Uganda Mountain Gorilla Tracking Tips and Guidelines

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Gorilla Trekking Safari

Practical advice to make your Gorilla Safari more enjoyable

For most travelers, trekking the Mountain Gorillas ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Uganda, and the spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe.

Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only 880 (November 2012) left throughout the world. Almost half of these can be found in Uganda, as well as populations in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to The Ugandan Wildlife Authority, there is a 95% chance that you will come across the Gorillas on your trek. Your journey will be an exhilarating one: cutting your way through dense jungle, thick bamboo, past local homesteads and up forested hills… Tracking spans vary and can be anything from a little as 30 minutes to 7 hours! Your efforts will be rewarded with your first sighting of the Gorillas, as these gentle giants shyly approach you and you come face-to-face with one of nature’s greatest animals.

Before you set off on your Mountain Gorilla Tracking Safari

  • Be in reasonable shape and have no communicable diseases or cold or flu. If you need to cough, sneeze, blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
  • Be at least 15 years of age.
  • Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
  • Wear appropriate clothing since it is often cool there, a jacket might be helpful, a light backpack where you can put your packed lunch, proper boots to support your ankles.

The Mountain Gorilla Tracking Experience

  • A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated Gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbances to the Gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
  • Always wash your hands before you head out to the Gorillas.
  • Pack it in and pack it out. Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you since it would spoil it for the next visitors.
  • You will be taken to where the guides left the Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the Gorillas’ trail to find them. Look out for the Gorillas nesting sites along the way.
  • When you approach the Gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
  • Please always keep your voices low. This will ensure that you will be able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.

In the Presence of Mountain Gorillas – Your time with the Gorillas

  • Keep a minimum distance of 5-7 meters (15-21 feet) from the Gorillas. (This reduces the risk transmitting diseases between humans and Gorillas.
  • Keep your voices pretty low at all times but it is okay to ask the guide questions.
  • Do not partake of food or drinks in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.

Sometimes the Mountain Gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example by crouching down slowly, and do not look at the Gorillas in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not attempt to run away (this will increase the risk of attack).

  • Flash photography is not allowed, when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully. Do not make lots of movements when taking pictures-keep it calm.
  • Do not touch the Mountain Gorillas, remember they are wild animals.
  • The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the Gorillas is one hour; however, if the Gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.

After the visit, keep your voices low until you are at least 200 meters away from the Gorillas.

Health Guidelines

  • Since Mountain Gorillas are closely related to us they are susceptible to diseases carried by humans.
  • If you not well, let it be known and remove yourself from the gorilla tracking team.
  • If you need to cough, sneeze, blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
  • No smoking, eating of food or drinking of beverages is allowed in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.

Acquiring Uganda Mountain Gorilla Tracking Permits

The African Mountain Gorillas in Uganda are one of the main attractions to visitors to Uganda. Mountain Gorilla Tracking (Trekking) permits are a much sought after commodity and with a small number of people allowed to track each day, it takes a lot of planning to ensure an opportunity of the tracking of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. Since the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unstable presently, there is more pressure on Mountain Gorilla Tracking Permits in Uganda. Fortunately we also have Rwanda that is just a hop across the border from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and at times the Mgahinga Gorilla Park area. We can help you acquire and track a Uganda gorilla tracking permit even if you are coming from Rwanda – also arrange to transportation.

Your best bet for obtaining a Mountain Gorilla Tracking Permit is to book a Mountain Gorilla Tracking Safari with us as a 3 day safari or as part of a longer safari taking in other Uganda National Parks such as the Chimpanzees at Kibale, the wildlife, birds and chimpanzees at Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The price of the Mountain Gorilla Trekking Permits cost $600 USD each (January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2015). You must be at least 15 years of age. Permits can be obtained for two different parks, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. However the situation in Mgahinga is a bit more fluid, since the habituated Mountain Gorilla group there moves back and forth to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since we are a tour operator and registered as such in Uganda, we have a better opportunity to meet your schedule and if you book a Mountain Gorilla Tracking Safari with us, we are flexible to adjust the date of the gorilla tracking to fit into the overall safari itinerary we have for you.

Most people going on a Mountain Gorilla Tracking Safari actually see them since your Guide is extremely knowledgeable about the area where your habituated group is located in. Upon completion of your successful Tracking Safari you will be issued a certificate by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The 600 USD may seem steep but it’s worth it and upon completion there is no mention of the money, – only a satisfaction of having seen these magnificent and rare animals. Go here to see how can acquire the gorilla tracking ticket / permit.

When to Visit Uganda

Best time to go: June to August and December to February (All parks)
High Season: June to September (It’s rarely crowded, but you’ll need to book your gorilla permits long in advance)
Low Season: March, April, May, October, November (Some lodges and camps in high rainfall areas close down; roads and forest trails can be in poor condition)
Best Weather: June-July and January-February (Little rainfall)
Worst Weather: March, April and May (Peak of wet season)

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