Uganda: A top destination for tracking mountain gorillas
Uganda, Rwanda and D.R Congo, in that order, are the world's only destinations for a mountain gorilla experience. Uganda is home to over half of all the remaining mountain gorillas, with the total number estimated to be near 1000 and growing! It’s little wonder that Uganda was listed by lonely planet as the world’s number one travel destination in 2012. Uganda has a lot to offer!
Gorilla tracking: What to bring and wear
A top question we get is 'what should I wear when trekking gorillas?'. We recommend the following: a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well-worn footwear), leather gardening type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and a minimum amount of personal items.
Gorilla tracking: What to know before you go
What happens on the day of gorilla tracking? You'll be up early to ensure you get a hearty breakfast. Then, ready for adventure and well-equipped with your packed lunch, your safari guide will drive you to the park office for briefing and orientation by the park ranger on the general way of conduct during the gorilla tracking experience.
After the briefing, you will be grouped according to the gorilla family you are allocated to track. The ranger will lead you through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search for the gorillas. During tracking, you will enjoy other different animals, birds and butterfly species.
Once the gorillas have been found, you will you will spend a whole one hour, going as close as seven meters (roughly 20 feet) interacting, watching, taking pictures and filming these giant and gentle apes. You will then hike back and return to the park offices for your gorilla tracking certificates. For professional film makers, you can easily get authorization and also purchase filming permits.
Keeping the mountain gorillas safe
Mountain gorillas are an endangered species. To protect them from disease and opportunistic infections, people with illnesses may not go tracking. Even the common cold can kill them, so please be sure to let your guide know beforehand so you can receive a refund if you are ill.
Also, children below 15 years are not allowed to track mountain gorillas. Trackers need to be physically fit and in good health because tracking in a thick, wet-slippery forest at heights beyond 2,900m above sea level, criss-crossing steep mountains is certainly tough, energy consuming and tedious.
Hire a porter and support the local community
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has trained porters recruited from the community around the gorilla parks. The porters’ initiative is a brilliant move toward conservation because these potters have also become conservation evangelists and advocates for gorillas, other wildlife and park protection. You can hire a potter to carry your equipment and other items such as water and even your spare lens.
Uganda gorilla tracking rates for 2016
In 2016, the rates for gorilla tracking at Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla National Parks in Uganda have changed especially for the low seasons. The low season months are April, May and November.
Low season rates
Low season rates are $450 for foreign Nonresidents, $400 for foreign residents and 150,000/= for East African residents.
High season rates
High season rates: $600 for Foreign Nonresidents, $500 for foreign residents and 250,000/= for East African residents.
And, guess what! Part of the gorilla permit fee goes to communities living around the gorilla parks; this money is invested in social amenities such as clinics and schools
Planning your Uganda gorilla tracking safari
If you are considering a gorilla trekking safari, you may be wondering 'how far in advance do I need to book a gorilla permit?' Permits are sold up to two years in advance, yet only a limited number of permits are available in each gorilla park. It is, therefore, vital to book well in advance. Permits need to be paid for at the time of the initial safari booking so that they can be purchased immediately. Delay in payment could result in permits not being secured. We therefore recommend highly that everyone intending to track gorillas should book his or her gorilla tracking permits far in advance.
Should you have any questions regarding gorilla tracking safaris, please feel free to contact us. Thank you.