Are you tired of experiencing the usual and want to explore the extraordinary? Then come to Uganda the country of extraordinary adventures. Any curious person would wonder what this extraordinary activity is, what else would it be if not the tremendous gorilla trekking experience? You cannot mention tourism in Uganda without a gorilla trekking safari being mentioned. Uganda is among the three luck countries (others are Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo) to have the fascinating mountain gorillas. These exceptionally impressive creatures are homed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park (both found in South-western Uganda).
Bwindi National Park is a home to over 400 individuals (almost half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas) while Mgahinga has about 80 individuals. There are currently 13 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda (12 in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga).Out of the 12 gorilla groups in Bwindi, 11 of them were habituated for gorilla trekking while one was set aside for research purposes. With the maximum number of 8 persons who track a gorilla group per day, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA, the wildlife governing) sells 88 permits for Bwindi National Park and only 8 permits per day for Mgahinga National Park (hence a maximum of 96 permits can be sold in Uganda on a daily basis).
Mountain gorilla groups in Uganda
The gorilla groups in Bwindi are distributed within the four sectors (Rushaga, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Ruhija). Any gorilla trekker visiting Bwindi is likely to track one of the following gorilla groups; Mishaya, Busingye, Nshongi, Kahungye and Bweza in Rushaga sector. You may also track Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura group in Buhoma sector, Nkuringo in Nkuringo sector, Oruzogo and Bitukura in Ruhija sector. Tourists who visit Mgahinga for a gorilla trekking safari can only track the Nyakagyezi gorilla group. Because the Nyakagyezi group is always mobile, most permits are sold for Bwindi National Park.
Best time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking
Several tourists would want to know the best time to go for a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda. Let me assure you that Uganda can be visited anytime for an exhilarating gorilla trekking safari much as tourists usually prefer the dry seasons (December to Early March and June to September) because the tracking conditions (especially the trails) are favorable. When you are thinking of conditions being favorable, don’t forget that Bwindi Impenetrable where these gorillas are found is a tropical rainforest where it rains anytime (whether rainy or dry season). Gorilla trekking in the rainy season is usually avoided because the rains are usually too much, trails are muddy and slippery hence sometimes ruining tourists’ memorable experience. The rainy season (usually Mid March, April, May and November) is the low season, price of gorilla permits and accommodation in some lodging facilities are discounted.
Cost of a gorilla permit
A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs only $600 for Foreign Non residents, $500 for foreign residents and Shs 250,000 for East African Residents during normal months and high seasons. During the low seasons (in April, May and November), permits are discounted to $450 for foreign non residents, $400 for foreign residents and Shs 150,000 for East African Residents.
How and where to acquire the gorilla permits
Gorilla permits can be obtained directly from UWA headquarters or indirectly you can use the services of the tour operators to obtain a gorilla permit. The Uganda Wildlife Authority Offices are located on Plot 7 Kiira road in Kamwokya, Kampala (Capital City of Uganda). You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call the office on +256 0414 355 000 and acquire your permit. To avoid the whole process, you can contact a tour and travel agent who will make things easier for you (you will only pay a commission if you are not booking an entire safari with that particular company).
What to wear and carry during gorilla trekking
This is an important element of a wonderful gorilla trekking safari. On the day of gorilla trekking, make sure you carry your gorilla trekking permit, carry a camera because you will need to take photographs, binoculars, backpack for your permit, camera and other things, carry packed lunch because you might spend the entire day in the jungle, drinking water because the process of trekking and hiking is tiresome so you will need water to quench your thirst, wear long sleeved shirt that will protect your arm from the scratching grasses and stinging nettles, wear long trousers, wear waterproof hiking boots. A hat to protect your head from the sunshine, carry a walking stick that will support you during hiking and wear garden gloved to protect your hands from thorns, sharp grasses during hiking.
Gorilla trekking guidelines
The fact that mountain gorillas are very unique and are critically endangered species, several guidelines have to be followed during tracking. These include the following; First of all gorilla trekkers have to be above the age of 15 years, do not track these creatures if you are suffering from flue or cough because they are also susceptible to these illnesses, when you encounter them maintain a distance of 7 meters way from them and avoid touching them, do not make noise and avoid unnecessary movements because it can scare them away, do not eat when in the presence of mountain gorillas, avoid dumping rubbish in the forest but instead keep them and dump in designated dumping places, avoid direst eye contact with them because they will perceive it as a sign of confrontation, and avoid using flash cameras when taking their photographs.
Accommodation within Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks
Exquisite accommodation facilities exist in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park the favorite place for gorilla watching in Uganda. For Bwindi, the accommodation facility to be booked depends on what sector you are going to track the gorillas from. Some of the prominent facilities in Bwindi include Gorilla Safari Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Chameleon Hill lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Silverback Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Mahogany Springs Camp, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, and Ruhija Gorilla Resort.
There are a few accommodation establishments around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park due to that there is only one habituated gorilla group. For this park, the cozy facilities include Mt Gahinga Safari Lodge, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, and Mutanda Lake Resort among others.
Based on the exceptional and uniqueness of gorilla trekking, it has continuously become the key tourism activity in Uganda. A face to face encounter with the mountain gorillas is a once in a lifetime adventures moment worth remembering.