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All you need to know about gorilla trekking in Uganda

A gorilla attends to its baby

A gorilla attends to its baby

Gorilla trekking tours in Uganda are conducted in either Bwindi Impenetrable national park or Mgahinga Gorilla national park, both located in the southwestern part of the country.

Uganda offers tourists a perfect opportunity to traverse the dense forests in the two destinations to locate these endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats.

Bwindi Impenetrable national park spans approximately 321 square kilometres in the Albertine Rift Valley. It is renowned for its population of mountain gorillas, comprising around 400 individuals, which is about half of the remaining mountain gorillas on earth. There are 22 habituated gorilla families in Bwindi that can be tracked by visitors.

Mgahinga Gorilla national park spans around 33.9 square kilometres bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga is part of the Virunga Massif and is comprised of 3 extinct volcanoes: Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. There is only one gorilla family available for trekking adventures in Mgahinga.

How gorilla trekking is done

Visitors on Uganda gorilla trekking tours are expected at the park headquarters of either Bwindi or Mgahinga before 8 am. The visitors will be assembled for a briefing session conducted by the park ranger guides. The latter provide essential information regarding the trekking rules, safety guidelines, health precautions and environmental conservation.

The visitors are divided into groups of 8 individuals, with each group assigned a particular gorilla family to locate. Each group is led by experienced ranger guides and armed guards to follow specific trails into the forest to locate their designated gorilla family. During the hike, there are various flora, mammal and bird species to encounter.

The entirety of the hike may take between 2 to 8 hours, depending on your fitness level and the location of the gorilla family. However, once you encounter the gorilla family, you will spend no more than an hour in their presence. This provides the visitors the best opportunity to observe the behaviours of these primates while taking nice photographs.

You will hike back to the starting point of the trek to receive your certificate of achievement by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Your driver guide will meet you for a return journey to your lodge.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda

The best time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking adventures is during the dry seasons, which usually occur twice a year. The first one occurs from December to February while the second is experienced from June to August. During these months chances of rainfall are relatively low, thus ensuring the trails are less muddy and more comfortable to navigate through.

Contrarywise, the rainy seasons that occur from March to May, and from September to November cause heavy rains that make the trails in the 2 national parks more muddy and slippery. Visitors find them more challenging to traverse, thus providing this opportunity to the boldest visitors, who also prefer less crowded tours amidst the luxurious greenery.

Travelling to Bwindi and Mgahinga

To reach either Bwindi or Mgahinga, travellers can use either road or air transportation. From Kampala city centre to Bwindi, the road distance is about 460-500 kilometres southwest. This takes 8 to 10 hours depending on the traffic, road conditions and the specific sector of the park you are going to. This scenic journey passes through Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara and Kabale.

From Kampala city to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the road distance is about 480-510 kilometres southwestwards. This journey takes about 9 to 10 hours, depending on the road conditions, and the traffic. This scenic road trip passes via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale and Kisoro town.

Alternatively, travellers can opt for air transport, which offers a chance to use a scheduled flight from Entebbe International Airport to a nearby airstrip to either park. These include Kihiihi or Kisoro airstrips. The flight can take anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. Upon arrival, you will have to organize for ground transportation to reach your destination. This could either be on public means, taxi, motorcycle taxi and hired vehicle among others.

What to pack for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda?

Having an unforgettable gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks depends on having essential items to ensure comfort and safety. These items include the following;

• Gorilla permit

• Appropriate clothing including a long-sleeved shirt or blouse that is colored

• Rain jacket

• Strong hiking shoes or boots with the best traction to traverse the rugged terrain

• Binoculars for viewing far-away wildlife

• Camera or smartphone for taking beautiful photos

• Sun protection items including sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses

• First aid kit and personal medication

• Extra cash for any emergency expenditure

• Hiking stick

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