Gorilla trekking is the activity that the visitors engage in while hiking in the dense rain forests in search of the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Mountain gorillas are the subspecies of the Eastern lowland gorillas and they live in the tropical rainforests at high altitudes or elevations. Gorilla trekking is carried out in three countries in the whole of Africa which include Uganda with the highest number of the gorillas, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These gorilla destinations give you a memorable experience as you participate in gorilla trekking activity on your Uganda safari tour in any of these countries. There are a wide number of facts about the mountain gorillas that visitors planning for a safari in any of the gorilla destination countries should know.

Gorilla Trekking

The best destination to visit for Gorilla trekking

The endangered mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga national park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kahuzi Beiga National Park in Congo does not have mountain gorillas but inhabits lowland eastern gorillas. However Bwindi impenetrable national park has the highest population number of the gorillas which are equivalent to half of the world’s gorillas hence making it the best national park for gorilla tracking. Bwindi impenetrable national park is a home of over 400 mountain gorillas with about 39 gorilla families and 14 habituated gorilla families which are situated in the four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo which are available for trekking on a daily basis. The habituated gorilla families include Mubare family with 11 gorilla individuals, Habinyanja family with 20 members, Rushegura family with 20 gorillas, Nkuringo family with 21 members, Nshongi with 27 members, Mishaya family with 13 gorillas, Bitukura family with 13 members, Nyakagezi family with 12 members, Oruzogo, Kahungye, Busingye among others which give you the best experiences on your safari. Therefore Bwindi national park is the best national park for gorilla trekking experience in Africa which makes your safari thrilling and amazing.

What do Gorillas Eat

Mountain gorillas are herbivores that feed on vegetation diet including stems, leaves, flowers, buds, barks, seeds, bamboo shoots, fruits, grasses, herbs, vines, nettles, young branches, roots, insects, ants, termites among others. Mountain gorillas are selective in that they can consume the roots of a particular plant, stems of another plant, flowers of another plant and so on hence not completing all the vegetation in one area but rather give it time for re-growth as they move to other areas in search of food hence moving 3 to 6 km each day.

When is the best time to go for Gorilla trekking

Mountain gorillas in Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park, and Virunga national park can be visited all year round. These national parks experience the rainy seasons from March to May and October to November which make trekking difficult due to heavy rains, slippery, wet and muddy grounds and dry seasons of January, February, June, July, August, September and December which is the best time for gorilla trekking because the grounds are not so slippery and muddy, though it might also rain  in the dry season the rain won’t be a lot to prevent you from going for gorilla trekking activity because in Bwindi national park it can rain at any time.

What is the cost of a Gorilla Trekking Permit

A gorilla permit is a document issued by the national park management that allows any traveler above 15 years of age to trek the mountain gorillas in any of the national parks. A single gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi national park and Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250000 for East African citizens. Though in 2020 the permit will cost $ 700. In Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, a single gorilla trekking permit costs $15,000 for all nationalities. In Virunga national park in DRC, a single gorilla trekking permit costs $400 for foreign non-residents and $200 discount during the low season hence the only destination which offers discounted gorilla trekking permits to visitors. The amount paid for gorilla trekking permit is for the visitors to spend one hour with the gorillas in their natural habitat which offers them lifetime memories about the gorillas on the safari.

How to get a Gorilla Trekking Permit

A mountain Gorilla trekking permits can be acquired by booking directly through Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala, Uganda, Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali or Virunga Tourism Offices which are located at Goma border. A gorilla trekking permit can also be acquired through booking with a trusted tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris, you contact the company with the date, month and year when you want to trek the gorillas in either Uganda, Rwanda or DRC, the company will check the availability of the gorilla trekking permits and inform you to pay for the permit and also send your scanned passport details which are needed by UWA in order to print and issue your gorilla trekking permit. This is the best option for acquiring a gorilla trekking permit because the company will plan other activities that you can engage in besides gorilla trekking like bird watching, game drives, chimpanzee trekking among others and book accommodation facilities where you will be staying, transportation to the national parks, meals among others so as to make your safari successful and a memorable one. However, a mountain gorilla trekking permits should be acquired 4 to 6 months in advance before the trekking date because they are competitive and get finished especially during the peak season. 

What to pack for Gorilla tracking Activity?

Gorilla trekking destinations are located at a higher elevation which makes them humid, rainy and cold especially in the nights. When going for gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park, Virunga national park you need to carry essential items for trekking like energy giving snacks like packed lunch and enough drinking water which is provided by the lodge where you will be staying because you will be trekking for longer hours in higher altitude areas which might take a full day activity depending on where the gorillas are located. You will need Cameras and extra batteries which will be used to take photos, record videos and capture the interesting moments within the one hour given with the gorillas. You will need gorilla tracking permits which allow you to trek the mountain gorillas in any of the national parks of your choice, insect repellent which is used to protect you from insects like safari ants, tsetse flies, First aid kit with prescription medicines like anti-malarial drugs, pain killers, bandages, liniment for muscle strains got due to hiking, pair of binoculars which only necessary if you are a birder because they will be used to have a clear view of the birds and other animals like chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, forest elephants among others, walking stick to support you while climbing up, down the steep slopes and muddy hills in the dense rainforest, waterproof backpack which is used to pack all your gorilla trekking equipment and electronics and protect them in case it rains.

