Delve into the verdant Afromontane rainforests of Uganda in East Africa, a biodiverse ecosystem harbouring the country's most iconic animal – the mountain gorilla.

Ever since the 1980s, when the gentle giants were at the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and poaching, the government has made concerted efforts to protect their population. Now there are over 1,062 individuals roaming freely throughout the rugged jungles. As a result, you can experience an adventurous Uganda gorilla safari, full of enriching moments of wonder and intrigue.

Throughout a Uganda wildlife holiday, you can go in search of the primates specifically. But where are the best places to find them? What should you wear? And where should you stay during your adventures?

Here's our ultimate guide to gorilla trekking.

1. Upgrade Your Mountain Gorilla Tracking Adventure

Our Africa Travel Specialist, Craig Kaufman (pictured above), provides his expert insight on seeing wild mountain gorillas:

“The habituated family gorilla troops you'll visit will likely include a silverback gorilla or two; some blackback gorillas, female gorillas and baby gorillas. I recommend putting the cameras down and taking some time to enjoy watching these incredible wild animals in their natural habitat. Because it's such an intense experience, the hour you’re allowed to spend observing a gorilla family feels like five minutes. So, if you're keen on something truly special, the four-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience is worth thinking about: it costs only an extra US$800 more than the normal Uganda gorilla permit. For US$1,500 – the same you’d pay for a one-hour gorilla trekking permit across the border in Rwanda – you can spend four hours watching the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.” – Craig Kaufman, Africa Travel Specialist

2. Visit in the Dry Season

The best time to see mountain gorillas in Uganda is between December and March or June and September – the country's two dry seasons.

In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the natural habitat features trickling streams sparkling in dappled sunshine. Some rain occurs on up to 330 days of the year, but less so during the dry season periods.

Apart from its thriving populations of gorillas and chimpanzees, Uganda never fails to delight with its wildlife and diverse birdlife, including highlights like the blue-headed sunbird and black bee-eater.

3. Head to Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Around a two-hour drive along the dirt road track from any of the airstrips will lead you to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Widely regarded as the best gorilla tracking destination in Uganda, Bwindi is home to half the world's mountain gorilla population. For about a quarter of their day, they spend the time eating plants made up of leaves, shoots and stems. They also eat larvae, snails, ants and sources of salt.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can be substituted with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Just across the border from Bwindi, Volcanoes National Park is another home of the mountain gorilla as well as golden monkeys, forest squirrels and over 200 bird species.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Sitting high in the clouds at an altitude of 2,227m and 4,127m, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a great option to see gorillas in Uganda. Your gorilla trekking expedition will commence through dense montane forests and large swathes of bamboo groves. Remote, peaceful and inhabited by the likes of golden monkeys and black-fronted duiker antelopes, there may be no better place on Earth to disconnect from the outside world and connect with nature.

Mountain gorillas live here in groups led by dominant alpha silverbacks, who direct troop activities such as nesting, feeding and migration between seasonal feeding areas.

4. Combine with Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park doesn’t have gorillas. But in its Budongo Forest sector, there’s a healthy population of chimpanzees. You can see a myriad of other mammals, including African elephants, hippos and Uganda kobs as well as lion and leopard. Then you can head to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for a mountain gorilla trek.

Murchison Falls National Park combines beautifully with Bwindi. Other noteworthy Protected Areas where you can see wildlife in Uganda are Lake Mburo National Park and Kibale National Park.

5. Take the Right Currency

The local currency is the Ugandan shilling (UGX), although US dollars are the preferred hard currency.

When preparing for your Uganda trip, make sure the US dollar bills you take were issued during or after 2013. This is because the guides, or other tour personnel, you'll be paying in the country will obtain a poorer rate of exchange when presenting older bills.

The cost of a gorilla trekking trip is US$800 for the normal Uganda gorilla permit. However, for US$1,500, you can spend four hours tracking the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

6. Plan Your Trip in Advance

The terrain in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is comprised of steep, rainforest-clad slopes. So, it's beneficial to do a little pre-trip prepping.

Walking poles will help immensely with manoeuvring the dense forests. Keeping your balance is key, allowing you to trek throughout the trails relatively easily. If you're visiting in the wet season, be aware that these paths are more slippery than usual.

Boost your fitness levels by building up your hiking prowess before your trip. Knowing that you're comfortable walking long distances will keep you in good stead for the adventure set out before you.

However, if you feel you're unable to make the walk up to the gorillas, you can hire a ‘sedan’ chair for a very reasonable US$300. This is a chair on a stretcher, in which you can be carried up to see the gorillas.

In addition to your level of fitness, you’ll be drinking plenty of water. Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.

7. Wear Sensible Clothing

When embarking on a wild gorilla trekking safari, keep in mind the terrain you'll walk along. Essential to the trip is footwear with a firm grip and ankle support; so ideally, a well-worn pair of hiking boots. Just don’t wear new boots as these tend to cause blisters.

In addition to your hiking shoes, it's wise to pack a waterproof jacket. Weather conditions in Bwindi and Mgahinga can include at least some rain throughout the year, meaning that jacket will come in handy. Additionally, long sleeve tops and gaiters will protect you from insects during the hike.

We also recommend taking a pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands from stinging nettles, which are prolific in the areas where mountain gorillas live.

8. Hire a Porter

The porters are superheroes. They'll carry your rucksack with your water supply and camera gear as well as the clothing you’ll be adding into it as your hike progresses. Typically, the mornings are crisp, and nights can get quite cold, so pack accordingly. When you arrive at the Park HQ with a fleece, you’ll want to remove some of the layers as you continue along your way. As you progress, your porter will also pull or push you up steeper sections of the slopes. For all of this, they charge only US$20.

It's also worth knowing that many porters are reformed poachers, so utilising their services makes an excellent contribution to the conservation of the gorillas and other wildlife protected in the national parks.

They're integral to making these amazing experiences possible.

9. Stay at a Lodge Close to Mountain Gorilla Populations

After your memorable experience trekking through the jungle, you'll need a place to rest and recharge your batteries. Situated a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the Buhoma sector of Bwindi National Park, around a five-minute walk to the gorilla trekking start point, Buhoma Lodge offers an environmentally friendly way to spend the night. Locally sourced ingredients are utilised wherever possible, solar power is in place and staff are locally employed. The elevated areas allow you to enjoy spectacular views over the tropical rainforest too.

Overlooking the breathtaking Munyaga River Valley, Mahogany Springs Lodge is another great option. Located just outside Bwindi National Park, the large stone cottages provide the perfect base for gorilla trekking. They were built using local materials and feature private balconies with incredible valley views.

Near to where the four-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience happens, in the Nkuringo sector, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge provides a superb spot for you to relax. With stunning views of the Virungas’ distant peaks to one side and forest-clad slopes of Bwindi to the other, this superb property is one of our firm favourites. Aside from gorilla tracking, you can go hiking in the beautiful surrounds or go birding to see the forest-dependent Albertine Rift endemics.

Embark on a Mountain Gorilla Trekking Trip to Uganda with Rainbow

Speak with our Travel Specialists to start planning your once-in-a-lifetime experience. With only 1,062 mountain gorillas in existence today, being able to see these incredible animals in their natural habitat is vastly enriching and simply unforgettable.

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