Can I trek gorillas twice in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Can I trek gorillas twice in Bwindi’s impenetrable National Park? Gorilla trekking happens in two East African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorilla trekking experience is an expensive safari, and this is because of the high cost of the gorilla trekking permit. Gorilla trekking permits are documents or cards given to tourists to gain access to the Mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The Uganda Wildlife Authority issues the permit in Uganda, and can be bought directly from UWA using their website or through a tour operator.
Most Popular Safaris
Can I trek gorillas twice in Bwindi? It is a frequently asked question, and the answer depends on a few circumstances. The next question is, ‘
Can I trek gorillas twice a day using my permit?’
The answer is yes; you can use a different gorilla permit to trek gorillas twice a day in Bwindi. The moment you are through with spending an hour with the gorillas and trekking through the rainforest, the gorilla permit automatically becomes invalid. Remember that the purchased gorilla permit only gives you access to one gorilla family, and you cannot use it to trek another family.
There are, however, circumstances where tourists can trek gorillas twice on the same day or use the same permit, and this can only happen when you fail to see the gorillas, although it is a rare occurrence. For example, suppose you go for your trek in the morning and need help seeing the assigned gorilla family due to the abrupt movements of the group. In that case, you will be given another chance to use the same permit to trek with the family on the same day, and after seeing them, the permit becomes invalid.
The only way to see or trek Bwindi’s impenetrable National Park gorillas twice is by booking gorilla permits on different days to enable you to trek them twice. By doing this, you will have formal permission to do so. On these two occasions, you may trek different gorilla families or even choose a different gorilla region since there are four trekking regions: Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo, and Rushaga.
A gorilla permit in Bwindi: The cost of a gorilla permit depends on the category you belong to, for example, foreign residents, non-residents, and East African citizens. Note that when a gorilla permit is printed, it can only work for a day. The cost of the gorilla permit is as stated below, and in case of any changes, there will be an official communication from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
East African citizens 250, 000UGX
Foreign non-residents 700 USD
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a rainforest located in the southwest part of Uganda and a top tourist attraction in the country with half the remaining gorillas in the world. The national park has become a popular destination due to gorilla trekking, and the only other places where gorilla trekking can be carried out are Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bwindi is a 9 to 10-hour drive from Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, and an hour and a half with chartered flights from Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe International Airport.
Double gorilla trekking in Bwindi
Double trekking (trekking twice) is when tourists can visit and trek the gorillas more than once on their safaris. Interest in double trekking has been on the rise for some time now, and we always tell our clients who would wish to double trek to increase their safari. Double trekking lets you see the different gorilla families within the National Park, giving you maximum time with the mountain gorillas. Trekking gorillas twice is fun and easy, but if you plan on doing it, you must secure two separate gorilla permits because a permit only allows you to trek gorillas twice.
Activities carried out in Bwindi
Several safari activities are carried out in Bwindi, and these include the following:
Gorilla trekking: This is the top participation activity that is carried out in Bwindi. Gorilla trekking is where a group of people hike through the rainforest in search of the Mountain gorillas that can only be trekked in their natural habitat. Bwindi is divided into four sections: Nkuringo, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Buhoma, and each of these has gorilla families that are trekked daily throughout the year. Gorilla trekking can be carried out during both the wet and dry seasons. However, the best time is during the dry season when the gorillas can easily be trekked due to the passable trek routes, unlike the wet season when they are muddy. Gorilla trekking can take between 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the gorilla family and its movement that you have been assigned to.
When assigning permits to individuals, the trekking sector and family are considered, and even though earlier on, tourists could choose the gorilla family that they wanted to trek, this is not the case at the moment because, at the moment, tourists are assigned gorilla families that are available for trekking. The different gorilla families that are available for trekking in Bwindi include:
The Rushaga sector is located in the southern part of Bwindi and has the highest number of gorilla families. This is the only sector where the gorilla habituation process is carried out, and the gorilla families that are available in Rushaga include:
- The Mishaya gorilla family.
- Rwiigi gorilla family.
- Kahungye gorilla family.
- Nshongi gorilla family.
- Busingye gorilla family.
- Bweza gorilla family.
- Mucunguzi gorilla family.
The Ruhija sector is located in the eastern part of Bwindi and can easily be accessed from Kabale and Buhoma. Ruhija has 3 habituated gorilla families which. The Kyaguriro gorilla family was reserved for research. You need first to seek permission from the Uganda Wildlife Authority to trek Kyaguriro, and instead of 8 people, a maximum of 6 people is allowed to trek the Kyaguriro family. The other two families found in Ruhija include the Bitukura gorilla family and the Oruzongo gorilla family.
The Nkuringo sector is located in southern Bwindi and was the 2nd sector established in the national park. Nkuringo has three gorilla family groups open for trekking: the Nkuringo Gorilla family, the Christmas gorilla family, and the Bushaho gorilla family. One group, the Posho gorilla family, is still under habituation.
