Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park

A mountain gorilla safari is a truly special experience that becomes all the more magical when done within the confines of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Located in South-Western Uganda, Bwindi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts some of the highest numbers of endangered mountain gorillas in the world. The high population can be attributed to long-term gorilla conservation efforts carried out by rangers and the support of communities in the area.

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Great measures have been taken to revive populations of mountain gorillas, which were once on the brink of extinction. Today, you can also find mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the price tag of gorilla safaris is much higher in Rwanda’s national parks, and the populations of mountain gorillas are much lower in the Congo. In fact, to go on a gorilla trek in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the permit alone costs over twice as much as it does in Uganda.

gorilla trekking uganda
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The Time To See Mountain Gorillas On A Uganda Gorilla Safaris Is Now!

Gorilla Trekking Uganda

Uganda is the second most popular destination for Mountain Gorilla trekking in the world. It’s safe, it’s affordable, and as a destination, it offers a variety of activities aside from gorilla trekking. 

There are 15 habituated mountain gorilla groups in Bwindi National Park in Uganda, spread across three different sections of the park. Five habituated groups are located in the Rushaga sector, three in the Buhoma sector, two in the Ruhija sector, and one group can be found in Nkuringo.

Gorillas in the Buhoma sector are the most accessible, making this the best destination for Uganda gorilla tours for those who don’t fancy hiking for hours. Buhoma also offers some nature walks to nearby waterfalls and an opportunity to visit the Batwa community. 

Rushaga is home to the most gorilla groups, but to get to them, you must be prepared for some hiking through the forest. The last two only have a couple of gorilla groups and thus are less popular with visitors.

A silverback gorilla spotted while gorilla trekking Congo
A silverback gorilla spotted while gorilla trekking Congo

Uganda Gorilla Trekking Permits

A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $700/person, and although in previous years, it was possible to score a low season discount (50% off), this discount was eliminated in 2018.

Similar to Rwandagorilla permits in Uganda need to be arranged well in advance, especially now that the price increase in Rwanda is expected to bring a significant increase in the number of visitors to Bwindi. For gorilla trekking, Uganda consistently ranks high on lists of desirable destinations, so be prepared to have everything planned well in advance – from scheduling your gorilla permit to booking a spot with a tour operator.

How Difficult Is It To Track Gorillas In Uganda?

There are no hard and fast rules for how difficult it will be for you to track gorillas in Uganda. The difficulty of the trek is determined by how deep within the park your assigned gorilla family is and the terrain in which you have to pass over to get there.

That being said, sometimes habituated Uganda gorillas can be found hanging out at the park’s edge. In this case, it takes no time at all to find them. 

On the other hand, a group that is deep within the forest could take upwards of 4 hours to reach. More often than not, participants spend an hour or two trekking before finally coming across these beautiful mammals. 

Uganda gorilla safaris are no Everest, but they do require participants to be in decent shape. The group moves only as fast as its slowest walker along the worn paths of the National Park. There is no off-path action on the trek towards the gorillas, but the park definitely lives up to its ‘impenetrable’ description.

In Uganda, if you do not want to carry your daypack on one of the gorilla safaris, you can hire a local porter to carry it for you. Porters are former animal poachers, so by hiring a porter, you are supporting ongoing conservation efforts inside the park.

Aside from carrying your pack, the local porters have been known to help navigate or lend a hand to people during swathes of difficult terrain.

gorilla trekking uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

What To Expect: Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

Typical Uganda gorilla trekking tours begin at 7 or 8 in the morning. All safari-goes will gather with the park ranger within Bwindi National Park. 

The ranger will give everyone an initial briefing on how the trek is supposed to progress, as well as the rules, then split everyone into smaller groups and assign their gorilla families. Groups are no larger than 8 people because anything bigger might agitate the gorilla families.

The rangers usually have a general idea of how far within the park the gorilla families are. So, if you prefer a particular length of trek, this is the time to ask. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, and all the groups may be deep within the forest that day.

There are several gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, but only about half of them can be visited for gorilla trekking. The remaining families are wild, with some undergoing the habituation process. 

The rangers also have knowledge of how many silverbacks or babies are amongst the individual clans. The babies are always a joy to watch!

Ensure you follow the rules which are designed for your safety and the safety of the gorilla group. They are enforced by your Uganda gorilla safaris guide. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, new protective measures have been put in place in order to protect the gorillas. The endangered species is very susceptible to human viruses, especially COVID. Visitors are required to take a COVID-19 rapid test before they are allowed to enter the park, and wear a mask when you get to the gorilla family. Before you travel to Uganda, it’s best to check up on current precautionary measures, as they may change. Your tour operator is a great source of information – they’ll know exactly what you need to do. 

Mountain gorilla tracking Bwindi National Park
The road to Bwindi National Park
Ranger giving briefing for gorilla trekking congo
Ranger giving briefing

Here are some other rules and tidbits to keep in mind for your gorilla trek:

  • Gorillas are curious animals, especially the little ones, and they may approach you. However, you must keep a 10-metre distance between the gorilla group and yourself at all times.
  • 1 hour will fly by but for the sake of the gorilla group that is the maximum time Uganda gorilla tours can observe the animals
  • Do not participate in Uganda gorilla safaris if you are ill. To protect them from human diseases, do not cough, sneeze, or spit next to the gorillas. 
  • You are free to have a snack along the way but no drinking, eating, or smoking is permitted near the animal groups.
  • You must disable your flash on your camera or video.

READ NEXT: Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

How To Prepare For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

To make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible, we recommend planning this trip no less than 6 months out. This will give you plenty of time to set up lodging and secure permits.

