Uganda is a fantastic destination to visit. You can enjoy iconic African animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the enchanting Murchison Falls, the many beautiful lakes, and learn about the diverse and vibrant cultures.
One of the most popular activities in Uganda, however, is Gorilla Trekking.
Researchers have agreed that tourism has saved these magnificent animals from extinction. As a favorite activity, enjoy watching gorillas in the famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park found in southern Uganda.
Before we mention the recommended tours for seeing gorillas, we will first offer an introduction to Uganda and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Uganda is located in East Africa in the Great Lakes Region and sits next to Lake Victoria. Located beside Kenya, Uganda offers one of the only places in Africa to see mountain gorillas.
The gorillas can be found in the wildlife-rich Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a protected area of wildlife-rich tropical forest in southern Uganda. The park protects 320 square kilometres (124 square miles) of both lowland and montane forest and is a World Heritage Listed region.
Bwindi contains many different animals and plants.
You can find over 300 birds, over 100 different mammals and over 1,000 flowering plants. There are many primates, including colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.
The stars of the park are of course the mountain gorillas, which you can visit on guided tours.
The Mountain Gorilla
Mountain gorillas differ from their lowland gorilla cousins by having thicker and longer fur, which helps keep them warm at higher altitudes.
There are currently 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild (source).
These are split across two populations. One population is found in the Virunga Mountains, across Rwanda, the DRC, and Uganda (Mgahinga Gorilla National Park). A recent census has found 604 individuals living in the Virunga Mountains.
There are then 400 individuals living in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Mountain gorillas can grow very large. Males are larger than females and can grow to around 5 foot 7 inches (1.7 meters) tall weighing around 342 lb (155 kg).
Gorillas are vegetarians and eat different leaves, fruits, flowers, and shoots.
Despite their size and power, gorillas are usually shy and gentle animals.
Uganda gorilla trekking began in 1993 when the first gorillas were habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This is where people spend time with the gorillas getting them familiar with visitors.
The first family habituated were the Mubare family. It was the calm behavior of the silverback Ruhondeza that showed people gorilla trekking was possible.
By 2004, four families of gorillas had been successfully habituated to visitors, including Mubare, Rushagura, Habinianja and Nkuringo.
There are now 12 gorilla groups habituated in Bwindi. Eleven are for gorilla trekking and one is for ecological research.
The groups now include:
- The Nkuringo gorilla group
- The Rushegura gorilla group
- The Habinyanja gorilla group
- The Mubare gorilla group
- The Bitukura gorilla group
- The Oruzogo gorilla group
- The Mishaya gorilla group
- The Nshongi gorilla group
- The Kahungye gorilla group
- The Busingye gorilla group
- The Bweza gorilla group
- The Kyaguriro gorilla group
Visiting the Gorillas
The gorillas live on a steep and sometimes muddy area, which can be challenging to walk. This means that for gorilla trekking, you should be in good physical condition, however, walking sticks are provided on the following tours.
Depending on where gorillas are in the forest, the trek can last the entire day. Usually, the trek lasts a few hours and begins with registration at the areas of Buhoma, Ruhijja, Nkuringo and Rushaga.
Gorilla Trekking Permits
Permits are required to visit the gorillas, which help conservation groups monitor visitors so to cause minimal stress to the animals. The permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and also fund rangers to protect against poaching among many threats. The permits help ensure tourism is used to aid conservation and funds protection.
Permits are required each time you visit gorillas. The recommended tours mentioned below include the gorilla permit in the rate, as well as guides, comfortable accommodation, meals and your flight from Entebbe to Kisoro.
What to Take / Wear Gorilla Trekking
What to wear for gorilla trekking is similar to what to wear for any hike in a tropical forest environment. This means lightweight clothing and long sleeved shirts and pants to protect against mosquitoes etc.
Here is a recommended list:
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirt
- Lightweight pants
- Hiking boots with ankle support
- Day pack
- Wide brimmed hat
- Citronella insect repellent
- Reusable water bottle
The Best Time of Year For Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is available all year. However, there are some differences.
As we’re in the tropics, temperature stays constant from month to month. The change in temperature between day and night is greater than between seasons.
You can expect daytime temperature of around 23°C (73°F), which then drops to around 53°F (10°C) at night. With this in mind, remember to take a sweater or fleece for evenings.
As this is a tropical rainforest, wet weather is part of the experience. The most rain falls in March, April, May, October and November. April is usually the wettest month.
The wetter months are when the trails are more slippery, so make sure to take a good pair of hiking boots.
The dry season months are June, July, August. December, January and February. June and July are the driest months. However, note that you should still be prepared for wet weather.
Also note that to find the mountain gorillas, you will be climbing to higher altitude, which means cooler temperatures.
June, July and December are the busiest months of the year when you can expect more crowds.
When to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest • in/°F | mm/°C
The top 5 Uganda Gorilla Trekking tours
On the following gorilla trekking tours, enjoy comfortable accommodation, expert guides, friendly service and fantastic experiences with the mountain gorillas.
Experiences include permits, transfers, guided tours, accommodation and meals.
The 5-Day Gorilla Trekking Tour
To make the most of your experience with these magnificent animals, on the 5-day gorilla trekking tour you will visit two different gorilla groups in two sections of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Your tour includes your flight from Entebbe to Kisoro from where you will be escorted to Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge. Enjoy comfortable accommodation, delicious meals and stunning views of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The lodge is conveniently located and sits around 300 meters from the visitor reception area to see the gorilla group. Even on your arrival journey, you will enjoy fantastic scenery of mountains and rolling hills in this beautiful park of Uganda.
