This ultimate guide is intended to help you choose where to go gorilla trekking, where to stay, what to pack and also explain how the entire trek will support the mountain gorillas as well as the local people.
I will also share some thoughts on the other activities you can do in Rwanda and Uganda as part of your gorilla safari tour. All the information that is confined in this guide is based on my individual experience with trekking the gorillas, and also supporting the conservation and tourism in Rwanda and Uganda.
Where to trek Mountain gorillas
In Africa, the following are the countries where to see of trek mountain gorillas;
Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo
Uganda’s single most important tourist attraction is the 331km² Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which protects a rugged landscape of steep hills and valleys of the Congolese border south of Ishasha and north of Kisoro. Rolling eastward from the Albertine Rift Escarpment, the tangled forested slopes of Bwindi provide shelter to one of Africa’s most diverse mammalian faunas, including 45% of the global mountain gorilla population.
Unfortunately, the main tourist activity in BINP is gorilla trekking, which was first established at the Buhoma park headquarters in 1993, but now operates out of four trailheads among them being Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga all of which are serviced by a selection of tourist lodges. Today, 18 habituated gorilla groups can be tracked in Bwindi, a fascinating venture regarded by most who have undertaken it to be a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Another place in Uganda where to see or trek the mountain gorillas is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This is somewhat understandable, given that it hosts just one habituated group by comparison with Bwindi’s tally of 18. However, this scenic park is notable for its four fraternal silverbacks that seem significantly heftier than their counterparts in Bwindi.
Where to stay on a gorilla trek in Uganda
- Amajambere Iwacu Camp
- Volcanoes Mount Gahinga safari lodge
- Bird nest at Bunyonyi Resort
- Bunyonyi Overland Resort
- Kisoro Tourist Hotel
- Kisoro Travellers’ Rest Hotel
- Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro
- Mountain Gorilla Safari Hotel
Rwanda’s top draw is of course the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit the misty slope of the Virunga Volcanoes National Park along its northern border. Trekking to see mountain gorillas is the most exciting and moving wildlife encounter you’ll ever experience, it starts with a tense ascent through fertile volcanic slopes dense with cultivation, into a hushed montane forest of impenetrable bamboo skyscrapers, until finally you come face to face with one of these extraordinary creatures. It is truly an awesome experience, inspirational, emotional, and profoundly satisfying.
Despite their fearsome appearance, mountain gorillas are remarkably peaceable creatures and their attitude to people differs greatly from that of any other wild animal I have ever encountered.
Where to stay on a gorilla trek in Rwanda
A wide range of luxury, midrange and budget accommodations where you can stay during your gorilla safari in Volcanoes National Park include; Five Volcanoes Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Virunga Volcanoes Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Kwitonda Lodge
Democratic Republic of Congo
While mountain gorillas do make their homes near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda, it is on the DR Congo side of the Virunga Mountains that they reside in larger populations. Usually, you will only need to hike for a few hours to find a mountain gorilla group. It is the region’s best-kept secret for this kind of trekking and your presence will help anti-poaching efforts in the country.
Additionally, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is not one to be missed. The majestic eastern lowland silverback gorillas (also known as Grauer’s gorilla) are only available here. Protection against poaching, in addition to UN patrols, has ensured that the world’s last remaining natural habitat for this subspecies is reasonably intact. Please do check the latest security situation before travelling to the Congo.
Where to stay on gorilla trek in Virunga
- Kibumba Tented Camp
- Mikeno Lodge
- Tchegera Tented Camp
- Ngila Tented Camp
What to wear on the day of gorilla trekking?
On the day of gorilla trekking, you should wear boots with good grip, gators, gloves, thick socks and pants and a long-sleeved top. Complimentary comfort kits, containing items such as sun cream, a sweat towel, tissues. Guests will receive a loaned backpack containing a lunchbox, snacks and a water bottle.
Secure a Gorilla Permit
Each and every visitor needs a gorilla permit in order to go gorilla trekking in any of the three national parks. Gorilla trekking permits includes a fee for the ranger for the ranger guides, while tips are greatly appreciated. Gorilla permits should be arranged well in advance which is one reason why many people purchase these permits through tour operators.
The cost and availability of gorilla permits varies by country and currently ranges from USD 700 in Uganda, while USD1500 in Rwanda and USD 400 in Democratic Republic of Congo. For high seasons of June to September and December to February, gorilla permits need to be bought in advance since clients can easily miss out due to many travellers.
You will also need to budget for visa fees, transfer and a local service fee and any re-entry visas. The government often increases the permit and transfer costs without notice, so we ask that you budget for the highest amount, so that you don’t suddenly have to find additional money to partake in this wonderful experience. This helps you to know which country to go for gorilla according to your budget.
My experience has largely been in Rwanda and Uganda trekking mountain gorillas. When comparing Rwanda or Uganda, which is the best destination for gorilla trekking, we then recommend gorilla trekking in both countries. Both of these experiences are so amazing. I also liked riding through the rain forest in Bwindi and the bamboo forest of Rwanda.
I have known many people who have tracked mountain gorillas and have continued to go back since the experience is so different and exciting. On the other side, some travellers decide that since they are traveling to East Africa, why not trek both Rwanda and Uganda mountain gorillas.
There is no one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes which are so intelligent, gentle, and vulnerable and can remain unaffected, for the gap between apes and the human disappears; we also know that the gorillas still live with us.