Gorilla safari parks in Uganda
Uganda has two gorilla safari parks, Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks. The two conservation parks are homes to some of the remaining mountain gorillas left in the world. These gorilla parks are found in the southwestern part of the country on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. Mountain gorillas are endangered apes according to ICUN that share 98% of human DNA with human beings. About 10180 mountain gorillas are living in different national parks in the world but Bwindi gorilla park has the highest population of mountain gorillas while Mgahinga gorilla park has the least population of mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is the most done activity in the gorilla safari parks and it does give travelers an opportunity to encounter fully habituated mountain gorillas for 1 hour. Gorilla habituation which is only done in Bwindi gorilla park enables travelers to be with mountain gorillas for 4 hours and by doing so they are able to make them get used to human presence. Gorilla parks in Uganda can be visited at any time of the year and to do so you must have a valid gorilla trekking permit.
Bwindi gorilla park
As one of the Gorilla safari parks, Bwindi is the most famous destination in Uganda when it comes to mountain gorilla trekking. The park is nestled in the southwestern part of Uganda covering 331 km sq full of tropical rainforest. Bwindi gorilla park was gazetted in 1992 and is home to the highest population of mountain gorillas in Uganda and the world at large. The park harbors 19 fully habituated mountain gorilla families and 2 semi habituated mountain gorilla families.
Mountain gorillas of Bwindi gorilla park leave in 4 sectors of the park which are Nkuringo, Rushaga, Ruhija, and Buhoma. As of today, Bwindi gorilla park has 21 gorilla families in the different sectors of the park, Those in Ruhija region of Bwindi are Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushengura, Katwe, Muyambi. Gorila families in buhoma region are Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro, and Mukiza. Gorilla families in nkuringp region of Bwindi are Christmas, Nkuringo, and Bushaho. Gorilla families in Rushaga region of Bwindi are Nshongi, Bikingi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Bweza, Busingye, Kutu, Mucunguzi and Rwigi
Mgahinga gorilla park
Mgahinga gorilla park is Uganda’s smallest national park located in the southwestern part of the country. The park is one of the 4 luckiest places harboring mountain gorillas in the world. Mgahinga gorilla park covers a total area of 33.7 sq. km and this makes it the smallest gorilla park in the world. Mgahinga gorilla park is home to the least population of mountain gorillas in the gorilla parks and has only 1 mountain gorilla family available for trekking.
Nyakagezi gorilla group is the only mountain gorilla family in Mgahinga gorilla park that has been habituated for tourism purposes. Only 8 people can trek mountain gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla park on a single day. Nyakagezi gorilla family started the habituation process in 1991 and was open for trekking in 1994. The gorilla family that has 10 members today used to move to areas of volcanoes national park in Rwanda but these days it settled in Mgahinga gorilla park.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done only in the gorilla safari parks. Both gorilla parks are located in the southwestern part of Uganda and trekking gorillas in any of the parks gives the same experience. Trekking mountain gorillas in Uganda is done by those that are above the age of 15 years and the activity can be done by those that have valid trekking permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi gorilla park and Mgahinga gorilla park starts early in the morning at different park offices. Trekking in all parks starts early in the morning at 8 and so trekkers must wake up early in the morning for breakfast at their lodges. The trekkers are transported to the briefing points by their driver guides early in the morning.
At the briefing point, park wardens do teach the trekkers about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity, check for the gorilla trekking cards, and also group people not exceeding 8. In Bwindi gorilla park, there is gorilla habituation and 4 people are grouped to trek a semi habituated family. Armed ranger guides led the trekkers throughout the whole hike as they protect them from dangerous wild animals.
Trekking mountain gorillas in Bwindi and Mghinga gorilla park takes 2-7 hours pf passing through different trekking trails, meeting different park mammals, birds, and primates. The time taken to locate a mountain gorilla family depends on the speed of trekkers and also the nature of the terrain. When the trekkers locate the mountain gorilla family assigned, they are given 1 hour to be around this gorilla group, watch the members do daily activities, take photos and learn about their behaviors.
