Gorilla trekking is a very captivating activity. Every year hundreds of visitors visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national to visit the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat – an activity referred to as gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking.
Gorilla tourism was introduced in Bwindi Impenetrable National park in 1993 and the Mubare gorilla group was the first habituated family for gorilla watching to tourists in April 1993. Currently there are 18 habituated gorilla groups habituated for tourism, and one group for research. These groups are distributed over four sectors that are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
From the middle of the 1990s, Bwindi has been the number-one place to go gorilla tracking in Africa attracting all kinds of tourists including the celebrities like the world’s richest people like Bill Gates, Singer Akon, and more. The popularity and reputation of the park suffered a little setback after the murder of eight tourists in March 1999 by the Interahamwe rebels from Rwanda, but the government of Uganda swung in to beef the security along its borders. Today Bwindi is the most safe destination in the world for gorilla trekking.
Are Day Trips Possible?
Uganda is one of the 3 East African countries that boast of having the mountain gorillas a feat that it shares with Rwanda and Congo. Mountain gorillas in Uganda are found and trekked from the great Bwindi impenetrable forest which lies in the western part of the country a whopping 560 km. So truth be told no one can drive this distance and go gorilla trekking in a single day. So a one day gorilla trekking in Bwindi only caters for people living around this forest in areas of Kisoro, Kabale or Kihihi especially volunteers.
Requirements for Gorilla Trekking
For one to go gorilla trekking, must first of all have a gorilla trekking permit attained from Uganda wildlife authority situated in Kampala at only $ 600 USD in high season and $ 350 USD in low season. So if at all one wants to go gorilla trekking on a self-drive vacation already equipped with your permit and having already a hired car from one of the local car rental agencies.
A gorilla trek in Bwindi requires good prior planning. From the physical fitness levels of the trekker to proper planning of a gorilla safari, one needs to plan early enough in order to have a successful adventure through the impenetrable forest. Remember a gorilla trek involves walking in the wilderness, climbing up hills and sloping in search of these great apes that live high in the mountains.
Planning a Gorilla Trek in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable Forest can be a challenging activity, therefore ensure a considerable degree of physical fitness. Eight people are permitted to visit one gorilla family per day. There are twelve habituated gorilla groups available for viewing by tourists within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and one gorilla group for research.
The gorilla family you are to trek is indicated on your gorilla permit and thus will automatically determine the section of the park where you will be residing. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four sections located within the southern and the northern side of the park
If you are going to trek one of the following gorilla families of Nkuringo gorilla family on Nkuringo Side, Nshongi, Kahungye, Mishaya, Bweza, Busingye gorilla groups in Rushaga gorillas. All these families are found in the southern section of the park so you are expected to be residing in the towns of Kabale or Kisoro and if at all you are going to trek one of the gorilla families of Rushegura Gorilla Group, Habinyanja and Mubare gorilla families. Other gorilla families that can be trekked from Buhoma include Oruzogo and Bitukura,you need to be residing in the northern part of the park in areas around Kihihi or Butogota.
So on your trekking day irrespective of where you stayed, you will rise up very early in the morning and have your breakfast. Then armed with your packed lunch at exactly 6:00am you will drive your hired vehicle for a distance of over 50 km to the park headquarters for briefing and allocation of gorilla families. From here you will enter into the forest with the guides who will lead you in the search for these gentle apes beginning from where they were left the previous day.
The time you will spend in the forest will depend on how fast or how long you will take to find these primates. After finding these primates, you will be given one hour amidst them as you take your best shots of photographs with your flash switched off. After finding this search totally full of this life time experience, you will go back to the park headquarters for your gorilla trekking certificate.
By now you will be totally exhausted and it will be already evening whereby you will just have to drive back to your place and this will mark this one day gorilla trekking experience.
Read about gorilla trekking in Bwindi
- Bwindi Gorillas
- Habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Forest
- Gorilla Permits – How to Secure Your Gorilla Pass
- When to Go Gorilla Trekking
- Where to stay on a gorilla trek