About Mountain Gorillas

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The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of two subspecies of the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei). It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the total population is estimated to comprise 1,004 individuals in two populations as of 2018. One population lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the other in the Virunga Mountains in three adjacent national parks, namely Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda’s dense forests are home to over half the world’s 1004 or so mountain gorillas (as of May 2018) – the rest live in neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As they do not survive in captivity, preservation of these fragile habitats is essential for their survival.

In Uganda Mountain Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP). In these areas, tracking takes place at 5 locations Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkuringo in BINP and Ntebeko in MGNP. All locations combined give a total of over 18 Gorilla groups, however, the permit number is limited because only 8 people are allowed to visit a gorilla family per day for only one hour.

Prior booking is recommended and this can be done directly with Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala or with a reputable Tour agent/operator. Permits can be booked up to two years in advance.

Gorillas display uncanny human characteristics. The close-knit family groups are headed by a silverback – a mature male – who selects places for the group to eat and sleep and has many privileges, including the right to feed first. This privilege pays off for the rest of the family as if the group is threatened, the silverback – weighing up to 120kg (260lbs) – will defend them to the death, if necessary.

Generally, though, the gorilla is a gentle species. They are considered to be highly intelligent, have been observed using tools like other great apes, and communicate using a variety of vocal sounds.

The name gorilla comes from the Greek gorillai – meaning hairy women.

 

AFFORDABLE GORILLA TRACKING SAFARIS

8 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING, CHIMPANZEE TRACKING, BOAT CRUISE AND WILDLIFE SAFARI UGANDA

3 DAYS RWANDA GORILLA TRACKING

RWANDA TOUR – 8 DAYS GORILLAS AND CHIMPS

UGANDA GORILLA TRACKING SAFARI – 3 DAYS

 

Travel – Where to find Mountain Gorillas

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BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK (UGANDA)

Size: 321km2

Altitude: 1,160m – 2,607m above sea level.

Bwindi was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Mubare gorilla group was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. twelve groups are now habituated for tourism, and one for research.

Spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys, Bwindi is the source of five major rivers, which flow into Lake Edward.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.

 

MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK (UGANDA)
Size: 33.7km2, making it Uganda’s smallest National Park.

The park takes its name from “Gahinga” – the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes.

The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled.

 

VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK (CONGO)
Virunga National Park (covering an area of 790,000 ha) comprises an outstanding diversity of habitats, ranging from swamps and steppes to the snowfields of Rwenzori at an altitude of over 5,000 m, and from lava plains to the savannahs on the slopes of volcanoes. Mountain gorillas are found in the park, some 20,000 hippopotamuses live in the rivers and birds from Siberia spend the winter there.

 

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK (RWANDA)
The “Parc National de Volcans” (or PNV as it’s known by locals) lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes, which are shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a short two-hour drive from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring some distinctly Rwandan experiences. While a visit to the mountain gorillas is often at the top of visitor, the dramatic landscape also offers thrilling hiking and visits to the fascinating golden monkeys.

 

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AFFORDABLE GORILLA TRACKING SAFARIS

8 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING, CHIMPANZEE TRACKING, BOAT CRUISE AND WILDLIFE SAFARI UGANDA

3 DAYS RWANDA GORILLA TRACKING

RWANDA TOUR – 8 DAYS GORILLAS AND CHIMPS

UGANDA GORILLA TRACKING SAFARI – 3 DAYS

How to organize your gorilla tracking in Uganda

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Are you going on safari in Uganda? Do you want to go gorilla trekking? This blog post contains important information for those travellers that want to trek the gorillas. We’ve listed everything you need to know to organise your gorilla trekking experience.

Covered in this section:

  1. Where to go gorilla trekking?
  2. When is the best time to go trekking?
  3. How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit?
  4. How does the day look like?
  5. Some practical tips

 

Finding BIGFOOT in the African Jungle 

Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only a mere 1004 mountain gorilla’s left in the wild. Almost half of the worlds’ population can be found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda. Gorillas are BIG. The spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of the humans closest relatives is hard to describe.

