Contents of our Guide
- Habituating the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda
- Gorilla Trekking Vs Gorilla Habituation
- A Typical Day Gorilla Trekking
- What to Pack
- Where to Stay
- When to Go
- How to get there
- Discover More About the Gorilla Experience in Uganda.
- Gorilla Habituation FAQs
Habituating the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda
Uganda is home to approximately half of the endangered mountain gorilla population, and Gorilla trekking in Uganda allows you to spend one invaluable hour with them in their natural habitat.
This has been made possible by gently introducing mountain gorillas over 2-5 years to the sight and presence of humans, which is incredibly important for research, care and conservation purposes.
For those wishing to take a more active role, in the protection and understanding of these gentle giants, can join the rangers and conservationists as they slowly habituate two more gorilla families in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
If you choose this experience can spend up to 4 magical hours with these highly intelligent and emotional gentle giants.
It is an incredibly humbling experience knowing that you are some of the first people to meet these gorillas and play an extremely important role in their conservation.
Gorilla Trekking vs Gorilla Habituation Experience
A standard gorilla trek in Uganda involves hiking through dense forests in search of habituated gorilla families, and then spending up to an hour observing the group.
By contrast, the gorilla habituation experience involves spending four hours with a group of gorillas and is only available in the Rushaga sector in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
A standard gorilla trekking permit costs $700, while the gorilla habituation experience costs $1,500.
The gorillas observed in the habituation experience are less used to humans than those seen on the standard gorilla treks (they are still being ‘habituated’). The experience is still completely safe, and the benefit of spending more time with gorillas is that you can better understand their behaviours and social dynamics, as well as get incredible photographs, without being rushed.
Booking Permits in advance, and finding the perfect accommodation close to your chosen trek can be difficult. Let Brilliant take care of that for you, so all you have to do is get excited about your once in a lifetime experience.
A Typical Day on a Gorilla Habituation Trek
The first part of any gorilla excursion in Uganda is a (sometimes lengthy) trek into the forest with an expert team of guides and scouts, looking for tracks left by the gorillas.
The strongest clue that you're near a group is finding the gorilla's 'nest' from the previous night. It can take up to 6 hours or more to locate a gorilla family.
Once contact is made, you can spend up to 4 hours with the gorillas. A habituation experience gives you an insight into the lives of these amazing animals that few get to experience, but for us humans with short attention spans, 4 hours can be a long time, so you'll want to be sure the habituation experience is right for you.
As you observe the animals up close, interacting with each other in their small familial groups, you'll start to draw parallels between the gorillas and us - the similarities are often striking, and humbling.
It's a full day affair, and returning to the lodge for dinner and a warm shower/bath will be much needed and well deserved!
When is the best time to go?
The gorilla habituation experience can be done year-round. Temperatures in Bwindi hover between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The dry seasons, from June to August and again from December to February, are the best time to visit - but you should be prepared for showers at any time of year.
The months of March to May typically see the most rains in Bwindi, so where possible you should avoid these months,
Conversely, seeing the gorillas during the wet season offers some advantages for photographers. The rain clears the air of dust, allowing clearer photos to be taken than would otherwise be the case - the rain and mists also create a certain moody, wilderness look and feel of the national park - particularly compelling from your lodge veranda!
What to Pack
- Waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support and grip (to avoid any nasty blisters, ensure you have good walking socks and have worn them in before you depart).
- Light, breathable, waterproof jackets and trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. (wearing long sleeves and trousers will protect you from insect bites and keep you warm if the weather turns).
- Hat and sunglasses.
- A lightweight backpack, with enough room for lunch, reusable water bottle, extra layers, snacks and some essential toiletries like sun cream, insect repellent, after-sun, bite relief cream and lip balm.
- Binoculars, so you can spot other wildlife such as birds and monkeys from a distance.
- Camera with spare batteries and waterproof covering.
Where to stay
There are some fantastic accommodation options close to Bwindi national park, where you can enjoy fabulous views of the mountains and the authentic experience of staying in locally-run lodges with traditional architecture.
On the more luxurious end of the spectrum, you have Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, which blends high-end modern amenities with elegant yet unshowy wood and stone architecture, and Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, which is a ‘glamping’ resort. Some less luxurious, but cheaper and still very good options, are Buhoma Lodge, and Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi national park is in southwest Uganda, and is fairly accessible by road or by air. After arriving in Entebbe International Airport in central Uganda, you can take a second flight to either Kisoro or Kihihi airstrips, both of which are located close to Bwindi. The flights run daily and take about 1.5 hours.
Alternatively, the national park can be reached by car from Entebbe in around 9 hours. Although this is a longer option, it is possible to visit some other wonderful attractions along the way, such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, an excellent safari spot, and Murchison Falls National Park that is cut by the Nile river.
Meet The Mountain Gorillas
Gorilla Habituation Experience FAQs
Gorilla Habituation is the process of gently introducing wild mountain gorillas to the sight and presence of humans for research, care and conservation purposes. Visitors are now able to take part in this process with the gorilla habituation experience.
The main differences between gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation are time and cost. A standard gorilla tracking permit costs $700, and you can spend up to one hour observing, while a Gorilla Habituation permit costs $1500, but you do get to spend up 4 hours with them and play a more active role in their habituation.
A Gorilla Habituation Permit Costs $1500, and you can spend up to 4 hours observing them in their natural habitat, compared to just one if you choose gorilla tracking instead.
Gorilla Habituation is expensive because of the $1500 permit cost. However, approximately 75% of the permit cost is used in conservation initiatives to protect the endangered gorillas.
There are eight permits available for the gorilla habituation experience each day. The eight permits are divided into two groups of 4, one group for each gorilla family. It is advised that you book far in advance, if you would like to include this in your itinerary.
The only place you can take part in a gorilla habituation experience is in Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.
Yes. The gorilla habituation experience is safe; you will be accompanied by experienced and knowledgable guides and rangers who will ensure your safety. You will also be located at a safe distance of 6-8 meters away.
A Moderate level of fitness is required for the gorilla habituation experience, as treks to the gorillas can involve steep, rocky, slippery paths at high altitudes. Depending on where the Gorillas are situated on the day, the hike can take between 1 and 4 hours.
Yes, there is an age restriction. You must be 15 years or older to take part in the gorilla habituation experience and gorilla trekking.
Yes, you are allowed to take photographs during the gorilla habituation experience. However, flash photography is strictly prohibited. A DSLR camera is recommended, as there may be low light underneath the canopy of the trees.
Discover More About Gorillas in Uganda
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
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Gorilla Trekking Costs
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Uganda Gorilla Permits
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Is Gorilla Trekking Worth It?
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Best Time to Visit the Gorillas in Uganda
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Bwindi Mountain Gorilla Families
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