How much is gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla park requires one to have a valid gorilla trekking permit. The gorilla trekking permit is a card issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority to allow a traveler to trek a habituated gorilla family in Bwindi or Mgahinga national park. Gorilla trekking permits for Mgahinga gorilla park and Bwindi gorilla park cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and shs250,000 East African citizens.
Gorilla habituation permits which are only available in Bwindi gorilla park cost $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents, and UGX750,000 East African citizens. The gorilla permits are sold at Uganda Wildlife Authority and can be got from a trusted local tour operator at the same fee. A traveler must book a gorilla permit in advance before traveling to a country for the gorilla trekking activity.
Number of gorilla families in Uganda’s Gorilla Safari Parks
Uganda has the highest number of gorilla families compared to other countries that have national parks with mountain gorillas. Uganda has 20 habituated mountain gorilla families in Bwindi gorilla park and Mgahinga gorilla park while 2 semi habituated gorilla families are in Bwindi gorilla park. On a daily basis At Uganda Wildlife Authority there are 800 gorilla trekking permits and 8 gorilla habituation permits for travelers to book and trek the endangered mountain gorillas.
Booking gorilla trekking permits for Bwindi gorilla park and Mgahinga gorilla park
Booking Bwindi gorilla park and Mgahinga gorilla park trekking permits can be done by a traveler themselves or a trusted local tour operator. Travelers can book the gorilla trekking permits themselves by containing Uganda Wildlife Authority. Travelers will have to send UWA an email containing the national park, dates of months, and year they want to travel and when the message reaches the reservation office at Uganda wildlife authority they will check if the permits are available. Once the gorilla permits are available, they will send you an email containing banking details and when you are done sending money, and they have received it, your permit will be booked.
Travelers can look for a trusted local operator like African adventure vacations limited to book for them gorilla trekking permits. What a traveler needs to do is send us an email containing the gorilla park, the date of the month, and the year they want to travel. Our well-trained staff will use these dates to check for the availability of the permits with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and once the permits are available, we shall send you an email containing banking details. When we have received the money, we shall book the permit for you and send you a scanned copy.
Accommodation on Uganda gorilla safari
Accommodation in Buhoma sector: Buhoma Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Bwindi Forest Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Ride 4 women Guest House, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Rest Camp, Haven Lodge, and Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge.
Accommodation in Rushaga sector: Rushaga Gorilla Lodge, Four Gorillas Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, Nsongi Camp, Rushaga Gorilla Haven Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Resort, and Wagtail Eco Safari Lodge.
Accommodation in Nkuringo sector: Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Heights Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Backpackers Lodge, Mutanda Eco Community Centre, Nshongi Camp, Crested Crane Bwindi Hotel, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, and Virunga Campsite
Accommodation in Ruhija sector: Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Ruhija Community Rest Camp, Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Broadbill Forest Camp, Agandi Lodge, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Cuckoo Land Tented Lodge, Ecomarvels Gorilla Lodge, and Trekkers Tavern.
Accommodation in Mgahinga gorilla park: Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Gahinga Lodge, Lake Mulehe Lodge, Lake Chahafi Lodge, Gorilla Heights Lodge, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, Travellers Rest Hotel, Air Land Hotel, Lake Chahafi Resort, Muhabura Climbers Rest Camp, Sabyinyo Guest House, Virunga Campsite and Backpackers, and Gorilla Hills Eco-Lodge among others.
When to visit Gorilla Safari Parks in Uganda for gorilla trekking?
Uganda gorilla safari parks can be visited at any time of the year for mountain gorilla trekking but there are certain months that are better than the rest. The dry months are the best to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking safaris and they do occur from June to September and December to February. These months are characterized by little or no rainfall that leaves the trekking trails dry, the roads leading to the parks are passable and the vegetation in the park is thin with clear views of mountain gorillas and good photography.
Travelers can still visit gorilla safari parks in the rainy season to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities. Trekking mountain gorilla in rainy seasons which occurs from March to May and October to November is however challenging since there is always a lot of rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of mountain gorillas, and the roads leading to the park are impassable.