All you need to know about Gorilla Tracking in Uganda & Rwanda
Seeing gorillas up close and spending time watching them go about their daily lives is an amazing experience and the highlight of many a visitor to Uganda.
Where to find them
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered and can only be found in the dense forests bordering Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The total population consists of less than 900, with most of them living in the Ugandan part of the forest. The natural environment of mountain gorillas is rainforest, more specifically the moist tropical and subtropical forests of the Albertine Rift in central Africa.
In Uganda, a total of twelve gorilla families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park while in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park there are nine gorilla families used to people. Gorilla tracking in DR Congo is not considered safe due to the political unrest in the region and should currently not be attempted.
Out of the twelve habituated families in Uganda, eleven live in Bwindi, which offers three different starting points for tracking: Buhoma in the north (three families), Ruhija in the east (two families) and Rushaga/Lake Mutanda in the south (six families). In Mgahinga National Park there is one gorilla group only. (This family cannot always be booked, because it is always on the move and sometimes crosses the border to Rwanda.)
When to visit and what to expect
The region’s mid-December to February and June to September dry seasons are the best time to go Gorilla tracking. Seasons are changing though and it’s not easy anymore to predict when exactly the rainy and dry seasons will be.
Whether in dry or wet weather, expect a tough day on foot: you’ll be walking through dense forest which can be humid, wetand muddy with steep slopes and tangled vegetation. It is worth the effort though, the chances of finding a gorilla family are around 95%. The tracking in Rwanda is said to be a bit easier, as the gorillas move around a bit less and are thus easier to find. This is not guaranteed though.
Once you have found the gorilla family, you can spend an hour close to them, observing them as they feed and groom while their babies tumble about the undergrowth.
In Uganda, permits go for 600$ (Foreign residents and Ugandan citizens receive discounts) and in Rwanda the fee is 750$. Uganda offers low season discounts of 250$, usually in May.
As to not stress the animals, permits to track them are limited to eight visitors per gorilla family a day in Uganda and seven visitors in Rwanda.
How to get to there
We offer both fly-in and drive packages to take you Gorilla tracking in Uganda. If you’d like to combine your gorilla experience with other activities, such as game viewing, chimp tracking or visiting the picturesque Lake Bunyonyi, driving is the better option. If you’d like to do go gorilla tracking only, you might want to consider a flight. The gorilla parks are a one hour flight from Entebbe, whereas driving will take anywhere between eight and ten hours.
Volcanoes National Park is only 80 km from the capital Kigali and can be accessed on smooth tarmac roads.
Gorilla tracking do’s and don’ts:
Protect their health. Gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases, so don’t go tracking if you have flu or a cold (in case of sickness, an alternate visit or refund of money through UWA can be arranged). If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your mouth and nose.
Wash your hands before heading out to see the gorillas.
Keep a minimum distance of 7 metres (21 feet) from the gorillas.
Keep your voice low when you’re with the gorillas and when approaching and leaving . It is ok to ask the guide questions however.
Don’t touch them. Sometimes you may find a young gorilla playfully approaching the visitors, but don’t forget that these are wild animals.
Sometimes the gorillas charge. Crouch down slowly and do not look the gorilla in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not run
Don’t use flash when taking photos of the gorillas
Don’t eat or drink while you are near the gorillas
The walk can be very strenuous, so children below 12 years cannot go tracking (there are lots of other activities in the area that are suitable for children including light walks and cultural activities)
Don’t litter in the forest
Bring appropriate clothes. Pack a rainproof jacket, long pants, good walking boots