Gorilla trekking Uganda, the highlight of your tour!
Gorilla tracking ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Africa for most travellers, and the spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe.
Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes. It is estimated that there are only about 880 left throughout the world. Almost half of them can be found in Uganda, and populations can also be found in neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla permit rates
The official price for a gorilla permit in Uganda is $600 per person. The price for a gorilla habituation permit in Uganda is $1.500
The The official price for a gorilla permit in Rwanda is $1.500 per person.
The official price for a gorilla permit in DRC is $400 per person and in some low season months only $200 per person.
Gorilla tracking can be done the whole year through and is evenly as good. There is no higher or lower success rate in the different seasons (95% guaranteed to see them).
In rainy season the tracks in the rain forest might be a bit muddier and your tracking might be a bit longer/ tougher because of that. However; it's a RAIN forest, so difference is not all that big compared to dry season.
In rainy season you are more likely to track in smaller groups.
How to book a gorilla permit?
Gorilla permits are very popular and not many permits are available (a total of 80 permits per day in Uganda). The permits get sold out far in advance, especially in high season (June - October + December - february). We advise you to book your tour and your permits far in advance.
In all our private tours that are going to Bwindi (gorilla land) the gorilla permit is INCLUDED in the costing. We do however have to check availability before confirming your booking.
Can I book a gorilla permit without booking a tour?
Yes, Matoke Tours offers the service to book a gorilla permit for you, even if you don't book a tour with us.\
We charge a handling fee of $50 per person to arrange this for you
We can as well organize this for you at no additional handling fee. This is when you book your accommodation in Bwindi at Mutanda Lake Resort with a minimum stay of 2 nights. Mutanda Lake Resort is an affordable mid-range lodge with a stunning view! (See photo)
We will make sure all the paperwork is done and the permit(s) are at the lodge to be collected by you. Easy!
“Hair on a man's chest is thought to denote strength. The gorilla is the most powerful of bipeds and has hair on every place on his body except for his chest.” - Anton Szandor LaVey
Gorilla Habituation Experience
There are two gorilla groups that are being habituated in the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. You can be part of that habituation program! Under a pilot program, both groups can be tracked and you can spend 4 hours with a gorilla family. You will as well be in agroup with a maximum of 4 persons only, instead of 8. The costing is $1.500 USD per permit instead of 600 USD for a normal permit The habituation experience is only offered in Uganda! The gorilla habituation tracking is only available in Rushaga.
Comparison: Tracking Uganda/ Rwanda
The gorilla tracking process is somewhat different in neighbouring Rwanda. The specific gorilla groups cannot be reserved in advance. Instead, the park ranger will assign visitors to the various gorilla groups according to age, fitness level and preference. For this reason we advise older people, or those wanting only a light hike, to track in Rwanda. Do realize that the hiking and forest experience might not be as nice compared to Uganda. Of course the experience with the gorillas themselves is the same.
Gorilla permits in Rwanda are more expensive compared to Uganda: US$1.500,- per permit instead of US$600,-.
Uganda Gorilla Groups
There are 13 Habituated gorilla groups that can be trekked in Uganda; 12 in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and 1 in Mgahinga Nation Park. There are over 400 gorillas in total coming from over 36 gorilla families or social groups. There are also 16 solitary males that roam the ancient forest. In Mgahinga Gorilla Park there are 80 plus gorillas.
The 13 habituated gorilla groups that can be trekked in Uganda translate into 104 gorilla permits per day. Habituated gorilla groups are used to human beings, a process that is about two years and longer. During that time the gorillas become used to human presence and simply go about their daily business while you are visiting them.
There are four areas within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you can track the various habituated gorilla families from. These are Buhoma (3 groups), Ruhija (2 groups), Nkuringo (2 groups) and Rushaga (5 groups). Mgahinga NP is 1,5 hour driving from Mutanda Lake Resort and there is 1 habituated gorilla group.
Which gorilla group to visit?
Many travelers ask us about the different gorilla groups and which of the gorilla groups are nicer or bigger. Others base their decision on the distance of the hike to reach the groups.
In Uganda, it's quite difficult to say which gorilla families are easier or harder to find. Gorillas, as you are aware, are wild animals whose actions are unpredictable. The ease of seeing the gorillas depends on the movements of the gorilla family on that particular day. Some say that the Rushegura group in Buhoma is easy to spot, but we cannot guarantee this.
In Uganda you can find four different areas from which to begin the gorilla tracking. They are each between 2 and 5 hours driving from the other. Therefore, your choice of accommodation also influences the options of the gorilla group you can visit and vice versa.
When you book your tour well in advance, you can give us your preference of Ugandan gorilla group you wish to visit. Gorilla permits are sold out far in advance, so it might be that Matoke Tours has to choose from the few remaining permits for your dates.
When you are not that fit and you can't walk long distances going up and down, we advise you to go tracking in Rwanda. In Rwanda all trackings leave from the same point, where rangers will select easier and more difficult trackings according to your fitness level. Tracking in Rwanda, however, is much more expensive and often teh forest and hike experience is less exciting.
For more information, please feel free to contact us!
There are some gorilla tracking rules that you should always keep in mind...
While searching for the gorillas
- A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated gorillas in a day. and 4 visitors for Gorilla Habituation day.
- Always wash your hands before you head out to see the gorillas.
- Do not leave rubbish in the park.
- Please always keep your voices low. This will ensure that you will be able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.
- Tip: You will be taken to where the guides left the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow their trail to find them. Look out for the gorillas nesting sites along the way.
- Tip: When you approach the gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
While at the gorillas
- Keep a minimum distance of 7 meters (21 feet) from the gorillas.
- Keep your voices low at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions.
- Do not eat or drink while you are near the gorillas.
- Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example by crouching down slowly, and do not look at the gorillas in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not attempt to run away (as this will increase the risk of attack).
- Flash photography is not permitted; when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.
- Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
- The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the gorillas is one hour.