Gorilla trekking is the most famous and exciting activity done in Bwindi Impenetrable national park where visitors above the age of 15 years move into the dense tropical rainforests in search of the endangered mountain gorillas. Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in south western Uganda in Kanungu district and harbors over 400 mountain gorillas which is equivalent to half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park are found in four sectors of the park that is Buhoma in the northern part, Rushaga in the southern part, Ruhija in the Eastern part and Nkuringo sector in the Southern part of the park.
Mountain gorillas are endangered primate species and in Africa, and they are only found in four national parks namely Bwindi Impenetrable national park which harbors the highest number the gorillas, Mgahinga national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in south western Uganda in Kanungu and can be reached by either road or air transport means
Road transport: When you are coming to Bwindi national park, you will drive from Kampala or Entebbe airport via the equator in Kayabwe Mpigi, Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale and then to one of the four sectors where you will do gorilla trekking activity. The whole journey takes about 9 to 10 hours’ drive on a tarmac road. Bwindi impenetrable national park can also be accessed by road through Queen Elizabeth national park where you will drive from Mweya peninsula to Bwindi national park through Ishasha sector where you will be able to view the tree climbing lions relaxing on the fig tree branches and the journey takes 3 to 4 hours’ drive hence you will be able to combine activities such as gorilla trekking activity in Bwindi national park with game drive and boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth national park.
There are also public means of transport where you can board a bus from Kampala which leaves very early in the morning at around 7 am and passes through Masaka, Mbarara and then Kabale town. After arriving in Kabale town, you can then hire a private car to Bwindi national park. There is also a bus from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Rukungiri to Kihihi and then you will hire a private vehicle to the park.
Air transport: Visitors going to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park can book scheduled or chartered flights through a trusted tour operator from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to Kayonza or Kihihi Airstrip which is close to Buhoma sector and Kisoro Airstrip which is close to Rushaga sector. After landing at Kisoro, Kayonza or Kihihi airstrip, you will hire a private vehicle to the lodge and in case you had booked your safari through a tour company you will find a safari vehicle awaiting for you and will transfer you to the lodge in one of the sectors of the park.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi impenetrable national park has four sectors which are the starting points for gorilla trekking activity. Visitors going for gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park are advised to sleep near the sectors for easy accessibility to the park headquarters.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park starts early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarter and visitors are welcomed and grouped into 8 people because a gorilla family in Bwindi national park can only be visited by a maximum number of 8 people. Grouping at the park headquarters is done depending on the visitor’s interests and physical fitness. After you have been given a group, you will enter the jungle to start trekking with a park guide who will be showing you the trails to follow and giving you information about the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park takes about 2 to 6 hours in the forest hence visitors have to carry packed lunch and drinking water when going for trekking so as to give them energy. When the gorilla family is found visitors are given one hour with the gorillas in their natural habitat where they are allowed to take photos with flashless cameras, record the moments and see the gorillas feeding, playing among others.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is a home of 18 habituated gorilla families which are found in four sectors of the park namely Rushaga sector which harbors 8 gorilla families including Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, Mishaya, Bweza, Rwigi, Bikyingi and Mucunguzi family, Buhoma sector which harbors 4 gorilla families namely Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe family, Nkuringo sector which harbors 3 gorilla families namely Bushaho, Christmas and Nkuringo family and Ruhija sector which harbors 4 gorilla families namely Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro and Mukiza family.
However Bwindi impenetrable forest is the only destination in Africa that carries out gorilla habituation experience which is carried out in the Rushaga sector. Gorilla habituation is the process where a team of researchers, game rangers and guides train the mountain gorillas so that they get used to the human presence and ready for trekking. Gorilla habituation process takes a period of 2 years and gives you an opportunity to spend four hours with the mountain gorillas when they are being habituated learning about their behaviors, habits, watching them as they feed, breastfeed, juveniles playing to entertain the family among others.
Cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi Forest
A gorilla trekking permit is a legal document that is issued to the visitors above 15 years of age allowing them to trek a gorilla family in any of the sectors in Bwindi national park. A single gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi national park costs $600 for Foreign Non-Residents, $500 for Foreign Residents and UGX 250,000 for East African residents. However, Uganda increased its gorilla trekking permits to $700 for Foreign Non Residents and $600 for Foreign Residents. The increased gorilla trekking permits will begin in the next financial year.
