Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gorillas Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking in East Africa is one of the most unique things that you can do while traveling around Africa. Gorillas are found in Eastern Africa on the borders of the  Uganda, and Rwanda. When I moved to Eastern Africa, I knew that I had a unique opportunity to experience something that only a handful of people get to do every year and I wasn’t leaving the continent until I saw some gorillas!

The Logistics of Choosing a Tour

There are two things to keep in mind when booking a gorilla trekking tour: the permit costs and the cost of the tour itself. All governments require everyone to get a permit to see the gorillas.  The normal price for a permit is $500 USD. The permits are issued by the government of the country where you will be scheduling your trek.   Rwanda the gorilla permit fee is $750 USD.  Uganda and Rwanda occasionally have promotions during the low season (September and October) for as low as $350 USD.
In searching for a tour, Rwanda has no visa cost for visitors from most Western countries while Uganda charges upwards of $50 for single entry and $100 for multiple entry visas (for various countries).
Most gorilla families are constantly monitored and tracked so tourists are able to see them. Rarely are there situations when tourists do not see them, even on the shorter 3 day tours.  On average, it is between $500 to $800 for the tour, depending on the tour operator and also the size of the group.  When you have a larger group the costs go down since you are able to fill up the transportation vehicle.  I chose a tour that offered me the rates below:
  • $970 for one person going alone on the trip
  • $585 per person for 2 people
  • $470 per person for 3 people
  • $400 per person for 4-6 people
I was lucky to find a group of four other people and the total cost of my gorilla trek was $900, $500 for the gorilla permit and $400 for the tour. If you are traveling alone, you may incur an additional fee of $50 for a private room.  Breakfast and lunch were included in the tour.

I stayed in contact with several companies that offered me the lowest prices and eventually found a date that fit my schedule perfectly that also included 4 people on the tour.
You can find a list of the tour operators on the Rwanda tourism and Uganda tourism sites.
I arrived the day before my trek was scheduled just in case something happened or there were permit issues and I needed to find another tour operator. But there was nothing to worry about. I paid the tour operator and we were on our way. Note: If paying in cash, make sure you bring larger bills that were printed after the year 2004 otherwise anyone in Uganda won’t accept them.

Going Trekking with Gorillas – The Tour Itself


It takes an entire day to drive from Kampala to Bwindi National Park, including a stop at the equator.  Depending on what group your permit is assigned to, you will arrive in one of four cities outside the national park: Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo, or Rushaga. We arrived in Nkuringo on the southwest edge of the park. 

After you spend the night, the next day will all be about gorillas! We woke up at dawn and began our journey into the park, arriving at our outpost around 7:45am.  There was a quick briefing and then we drove deep inside the Ugandan mountains, where there will be a brief orientation during which you will be given a set of rules stating that the gorillas can approach you but you cannot approach the gorillas. (Don’t touch wild animals!) After the orientation, the rangers prepare to search for the gorillas and you begin your trek into the jungle.
Finding the actual gorillas can take anywhere from one to five hours as it all depends on the movement of the gorillas.  They are very mobile animals that move around continuously.  Once the rangers locate the gorillas, you will spend roughly an hour or two watching them, possibly interacting with them if you are lucky, before you head back to the hotel. (If you choose a longer tour, you’ll get to go back again the next day to find more gorillas.)


We were lucky as we found  Gorillas  feeding and playing on the edge of the forest near the ranger camp.
I cannot tell you how amazing it is to be inches away from such unique creatures.  The gorillas, especially the silver backs, are incredibly strong and they could easily injure a human in seconds. Yet they didn’t fear us at all – they will walk right up to you if you are in their way. There were several times that we walked around to see different silver backs and no matter where we were or how we positioned ourselves, they completely ignored us. They were just going about their daily routines while we were busy snapping pictures and video.
 Thinking back on the experience, gorilla trekking in Uganda was one of the most unique and memorable things I’ve done while traveling around the world. If I ever have the opportunity to do this again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. And, if you get the chance to do it, don’t hesitate either.

For more Safari and Gorllia Trekking  in Uganda and Rwanda
visit www.travelexploreafrica.com
Tel:   +256 756 771 667
         +256 776 566 077