MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING UGANDA
Mountain gorilla trekking is one of the most adventurous and memorable safari activities to do in Africa offering an encounter with critically endangered mountain gorillas as listed by IUCN Red List, these gentle giants are close relatives to human with 94% of their composition similar to humans. Mountain gorillas are found in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo with Uganda hosting the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world recorded to be over 1000 individuals according to the statistics of 2018.
MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE
Mountain gorilla trekking experience is a very thrilling and memorable Uganda safari activity offering a close up encounter with the giant mountain gorillas in their natural habitat that is in the forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Mountain gorilla trekking starts as early as 07:00 am with a briefing session at the park’s headquarters, the briefing is conducted by park rangers who take you through the rules and regulations to follow in the presence of Mountain gorillas. Then you are grouped into groups of 8 people, be assigned a gorilla group to trek, hire a porter and walking stick and head into the forests searching for mountain gorillas.
Note: Only tourists above the age are allowed to participate in Mountain gorilla trekking experience.
Mountain gorilla trekking takes approximately 4-6 hours depending on the gorilla family you are trekking and where the gorillas spent their last night, you ranger-guide knows better where to find the gorillas. This experience is physically challenging due to the highly terrain and you need a walking stick to assist you as you trek through the slippery trails running through the forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga.
When you locate the mountain gorillas you will be mind-blown by the size of these gentle giants and their fur covered bodies, you are allowed to spend only one hour in the presence of mountain gorillas while watching their behavior which is similar to that of human. In the presence of gorillas you are allowed to take pictures as long as your flash light is off, mountain gorilla trekking offers excellent photography opportunities. After one hour you trek back to the park’s headquarters where you are awarded with Mountain gorilla trekking certificates.
Note: Mountain gorilla trekking experience can last for a full day that is why you go with your packed lunch into the forest.
To participate in Mountain gorilla trekking you need to have a mountain gorilla trekking permit purchased at Uganda Wildlife Authority through your tour agent, the permit currently costs USD 700.
WHERE TO DO MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Bwindi impenetrable national park is a UNSECO World Heritage site and arguably the best place on earth to do mountain gorilla trekking, the park is dominated by a thick canopy of ancient rainforest across the hilly landscape. Bwindi impenetrable national park covers an area of 327 square kilometers and was gazetted as a national park in 1942 as a reserve and in 1992 it was upgraded to as a national park. The park is a home to over 700 mountain gorilla individuals including wild and habituated mountain gorillas which are open for mountain gorilla trekking, habituated mountain gorillas underwent through mountain gorilla habituation experience making them friendly and comfortable to human presence.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is divided into 4 sections where mountain gorilla trekking is done, the sections or regions are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Buhoma sector is found in the northern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park, this sector is the most visited area of the park for mountain gorilla trekking. Buhoma sector is accessed from Kabala and Kihihi airstrip. Gorillas families found in the Buhoma sector which are visited during Mountain gorilla trekking include
- Habinyanja gorilla family
- Rushegura gorilla family
- Mubare gorilla family
During mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable national park’s Rushaga sector, accommodation is got from Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, Mahogany Springs, Buhoma Haven Lodge, Silverback Lodge and Buhoma Community Rest Camp
Ruhija sector is located in eastern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park, this sector lies at 2,350 meters above the sea level and it is the coldest area of Bwindi. Mountain gorilla families found in Ruhija sector include
- Bitukura gorilla family
- Oruzogo gorilla family
- Kyaguriro gorilla family
During mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable national park’s Rushaga sector, accommodation is got from Bakiga Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp and Agandi Lodge.
Rushaga sector is located in the Southern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park, this sector hosts 5 mountain gorilla families with one family set aside for gorilla habituation experience. Gorilla families trekked in Rushaga sector include
- Nshongi Gorilla Family
- Mishaya Gorilla Family
- Kahungye Gorilla Family
- Bweza gorilla family
- Busingye Gorilla Family
During mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable national park’s Rushaga sector, accommodation is got from Chameleon Hill, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp and Gorilla Valley Lodge.
Nkuringo gorilla sector is a physically challenging sector in Bwindi impenetrable national park to do mountain gorilla trekking and this is because it lies on a higher altitude. Mountain gorilla groups found in Nkuringo gorilla sector include
- Nkuringo gorilla family
During mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable national park’s Nkuringo sector, accommodation is got from Clouds Mountain gorilla Lodge and Nkuringo Safari Lodge.
How to get Bwindi Impenetrable national park
From Kampala to Bwindi impenetrable national park you can use road and air transport, by road it is a drive of approximately 8-9 hours using three routes that are Kampala – Kabale – Ruhija, Kampala – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihihi – Buhoma/Nyondo and Kampala – Kabale – Kisoro – Rushaga/Nkuringo. By air transport, domestic scheduled flights are offered from Kajjansi or Entebbe International airport to Kihihi airstrip and Kisoro airstrip.
MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the second mountain gorilla destination in Uganda situated in the South western region, this park is the smallest park in Uganda covering an area of 33.9 square kilometers. Mgahinga gorilla national park is found in the Great Virunga Conservation Area and part of the 3 national parks making up this area, the other two national parks are Virunga national park and Volcanoes national park.
Mgahinga gorilla national park was established as a national park in 1991, the park lies between 2,227 meters and 4,127 meters and covers 3 of the Virunga volcanoes that are Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura.
Mountain gorilla national park is a home to a reasonable population of Mountain gorillas with only 1 habituated mountain gorilla family in the names of Nyakagezi gorilla family which is open for mountain gorilla trekking and the rest are while.
Nyakagezi gorilla family consists of 9 members with 4 silverbacks,2 female adults, 1 juvenile and 2 infants.
How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is in a distance of 510 kilometers from Kampala the capital of Uganda, you can get to the park by use of road and air. By road, it is approximately a 9-10 hours drive from Kampala to Mgahinga. By air, scheduled and domestic flights are offered from Kajjansi airstrip and Entebbe International airport to Kisoro airfield.
BEST TIME FOR MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done throughout the year, however the best experience is got during the dry season periods that are January to February and from June to September. In the dry season, the trails/routes used during mountain gorilla trekking are less slippery and less muddy.