If you haven’t yet included gorilla trekking in your bucket list, then it is high time you added it as it is definitely one of a few dramatic wildlife experiences you definitely shouldn’t miss. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure it is a good one!
Where to go?
There are only two populations of mountain gorillas left in the world, numbering about 1,000 in total. The first lives in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, with groups scattered between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second lives deep in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest, which is home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, making it one of the best places where you can see these awe-inspiring primates in their natural habitat.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking
To ensure a successful gorilla experience, like anywhere in Africa, the two most significant seasons you need to consider are the wet and dry seasons – and each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. During the two dry seasons –June to September and December to February, rainfall is very low and the gorilla habitat remains relatively dry, making it easier to hike through Bwindi’s dense vegetation and steep slopes in search for these unique creatures. The wet seasons – running from March to May and again from October to November, are characterized by heavy rainfall, ensuring that trekking is much more challenging. On the upside, however, more plentiful food during this period makes it a little easier to locate gorillas in their usual habitat, unlike the dry season where the limited food supply makes them move much further afield in search of something to eat.
Gorilla permits in Uganda.
To take part in gorilla safari in Uganda, a permit is mandatory and currently costs USD600 (increasing to USD700 from 1 July 2020). Make sure you book your permit early enough, at least 3 months prior to your actual trek, as permits are limited to just a few people each day and demand is typically high. Permits can be obtained through a trustworthy tour operator or through the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
What to pack for gorilla trekking?
In preparation for your gorilla adventure, it’s important to pack appropriately, and the following items are essential!
· Sturdy, waterproof hiking shoes to help you navigate rocky, and often, slippery surfaces. Remember the trails can be muddy and slippery – especially during the rainy season.
· Insect repellent.
· Gardening gloves can come in handy when the gorillas are ranging within sparky, thorny and stinging vegetations.
· A good camera to capture the best shots.
· Long sleeved shirts and long pants to protect you from the cold and stinging nettles.
· A Waterproof backpack to protect your camera and other fragile items.
Where to stay
There are quite a few safari lodges near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to suit every budget, but one of the best places to stay is the award-winning Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Tucked away on a on a flat ridge deep within the heart of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the award-winning camp is an idea base to explore the Bwindi region. Featuring just eight private luxury tents, the property was re-launched by boutique luxury travel operator Sanctuary Retreats in 2018, following the completion of an extensive refurbishment program.
The atmospheric Camp’s small size ensures it retains an intimate, exclusive feel, enabling guests to experience Africa’s magic with the lightest of footprints, while enjoying practically every mod con. Even better, its unique location means the Camp is frequently visited by gorilla families, making it the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with Uganda’s endangered mountain primates. Buhoma Village is also close by, with plenty of opportunities for guests to visit the Bwindi Community Hospital and meet local Batwa villagers.
The last word.
All in all, Uganda is the ultimate destination for gorilla trekking, a rare experience that will bring you up close with endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. With no single mountain gorilla in captivity, Uganda is a must visit if you are looking to the golden opportunity of sitting amongst gorillas in the mists of Central Africa.