Uganda is blessed with a number of different primates and it is possible to trek both mountain gorillas and chimps here. The one that we are most famous for is undoubtedly the Mountain Gorilla. It is estimated that half the worlds population of Mountain Gorillas live in Uganda, most in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and some in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. A step in the conservation of them is to habituate groups for tourists on safari to go trekking. The benefits of this, aside from providing money for conservation, is to provide work opportunities for the locals in the tourism industry. Gorilla trekking is also possible in Rwanda at the Virunga volcanoes.
Trekking the Mountain Gorillas is an unforgettable adventure. You get to experience amazing views of the mountains, a hike through the beautiful forest and the highlight of spending one hour with the Mountain Gorillas.
You report at the office of the Uganda wildlife authority in the area you are to be trekking at 8 in the morning to get the formalities done before starting and to be briefed about the rules that apply in the national park. The formalities are to show the gorilla permits together with your passports to the responsible warden and to be designated which group you’ll be trekking. Our guide takes care of all this so you can just relax, take part in the briefing and think of the great experience you have a head of you.
Around 9 am the adventure starts. Depending on the location of the group you’ll be seeing you either start the hike directly from the offices of UWA or are driven a bit to another starting point. The distance you’ll have to walk before reaching the gorillas depends on where they are. A search team is always sent out earlier in the morning to locate the gorillas and they are in constant contact with your gorilla trekking guide to lead him/her to the point and help find the best way there. The hike takes you through beautiful jungle scenery and is an experience in itself.
When you are close to where the gorillas are you’ll be asked to leave your backpacks and only bring along necessary things (like you camera). You are allowed one hour with the gorillas. Respect the instructions you get from the guide and enjoy the amazing moment of being close to these gentle giants! When your time with the gorillas is coming to an end the guide will inform you and lead you out of the area where they are. After picking up your things you’ll start the trek back. When reaching the offices you’ll be rewarded with a diploma showing that you have done the unforgettable experience of gorilla trekking in Uganda. Read a blog entry about a first gorilla trekking experience here.
Habituated Gorilla Groups in Uganda
There are 13 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda, most of them in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and one group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In Bwindi there are four areas where Gorillas have been habituated to visitors, a gorilla trekking permit is purchased for an area not a specific group. In the Buhoma area of Bwindi the groups Rushegura (19 individuals), Habinyanja (17 individuals) and Mubare (8 individuals) can be trekked. The Mubare group was the first group to be habituated in Uganda receiving its first Gorilla trekkers in 1993. The Ruhija area of Bwindi has three habituated groups, Bitukura (14 individuals), Kyaguriro (15 individuals) and Oruzogo (25 individuals). The Kyaguriro group was previously only open to researcher studying the Gorillas of Bwindi but is now open to tourists as well. In Nkuringo area of Bwindi there is the Nkuringo Group (19 individuals). The Rushaga area of Bwindi has five habituated groups, Nshongi (26 individuals), Mishaya (12 individuals), Kahungye (13 individuals), Bweza (9 individuals) and Busingye (9 individuals). The Nshongi group was at the time of habituation in 2009 the largest group that had been habituated in Uganda, consisting of 36 individuals. Since then the group has split in two and the Mishaya group was created. In Mghahinga Gorilla National Park there is one habituated Gorilla group the Nyakagezi Group (10 individuals). The Mgahinga park only has this Gorilla family and their behavior of crossing the borders to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo makes it so that they are not always in the park.