When to book for a Gorilla Trekking Permit in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance before the trekking date. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park harbors 18 habituated gorilla families which means that there are 144 gorilla permits available daily hence visitors should book the gorilla trekking permits in advance so as to avoid disappointments because they are competitive and usually get sold out especially during the dry season. A gorilla trekking permit can be booked either directly through Uganda Wildlife Authority which are tourism offices in Uganda or through a trusted tour operator like Achieve global safaris. Booking through a tour operator is the best option because the company will plan for your trip, the activities that you will engage in, accommodation facilities and transportation while on your safari in Uganda.
When to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi impenetrable national park can be visited anytime throughout the year though it experiences two seasons which include the rainy/wet and the dry season. The rainy season is the period when the park receives rain hence making gorilla trekking trails impassable due to mud and being slippery. This is during the months of March to May and October to November. The rainy season in Bwindi national park is good for bird watching in that there will be plenty of food for the birds and the migratory birds will also come to the forest to breed.
Bwindi also experiences the dry season during the months of June to mid-September and December to February. During the dry season, the Bwindi forest doesn’t receive a lot of rain, therefore, the trails will be passable and mountain gorillas will be clearly seen because the grass and shrubs will be short. The dry season is the best period for gorilla trekking and most visitors travel to Bwindi during this period. However, being a montane and tropical rain forest it can rain anytime in Bwindi national park even during the dry season hence visitors should pack important gorilla trekking equipment’s so as to make trekking successful.
What to pack for your Gorilla Trekking Safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Due to the fact that Bwindi is located on a high altitude, its weather changes any time and it’s always cold with mist covering the forest during morning hours and at night. Visitors should, however, pack the following equipment for their gorilla trekking safari:
- Long sleeved trousers and shirts, due to coldness in the forest visitors should wear long sleeved shirts and trousers to get warmth and also prevent their bodies from getting injuries during trekking in the jungle.
- Hiking boots, visitors should wear comfortable hiking shoes while trekking which will protect their ankles from being hurt and also keep their feet dry since the jungle is always wet, muddy and slippery.
- Hat and sunglasses, these will be used to protect your from direct sunlight during the dry season and rain during the wet season
- Garden gloves, garden gloves are used to protect your hands from being hurt or injured during trekking in the forest and will also protect them from germs.
- Long socks, stockings will be tucked into the long trousers and will protect you from the safari ants which might enter your trousers while in the forest.
- Waterproof rain jacket, this will protect them in case it rains when they are trekking in the forest.
- Packed food and drinking water, visitors going for gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi Impenetrable national park should carry packed food and at least 2 liters drinking water because trekking takes a long period of time and the food will give you the energy to continue hiking.
- Insect repellent, the insect repellent will help you from the safari insects, ants, and the tsetse flies when trekking because the forest is comprised of many insects and ants.
- Backpack, this is a bag that will be used to carry your items for the gorilla trekking safari, for example, drinking water, food, insect repellent, gorilla permit among others.
- Gorilla trekking permit, gorilla trekking permit is an important item to consider when going for gorilla trekking activity in Bwindi national park because it is the document that allows you to visit the gorillas therefore without a gorilla trekking permit you can’t be allowed to visit any gorilla family.
- Camera, a camera is also an important item to consider in that it will be used without the flashlight to take the photos and capture all the moments on your gorilla trekking safari in Uganda.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi national park has a variety of up-market, mid-range and budget accommodation facilities where visitors on a tour can stay. Visitors in Bwindi national park are advised to book accommodations near the sectors where gorilla trekking activity is going to start from and the accommodations include Buhoma lodge, Gorilla resort, Gorilla forest camp, silverback lodge, Lake Kitandara Tented camp, Engage lodge, Mahogany springs lodge, Chameleon lodge, Ichumbi gorilla lodge, Buhoma community rest camp, Ruhija gorilla safari lodge, Cuckoo land lodge, clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Gorilla safari lodge, Nkuringo campsite, Bakiga Lodge, Buhoma haven lodge, Nkuringo gorilla lodge among others. The lodges in Bwindi national park offer quality services inform of comfortable and spacious beds, preparing local and international dishes, good facilities such as dinning, restaurants, bars, swimming pool, sauna among others which makes the visitors chill, relax and enjoy when on the safari in Bwindi national park.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park is a must-do activity when on a safari in Uganda because it gives you breathe taking and unforgettable moments.