A reader emailed me wanting to know if she can go gorilla trekking in Tanzania. I told her that there aren’t any good spots to track gorillas in Tanzania and that she has better chances going on a Rwandan or Ugandan gorilla trekking experience.
So I decided to share some of the love here with our Ugandan and Rwandan cousins by writing about gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda.
These two destinations offer the best spots to track mountain gorillas in their natural setting doing “real gorilla stuff”.
Its an amazing experience.
Forget about zoos. This is the real deal. You’ll come so close to untamed mountain gorillas that you will hear and feel them breathe.
But you need not be scared. Despite their huge body size, gorillas aren’t violent unless they feel threatened. You want to come across as non-threatening as possible.
You will be fine if you follow the guidelines given during the orientation preceding your gorilla trekking experience and/or follow the lead of your guide.
This is not your average African safari experience. You won’t be in a safari vehicle and you’ll trek to the gorilla spots. It will be one of those experiences that you look back on with a smile on your face.
Mountain gorilla facts and information
- Status: endangered.
- There are about 880 living mountain gorillas in the world.
- Gestation period: about 9 months. They give birth to one young one.
- They can grow up to 6 ft.
- Mountain gorillas can live up to 50 years.
- They are entirely vegetarian.
- To build and maintain their huge body, they spend most of their day eating.
- Movement: walks on all fours.
Mountain gorillas live in remote parts of the African jungle. A few of them live not so far away from human settlements. It is these that you will spot during your Rwanda or Uganda gorilla trek.
They can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and the region around Virunga mountains in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R. Congo).
Congo gorilla trekking is not quite popular with tourists looking for African gorilla safaris due to the civil strife in some parts of the country. The general tourism situation in the country is not that developed either.
Rwanda and Uganda offer the best opportunity for gorilla trekking in Africa.
There are however some gorilla tours that can take you to Congo. This is not for the faint of heart, though. That being said, I wouldn’t advise you against going if you are looking for some serious adventure.
Gorillas hang out in groups. They live in groups that are structured almost like the typical human family. The silver back male is the leader of the group which always consist of the silver back male gorilla, the females, younger males and young ones.
As the leader, the silver back male leads the band of gorillas in many activities like looking for food and construction of nests.
Despite their imposing size, mountain gorillas are actually quite gentle. They aren’t threatening not unless they are harassed or feel significantly threatened by your presence.
Your trip should therefore be as non-disruptive as possible.
When you encounter the mountain gorillas, you are advised to stand still and avoid staring at them deep in the eyes when they are at close range. Your guide will probably brief you about these guidelines during your orientation before you embark on your Rwanda/Uganda gorilla trekking experience. Heed the guide’s advice.
How to secure your gorilla permits
These permits run out pretty quickly so it is wise to book them very early – months before your planned trip.
If you are going to Rwanda, you can book directly from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or +252 576 514.
Alternatively, you can get your permits from independent tour operators or travel agencies. They usually charge a small fee (from $30 – $50) to handle your booking.
I think going the tour operator/ travel agency route is the most convenient way to get your permit as the private sector is often more organized and ensures a hassle free booking.
There are several gorilla tour operators in both Uganda and Rwanda that can take care of the permit booking for you.
And how much do gorilla permits cost?
The gorilla permit prices in Uganda are $ 600 for non-residents.
The gorilla permit prices in Rwanda are $ 750 for non-residents, $ 450 for East African residents, $ 300 for East African citizens, $ 375 for Rwanda residents and 30,000 Frw for Rwanda citizens.
Stay close to the action
Rwanda: Mountains Gorilla View Lodge
If you are looking for convenience then this is the place to be.
The lodge is located in Northern Rwanda near Volcanoes National Park. You’ll have amazing views of the mountain from the lodge’s grounds. It is a comfortable and convenient stay for Rwanda gorilla trekkers.
While I wouldn’t say that staying at Mountains Gorilla View Lodge is a luxurious experience, it checks most of the boxes that you would be concerned about. You certainly wouldn’t expect an over-the-top luxury experience given the location of the lodge so I don’t have any qualms with the establishment on this issue.
Uganda: Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
This lodge is aptly names Clouds Mountain because you’ll literally be in the clouds. At over 6560 feet above sea level, the lodge takes the crown as the Ugandan lodge at the highest altitude.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is located close to the Impenetrable Forest and Virunga mountains. This makes it one of the most convenient places to stay if you are going gorilla trekking in Uganda.
It is surprisingly very luxurious. Your stay here will be the icing on the cake on your Uganda gorilla trekking safari.
Gorilla trekking safaris and tours
Here are some gorilla trekking tour operators you can contact to help you plan your trip:
Wild Gorilla Safaris – wildgorillasafaris.com – (Rwanda and Uganda).
Insight Safari Holidays – insightsafariholidays.com – (Rwanda and Uganda).
Abercrombie and Kent – abercrombiekent.com – (for Uganda)
Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris – www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com – (Rwanda and Uganda).
Africa Adventure Safaris – www.ugandagorillatour.com – (for both Uganda and Rwanda gorilla safaris).
What to wear during your gorilla safari
The trek will take you through places people seldom go and where there are no clear paths. Sometimes you will create your own paths – literally. That’s why your guide will probably be carrying a machete. The machete will come in handy when you want to clear shrubs and tree branches blocking your way.
The clothes you wear should therefore reflect this reality. I would advise that you rock long sleeved shirts and long pants (trousers). Your boots should also be strong enough to stand thorns.
Another thing that I think is very important is your ability to blend in with your surrounding. You want your gorilla safari to be as non-intrusive and non-disruptive as possible. This can be achieved by wearing clothes in earth tone colors like green, khaki, tan, brown and olive.
Safari clothing designed specifically for safaris in Africa often come in such colors and can be found online or in brick and mortar stores stocking equipment and clothes for outdoor adventure activities.
Dressing in a practical manner will ensure a more comfortable Rwanda or Uganda gorilla trekking experience.