What to expect on a gorilla safari in Bwindi?
What to expect on a gorilla safari in Bwindi?: The highest population of mountain gorillas in the world is found in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. Bwindi is one of the places where mountain gorillas trekking takes place in the whole world. Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi is done on 19 fully habituated mountain gorilla families, and 2 semi-habituated mountain gorilla families are for habituation purposes. The gorilla trekking or habituation activity involves going through different hiking trails, thick vegetation, steep slopes, and rugged terrain during the search for mountain gorillas. When the gorilla family is located, trekkers are given 1 hour to be around fully habituated gorillas or 4 hours around semi habituated gorillas.
With Bwindi gorilla park having the highest population of mountain gorillas, there are 99% chances of meeting them on a trekking day. The mountain gorillas are seen everywhere in the four sectors of the park which are Nkuringo and Rushaga in the south, Ruhija in the east, and Buhoma in the north. All these sectors can be accessed in a single by flying to Kisoro or Kihihi as well as driving from Kampala or Kigali Rwanda at any time of the year.
On the actual day of trekking
There are so many things to expect on a gorilla safari in Bwindi. The best part of the day is meeting mountain gorillas for 1 hour which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and every person’s dream come true. The mountain gorillas in Bwindi are found on the hills, valleys, and thick vegetation. Travelers must be physically fit to locate the mountain gorillas in the mountainous area, steep slopes, and rugged terrains.
Waking up very early in the morning before sunrise and take a heavy breakfast at the lodge are some of the other things to expect on a gorilla safari in Bwindi. Drivers will transfer them to the park where they meet other trekkers. Park wardens check if the permits are valid from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, teach about the rules and regulations of the gorilla trekking, and group trekkers not exceeding 8. Armed ranger guides are assigned to different groups of trekkers and each group is given a gorilla family to trek with.
Going through hills, valleys, and thick forests for 2-7 hours, and during the process, are some of the things to expect on a gorilla safari in Bwindi as there are chances of meeting different park animals such as buffaloes, duikers, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, otters, civets, bats, elephants, birds and plant species. When the mountain gorillas are located, trekkers are given 1 hour to be around mountain gorillas and they will be able to watch them do activities such as coupling, playing, resting, suckling babies, grooming, and feeding on vegetation among others. Later, you will trek out of the jungle and collect your gorilla trekking certificate.
What to pack for gorilla trekking to Bwindi?
For any gorilla safari to be successful, make sure you have good waterproof hiking shoes, long cotton stocks, a pair of gaiters, gardening gloves, long-sleeved pants, long-sleeved shirts, rain jacket, a hat, scarf, sunscreen, a hat, toiletries, camera and extra batteries, a pair of binoculars, reusable drinking water bottle, energy-giving foods, facemask, sanitizer, insect repellents, and first aid kit among others.
Best time to have a gorilla safari in Bwindi
Gorilla safaris in Bwindi can be done all throughout the year but there are months that are better than the rest. The dry season of June to September and December to February is the best to have a safari in Bwindi because the months are characterized by little or no rainfall, the vegetation is short and thin with good views of the mountain gorillas, the trekking trails are muddy and passable and the roads leading to the park are in good conditions.
Travelers can still have a gorilla safari in Bwindi in the rainy season to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities and this favors budget travelers more. The rainy season occurs from March to May and October to November and they are characterized by heavy rainfall. Travelers should know that in the rainy season, there is heavy rainfall which makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thick and tall with unclear views of the gorillas and the roads leading to the park are in poor condition which slows the speed of trekkers.
Booking a gorilla safari to Bwindi
There are two ways a traveler can book a gorilla safari to Uganda. These include using a trusted local tour operator and the second is doing it yourself by contacting different local tour operators. The best way to book a safari is using a local tour operator because these do every needed for a safari to be successful. A local tour operator books the gorilla permits, organized transport, and books the lodge where you are to stay during the safari. You will tell the tour operator what you want during your safari, they will look at your budget and organize a memorable safari for you.
Price of a gorilla permit in Bwindi
The price of a gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi is $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and UGX250,000 for citizens of East Africa. Bwindi has a unique activity done nowhere else in the world but in this park and to be part of this activity, you need a gorilla habituation permit which costs $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 foreign residents, and UGX250,000 citizens of East Africa. There are about 160 gorilla permits in Bwindi and each is used by a single person once a day.
Accessing Bwindi for gorilla trekking
Bwindi can be accessed by road transport and this takes 9-10 hours and also by air transport in just 2 hours. Road transport starts from Entebbe/kampala via masaka, Mbarara, kabale and Kisoro. The journey is long but with different stopovers at the equator, Lake Mburo, Igongo cultural centre, and much more. Travelers from Kigali can cross to Uganda using Katuna border in Kabale or Cyanika border in Kisoro and access any of the Bwindi sectors in 4-5 hours.
Luxury travelers can access Bwindi using air transport from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe international airport organized by Aerolink Uganda, Bar Aviation Uganda, and other companies. The flights land at Kihihi airstrip for those heading to Buhoma region and Kisoro airstrip for those heading to Nkuringo, Ruhija, and Rushaga region.
Where to stay on a gorilla safari to Bwindi
There are so many lodges in different sectors of Bwindi where travelers can stay while on a safari. They range from budget to mid-range to luxury options and where to stay depends on the travel budget. Travelers to Bwindi must stay in lodges that are located in the sectors they are going to trek gorillas from in order to get to the briefing point in time.
Where to stay 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.
Where to stay 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.
Where to stay 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
Where to stay 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.