A Traveler’s guide to gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park

Bwindi National Park gorilla trekking guide covers everything primate trekkers need to know before embarking on actual gorilla safaris. Bwindi gorilla trekking travel guide includes the location of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the best time to go for gorilla tracking/trekking, where to stay, and what is gorilla trekking in Bwindi like. This guide to gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park also includes gorilla trekking rules, what you should wear for gorilla trekking, what are the chances of seeing gorillas in Bwindi, gorilla families, and Bwindi gorilla trekking prices, and the cost of the permit.

gorilla trekking Bwindi

In this article, expect to explore the popular Bwindi gorilla trekking safaris and tours, gorilla safari lodges, and how to get to the park for gorilla safari holidays. Bwindi gorilla trekking entirely involves exploring the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on foot in search of a family of habituated mountain gorillas. This foot-walk adventure is conducted with the lead of an experienced park ranger guide.

Where is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?

Bwindi gorilla trekking safaris are conducted in the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in the far Southwestern corner of Uganda. The park is set on the edge of the Rift Valley and is surrounded by Kisoro, Rukungiri, Kabale, and Kanungu districts. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was established in 1991 and has an elevation range of 1160 to 2607 meters. Additionally, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was recognized by UNESCO and declared a World Heritage Site

Bwindi National Park expands up to 331 km2 inhabiting more than mammal species. The lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest also provides refuge to a total of about 350 species of birds. The birds in Bwindi include the Albertine Rift Valley endemic species such as Kivu ground thrush, yellow-eyed black flycatchers, black-billed turacos, bar-tailed trogon, and green broadbill. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is without a doubt the most popular primate adventure. This exhilarating primate adventure takes you through the dense rainforest of Bwindi in search of the massive mountain gorillas in the wild.

Why visit Bwindi National Park for gorilla trekking?

When it comes to gorilla trekking safaris, Bwindi is always a bucket list destination on the travel plans of most holidaymakers. Visiting Bwindi National Park is essential for every safari goer looking for the best primate adventure. Here are the top reasons why you should pay a visit to Bwindi for gorilla tracking and not any other destination.

Multiple habituated gorilla groups to visit: Are you looking for a reliable gorilla trekking destination? Bwindi should be top of your list. The park is home to over 24 habituated gorilla families available for trekking. The groups of mountain gorillas to visit in Bwindi include Rwigi, Kutu gorilla family, Habinyanja, Nkuringo, Katwe, Rushegura, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Christmas, and Mucunguzi groups. The other gorilla groups to trek in the lust Bwindi Impenetrable National Park include Kyaguriro, Bweza, Kahungye, Mishaya, Busingye, Nshongi, Bikingi, and Mubare.

Trek mountain gorillas in the 4 regions: Visiting Bwindi National Park for gorilla trekking allows visitors to trek gorillas from any of the four sectors or regions. Each region has already habituated gorilla groups worth exploring. They include the Buhoma sector, Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhija region.

Affordable gorilla permits: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a budget-friendly destination. Gorilla permits for gorilla trekking in Bwindi cost USD 800 per person.

Combine gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking: It is only in Bwindi National Park where one can combine both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation. Some of the gorilla families are still in the habituation process. Book a combined gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking safari now and create memories.

Is Bwindi gorilla trekking safe?

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a safe and secure destination in Africa. You can travel and safely engage in the gorilla trekking adventure then return home. The park is peaceful and secure for all visitors. On the actual gorilla trek, all guests go to trek gorillas with the lead of an experienced park ranger guide.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

What makes Bwindi a safe and secure gorilla safari destination?

Presence of experienced and well-trained park guides: Bwindi is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), an organ that recruits capable personnel to ensure the destination is safe for visitors and also its floral and faunal species. During the actual date of visiting gorillas, an armed park ranger guide will take the lead and guests follow. The park ranger guides will be from the very first moment when they are allocated to you till you return from the jungles.