Where can I visit the gorillas?
For many travellers visiting Uganda, gorilla tracking is the highlight of their trip. In Uganda, you can visit the Gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Bwindi is Africa’s oldest rainforest and has beautiful ridges, steep valleys and waterfalls. Be prepared for some steep hikes though. Both parks protect an estimated half of the mountain gorillas, including 15 habituated groups which can be tracked. There are four departing places: Buhoma and Ruhija which are in the northern part of the park, and Nkuringo and Rushaga, which are in Kisoro District in the southeast of Bwindi. Buhoma is the most accessible trekking location, whereas in Rushaga you can find the largest gorilla family. Mgahinga is much less visited, as occasionally the gorillas decide to cross the border to Rwanda.

When is the best time for gorilla trekking?
Uganda is nice to visit year-round and has a very, very pleasant climate. The average temperature year-round is about 26 degrees Celsius, and it hardly gets hotter than 29 degrees.

The rainy season is from March till May and October till November. Light downpour occurs around November to December. The climate is slowly changing but the normal dry seasons are from December to February and June to August. Even during the rainy season, your travel will not be hindered too much as the rains can be heavy but are typically short and sunshine will follow.

The warmest regions in Uganda are around Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and everything further north (Kidepo National Park). The cooler regions are obviously at higher altitudes – around Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi/Virunga National Park and Lake Bunyonyi.

Probably the best time of the year for gorilla trekking would be December to late February and from June to September. But that’s also peak season. Although the parks don’t feel crowded whatsoever, you have to confirm your trip many months in advance in order to secure gorilla tracking permits availability.  Despite it being the dry season, it is always humid in Bwindi, as gorillas live in montane rainforest. Se be prepared for steep, muddy hikes.

How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit
If you are planning to visit the gorillas or chimpanzees, it is recommended that you reserve the permits well in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquartered in Kampala issues the permits only upon cash payment in full (no pre-booking). Permits cost US$ 600 per person.

Kuamka Tours and Travel can arrange the gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking permits for you after you have booked a safari with us. In order to do so, we need (1) full names corresponding with your passport, nationality, date of birth and passport number of all the people tracking, (2) preferred starting location and date (3) second best date in case the preferred date is fully booked. Once proof of payment has been sent, we will purchase the permits on your behalf. Kindly note that UWA does not have a refund policy in case of any cancellation or change of data. Note that the minimum age for gorilla tracking is 15 years.

Contact us to arrange your gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking permits.

What to expect on my gorilla trekking day?
You probably get up in the dark to get ready, have breakfast and make sure you arrive at the trekking location at 07:45 AM. Depending on where you sleep, that can still be an hour’s drive off-road. The UWA guide will give an introduction. Every group consists of a maximum of 8 tourists and some UWA rangers. You can opt for a porter to take your bag. Don’t feel obliged to ask. These are local men and women who can earn some income by carrying your things.

The trekking starts at 8.30AM. Depending on where the gorillas were the previous day, the tracking can take 2 to 6 hours. Once the rangers have found the gorilla’s, you can spend 1 hour with the gorilla family. Walk at your own pace. The 1-hour watch starts when the whole group is together, so don’t feel hurried by fellow trekkers who want to reach there quickly. Gorillas are wild animals and the UWA would like to keep it that way. For them not to get too much used to human interaction, gorilla’s are left without any human presence for 23 hours a day.

After the gorilla sighting, you’ll go back to the starting point where you will find your tour guide waiting to drive you back to your lodge. A tip for the rangers and porters is appreciated.

Some practical tips for your gorilla trekking day:

  1. Wear long-sleeved clothes to protect yourself from scratches and insect bites as you are walking through thick bush.
  2. Go on good walking/hiking shoes that are comfortable for handling slippery slopes.
  3. Gloves can be a great addition as you need to grab a lot of twigs and trees.
  4. To put in your bag: waterproof jacket/poncho, insect repellant, sunscreen, enough water ( 2L) and food for during your tracking
  5. Has it rained? Grab a walking stick at the beginning of the tracking
  6. Close-ups are very appealing, try a close-up of a hand, feet or face.
  7. Take some time to watch the gorillas without taking pictures. Put your camera away and simply realise where you and enjoy.

 

INQUIRE NOW | REQUEST A QUOTE

AFFORDABLE GORILLA TRACKING SAFARIS

8 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING, CHIMPANZEE TRACKING, BOAT CRUISE AND WILDLIFE SAFARI UGANDA

3 DAYS RWANDA GORILLA TRACKING

RWANDA TOUR – 8 DAYS GORILLAS AND CHIMPS

UGANDA GORILLA TRACKING SAFARI – 3 DAYS