Does Uganda have mountain gorillas?
Uganda has about half the total number of mountain gorillas in the world. Two national parks are home to the mountain gorillas in Uganda, say, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. In the world, only three countries are home to mountain gorillas: Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R.Congo.
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Gorilla trekking is Uganda’s foremost attraction, and visiting them is a privilege because of the restrictions surrounding them. Mountain gorillas are some of the most sought-after primates in Uganda, and every tourist must purchase a gorilla permit before visiting them. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is the gorilla permit-selling and regulating body.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda started in the 1990s with the Mubare gorilla family as the first to be habituated and opened in 1993. The other three gorilla families were habituated later: Habinyanja, Rushegura, and Nkuringo. The rest is history.
What Is a gorilla trekking permit?
The gorilla permit is a card issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority allowing a tourist to accompany a maximum of 7 other tourists to locate a fully habituated gorilla family. Gorilla trekking safari in Uganda’s age limit is 15 years and above. Gorilla trekking permits sold per gorilla family daily are limited to 8 permits for gorilla conservation reasons.
This is because of the nature of the gorilla trekking adventure, where the time of locating the mountain gorillas is still being determined. Even the topography in the gorilla trekking destinations is composed of volcanoes you may have to hike to get to the mountain gorillas.
So far, Uganda has 19 gorilla families fully habituated and open for tourism.
What is gorilla habituation?
Gorilla habituation in Uganda is getting a wild gorilla family used to the presence of humans without altering their nature. In Uganda, you can participate in a gorilla habituation safari.
Where to do gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the homes of gorilla trekking in Uganda. This park lies in the southwestern part of Uganda. Bwindi’s impenetrable national park is one of Africa’s wealthiest forests owing to its age of over 25000 years.
The mountain gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park live in areas because of the vast size of this forest. Unfortunately, in the past, it became difficult for the administration at Buhoma to monitor the entire Bwindi forest and activities.
Four administrative areas comprise Bwindi’s impenetrable national park:
- The Buhoma area
- The Ruhijah area in the east
- Nkuringo and Rushaga place in the southern Bwindi forest
The distance one has to travel early morning from one area to another is quite long, mainly to catch up with the early morning briefing that day.
Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga national park is the smallest national park in Uganda but is home to at least one gorilla family called Nyakagezi. Unfortunately, this gorilla family had a history of wandering into Rwanda, so its gorilla permits were sold on the ground ad upon availability. At the moment, this gorilla family is steadily living in Uganda, and its gorilla permits can be reserved in advance.
Only a maximum of 8 tourists are allowed to visit this gorilla family per day, so you need to book a Mgahinga gorilla permit in advance. However, since Mgahinga national park receives fewer visits, it still has its virgin appearance, and if you wish to enjoy the untouched gorilla trekking experience, this is the ideal choice.
How To Buy Uganda Gorilla Trekking Permits
You need to select a date for Uganda gorilla trekking and the number of gorilla permits.
You may use a tour operator like Encounter Africa Safaris to purchase the gorilla permits or purchase them directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority. When you enquire from us, our safari consultant has to check availability from the Uganda Wildlife Authority listing. We are an Uganda Wildlife Authority-accredited tour operator.
If available, we advise our clients to purchase their gorilla permits immediately. The demand for gorilla permits is very high, yet a limited number is released per family daily. When reserving the gorilla permits, a first come, first served basis is used.
We require you to provide some personal details like date of birth, nationality, and full name as indicated on the passport. These details are used for record purposes and setting strategies for marketing Uganda gorilla trekking adventures.
When Can I Purchase Uganda Gorilla Permits?
It is best to purchase Uganda gorilla trekking permits at least six months to a year in advance. This is because of the high demand for these permits, especially during the high season: June to September and December to January.
Last-minute purchases of gorilla permits, especially in the peak season, may disorganize the entire safari arrangement, as you need to know in which area you are to be allocated. You must know where your gorilla permit is reserved before you can pre-book accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Are Uganda Gorilla Trekking Permits Purchased In Instalment?
Yes, Uganda allows paying for gorilla permit installments as long as you remember to top up 90 days before the day of gorilla trekking. Uganda gorilla permits can be purchased at 30% of the total cost and 70% of the total cost.
Paying for gorilla trekking in installments is allowed when you purchase the permit at least 90 days before the trekking date. You must remember to top up 90 days before the trekking date or lose the paid percentage.
Can I Get A Refund For A Uganda Gorilla Permit?
A no-show on the gorilla trekking day gets no refund, especially if you do not report the matter before the gorilla trekking date. The gorilla permit card is only valid till the date for which it is booked.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has a refund policy, followed in case a refund is given for a gorilla permit. However, your patience is required, too, because of the bureaucracy you go through to get this refund.
How Can I Reschedule Uganda Gorilla Permits?