Park rangers: A good number of trained park ranger guides always conduct patrols in the park. This practice contributes to the safety and security of gorillas and visitors.

Habituated gorilla groups: All gorilla trekking tours in Bwindi are done in already habituated gorilla families. These groups of mountain gorillas are accustomed to human presence.

Safety guidelines: Before any group of gorilla trekkers embark on a journey to search for mountain gorillas, the park ranger guide takes them through the briefing session. It is during the briefing session that you get to know the different safety measures to be followed in the jungles.

Safety tips for a successful gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park

To enjoy a safe and successful gorilla trekking adventure, here are some of the tips to take note of.

  • Always listen to what your park ranger guide tells you. What goes in the gorilla habitat can be crazy. As you navigate through the park in search of gorillas, some may react or get irritated at you. When they charge against you what comes to anyone’s mind is to run away. But it is not the safest measure. The best thing to do at this point is to keep calm, stand steel, and ensure that you follow what your park ranger guide tells you to do.
  • Keep a distance of 7-8 meters from gorillas. Maintaining a distance of about 8 meters is essential not only for your safety but also for the gorilla family you pay a visit to.
  • Visit gorillas when free of any illness. Gorillas are generally susceptible to human infectious diseases, especially respiratory-related sickness. When visiting gorillas, you should travel when in your better health state to avoid the spread of infectious diseases that can cost the lives of these large apes.
  • Travel/health insurance. Bwindi being the new destination, having yourself insured is essential to cover the cost of some of the unplanned emergencies.
How to plan the Bwindi gorilla trekking tour
  • Book a gorilla permit early. Gorilla permits must be obtained/booked in advance before the actual planned date of visiting mountain gorillas in Bwindi. Take note of the high demand for gorilla permits, especially around the peak months or season. The peak season for gorilla trekking in Bwindi is normally around June, July, August to September, and December, January to February.
  • Plan and book your Bwindi gorilla tour with a reliable tour operator or company. You don’t need to go far when it comes to gorilla trips, Native Africa Tours is a reliable and trusted company you can deal with.
  • Getting there: Consider securing transportation means to get to Bwindi National Park to trek gorillas. Our reservation team can do all these on your behalf. We plan for a complete gorilla safari which means we start right by booking a gorilla permit, transportation, accommodation, and other safari activities.
  • Accommodation: There are many gorilla safari lodges to consider for overnight stay and you can choose one that suits your wallet size. The different accommodation options in and around Bwindi Gorilla Safari Park range from budget, and midrange to luxury.
What should you expect on Bwindi gorilla trekking?

The Bwindi gorilla trekking expedition is an unforgettable journey to enjoy up close and personal encounters with massive mountain gorillas. On a gorilla trekking adventure, expect to assemble at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offices for briefing. This may begin at around 7:30 a.m. and you will meet the park official. It is during the briefing session when the park officials also conduct verification on visitors and your gorilla permit should be available. During the briefing, you will learn the various gorilla tracking rules and regulations.

The official from Bwindi will use this session to allocate gorilla groups to guests. One group of mountain gorillas (already habituated) is allocated to a maximum of 8 guests. A group comprising 8 visitors will be led by an experienced park ranger guide. At around 8:00 a.m., exit the briefing location for an actual search for a group of endangered mountain gorillas.

Gorilla trekking regulations to follow during Bwindi mountain gorilla trekking
  • Don’t eat/drink near the family of mountain gorillas.
  • Follow the park guide’s instructions on your gorilla trek.
  • Keep calm and observe what your park ranger guide tells you, especially when gorillas charge at you.
  • Always maintain a distance of 7-10 meters away from the gorilla family.
  • Don’t chase away gorillas –be aware that at times, they can come near you or rub themselves on you. At this point, do not be tempted to touch them.
  • When taking pictures, you should ensure that the camera is free of a flashlight. Those with flashlight cameras can turn off the flashlight before photography begins.
  • Avoid direct eye contact as the gorillas may take it as confrontation.
  • Ensure that your hands are kept clean or sanitize them.
  • In case you happen to help yourself, bury the human waste as directed by your park ranger guide.
  • The park officials only accept persons free of illnesses or sicknesses to trek mountain gorillas.