After a relaxing night’s sleep and briefing at the park’s entrance, you will begin your trek to find the gorillas.
The trek itself lasts a few hours depending on where the group is in the forest. As we walk, enjoy spotting many different birds and other animals while we explore the forest. It’s quite common to see different monkeys on the trail.
When we have found the gorillas, you can stay with them for an hour watching them feed, play and rest. After this, it’s time to return to the lodge for some delicious meals and a comfortable night’s sleep.
The next day, you will enjoy your 2nd gorilla trekking experience.
This time, we will head to the Rushaga section of the park at around 8 am for a briefing. We will then begin the 2nd trek to find the gorilla group.
You can stay with them for an hour enjoying the company of mountain gorillas to create incredible memories. You will then return to the lodge for a warm bowl of soup and some relaxation time before your departure the following day.
The 4-Day Gorilla Trekking Tour
A shorter experience than the above gorilla trek, the 4-day gorilla trekking tour differs from the 5-day by visiting one gorilla group and not two.
After your short transfer flight to Kisoro from Entebbe, you will head to the Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge to familiarise yourself with the accommodation. Enjoy delicious food and a comfortable night’s sleep.
On your journey, enjoy stunning views of the mountains and hills. This region is known as little Switzerland due to beautiful scenery.
The next day, you will head just 300 metres from the lodge to the start of the gorilla trekking trail.
After a briefing on correct behavior around the gorillas, it’s time to set off. The length of the trek itself depends on where the gorillas are in the forest. This usually takes a couple of hours, but can take one or two more depending on where the group has decided to be.
Often, the favorite part of the experience is when you meet the silverback and the youngsters. Enjoy watching them play, feed and rest.
You can spend an hour up close with the gorillas with plenty of time for photographs. After this, it’s time to head back to the lodge for some delicious food and a comfortable night’s sleep before your journey home.
The 10-Day Primate Tour
As another fantastic experience, one the 10-day Primate Tour you can combine the gorillas in Bwindi National Park, some big 5 sightings and the chimpanzees in Kibale.
Enjoy visiting different protected areas, including the Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and then the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for the gorillas.
Within Kibale Forest National Park, you will find the chimpanzees for a habituation experience with our closest cousins. You can then spend the entire day in the company of chimpanzees for a memorable experience watching them feed, play and rest.
While finding the chimpanzees, you will see many other animals. Enjoy spotting many other primates, including red colobus, black and white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, and L’Hoest’s monkeys.
After Kibale Forest, visit the Queen Elizabeth National Park. ‘
This is a great place to spot some of Africa’s Big 5. You will also enjoy a game drive within the park to find the different animals. The park contains elephants, lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, 500 birds, and 10 different primate species.
Now, it is time for the gorilla trekking part of your tour.
Enjoy visiting the famous Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park from the comfortable Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge. After familiarising yourself with the lodge, head out early the next day to find the gorillas.
You can enjoy one hour with the gorillas with plenty of time for photographs. You will then return to the lodge for some delicious food. The next day, you will enjoy canoe excursions and a visit to the beautiful Lake Mburo National Park.
The 7-Day Primate Tour
Offered as a shorter experience than the classic primate tour above, over 7 days enjoy visiting different protected areas in Uganda. You will see many different primate species with a focus on chimpanzees and gorillas.
You will visit the incredible Kibale Forest National Park, the beautiful Crater Lakes, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
In the Kibale Forest, enjoy a habituation experience with the resident chimpanzees. Spend the day with our closest cousins enjoying their company while they rest, feed and play.
After your time in the Kibale Forest, you will head to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
This is where you will begin your trek to find the magnificent mountain gorillas. While here, enjoy staying at the very comfortable Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge. The lodge is very close to the gorilla trailhead and provides spectacular views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
The Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge
For other trip ideas in the area and across Uganda, you can stay at the Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge. The lodge is an excellent base for the gorilla groups and is only a walk away from the start of the gorilla trekking trailhead.
The Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge sits on the Nteko Ridge, which was a carefully chosen location for excellent views and access to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
The lodge is a fantastic place to see the gorillas, but also to see the other diverse wildlife and culture of the Bwindi region. Aside from the gorillas, the birdwatching from the Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge is especially enjoyed.
The Bwindi Forest is home to gorillas and many different birds, but also black and white colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, civet cats, elephants, buffalo, bushbucks, bushpigs, yellow-backed duikers, giant forest hogs, black-fronted duikers, clawless otters, genets, and different bat species.
Dinners at the lodge consist of a four-course meal freshly prepared and made from locally sourced ingredients.
Enjoy comfortable accommodation, delicious freshly made food, and spectacular panoramic views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Albertine Rift Valley.
Activities at the Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge include:
- Visiting Batwa pygmies
- Enjoying a guided village walk
- A guided multi-day trek to/from Kisoro via Lake Mutanda
- Walking through Bwindi Forest to the park headquarters at Buhoma
- Tracking the Nkuringo Gorilla family (assuming you have a tracking permit)
- Tracking the Nshongi Gorilla family at Rushaga (assuming you have a permit)
- Simply enjoy the amazing views of the gallery forests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Virunga volcanoes