Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park brings travellers from far and wide. It is one of the most sought after tourist activity in Africa that travellers place it at most times as the climax of their African safari. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a very thrilling gorilla activity that involves trekkers hiking deep into the jungle of Bwindi Forest in search of the giant yet gentle mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are an endangered ape specie that can only be found in three countries in the world, that is Mgahinga Gorilla National in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo that make part of the Virunga Massif area, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda still. With about 1063 mountain gorillas still left in the world, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park alone inhabits more than half the total gorilla population.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the south-western region of Uganda covering districts of Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro. This verdant rainforest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was recognised for its biodiversity and the mountain gorillas that inhabit it. Gazetted as a national park in 1991, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park did not begin immediately but a little later on. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is made possible due to the availability of currently 19 habituated gorilla families that travellers can visit per day per a group of 8 persons.
Mubare gorilla family was the very first to be fully habituated and made available for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The rest of the gorilla families that include Rushegura, Habinyanja, and Katwe in the Buhoma gorilla sector, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Kyaguliro in Ruhija gorilla sector, Nkuringo, Christmas and Bushao in Nkuringo gorilla sector, Nshongi, Mishaya, Bweza, Kahungye, Bikyingi, Kutu, Mucunguzi and Busingye in Rushaga gorilla sector all kept adding on over the years. Gorilla families have members that range from 7-25 with each having a dominant silverback that is the head of the family. These gorilla families are in the four gorilla sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park say Buhoma in the north, Ruhija in the east and Rushaga and Nkuringo gorilla sectors in the southern parts of the park. While in the southern parts of the park, one can have a gorilla habituation experience where they can spend more time with the gorillas.
To take part in a gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park adventure, travellers are required to first purchase gorilla trekking permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority reservations offices in Kampala, or through very trusted and reputable tour operators. Due to the fact that many travellers look forward and are interested in gorilla trekking in Bwindi, travellers intending to undertake a gorilla safari in Bwindi are advised to book way in advance so as to secure one’s gorilla permit. A gorilla permit in Uganda costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and ugx250,000 for East African citizens. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi allows only 8 trekkers per gorilla group per day, implying that very few can take part in gorilla trekking per day. To secure one’s preferred gorilla trekking dates and gorilla sector, booking at least 4 months in advance would pay off.
For a successful gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park safari experience, travelers are advised to pack essential trekking gear that include;
- Comfortable hiking boots with a strong grip and preferably waterproof to keep your feet dry when you do step in water puddles, mud, crossing small rivers or when it rains
- Long safari pants
- Long-sleeved shirts to ward off insects and reactive plants
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof backpacks to safeguard your important items like cameras, phones, etc.
- Garden gloves
- Insect repellent creams
- Sunscreen, a hat, sun glasses
- Energy giving snacks
The above list is essential for any traveller who would like to take the best memories back after a gorilla trekking in Bwindi experience. Hiking sticks can be got from the park headquarters before the start of the safari or at the lodge of stay. Water is a must carry too.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park starts very early in the morning with a briefing by the park officials in the park headquarters. The park officials also give the trekkers rules and guidelines to follow while on a gorilla trek in Bwindi. Travellers are then placed in groups of 8 and allocated a gorilla family to trek. Gorilla family allocation is based on one’s physical abilities as well as preferences, sometimes. After this, at about 8am, trekkers in the company of rangers embark on the search of the mountain gorillas. They can find the gorillas doing different activities that range from playing by the juveniles, feeding, to napping. Trekkers are allowed only one hour with the gorillas, and they can take pictures and make videos for keeps if they will to. After the trek, which ranges from 30 minutes to 6 hours or more depending on the terrain and the location of the gorillas, trekkers are awarded with a gorilla certificate.
Below are some of the rules and guidelines that travellers are advised to follow by park rangers during the brief;
- Do not visit gorillas if you are sick
- Gorilla trekking is for persons that are 15 years and above
- Maintain a 7-meter distance from the gorillas
- Do not use flash cameras when taking pictures of the gorillas. This startles them and can become aggressive as they feel threatened
- Do not look straight in the eyes of the gorillas
- Stay calm and do not sprint if attacked by a gorilla.
- Always follow the instructions of the rangers
- Do not litter the forest, leave it as was found
- Do not touch the gorillas
- Do not at any time stray away from your group, you just might get lost in the jungle
- Do not eat or drink near the gorillas.
- Do not make noise while in the forest. If need to talk arises, whisper.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can take place all throughout the year. It is during the dry months of June to September and December to February that travellers are most advised to do gorilla trekking in Bwindi as the paths are more passable and the roads less slippery. The rest of the months are considered wet but it should be noted that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a rainforest and rains fall at any time of the day. Carrying warm clothes is advisable.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be accessed by both road and air. By road, it can take up to 9 hours from Entebbe to the park via Masaka- Mbarara-Ntungamo. The road drive is rewarding with scenic sites and communities of locals and children going and returning from school. By air, it takes a shorter time though quite costly. Charter flights by Aerolink and Air Uganda are available from Entebbe or Kampala, booking in advance is required. Alternatively, travellers can fly directly into Kigali International Airport and then transfer to Bwindi via the Cyanika or Katuna border in a 3 hours’ road drive.
The park has comfortable accommodation facilities of all travellers’ budget and preference. Luxury, mid-range and budget/basic lodge options are all available. Be sure to first secure your gorilla permit before you book your accommodation. The gorilla sector you get a gorilla permit for will determine your accommodation location as well.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has other tourist activities that travellers can take part in while gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. nature walks, bird watching, community visits, Batwa cultural experience among others can all be incorporated on one’s gorilla safari in Bwindi. Travellers can also have game viewing safaris in the nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park, or have a gorilla safari to climax your African safari. Get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you put together the best gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park safari.