The low-down on gorilla safaris in Uganda
Spend time with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the dense Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
A Mountain Gorilla tracking holiday in Uganda is often described as ‘the most magical wildlife experience on earth’. In small groups you will visit these critically endangered primates in their own terrain and come face to face with a silverback and his family. It’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life and is one of Africa’s 'must do' experiences. Permits are based on a first come first served basis and sell out very quickly so be sure to book early.
The last remaining 600 mountain gorillas live high up on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, and the dense Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. These are the best places in the world to see these incredible animals.
In Bwindi, you and seven other guests are escorted up the mountain by a guide, in search of your designated gorilla family. The going can fairly strenuous, but the guides are well versed in setting the pace to match the slowest hiker. You’ll trek up the side of this famous volcano range along narrow pathways that have been cut away by your guides through the thick vegetation – hence the name ‘Impenetrable Forest’. The length of the trek depends on where the gorillas have spent the night, as these animals have no boundaries and are 100% wild. A basic level of fitness is required but it is very unusual for someone to find the trek too arduous. There are also porters for hire, which we recommend as it means that you can enjoy the trek without lugging your day pack and camera equipment up the slopes, and it helps boost the local economy too.
Upon reaching the gorillas, your guide will communicate with the Silverback using guttural noises, and once the head of the family has given the group his blessing with more grunts you are welcome in. You have one magical hour spent in close proximity to the gorillas. You’ll be up to six metres away from the individuals, watching their movements and interactions. The mothers will be grooming the babies, and some of the adolescents might be making mischief, whilst the huge silverback watches over his family. The gorilla family mimics the social roles we are all familiar with as humans. As with anything in nature, sightings cannot be guaranteed but the success rate is close to 100%. It really is a once in a lifetime experience, unless of course you take our advice and have booked two treks in a row!
For those that want a bit more than an hour, a day’s habituation visit can be arranged where you will go and sit with a guide who is in the process of habituating a family of gorillas. These do not occur every day and like the normal gorilla experiences have to be booked in advance.
We use a number of very comfortable lodges, most within walking distance of the park headquarters, which means we will make sure this a luxury experience as well as a rewarding one.
Permits in Uganda are $600 per person in Uganda and $1500 per person in Rwanda. There is very little difference between the 2 experiences apart from that the trekking is possibly slightly tougher in Uganda. For conservation purposes, a limited number of permits are issued each day, and are sold on a first come first served basis.
Gorilla permits in Uganda will increase to $700 per permit from 1st July 2020.
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