What to Pack for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?

How fit should you be to trek Bwindi mountain gorillas?

Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi is not predictable and requires some fitness level. The gorilla trek in Bwindi involves navigating via the ridges, valleys, forests, and thick undergrowth. On a gorilla trekking adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, expect to conquer an elevation range of 1160 to 2607 meters.

How difficult/hard is Bwindi gorilla trekking?

How long is a trek to see gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest? These and more are some of the frequently asked questions by tourists with plans to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Unlike the usual game drives or zoo tours, Bwindi mountain gorilla tracking/trekking requires a moderate physical level. Expect to spend about 2-6 hours in the wild and this involves trekking via different kinds of vegetation (which can be dense). At times, you can find yourself in steep slopes, and muddy areas. Navigating through such a kind of habitat requires you to be fit. Most importantly, you can embark on early physical exercise. The success rate of seeing gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is 95%. At Native Africa Tours, we have not registered any cases of tourists failing to meet the gorillas.

Can an elderly person with disability go to trek Bwindi mountain gorillas?

Bwindi mountain gorilla treks are flexible because even persons with disability have a chance to participate in the search for the massive mountain gorillas. Persons with a disability or anyone with physical fitness challenges can hire a sedan chair. The sedan chair can be lifted by a team of experienced and energetic porters. But this requires early planning to enable the tour operator to book this service with the park authorities.

What are the chances of seeing gorillas in Bwindi National Park?

Are you guaranteed to see gorillas in Bwindi? Often, we come across this kind of question and the answer is yes. Visitors have about a 95% chance of seeing gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The remaining 5% caters to unavoidable factors like the location of gorilla families, the nature of the habitat, the fitness level of visitors, and others.

How many mountain gorillas are in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to almost half of the mountain gorilla population of the world. The park has over 456 mountain gorillas and 26 habituated gorilla families. This is the highest mountain gorilla population compared to any other destination. The rest of the population of these endangered species reside in the other 3 National Parks; Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and Virunga National Park.

What is the acceptable age limit for gorilla trekking in Bwindi?

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is restricted to individuals aged 15 and above. The same age limit applies to other gorilla safari destinations like Rwanda and Congo. If you have kids, do not cancel your Uganda gorilla trekking safari. Lodges in Bwindi have so many activities for kids to participate in while adults are out for gorilla trekking.

Mountain gorilla habituation in Bwindi Vs gorilla trekking

Both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experiences are done in Bwindi. However, there is a slight difference between the two. Mountain gorilla habituation experience involves spending more time following a semi-habituated gorilla family. The gorilla permits for the Bwindi gorilla habituation experience cost USD 1500 per person for foreign nonresidents and USD 1000 for all foreign residents.  East African citizens book these permits at UGX 750,000 per person which can be obtained through the licensed tour operator. Talk to the reservation team at Native Africa Tours to book a gorilla habituation tour in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi entirely takes you on a search for already habituated groups of mountain gorillas. The permits for Bwindi gorilla trekking cost USD 800 for all foreign nonresidents, and USD 700 for foreign residents while Ugandans pay shs.300,000 per person. Visitors from the rest of Africa can also book gorilla trekking permits at USD 500 per person. Unlike mountain gorilla habituation experience, which is only done in the Rushaga sector, gorilla treks are conducted in any of the 4 sectors of Bwindi and across the 4 main mountain gorilla safari parks.

How much does Bwindi gorilla trekking cost?