What to wear when going to trek the Mountain Gorillas?

You should wear safari colored clothing like green or brown when going to trek gorillas in the wild because these colors blend with the forest and cause less destruction to the gorillas. Clothing’s to wear include hiking boots that reach your ankles to give you support, stability and good balance in the slippery, steep, mud grounds and from stinging insects, plants, tree branches among others. You need to wear garden gloves which protect your hands from getting hurt, germs, a waterproof rain jacket to protect you and your camera from rain, long sleeved shirts. You will need to wear trousers to give you warmth in the morning and protect your arms and legs from thorn plants, tree branches, nettles so as to return without bruises, sunglasses and a hat which protects you from strong sun rays and rain. You need to wear a warm sweater to keep you warm in the rainy season.  Also during morning and evening, it gets so cold at night in Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, and Volcanoes national park.

Gorilla Trekking Safari Tours
Gorilla Trekking Safari Tours

How many people are supposed to go for Gorilla Trekking?

During the peak season, there are many visitors coming to visit the mountain gorillas in the national parks hence the gorilla trekking permits are competitive and get finished quickly than during the low season. In Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park, and Virunga national park, they allow a maximum number of 8 people per gorilla family on a daily basis where each group of people visits a different habituated family and during the low season the number can even be less according to the visitors available for gorilla trekking and they can feel like the forest is all theirs. Gorilla trekking allows a maximum of 8 people because small groups are easy to manage and the visitors will be able to get a clear view of the gorillas and not to make the gorillas uncomfortable in their habitat during the one hour given in their presence.

How long does gorilla trekking take?

During the briefing at the park headquarters, visitors are divided into groups depending on their age, physical fitness among others and visitors have a choice to chose either the short, medium or long trek in the dense rain forests. The short trek can take around 30 minutes to 1hour and the long trek can take 2 to 5 hours depending on where the gorillas are. Gorilla trekking in any of the national parks gives you a great experience on your safari.

What to expect once the Gorillas are found?

After finding the endangered mountain gorillas, the visitors have one hour to spend with the gorillas in their natural habitat where they will be taking photos with cameras without flash, recording videos, witnessing how the gorillas behave, play feed, females breastfeeding the young ones, how they associate with each other among others, during this time the visitors should be quiet, move slowly and always avoid sudden movements so as not to destruct the gorillas. 

Are you guaranteed to see the mountain Gorillas

During gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park, and Virunga national park, you are not guaranteed to see the mountain gorillas however there is about 99% chances of viewing the gorillas during gorilla trekking is the national parks however the only people who will not see the gorillas are those who give up halfway during gorilla hiking in any of the national parks.  

What are the rules and regulations to follow during Gorilla Trekking?

There are rules and regulations to be followed when going for Gorilla trekking activity in any of the national parks including not leaving rubbish in the forest, keeping your voices down, keeping a 7 meter distance from the gorillas, staying in the group when near the gorillas, not smoking, drinking or eating when near the gorillas, not touching the gorillas, not going for gorilla trekking when felling ill among others. These rules are set to ensure that both the gorillas and visitors are safe.

Is it necessary to hire a porter when going for Gorilla trekking

It’s always important and advisable to hire a porter when going for gorilla trekking in either Bwindi national park, Mgahinga national park, Virunga national park or Volcanoes national park because the parks are located at a high altitude or elevation with steep slopes, therefore, the porter will offer to help during trekking in form of a pull or a push where need be and will also help to carry your backpack which contains gorilla trekking equipment. Once you hire a porter, you will pay him or her separately because the gorilla trekking permit doesn’t include the services of the porter. Porters come from the surrounding villages, therefore, using their services means helping the surrounding communities.

Where should I stay when I go for Gorilla trekking

The national parks which inhabit the endangered mountain gorillas have a wide range of accommodation facilities which can be booked by the tour company used during your safari in any of the national parks for gorilla trekking. The accommodations include lodge coco, Mikeno, Bukima tent camp in Virunga. There is also Bwindi gorilla conservation camp, gorilla resort Bwindi, clouds mountain gorilla lodge, travelers nest hotel in Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks and Sabinyo silverback lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Volcanoes national park among others.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park, Virunga national park, and Kahuzi Biega national park offers you memorable and lifetime experiences on your safari when you know the gorilla trekking key facts that help you to learn more about the gorillas.

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