Planning or booking a gorilla safari to Uganda needs diligence as it is one of the most expensive venture when it comes to tourist activities in Africa. Today we look at 10 things to consider before booking a gorilla safari to Uganda to see the rare and elusive mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National Park.
Where are mountain gorillas in Uganda
One thing to consider before booking a gorilla safari to Uganda is to first establish where these mountain gorillas are. You need to know the national parks that have mountain gorillas to make sure that you make the right choice. There two national parks in Uganda where mountain gorillas live in the wild. These national parks include Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable National Park all located in southwestern Uganda.
Tell me more about Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is one of the two national parks in Uganda which is home to the rare mountain gorillas. Mgahinga lies in the Virunga ranges shared by three countries of DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. There is only one mountain gorilla family called Nyakagezi with about 14 members. Nyakagezi gorilla family keeps loaming in the hills and bamboo of Mgahinga National Park. Sometimes this family moves to DR Congo or Rwanda and if that happens, the respective governments take charge if its trekking.
Tell me more about Bwindi impenetrable National Park
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda and it is not shared with any country. Just as its name, Bwindi is a tropical and dense natural forest where over 450 mountain gorillas live in their natural habitats. According to mountain gorilla census conducted in 2018, it was established that Bwindi impenetrable National Park alone has 50 mountain gorilla families of which 19 are habituated for gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience.
Gorilla trekking regions of Bwindi impenetrable National Park
Before booking a gorilla safari to Bwindi impenetrable National Park, you need to know the different gorilla trekking region in Bwindi for you to plan and know the characteristics of each. Bwindi impenetrable National Park has 4 gorilla trekking regions where one can book gorilla permits to see mountain gorillas. Buhoma is in the north, Ruhija in the east, Nkuringo and Rushaga are located in the south.
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is shared by three southwestern districts of Uganda. Buhoma region lies in Kanungu District, Ruhija in Rubanda District while Nkuringo and Rushaga are located in Kisoro district.
Each of the four regions has its own gorilla families meaning that if you buy gorilla permits for Ruhija, you will trek mountain gorillas in the eastern part of Bwindi since ruhija is located in the eastern part of Bwindi impenetrable National Park in the district of Rubanda.
Where to book Gorilla permits to see gorillas in Uganda
One most important thing to consider before booking gorillas safaris to Uganda is a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit grants you permission to see mountain gorillas for one hour in Bwindi impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga. Uganda gorilla permits are controlled and issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority. Uganda Wildlife Authority is a semi-autonomous body in charge of all National Parks in Uganda. It has its headquarters in Uganda where reservations of gorilla permits takes place. Whether considering to book your gorilla permit directly or through a tour operator, its UWA that you will contact.
Booking your gorilla permit through Encounter Africa safaris
Encounter Africa safaris is one of the most trusted tour operators offering Uganda gorilla safaris to Bwindi impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. We book gorilla permits on behalf of our clients who book all inclusive safaris to see gorillas in the two mentioned national parks in Uganda.
At the time of expressing interest to trek gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park, we will need you to send us dates when you intend to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking. Its from these dates that we will contact Uganda Wildlife Authority about the available gorilla permits on that date. Encounter Africa safaris has access to UWA online reservations system and if on, we will directly check. We are able to hold or reserve your gorilla permit on the system for 2-3 days as we wait for you to make payment. Once payment is made, we will pay and pick your gorilla permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
How are gorilla permits allocated in Uganda?
Gorilla permits in Uganda are allocated depending on the regions in case of Bwindi impenetrable National park. You buy a gorilla permit of a given region. You can only know this at the time of booking. Uganda Wildlife Authority will show you permits available in each region and it’s up to you to choose a region where you will book gorilla permits. Once the region is known, it means that one can research more on gorilla families located in that region so that on the day of gorilla trekking, he/she is able to request for a gorilla family of his/her choice. You can know the region on booking but you can only be assigned a gorilla family on the day of trekking. For more information, please contact us.
When should I book my gorilla permit to see gorillas in Bwindi or Mgahinga
As earlier noted, gorilla trekking is one of the most competitive tourist activity in Africa and gorilla permits tend to sell out quickly most especially during peak seasons of June, July, August, September, December, January and February of each year. Because of this, we encourage our clients to book their gorilla permits in advance so that they don’t lose out. Gorilla permits can be booked 4-5 months or even a year in advance. Please contact Encounter Africa safaris for details on how to book your gorilla permit in Advance.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga
Another important thing to consider before booking a gorilla safari to Uganda is how to get to one of the two national parks that has mountain gorillas in Uganda. If you don’t stay in Uganda, you have two options of landing in Entebbe or Kigali international Airports and then find your way to Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga National Park.
Getting to Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park from Entebbe
Entebbe international Airport is the main entry point to Uganda and from here, one can decide to drive 8-10 hours to Bwindi impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park. If you choose to drive be assured that you will see a lot en route including royal drum makers, long horned cattle keepers, communities, pineapple gardens, rolling hills and plateau, banana plantations and small towns located en route. You may choose to fly from Entebbe International Airport to Bwindi impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga. Those flying to Mgahinga National Park or southern part of Bwindi, you will land in Kisoro Airstrip while those going to the northern part of Bwindi, Kihihi will be the airstrip where you will land. From Kihihi or Kisoro Airstrip, you will be transferred by road to your lodge. Most transfers are likely to take 45 to one hour. Encounter Africa safaris organizes both road trips and Flying safaris to Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga National Park. Please contact us and we will advise accordingly.
From Kigali to Bwindi impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga
You may choose to fly to Kigali International Airport and then drive to Bwindi impenetrable National Park and or Mgahinga National Park located in Uganda. The drive time from Kigali to Bwindi and Mgahinga is about 4-5 hours with about 30 minutes spent at the border between Uganda and Rwanda. Rwanda and Kigali are much closer to Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park than it is with Entebbe. The only thing is that those flying in from Kigali will have to cross from one country to another hence to visas will be required. The good thing is that with one East African tourist visa, one is able to visit any of the three countries of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda without hassle. You may choose to enter Ugand via Katuna border or Kyanika depending on the region you will be trekking gorillas. Encounter Africa safaris operates reasonably priced Uganda gorilla safaris from Kigali International Airport. We have some packages listed on our website but we can tailor your safari to suite your interest as well as budget. Find out more by contacting us.
Determining where to stay while in Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park.
When booking gorilla permits, you book them depending on regions. Once the region is known, then you will select the kind of lodge in that particular region. For example if you book gorilla permits to trek in Buhoma, you will have to look around buhoma for your overnight accommodation. Encounter Africa safaris works with different lodges in each region of Bwindi and we are in position to advise the best budget, standard and Luxury lodges for your safari. You can also book our Budget or Luxury safaris listed on your website.
Choose a Tour Operator to handle all bookings on your behalf.
Uganda and Rwanda have many tour operators who can organize a gorilla safari to Bwindi impenetrable national Park and Mgahinga National Park. Recognized tour operators in Uganda are listed on AUTO website and you too can do research online to get the best. Encounter Africa safaris one company you can trust to handle all your bookings. We are full members of AUTO (Association of Uganda tour operators), registered and licensed by Uganda Tourism Boar (UTB), we are highly recommended on trip advisor and safari bookings. We employ a team of young and professional office and field staff passionate about what they do. Feel free to contact us for a memorable safari encounters.