Rescheduling Uganda gorilla trekking permits are allowed if you follow the necessary guidelines. However, follow the procedure below when rescheduling the Uganda gorilla trekking tickets.
You must write to Uganda Wildlife Authority about the reason for not attending gorilla trekking on the booked date. Attach evidence as backup to support your request to reschedule your gorilla trekking permit.
If you get a positive response, our safari consultant will recheck availability from Uganda Wildlife Authority for the date you wish to reschedule. Uganda offers two chances of gorilla permit rescheduling, but the third time calls for a surcharge of about 25% of the total cost.
If there are discounted gorilla permits that Uganda Wildlife Authority has offered when rescheduling, you have to do this within the period given for discounted gorilla permits. If you wish to reschedule to a period after the gorilla permit discount, you must top up according to the prevailing gorilla permit price.
How Long Is Gorilla Trekking Safari In Uganda?
The time to do gorilla trekking in Uganda is still being determined because of their free movement in the wilderness. Mountain gorillas live in a vast wilderness, searching for their food. From the starting point of gorilla trekking, locating the mountain gorillas may take about 2 hours or about three-quarters of the day.
Locating the mountain gorillas depends on where their feeding area is. Mountain gorillas spend some time in a particular feeding area but relocate when food is exhausted. Tracing the gorilla way about may be one of the challenges you face in the forest during gorilla trekking.
In case of a fight amongst the mountain gorillas and the family splits, tracing where the remaining family members may have relocated may take some time.
Some patience is necessary to complete gorilla trekking, and some fitness is necessary to succeed.
How Difficult Is Gorilla Trekking Adventure In Uganda?
The topography of the gorilla trekking area is generally volcanic, so expect to hike slopes and ridges sometimes to get to the mountain gorillas.
After the briefing, you follow the trails leading to where the mountain gorilla family you are located. It was seen the previous day. The mountain gorillas rarely feed far from their last location.
The vegetation of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga national park has been tangled over many years. Sometimes you must walk below creepers to get to where the mountain gorillas may spend the day. The ranger guides usually use machetes to create a way for you during gorilla trekking.
Wearing the right gorilla trekking gear, especially safari boots, protects you from sliding back when hiking slippery slopes.
Is gorilla trekking in Uganda safe?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is safe because the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers are vigilant in maintaining peace and harmony around Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks. In addition, the other Uganda security agencies are in place to keep law and order within and out of Uganda gorilla trekking destinations.
Personal security is necessary for you to enjoy the entire gorilla trekking experience. Unfortunately, only some people in this area are trustworthy, so be very careful with the people you deal with during gorilla trekking.
Every activity in Bwindi forest or Mgahinga forest requires you to have an escorting ranger, so never enter the woods alone. Although some gorilla families are habituated to human presence, other forest dwellers are still wild, so be careful while trekking.
Mountain gorillas are habituated to their wild nature and adapt to the presence of humans without changing their nature. This process takes about two years to more, so it is safe to stand at a distance from the mountain gorillas but follow the rules of gorilla trekking.
What Are The Rules Of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
- Avoid touching the mountain gorillas when you locate them. Although they are habituated, they still possess wild traits.
- Keep your voice low when searching for mountain gorillas. They are easily scared of unfamiliar noise in their presence, which may push them into hiding.
- When you trace the mountain gorillas, keep a distance of about 8 meters from them. This reduces the chances of passing an infection to the already vulnerable mountain gorillas.
- Spitting on the vegetation is forbidden, as this is food for the mountain gorillas. You may pass germs that may lead to there massive death.
- Gorilla trekking age limit is 15 years and above because of the nature of the forest where mountain gorillas live.
- Using flash photography during gorilla trekking is forbidden because unfamiliar light in the presence of the mountain gorillas may push them into hiding.
- Volunteer to stay behind if you catch a communicable infection like coronavirus, cough, or flu because this may lead to the massive death of the mountain gorillas.
- Keep in a tight group when you locate the mountain gorillas so they do not feed ambushed by your presence.
- When you wish to eat or smoke, do this at least 200 meters from the mountain gorillas to prevent chances of the gorillas grabbing eats from you. Wild animals must search for their own food and not depend on human provision.
- Only one hour is allowed with the mountain gorillas when you locate them. This is because they are habituated to be in front of humans for just that time.
- Provoking the mountain gorillas is forbidden because you may agitate the gorilla family and push them into hiding.
What To Pack For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda
- Safari boots
- A camera
- A pair of binoculars.
- a sweater or warmers
- water proof backpack
- Insect repellant
- Bug spray
- Garden gloves
- Shoe bag
- Duffel bag
- Extra fully charged batteries
- Safari long-sleeved shirt and trousers
- Extra clothes
- Travel adapter and charger
- Sweater, poncho, or fleece
- Rainproof gears
- Flip flops
- First aid kit
- Some hard cash
- Travel documents
- Journal or notebook
Contact us for more information if you are interested in gorilla trekking or habituation.