The cost of a Bwindi National Park gorilla trekking expedition varies depending on significant factors. The cost of gorilla trekking in Bwindi is determined by factors such as the cost of gorilla permits (which also varies depending on visitor category; foreign nonresidents, foreign residents, East African citizens, and rest of Africa); cost of accommodation (budget, midrange, and luxury), and cost of transportation and fuel. Apart from the 3 major factors, the cost of a gorilla tour in Bwindi is also influenced by group travel size, season (peak and low season), cost of purchasing the packing list items for gorilla trekking; visas, passports, and cost for other tourist activities. Note, that Bwindi has other incredible activities worth adding to the gorilla tour package including mountain gorilla habituation experience, birding/bird watching, forest walks, and Batwa cultural experience.

What is the best time to visit Bwindi for Gorilla trekking safari?

Bwindi National Park is open for travelers any time of the year including public holidays and weekends. The dry season is the best time of the year to consider visiting the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for mountain gorilla trekking. The dry season in Bwindi usually occurs twice a year that is from June, July, August to September then December, January to February. Around these months of the year, the forest trails remain relatively drier and less slippery. But Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an all-year-round destination meaning, there is an option of traveling even during the wet or rainy season. This period is favorable for budget or backpacker travelers. The wet or off-season months begin from March to May then October to November.

Around the wet months, the park has a higher chance of experiencing heavy rain. The gorilla habitat becomes a bit muddy, the steep slopes turn slippery and vegetation can be thick. All these pose challenges to primate trekkers on their search for a group of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

How early should you book a gorilla permit or gorilla tour in Bwindi?

While last-minute gorilla trekking is possible, it is better to book the permits and the entire gorilla trip to Bwindi early enough. The demand for the permits or this adventure itself usually rises, especially during the peak months of the year. We recommend that you book your permit or gorilla trekking safari at least 2 to 6 months before the actual planned date of visiting gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

What to pack for the Bwindi mountain gorilla trekking tour?

The list of items to carry/pack for the gorilla tour in Bwindi is endless but it is important to keep it to only essentials. The essentials to consider packing for the Bwindi mountain gorilla trekking safari include waterproof hiking boots –and these should be lightweight, a camera that is free of flashlight. You will also require long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, a safari hat, insect repellents, a first aid kit or medical kit, gardening gloves, sunglasses, snacks, enough drinking water, toiletries, a rain jacket, and a valid gorilla permit.

Where to stay in and around Bwindi during the gorilla trip?

All four main gorilla trekking regions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have accommodation for visitor overnight stays. These consist of budget, midrange, and luxury options. The popular places to consider for overnight stays on gorilla safaris in Bwindi include Buhoma Lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs Lodge, and Chameleon Hill Lodge. Other lodges include Bwindi Trekkers Tavern Cottages, Gorilla Heights, Buhoma Community Haven Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Agandi Lodge, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Silverback Lodge, Trackers Safari Lodge, Bwindi Nshongi Camp and Wagtail Eco-Safari Lodge. You can also reserve a place for overnight stay in Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Mist Camp, Broadbill Forest Camp, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort, Ride 4 a Woman, etc.

How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?

Uganda Flying Safaris

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be reached either by road or air. Traveling to Bwindi by road can take you between 8 and 9 hours. This may vary depending on the road conditions. From Kigali, expect to take about 4 to 5 hours on the road and your journey covers border crossing via Katuna or Chanika.

Within Uganda, there is also an alternative of setting off from Kisoro/Kabale in the Southwestern part to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. From Lake Mburo National Park, you can connect up to Bwindi within a 6-7 hour drive.

Even if you are in Kibale National Park, you can easily connect up to Bwindi and this means, you can have a combined chimp and gorilla trekking adventure. It is possible to travel from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi which is about 5 to 6 hours drive.

Accessing Bwindi by Air

Flights to Bwindi can begin from Entebbe International Airport or Kajansi Airstrip. You will land at Kisoro or Kihihi Airstrip. From these two airstrips, visitors can take a shorter period to connect up to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for a safari.

Conclusively, Bwindi gorilla trekking involves exploring more about the rare mountain gorillas in the wild. It is a budget-friendly primate experience and a lifetime adventure worth considering on your bucket list of adventures in Africa. Talk to our experts to plan and book the most memorable gorilla safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

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