Where To Stay

Most travellers include gorilla tracking in their Uganda itinerary organised by one of the many safari companies in the region. If you do it this way, then lodgings and permits will be taken care of for you, and it will be a weight off your shoulders.

If you are looking for a good safari tour operator in Uganda, we recommend Crystal Safaris (ask for Jonna as your driver/guide).

If you would prefer to organise the trek yourself, that’s an option, too. If that’s the case, your planning needs to start with the lodges. There are numerous lodges conveniently located outside of Bwindi National Park in Uganda, but this is our recommendation:

Gorilla Safari Lodge, Bwindi National Park, Uganda

Gorilla Safari Lodge is one of the first lodges in Rushaga Sector of Bwindi National Park and is conveniently located just a 5-minute walk away from the trailhead. It’s a great place to stay if you want to be close to the park and save on transport time on the day of your gorilla tracking.

The lodge offers full board accommodation starting at $250/night in lovely eco-style cabins. There is no pool on-site, but the cabins are set up to help you fully immerse in the lush environment.

Since the lodge is located just outside of Bwindi National Park, the Wi-Fi connection is limited but enough to stay in touch with friends and relatives. The lodge staff can help you organise gorilla trekking permits, hikes in Bwindi National Park, community visits and other activities in the area. They can also give you a realistic expectation of what your total gorilla safari cost will be.

An amazing excursion that the Gorilla Safari Lodge can help arrange is the Gorilla Habituation Experience. This is more involved than a typical gorilla safari – it’s a more intimate experience where you get to spend up to four hours with the gorillas. You’ll be accompanied by porters, guides, and researchers who aim to habituate the gorillas to the presence of humans.

Gorilla Safari Lodge, Bwindi National Park, Uganda
Gorilla Safari Lodge from above
Gorilla safari lodge
Gorilla Safari Lodge
gorilla trekking lodge in bwindi national park
Gorilla Safari Lodge

Learn more about Gorilla Safari Lodge and book your stay here

What To Bring On Your Gorilla Trekking Experience

Your gorilla trekking in Uganda is first and foremost a hiking trip, so dress the part. We suggest wearing lightweight and breathable hiking pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Complemented by good hiking boots and gaiters for comfort and protection. 

Regardless of what the sky looks like the morning of your Uganda safari, bring a rain jacket and rain pants just to be safe. Biwindi is a rainforest and the weather changes on a dime

We always bring our collapsible hiking sticks, on hiking trips like this one, and found them very useful for the terrain within the park. However, if you forget yours at home, you can purchase a pair or rent hiking poles from the park ranger.

Sunblock, eco-friendly insect protection, a hat, sunglasses, water, and snacks are essentials. Pack at least 1-2 litres of water for the journey.

Of course, you will want to remember this experience, so bring a camera along. Not only will you see mountain gorillas, but you will more than likely see smaller primates, a variety of birds, and interesting flora en route to your assigned family. 

It took us a long time and lots of trial and effort before settling on the cameras we use in our travels, so we compiled a list of the best travel cameras based on our experiences here.

While everything we’ve said so far is important, it’s just as important to remember this: you can’t fully prepare for this wildlife experience.

No matter how prepared you are, seeing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat will take your breath away.

Gorilla Trekking Experience
Gorilla Trekking Experience
Bwindi National Park mountain trekking
Bwindi National Park mountain trekking

Other Things To Do In Bwindi National Park

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a popular destination for gorilla trekking, but there is so much else to explore and see in the park. 

You can go for a scenic hike along the Kashasha River, through a bamboo forest, to the Munyanga Waterfall – you are spoilt for choice when it comes to trails.

The Batwa Cultural Experience includes a hike to the local Batwa village, where you’ll learn about the forest’s original keepers. The Batwa people will teach you how they hunt, gather honey, use herbs for medicine, and build dwellings in the forest. 

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is considered to be one of the best birdwatching destinations on the continent. To date, there are 348 recorded bird species at Bwindi, including three species that are last of their kind. 

READ NEXT: Ultimate Uganda Safari Guide

Other National Parks To Visit In Uganda

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Located about 4 hours north of Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth National Park is an amazing savanna park and home to rare tree-climbing lions. Over half of Uganda’s bird species can be found in this park, and game drives give visitors a chance to see leopards, giraffes, elephants, and more.

Mgahinga National Park

Just a couple of hours away from Bwindi, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is another popular destination for gorilla trekking. Home to three dormant volcanoes, this park is a great hiking spot. While the hikes can be strenuous in spots, no special equipment is required and they can be completed in under 8 hours. 

Kidepo Valley National Park

Located in northern Uganda, Kidepo is the most isolated national park in the country, making it a great place for wildlife viewing. Wildlife species that you can see during a safari include Rothschild giraffes, African buffaloes, and elephants.

Murchison Falls National Park

Home to the famous Murchison Waterfall, this park has attracted many notable visitors and even served as the setting for the 1951 film The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart. This is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, with the Victoria Nile River squeezing through an 8-metre wide gorge and plunging over a rift valley wall. 


Would You Like To Experience One Of The Uganda Gorilla Safaris? Who Would You Take With You?


Disclaimer: Our trip to Bwindi National Park and our stay at Gorilla Safari Lodge was provided courtesy of Crystal Safaris, but all opinions expressed in this article are our own. 

READ NEXT: Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Congo (DRC) 

3 thoughts on “Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park”

  1. Thank you for sharing with the world this amazing information about gorilla trekking in Africa. A small update: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park hosts now 14 habituated gorilla groups. There is also a new adventure – Gorilla Habituation Experience where travelers can spend a maximum of 4 hours with the gorillas. This activity costs USD1500 per person.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for the article, very useful! 🙂
    Just one comment: the permit in Uganda is $600 not $750. We just booked our trek there for July 2018.

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