of animals, including primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, as well as forest elephants and antelopes.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is famous for being the birthplace of gorilla tourism in Uganda. It is home to over 500 gorillas, which represents more than half of the world’s population of gorillas. There are 18 groups of gorillas habituated for human visit, making it possible for visitors to experience the rare and breathtaking Mountain Gorilla trekking activity. This is a unique experience that can only be done in three countries, Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo.
Gorilla habituation experience is a critical first step in habituating gorilla groups to human visitors before introducing daily gorilla trekking. It takes place in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, between Nkuringo and Rushaga Sectors.
Only a maximum of four gorilla habituation permits are issued per day for visitors to see the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is because the gorillas undergoing habituation are not yet used to visitors and are still very wild. The group of four visitors will be accompanied by researchers, park guides, and rangers as they trek through the forest. The activity begins early in the morning at 6:00 am, and it involves monitoring the gorillas’ movement, feeding habits, and lifestyle. Before starting the trek, visitors receive a briefing on the rules and regulations they must follow while on the trek. Once the gorillas are located, visitors can spend up to four hours observing and photographing them while learning about the unique communication between guides and gorillas.
It is essential to know the cost of gorilla habituation permits when planning a safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The permit costs USD1500 for Non-Foreign Residents, USD1000 for Foreign Residents, and Uganda Shs. 750,000 for East African Citizens. This permit allows visitors to spend four hours observing gorillas in their natural habitat, watching them move, feed, rest, and interact with their family members.
Compared to the Rwandan permit, the gorilla habituation permit costs the same but allows a more extended period of time with the gorillas. While the Rwanda permit only allows one hour of viewing, the gorilla habituation permit permits four hours of observing and photographing the gorillas. To ensure a seamless experience, Trek Africa Expeditions offer assistance in booking and securing the gorilla habituation permit for visitors on their preferred date.
To inquire about booking a gorilla habituation trek, please provide us with your desired trekking dates and other details. We will then check the availability of permits in the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s online system. If the permits are available, we will send you an invoice for payment as they are a top priority. However, if the permits are not available, we will work with you to choose alternative dates. Once payment is received, we will book and secure your permits and send you a receipt with a booking ID to confirm your trek. Due to the limited availability of permits (only four per day), they sell out quickly, so we recommend booking months in advance to secure your preferred date. Remember, understanding the cost of the gorilla habituation permits is one of the ten important factors to consider when booking your gorilla habituation safari.
To ensure the conservation of mountain gorillas, there are rules and regulations that must be followed before and after the gorilla trek. Here are some of the procedures that may change over time:
First and foremost, a valid gorilla habituation permit is required to participate in the experience. The permits must be booked in advance and are valid only for a specific date. Without a valid permit, no one will be allowed to participate. The cost of a gorilla habituation permit is USD1500.00 for four hours.
To participate in gorilla habituation, one must be 15 years or older. This age limit is in place to prevent childish behavior that may occur during the experience, and to minimize the risk of transmitting communicable diseases to mountain gorillas. Uganda Wildlife Authority may ask for proof of age if there are any doubts.
While in the forest, it is important to avoid making noise and speak in a low tone to avoid disrupting the natural ecosystem. This will also allow you to observe other animals in the forest without scaring them away.
To preserve the natural environment, do not litter or dispose of plastic bottles in the forest or on the trails. Instead, dispose of trash in designated trash cans or keep it in your backpack.
Follow the instructions of your guide or researchers while on your way to see the gorillas. This will help to keep the experience organized.
To reduce the risk of spreading diseases to mountain gorillas and to control their behavior, visitors are required to keep a distance of 7-5 meters away from them.
While photographing, do not use flash, and do not eat or drink during the experience. Avoid touching the gorillas, as they may move closer to you.
If you need to use the restroom, ask your guide or researchers to organize a toilet or dig a hole for you. If you feel sick before the experience, seek medical attention and inform Uganda Wildlife Authority, who may arrange for another experience for you.
If you want to participate in a gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you can either fly or drive to the park in southwestern Uganda. One recommended flight option is Aerolink Uganda, which has daily flights from Entebbe International Airport/Kajjansi Airstrip to Kisoro Airstrip. From there, you can drive to your booked lodge. The flight takes approximately one hour.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a road trip from Kampala/Entebbe to Bwindi, which takes about 8-9 hours but offers the chance to stop at attractions such as the Equator and Igongo Cultural Museum in Mbarara, as well as admire various plantations and landscapes.
For those traveling from Kigali in Rwanda, we also offer road gorilla habituation trips that start from the airport or hotel in Kigali city. The trip takes about 4-5 hours and includes stops at the genocide memorial before crossing into Uganda through the Katuna or Cyanika border. All transportation options are available to ensure you reach the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for your gorilla habituation experience.
Finding the perfect accommodation is a crucial aspect of planning your gorilla habituation safari in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offers a variety of options for every budget, ranging from budget to luxury hotels, camps, and lodges. Trek Africa Expeditions can assist you in selecting and booking the best hotel for your stay. For the gorilla habituation experience, we highly recommend lodges in the Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors of the park.
In the Rushaga sector, midrange travelers can opt for Rushaga Gorilla Camp, while luxury travelers can enjoy the Four Gorilla Lodge. Budget travelers can stay at Rushaga Gorilla Havens Lodge. Nkuringo offers the budget-friendly and midrange option of Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, while luxury travelers can choose Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge. It is crucial to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the high season when lodges can be fully booked. Contact Trek Africa Expeditions to find the perfect accommodation to fit your budget and preferences.
Trek Africa Expeditions is a Ugandan-owned local tour operator with over 15 years of experience in providing sustainable and life-changing tours and holidays in East Africa. Our head offices are based in Entebbe, Uganda, and we specialize in organizing gorilla habituation safaris to Uganda.
As members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) and registered by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), we have established a strong and long-standing relationship with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), making it easy for us to book gorilla permits and plan your gorilla safari from Kigali.
Trek Africa Expeditions has received high praise on TripAdvisor and Safari Bookings, attesting to the quality of our services. When you book a gorilla habituation safari with us, we will work closely with you to create a tailor-made itinerary that meets your expectations and provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Next time you plan to visit any of the five East African countries, consider booking with Trek Africa Expeditions for an unforgettable gorilla habituation safari.