The Buhoma sector is the most popular gorilla trek trail in Bwindi, located in the northern part of the park. It was the first trailhead that was opened after gazetting Bwindi off with 4 habituated gorilla families, including the Katwe gorilla family, Mubare gorilla family, Rushegura gorilla family, and the Habinyanja gorilla family.
Birding/Birdwatching: Bwindi has over 350 recorded bird species, both endemic and migratory. Some of the bird species to look out for while in Bwindi include Grauer’s Rush, African Green Broadbill, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Black-breasted Barbet, African wood owl, Archer’s Robin-chat, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Great Blue Turaco, Standard-winged Nightjar, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Fine-banded woodpecker, short-tailed warbler, Dwarf Honeyguide, collared Apalis, strange weaver, Green-breasted Pitta and Kivu Ground Thrush among others. The best time to go bird watching in Bwindi is during the wet season (October to November and March to May) when the migratory birds are available, although you can still bird watching during the dry season. The trails best used for bird overlooking include the bamboo, Buhoma waterfall, and Mubwindi swamp trails.
Gorilla habituation: The gorilla habituation experience is fascinating because instead of spending an hour with the primates, the habituation experience involves trekkers following researchers around as they study the gorillas. Gorilla habituation in Uganda is currently carried out in the Rushaga sector only, and a group of 4 people is allowed to trek the primates. You will need a gorilla habituation permit for $1500 per person, valid for a day. Gorillas that have undergone habituation are much easier to trek than those that have not.
Hiking: Hiking is one of the activities that is carried out in Bwindi, and there are several hike trails that you can use to explore the rainforest. Some of the nature trails used for hiking in Bwindi include the Waterfall trail, River Ivi trail, known to be the best for bird watching; Muzabajiro trail, which offers excellent views of the Virunga and western Rift Valley; Habinyanja trail, and the Bamboo Trail.
Visiting the Batwa people: The Batwa people are the locals living in the communities around the national park. Take on the Batwa trail, which is led by Batwa guides, and get to learn more about their culture, their way of life when they used to live in the forest and how they have adjusted their life outside of the forest, their hunting skills and enjoying songs and dancing from the locals. Remember to buy souvenirs from the locals and hire them as porters because this is how they earn their living and support their families.
Rules and regulations followed for gorilla trekking
- The rules to be followed while gorilla trekking are to protect the tourists and gorillas, and these include the following:
- A group of 8 people is allowed to trek the gorillas, and this is not to disrupt the gorillas with large crowds.
- Trekkers are not allowed to eat and drink when with the gorillas.
- You are to keep a distance of 7 meters between you and the gorillas.
- Avoid making noise while with the gorillas; if you want to communicate, do so in whispers.
- Dig a hole about 30 cm deep and cover it properly if you feel like using the toilet.
- Ensure you turn off the flashlight when taking photos of the gorillas.
- When approached by the gorilla, do not attempt to run; assume a submissive position and avoid looking the gorilla straight in the eye.
- Avoid putting on sunglasses, keep all the rubbish with you until you can find a proper place to dispose of it, and you are not allowed to smoke in the presence of the gorillas.
- You are not allowed to feed the gorillas. This will enable them to easily adapt and look for their food even when there is a drought in the forest since they usually feed on bamboo shoots and fruits found within the forest.
Proper planning for a gorilla trek to Bwindi involves a good packing list and some of the things you will need to pack for a gorilla trek in Bwindi include strong hike boots, sneakers, colored Long-sleeved shirts, and trousers (we advise that you avoid jeans if you can), rain jacket, day backpack, insect repellent, sunscreen, refillable water bottle, snacks (energy bars), a camera, flashlight, extra batteries and lenses, binoculars, sunhat, sweater, wet wipes, biodegradable toilet paper, thick socks, gaiters and garden gloves among others. Remember to carry personal hygiene items because they will be needed.
Getting to Bwindi National Park
You can drive or fly to Bwindi; either mode of transportation will depend on the traveling budget. Driving from Kampala to Bwindi takes 9 to 10 hours, and although the journey is a long one, it is the most scenic way to get to Bwindi as you get to see numerous attractions along the way and make a pit stop at the Equator monument to take photos. Flying to Bwindi is, on the other hand, a fast but expensive way to travel. Daily charter flights can be arranged if you book earlier to make them available for your planned travel date from Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe International Airport. You can use two airstrips, Kihihi Airstrip and Kisoro Airstrip. If you book with a tour operator, a safari vehicle will be waiting for you to take you to the national park and accommodation facility.
In conclusion, even though you might feel like trekking gorillas twice in Bwindi, it might not be possible because the first step is purchasing trekking permits. Still, since they are always in high demand, it is hard to book two gorilla trekking permits under the same name. The only solution is to book the permit for another date and plan to come back to Uganda for another exciting gorilla family.
Contact us for more information about gorilla trekking in Bwindi.