A Guide to Seeing Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda : Tracking mountain gorillas is one of the memorable safari activities to do offering a encounter with our closest relatives the mountain gorillas, the endangered mountain gorillas “the world’s greatest ape” are found in a few areas in Africa and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of them.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in the Southwestern Uganda hosting almost half of the world’s wild gorillas living in the jungles of Bwindi impenetrable Forest.
Bwindi impenetrable Forest is one of the best places to track gorillas in the world and here is the ultimate guide to what to expect and all the necessary aspect you need to know about mountain gorilla trekking.
What to expect from tracking mountain gorillas
Tracking mountain gorillas is a breathtaking and memorable activity starting early in the morning with briefing at the park’s headquarters (Uganda Wildlife Authority offices)depending on the sector you are tracking, in the briefing you are taken through the rules and regulations to follow during the experience and in the presence of the gorillas. You are then be grouped into groups of 8, be assigned a group to trek, for those who need porters will also hire them. Then hike into the forest in search for mountain gorillas, the time taken as you look for the gorillas depend on where they spent their previous night and their movement to thrill A Guide to Seeing Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
With a help of a ranger guide, you will be able to find the gorillas in their natural habitat which is a delightful moment, getting an up close view of the huge but gentle mountain gorilla is a mind-blowing moment to hold for life. While in the presence of mountain gorillas you are to stay in a distance of 7 meters.
Other important points to note while in the presence of the mountain gorillas include
- Avoid direct eye contact with the gorillas
- Keep your voice low during the experience
- If you have a disease, do not take part in mountain gorilla trekking.
Mountain gorillas are incredibly social animals living in groups of between 10 – 20 gorillas and a family is headed by one large silverback, these gorillas spend most of their day looking for food and they consume up to 20 kg of bamboo, leaves and fruits. You are likely to find mountain gorillas sitting, almost in solemn reflection endlessly shoveling vegetation into their mouths thus A Guide to Seeing Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Standing in front of the huge Mountain gorillas is frightening, however it eventually turns into awe. The gorillas share close to 98% of the human’s DNA composition thus giving you an overwhelmingly family experience. The gorillas share similar features with humans from their facial expressions and intelligent eyes to their subtle mannerism, the likeness is so startling.
During gorilla tracking experience you are allowed to stay one hour in the presence of these fascinating features, this is done so as not to distress the animals.
Helping to protect mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered species of animals with just over 1,000 individuals left in the wild, the mountain gorillas are listed among the rarest apes in the wild with their life being threatened due to mass deforestation, war and human encroachment.
Due to continuous sensitization about the conservation of mountain gorillas, the population of mountain gorillas is gradually rising in Bwindi impenetrable Forest from 400 to over 600 individuals.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest together with the Virunga conservation Area is a home to a total of 1,063 mountain gorilla individuals.
Getting a permit
Any traveler intending to do gorilla tracking in Bwindi impenetrable forest, the first thing to secure is a gorilla trekking permit which is required to participate in this memorable activity. As a traveler, there are three ways you can secure/book a gorilla tracking permit
- You can book and buy your permit at UWA head office in Kampala
- You can secure your permit as part of a gorilla safari package with Focus East Africa Tours, a reputable tour operator
- You can also secure a permit through one of the many safari lodges in Bwindi impenetrable forest.
Booking a gorilla trekking permit through a reputable tour operator is easier as it will save you money and time, usually UWA is slow at responding to individuals which may result into you missing out on the desired dates.
A gorilla tracking permit to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest costs US$ 700, this fee includes park entrance, guide fee and community development contribution. There are a limited number of permits available each day so booking in advance is recommended.
Note: you can book your permit several months in advance, though a specific date for your trekking is required as the permits are only valid for one day.
How to prepare for a day of tracking gorillas
Tracking mountain gorillas is not a walk in the park as it may sound, the conditions are tough. The tracking experience can lasts for a whole day depending on the gorilla group you are trekking and where it is on that particular day, because of the dense vegetation cover and the mountainous nature of the park, tracking can be slow and guides often use machetes to clear a pathway.
During this experience, wear sturdy walking boots and long pants tucked into socks. Bwindi forest floor is full of ants that bite, so this will help you keep them at bay. During tracking gorillas
- Carry a lightweight waterproof jacket in a small backpack
- Carry packed lunch and a couple of liters of water
- Have a walking pole for support (wooden sticks are available at park’s headquarters).
- If you think carry all the items will be heavy for you, you can hire a porter at the park’s headquarters at a fee.
When is the best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
Because of Uganda’s favorable climate, Uganda Gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a year-round activity. Uganda as a country experiences 2 dry seasons that are between December and February and June to August, in these seasons lower amounts of rain are received.
The dry season is the best time visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for gorilla tracking, this period is the busiest time in Bwindi so accommodations will be more costly.
Alternatively, March to May and October to November are the wettest months in Bwindi, in this period trekking is more difficult and visibility for mountain gorillas is slightly reduced.
Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi impenetrable Forest is located in the far southwest of Uganda close to the border of Uganda with Democratic Republic of Congo, the park covers an area of 321 square kilometers comprising of densely forested mountains and its perimeters are fringed with remote villages and rural farms. Bwindi impenetrable forest lies approximately 463.7 kilometers from Kampala the capital city of Uganda and it is a drive of about 7-8 hours, the nearest major town is Kabale which is a 2 hours drive away.
Daily buses from Kampala operate to Kabale Town, and then from Kabale you get a private vehicle to Bwindi. Using a bus, it is usually a drive of 8-10 hours. You can also use your own vehicle to get Bwindi impenetrable Forest.
Alternatively, Focus East Africa Tours offers private vehicles for tourists on a packaged gorilla safari, a 4wd vehicle is included and safari driver guided is included in our Uganda gorilla safaris.
Note: Many of the mountain roads leading up t Bwindi Impenetrable forest are not paved and rain can make driving on them extremely difficult, because of this a 4×4 WD vehicle is recommended when driving to the park.