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A to Z of Gorilla Trekking

About Gorillas

The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei) is one of two subspecies of the eastern gorilla. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the total population is estimated to comprise 1,020 individuals in two populations as of 2018. One population lives in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park BINP, 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 1,020 mountain gorillas (as of May 2018) - the rest live in the neighboring 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, gorilla trekking 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, gorilla permit numbers are limited because only 8 people are allowed to visit a gorilla family per day for only one hour.

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, because if the group is threatened, the silverback - weighing up to 120kg (260lbs) - will defend them to the death, if necessary. Families can have more than one silverback though the dominant silverback remains in charge.

Gorilla trekking can be a challenging endeavour so to make the most of it you have to hope the rains are not heavy on the day and that the gorillas are more settled as opposed to on the move. From our experience, trekking families with more gorillas and with more juvenile and infant gorillas is always preferable. This means this family is not constantly on the move and watching juvenile and infant gorillas play is an experience like no other.

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

Please note gorilla group numbers fluctuate due to births and deaths.

Gorilla Habituation Experience

Habituation is a process which involves guides spending ample time with the family to get the gorillas accustomed to human presence. Habituated gorillas are thus comfortable and secure enough to continue with their daily routines while being observed. The habituation process takes two years and also involves the exciting phase of naming the gorillas and the family group.

Booking Your Gorilla Trekking Experience

Prior booking is recommended and this can be done through Buutu Safaris. Permits can be booked up to two years in advance. 

The cost of a Mountain Gorilla Permit is USD700* each (Starting 2020). Discounted rates are available for Ugandan citizens and foreign residents. One must be above 15 years of age and in good physical condition to trekk. The Permits can be got for the 2 parks – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park plus Mgahinga Gorilla Park. The USD 700 may appear a lot, however upon finishing, absolutely nothing can compare to the satisfaction of having encountered these glorious and uncommon giants.

Rules and Regulations for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

There are clear rules and regulations that apply to trackers in the park including keeping a seven-meter distance from the gorillas at all times, no smoking or eating in the presence of gorillas, no flashes on digital cameras, persons with infectious diseases are not permitted to track, among others. The rules are always explained in detail to all trackers at the pre-tracking briefing.

What to wear and What to carry for your gorilla trekking safari

It is important to wear the right attire and gear for a gorilla trekking expedition. Unlike the Batwa pygmy and Bakiga who live near the forests with the gorillas and can afford a casual stroll through the forest barefooted, regular people like us need the right attire for this adventure.

1. Wear a long sleeve shirt and trousers to reduce scratches from vines and thorns in the jungle.

2. Carry a rain coat as rain is very common in the tropical rain forests.

3. Wear good hiking shoes that cover well above the ankles. The forests can get wet and muddy and slippery so it is imperative one wears good hiking boots.

4. Wear long socks and tuck the bottom of your pants into the socks.

5. Carry your reusable water bottle with enough drinking water to last you at least 5 hours.

6. Carry lunch packs which are normally provided by the lodge.

Buutu Safaris looks forward to exploring the forested hills with you to enjoy this breathtaking once, twice or even thrice in a lifetime experience. Contact us for gorilla permits and gorilla safaris