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Guide to Visiting Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

How to travel to where the gorillas are.

Have you ever thought of taking part in that one unique and magical experience in Africa and you do not know which one exactly? Have you always wished to be part of magical encounters with mountain gorillas in Uganda but you do not know which place to visit?

Well, gorilla safaris are remarkably among the most fascinating wildlife experiences in the world that if you have any plans to embark on a holiday; it should be a must to include in your bucket list. Think of magical encounter with our closest relatives while in the wild and think about a trek to see mountain gorillas in Uganda’s jungles. These great apes share about 95 percent of their DNA with humans making them a few closest relatives to humans. With only 3 countries where these unique creatures thrive, Uganda is that one magical destination not to miss out in your travel plan. The other two countries include Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Today, about 1004 mountain gorillas still thrive on earth and a trek to view is truly a lifetime primate experience.

Where to Go Gorilla Trekking

A trek to see the rare mountain gorillas in Uganda takes you through its two spectacular parks; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South Western uganda. Both protected areas straddle in southwestern side of Uganda and have been gazette as national parks.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located at the confluence of three countries along the Albertine rift. It is located just at the border of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The two national parks offer refuge to nearly half the population of these Great Apes that still live on earth today.

Gorillas

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Forest alone is a home to about 440 mountain gorillas making it a true gorilla highland. These 331 square kilometer protected area straddles between altitude 1160 and 2607 meters and remarkably, it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gorilla treks in Bwindi National Park are conducted within the 4 main trailheads of

Buhoma

Located in the north of Bwindi, the Buhoma sector features habituated families like Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe

Ruhija

Another beautiful location in the north, the Ruhija region has four habituated gorilla families that can be visited by tourists. These are Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Kyaguliro.

Rushaga

The Rushaga sector lies in southern Bwindi. comprises of Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, Mishaya, Mucunguzi and Bweza group.

Nkuringo

Nkuringo area comprises of Nkuringo and Christmas Family

Interestingly, each of these sectors feature habituated families for visitors to explore more about these dramatic creatures while in their natural habitat.;

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mountain Gorillas

Mgahinga National Park on the other hand covers an area of about 34 square kilometers making it the smallest national park in Uganda. Despite its size Mgahinga rewards travelers with magical experiences. This park has only one habituated gorilla family ‘Nyakagezi’ where visitors trek every day to see the rare mountain gorillas. This pristine protected area forms part of the larger Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) that features about 434 square kilometers of the mighty Virunga Volcanoes.

Getting to Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park

To get to Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park means you need about 8-10 hours to drive from Kampala capital city or from Entebbe to southwestern Uganda. You drive via Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara route but regardless of the long hours, en-route, you have variety of unique attractions to catch a glimpse before getting to a park of your choice. Most importantly, if you drive via Queen Elizabeth National Park, you have a chance to catch a glimpse at the unique tree climbing lions at Ishasha sector and make stopover at Equator crossing at Kayabwe. Alternatively, connect from Kigali about 3 to 4 hours’ drive via Chanika border crossing to Kisoro town or Gatuna border crossing to Kabale. In case you need to save time, you can embark on a flight from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi airfield and land into Kihihi airstrip or Kisoro airstrip where you can easily connect by road to a park of your choice using safari vehicle.

How much are gorilla permits in Uganda

For one to take part in gorilla safaris in Uganda it is a must that you must have a gorilla permit. You can obtain one at $600 through a ground tour operator or reservationist at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

In conclusion, Uganda is incredibly a magical destination of its own. It offers you two great opportunities to realize your dreams with the rare mountain gorillas while in their natural habitat. For any plans to trek these Great Apes in the pearl of Africa, consider visiting Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park a must and you will have the best of unique primate experience.

Time Spent on the Gorilla Trek

We do this because gorillas however much they are habituated animals they are still wild animals that are not restricted from any kind of movements so we can’t determine the exact time to find gorillas

Who can Go Gorilla Trekking?

Gorilla trekking is an activity that can be taken by tourists above 15 years of age. Though the elderly and disabled do fear to go gorilla trekking, there is an accessible means on which special interest people can be guided on their visit to the gorillas in Bwindi and Mgahinga,

What Are the Chances of meeting the Mountain Gorillas?

Though the chances to meet the mountain gorillas cannot be ascertained, there is a record of 99% chances of meeting the gorillas on a single gorilla trek. There is an advance team that departs every morning to locate the family to be visited. The advance team usually start the search from the last location where the gorillas were last seen. In case of families that disintegrate, such families are put off the system and no visitor will be allocated to them.

What to Pack for a Gorilla Trek?

There are essential things that you need to pack to make your trip a success. Here are the must haves for a successful gorilla trek in Uganda;

Daypack: Take with you a small backpack to carry all your belongings. Don’t forget packed food and bottled water to use during the hike.

Camera: You need a good camera to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience with the mountain gorillas in the wild. A good lens is essential for good shots on a gorilla safari in Uganda. Remember flash photography is not permitted.

Mini First-Aid Kit: Often forgotten, a mini first aid is essential. Things that should not miss in your kit are antiseptic, plasters, and wet wipes.

Sunscreen: Depending on the weather and your skin complexion it might be worth bringing your favorite sunscreen with you.

Water and snacks: In case your trek goes on for a few hours, make sure to pack enough snacks and water. Remember to bring at minimum 3 liters of water per person. Also, remember not to eat or drink within 200m of the gorillas and to take your trash with you.

Tips to Maximize Your Gorilla Trek

Mountain gorillas are habituated and anyone willing to go gorilla trekking will have better moments with the apes once you follow the below advice;

Take your time with the gorillas

During the gorilla visit, take your time and learn about the gorillas. You can follow them in their natural world for up to 1 hour. Always keep your voices and use this time to ask any questions about all what you would like to know about the great apes.

Listen to your guide

Always listen to your guide during the gorilla trek. The rangers and guides always monitor the movement of these great apes. They also know the behaviors of these gentle giants and even communicate with them. It is important to follow the guide’s advice on the dos and don’ts while with the gorillas in the wild.

Extend Your Gorilla Safari

You can extend your visit to the gorillas with other activities that can be done in the nearby area. It is advisable to go for a local community tour so that the local people can also benefit from your visit. Responsible tourism has made locals appreciate gorilla conservation efforts thus leading to a win-win scenario in the national parks.

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