Fairend Safaris

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an extraordinary adventure that offers a rare opportunity to encounter endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Bwindi is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Additionally, Uganda is home to the most closely monitored community of gorillas which can be trekked in two parks. Travelers obtain trekking permits before they can engage in gorilla trekking, a permit is issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

How gorilla trekking is carried out

Gorilla trekking begins very early in the morning, and tourists are first briefed at the park headquarters. They are given rules and regulations about the trekking exercise. After the briefing, tourists are grouped into 8 and assigned a gorilla family to trek. There are 21 habituated gorilla families in Bwindi which are available for trekking. Each family is trekked once per day by a group of 8 people including the park’s ranger or guide.

Trekkers hike through the dense forest guided by experienced trackers and immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of this ancient ecosystem. Once travelers locate a gorilla family, they have an hour to observe the gorillas up close. They witness their social interactions and learn about their behaviors from knowledgeable guides. After spending one hour with gorillas, tourists trek back to the headquarters and are awarded certificates of participation.

Cost of gorilla trekking permits

Gorilla trekking permits cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and Ugx 250,000 for East African residents. The permits can be obtained directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority offices alternatively; travelers can obtain them through a travel company in Uganda. Besides, gorilla permits are competitive, therefore tourists should obtain permits at least 3 to 4 months before the activity.

      Getting to Bwindi Park

Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park involves a combination of both road and air travel, depending on your starting point.  The park can be accessed by air through Kajjansi/Entebbe or by road from Kampala. There are domestic flights to either Kihihi or Kisoro airstrips, which are the closest airstrips to Bwindi. Upon arrival, you take a short drive to the park. Alternatively, travelers can use road transport which takes about 8 to 10 hours. However, it is more rewarding since they get to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the countryside.

Gorilla trekking sectors in Bwindi Forest

Buhoma Sector

Buhoma sector is located in the northern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Moreover, it has the oldest trailhead in Uganda. It is where the park national park headquarters of Bwindi are located. This sector has 4 habituated gorilla families namely Mubare gorilla family which was the first family to be habituated in 1991 and was ready for trekking in 1993, Habinyanja gorilla family, Rushegura gorilla family, and Katwe gorilla family. Buhoma has a favorable terrain and is easily accessible from Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Nkuringo sector

Nkuringo sector is located in the southern part of the park and was established in 2004. It is the second most popular sector after buhoma. It hosts about 2 habituated gorilla families namely Nkuringo and Bushasho with one crossing from Rushaga sector to Nkuringo Sector. This sector is at a higher altitude therefore it is recommended for young and physically fit tourists.  Certainly, travelers visiting this sector can have a cultural encounter experience of Batwa after trekking the gorillas.

Ruhija Sector

Ruhija sector is located in the Eastern part of Bwindi Forest National Park standing at an altitude of 2,350 metres. Thus, it is the coldest area of Bwindi forest, close to Buhoma sector and a great sector to trek gorillas if interested in visiting Lake Bunyonyi. This sector hosts 4 gorilla families namely Bitukura, Mukiza, Kyaguliro, and Oruzogo. Additionally, Ruhija sector hosts forest elephant, antelopes, and monkeys which travelers can encounter during gorilla trekking.

Rushaga Sector  

Rushaga sector is situated in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It neighbors Nkuringo sector and hosts 8 habituated gorilla families. These include Kutu, Mucunguzi, Mishaya, Busingye, Bikingi, Kahungye, Bweza and Shongi. This sector is mainly known for research and for travelers interested in gorilla habituation experience this is the only place to get the experience.

The best time to go for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is possible throughout the year however the best time is during dry seasons. Rainy seasons make the trekking trails slippery and muddy making it difficult for the travelers to navigate to the deeper parts of the forests where gorillas can be found. The best months to trek gorillas are June, July, August and September. Additionally, the other months are December, January and February during these months there is little or no rainfall with in the park.    

Rules and regulations for gorilla trekking

  1. All travelers must acquire a permit before engaging in gorilla trekking. These permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, they are very limited and must be acquired 3 or 4 months prior.
  2. Trekking groups are typically limited to a size of 8 individuals to minimize disturbance to the gorillas and their habitat.
  3. Trekkers must maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters from the gorillas to minimize the risk of disease transmission and to respect the gorillas’ space.
  4. It’s mandatory to be accompanied by experienced guides and trackers during the trek. These guides are familiar with the gorillas’ behavior and the terrain, and they ensure the safety of both visitors and gorillas.
  5. During the trek and the time spent observing the gorillas, visitors should speak softly, and avoid sudden movements.
  6. Visitors are allowed to spend only one hour with gorilla groups to prevent overexposure and reduce stress on the gorillas.
  7. Flash photography is strictly prohibited as it can startle the gorillas and cause unnecessary stress.
  8. Visitors who are ill, particularly with any contagious illness, are generally not allowed to participate in gorilla trekking to prevent the risk of disease transmission to the gorillas.
  9. Trekkers are expected to follow the principles of Leave No Trace, ensuring that no litter or waste is left behind and that the environment is respected and preserved.