Gorilla trekking in the UNESCO world heritage site of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is remarkable that one most thrilling primate adventure. A glimpse into the pensive eyes of the giant mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is of no doubt a magical wildlife encounter any trekker on Uganda safari shouldn’t miss out. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda, approximately 8-10 hours’ drive away from Kampala capital city. It is home to nearly half the total number of mountain gorillas (a total of about 1004 mountain gorillas) that still thrive on the planet today.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park
The forests of Bwindi offer a great opportunity for you to get close to a group of massive mountain gorillas while in their natural habitat. Tracking mountain gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest is such a rare primate adventure experience. Within the Bwindi Forest, gorilla treks start in any one of the 4 main trailheads; Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma and Ruhija, the four designated regions where tourists assemble at 8.00AM and get briefed about how the experience is to be conducted. Within each of these gorilla trekking areas, there are habituated families for visitors to trek.
The oldest sector, the Buhoma sector in the north of the park is the most known and it requires an early booking to get a spot for a gorilla trek in the region. It is the pioneer region for gorilla trekking. It comprises of popular gorilla families that include Habinyanja family, Rushegura, Katwe and Mubare. The Rushaga region offers moderate hikes given its terrain. It consists of families that include Rwigi, Kutu, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza, Bikingi. In the North East, there is the Ruhija sector that also offers moderate hikes. It has Kyaguriro gorilla family, Bitukura, Mukiza, and Oruzogo. Of all the four sectors, Nkuringo is the hilliest and it is quite loved by travelers looking for challenging hikes. Here you will find the Nkuringo gorilla group, Christmas and Bushaho gorilla group.
Gorilla treks in Bwindi National Park start early in the morning with a briefing at park headquarters and at 8:00 am, visitors embark on an actual trek with a park ranger guide. Treks to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can take you about 3-6 hours but this depends on your hiking speed, nature of habitat and location of gorillas. It is a breathtaking adventure and involves you hiking through the dense rainforest and steep slopes. Upon finding these creatures, you have an hour of face to face encounter with them, take photos and explore their behaviors as well as body gestures.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
On the actual trek within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, trekkers are briefed on the set rules and regulations that they have to observe while on the trek to see mountain gorillas. You will be at a respective trailhead in Bwindi National Park as your gorilla permit directs you.
Among other rules and regulations that will be briefed to, you include:
- Only 8 visitors are allowed to track a habituated gorilla family
- Only one hour is given for visitors to have a face to face encounter with gorillas
- Visitors must maintain a distance of 7 meters and the 7-meter rule should be kept all times while in presence of the mountain gorillas
- No flashlight camera is allowed when taking photos
- Only persons above 15 years are allowed to track gorillas
- Visitors are not allowed to drink, eat or smoke near gorillas or in their habitat
- Visitors with communicable diseases are not allowed to track the endangered mountain gorillas.
When to go for gorilla trekking
Bwindi National Park is an all year round safari destination. But it is best to explore Bwindi National Park while on a gorilla trekking tour during the dry season which commences from June, July, August, September and December, January and February. The dry season is ideal for this primate adventure in Bwindi National Park given the fact that gorilla habitat is kept relatively drier thus making it easier for visitors to trek through dense rainforest and steep slopes.
However, you can also embark on a gorilla trek in Bwindi National Park during the wet or rainy season which begins in the months of March, April, May, and October, November. The wet or rainy season usually comes with plenty of rainfall and the ground muddy making it a little challenging for trekkers to hike through the slippery steep slopes and dense rainforest. It is also regarded as the low season and normally lodges even cut down their prices as a way to attract more clients.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park comprises of 17 gorilla families which translates to 136 gorilla permits. Each gorilla permit costs $600 per person and it is what gets you a chance to track only one habituated family in Bwindi National Park in a group of 8 visitors. You can obtain gorilla permit in Uganda through a local tour operator or reservation office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Packing List for gorilla trekking in Bwindi
To trek mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park, you need to pack appropriately considering essential items many of which are similar to a camping or hiking trip. When packing for a gorilla trek in Bwindi National Park, the following should be a must; hiking boots, gardening gloves, waterproof day pack, socks, walking stick-this can be found at the park headquarters or safari lodge, rain jackets or poncho, sunglasses, sweater, enough drinking water, energy giving snacks, insect repellents, camera with no flash and if it has, please you are advised to turn it off, long-sleeved shirts or t-shirt, hat, first aid kit, and you’re set.
Accommodation in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has many accommodation options ranging budget to luxury. Luxury safari lodges include Buhoma Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Mahogany Spring Lodge, Clouds Gorilla Lodge, and a few others. Midrange accommodations include Gorilla Mist Camp, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Silverback Lodge, and Rushaga Gorilla Camp. Budget Safari Lodges in Bwindi include Broadbill Forest, Bwindi View Bandas, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, and Gift of Nature Lodge.
Getting to Bwindi National Park
Bwindi National Park is reachable both by road and by air. By road, your journey to Bwindi National Park starts from Entebbe or Kampala via Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale route which is approximately 8-10 hours’ drive. You need a good and comfortable 4 wheel drive safari vehicle to help you navigate through the remote routes in southwestern Uganda. If you are in Kigali, you can also connect up to Bwindi National Park through Katuna or Cyanika border between Rwanda and Uganda to Kisoro/Kabale then to Bwindi National Park. Alternatively, you can take a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrip where you can drive to Bwindi National Park.
In summary, for any plans to visit Uganda, gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park should be a must to do primate adventure. With the above information, we believe that you will have a well-planned gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi National Park this holiday.