It's a deeply primal experience to sit on the African jungle's leafy floor and experience a family of critically endangered mountain gorillas. Only around 1000 mountain gorilla still survive with almost all of them living within three heavily protected national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and on the slopes of mountains in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. If you're thinking of doing a gorilla trek in Uganda or Rwanda, here's a few things you need to know:
Rwanda vs Uganda for gorilla trekking?
In terms of the gorilla trekking experience, Rwanda is an easier trek and the accommodation is more luxurious. However this comes at a price - the gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda are currently US$1,500 per person. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a more difficult climb since gorillas are found higher up in the mountains, however the permits are much more affordable at US$600 per person (or US$350 in low season). If you want to prolong your gorilla trekking experience, consider Uganda as you can trek to the gorilla's twice for the price of one day in Rwanda.
Best time to go gorilla trekking?
The best time to go gorilla trekking would be from December to February and June to September, when the weather is mostly dry. It is important to remember that temperatures drop in higher altitude areas and that rain is typical even in the dry season since you will be in a rain-forest. Our top tip would be to consider going during the short rains from December to February, as typically the Gorilla families can be found lower down in the mountains.
What is the price of gorilla trekking?
Gorilla permits are currently US$1,500 per person in Rwanda and US$600 per person (or US$350 in low season) in Uganda (subject to change). It is important to understand that gorilla tracking permits are limited in number. A maximum number of tickets are sold per day on a first come first served basis and they sell fast.
What to wear when gorilla trekking?
It is advised that gorilla trekkers wear sturdy, waterproof walking shoes/hiking boots. A light raincoat is also advised since the weather can be interchangeable in rain-forests where gorillas are found. We recommend long, thick trousers and a long sleeved top to protect against stinging nettles. A good pair of thick gloves (gardening gloves) can also be helpful when grabbing for stability in the thorny vegetation. We also recommend wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun and/or the rain.
Where to stay for gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
Rwanda is a country of contrasts where you will lose yourself in a world of towering mountains, rainforests and unique wildlife. It is also very safe and clean. For gorilla trekking in Rwanda, it's best to stay near Volcanoes National Park.
One of our recommended lodges in Volcanoes National Park to trek from is the iconic Bisate Lodge. Situated in Afro-alpine forests near to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, Bisate Lodge offers ultra-luxury accommodation and service as well as spectacular views of the volcanic peaks of Bisoke, Karisimbi and Mikeno. The lodge provides easy access to the park for gorilla trekking with a strong conservation and community focus.
Singita Kwitonda Lodge
A luxury offering in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, Singita Kwitonda has spectacular views of the Gahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhabura volcanoes and is surrounded by high-altitude forests. The lodge was designed in response to this remarkable location where guests can expect exceptional natural beauty, environmentally conscious luxury and transformative, purpose-driven experiences. Singita Kwitonda Lodge is a short drive to the Volcanoes National Park headquarters for the transformative experience of coming face to face with the rare mountain gorilla.
Where to stay for gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Scenery in Uganda is jaw dropping from lush, green forests, to snow-capped mountains, crater lakes and savannah grasslands but the real draw card is the wildlife - the star of the show being the primates. For gorilla trekking in Uganda, it's best to stay near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp
One of our recommended lodges in Bwindi to trek from is Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. This camp is found nestled deep within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which in itself impresses with a truly theatrical landscape - volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. With an ideal location close to the starting point for the gorilla trekking experience place, this camp is one of the most remote and atmospheric in Africa - certainly the most luxurious choice on offer in the park. Due to its unique location, it's not unusual for the gorilla families to visit the camp itself!
Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge
Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge is an eco-lodge which offers first class food, service and hospitality as well as spectacular views of the primal Bwindi forest. Whether you are in the forest itself or sitting on the terrace relishing the sight of primates playing in the lush canopy you will find it impossible to be anything short of amazed by the forest's overwhelming beauty. It is the perfect place from which to track gorillas, which have been known to sleep at the lodge.
How difficult is gorilla trekking?
The gorillas live at a high altitude and the actual process of tracking involves walking long distances through thick vegetation, up steep, wet and muddy terrain. This means it could prove difficult for some people, however if you pace yourself and walk slowly no able-bodied person should really be deterred from making the trip. We recommend paying for a porter who will carry your bag and camera equipment while you are trekking - this can make the trek a lot more manageable