Gorilla trekking is one of the most enjoyable activities by travelers in the south-western parts of Uganda. Uganda is among the only three countries (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda) protecting the endangered mountain gorillas and the most fascinating thing about Uganda is that; it comprises of two different national parks which protect these endangered primates. The two mountain gorilla trekking parks in Uganda all lie in the south-western parts of Uganda, and these are; Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs US$ 600, which is quite an affordable price as compared to that of Rwanda which costs US$ 1500. Both Bwindi and Mgahinga can be accessed easily from Rwanda (Kigali) as they are too close to the border with Rwanda. For this case, a traveler can access these Parks through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park which is contiguous to Mgahinga. Volcanoes, Mgahinga and Virunga National Parks all lie in one conservation area (Virunga massif), hence they can all be accessed from one to another since they are all contiguous to each other. All the three national parks in the Virunga massif are known for inhabiting the endangered mountain gorillas.
The gorilla safari will start and end in Kigali, Rwanda, which is a mere 3-hour drive in either direction. It is a scenic drive through the Mountains into Uganda that is filled with photo-options. Once you reach Mgahinga, you can first track the one habituated gorilla family found there and then head a few kilometers to the fantastic Bwindi, a home to almost half of the total population of mountain gorillas in the world. The one and only habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga is called Nyakagezi gorilla family which can be trekked together with other activities in the Park, such as; Golden Monkey tracking, Virunga Volcano climbing, Nature Walks, and Wildlife Hikes, the Cultural Batwa Pygmy Trail (the first people of the Forest), Cave exploration, and birding among others.
Normally, Gorilla trekking Safari in Mgahinga starts from Ntebeko Entrance gate. A traveler is expected to budget for his/her time well while with a gorilla family since the maximum time allowed to spend with them is one hour. A variety of lodges and camps, such as Mount Gahinga lodge and many others, exist in Mgahinga national park to offer its travelers with a very comfortable stay while enjoying the lifetime experience of trekking the endangered mountain gorillas.
Still in the south-west of Uganda there is Bwindi national park and this holds the largest number of mountain gorillas in the world. The Park is a home to almost 500 mountain gorillas and currently comprises of 18 habituated gorilla families which are open to trekkers. The 18 families are trekked from the four various sectors of the Park which include Buhoma sector, Rushaga sector, Ruhija sector and Nkuringo sector. Buhoma sector’s families include; Mubare (oldest gorilla family in Uganda), Rushegura, Habinyanja, and the newly habituated Katwe gorilla family.
Gorilla families in Rushaga sector include; Bweza, Busingye, Kahungye, Nshongi, Mishaya, Muchunguzi, Bikingi and Bushaho. Habituated gorilla families in Ruhija sector include; Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Bitukura and Mukiza. And lastly, the gorilla families in Nkuringo sector which are open to trekkers include; Nkuringo gorilla family and Christmas gorilla family, and this makes a total of 19 habituated gorilla families in Uganda. Any of Bwindi’s sectors that you will trek the gorillas from has got high-class accommodations for you to stay in comfortably.
In every gorilla trekking park, the activity of trekking the mountain gorillas is done in groups of eight individuals per trekking group. And for that case, trekkers are always advised to reach at the park headquarters in time (07:00am) such that you be briefed and be given a specific gorilla family to trek and a trekking group that you will be in.
All the trails will be spear-headed by professional park guides/rangers who will help you in searching for your specific gorilla family and also be guarding you from getting any danger. During your search for the gorillas, you are emphasized to maintain maximum silence such that you don’t threaten the primates when you are almost close to them.
Also, to take note: you are totally prohibited to smoke from the Park while tracking the gorillas and once you find them, you are emphasized not to use the flash light cameras while taking the primates’ photos.
The process of trekking the gorillas may last for 1-6 hours depending on where the primates spent their previous night and once they are met, you will strictly be given one hour to interact with them – enjoying their amazing behaviors and taking as many photos as you can for remembrance and to show to your colleagues back home such that they too get inspired.