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How to plan for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest Uganda

Home to more than half of the total mountain gorilla population, Bwindi forest is one of the best places for mountain gorilla tracking in the jungle. Situated southwestern Uganda, Bwindi national park can be accessed via Kampala by road, which is an 8 – 10 hours drive south of Uganda with stopovers and from Entebbe by chatter flight – just 1hour 45 minutes.

Bwindi forest offers tourists various options of trekking to see gorillas in the jungle – Impenetrable indeed, Bwindi offers tourists a real jungle adventure with a chance to visit the near groups (simple trek), medium hike and tough hike. Visiting gorillas in Bwindi forest also cater for the disabled and those with health issues.

Bwindi offers a total of 13 habituated gorilla families and 2 other groups open to tourists interested in taking part in gorilla habituation experience. Gorilla groups in Bwindi forest are distributed over 4 distinct locations / sectors of:

  • Buhoma Sector, the most popularly visited sector – this was the first sector with a habituated gorilla family – the Mubare group, and hence the first region open to tourists in 1993. It’s no wonder Buhoma has the highest number of hotels, and the most sought after sector by majority tourists. Today, the region offers 3 habituated gorilla groups with many accommodation options and nearest from Kampala.

Note that gorilla permits here are usually booked a year in advance since it has a lot of competition.

  • Ruhija Sector – situated in the southwest of Bwindi forest, this is the sector of the part nearest to Rwanda – Kigali. Visitors planning to see gorillas in Bwindi from Kigali can access Ruhija on a 3 hours drive from Kigali and can ably trek gorillas on a 1-day gorilla tour itinerary and 2 days silverback gorilla trekking.

The Ruhija region comprises of 4 habituated gorilla groups available for trekking, with only midrange and budget hotels options, Ruhija qualifies as the best place for budget tourists.

  • Rushaga Sector – Situated southern side of Bwindi national park, Rushaga just like Nkuringo is located in Kisoro district. From Rwanda, tourists access Rushaga from Ruhengeri Volcanoes national park via the Cyanika border. Rushaga is hilly, and gorilla tours here are tough. Rushaga sector has 5 habituated gorilla groups and 2 more gorilla groups open for gorilla habituation experience.
  • Nkuringo region – with just 1 gorilla family, Nkuringo is a hiker’s paradise with the toughest hiking gorilla family group. Nkuringo is mountainous and offers some of the best views in Bwindi national park, from here, you can view neighboring extinct Gahinga volcano, Sabyinyo and Muhabura.

Frequently Asked Questions on Bwindi Gorilla Trekking

What would be the best time of year to go visit gorillas?

Visiting gorillas in Bwindi forest can be done all year round but most preferably done in the dry seasons of December – March and June – October. Bwindi being a tropical forest, rain is expected to come all year round and we cannot guarantee it won’t rain even during the dry seasons. April – May and November are rainy seasons. If you prefer to trek gorillas in the dry season, it’s most advisable to book your gorilla permits at least 8 months ahead of your trekking date, as many tourists prefer to travel during the dry season.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority formerly offered discounted gorilla permits for $450 in the rainy season to encourage tourists to trek gorillas but this is no more! Uganda gorilla permits cost $600 Per Person all year round.

What are the rules regarding interacting with the gorillas?

  • Trekkers are supposed to keep a distance of 7 meters away from the gorillas, beyond that, you are not allowed.
  • Trekkers must wear a mask in the Virunga (Congo). This is not compulsory in Bwindi forest, Mgahinga and Volcanoes national park.
  • Don’t look straight in the eyes of a gorilla; the gorilla can perceive it as a challenge and a threat.
  • Do not make noise in the presence of gorillas.
  • Do not run when a gorilla charges or comes near you – stand still and be calm.
  • Follow your guide’s instructions at all times.
  • Flash photography is not allowed.

How long can we spend with the gorillas?

You are only allowed one hour in the presence of gorillas but the actual trek locating your gorilla family may take longer depending on the location of your gorilla family.

Which accommodation to choose for gorilla trekking?

Numerous accommodation options are available in the different sectors of Bwindi national park, and which ever sector you choose to visit guarantees accommodations ranging from camping, budget, deluxe and luxury facilities.

Here are some planning ideas:

Buhoma region

Luxury hotels include – Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Volcanoes Safari Bwindi Lodge, Gorilla Resort Lodge.

Deluxe include – Silverback Lodge, Haven Lodge Buhoma Community and Rest Camp, Engagi Lodge.

Budget – Bwindi View Bandas, Bwindi Guest House, Gorilla Friends Lodge, Buhoma Community and Rest Camp.

Ruhija area

Luxury hotels include – Ruhija Gorilla Resort.

Deluxe – Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp.

Budget – Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Community Camp.

Rushaga sector

Luxury accommodations include Chameleon Hill Lodge and Gorilla Forest Lodge.

Deluxe options – Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge.

Nkuringo sector

Luxury options – Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.

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