The endangered Mountain Gorillas of Uganda won’t be found in any zoo in the world (they do not survive in captivity and there are no surviving mountain gorillas in zoos), you can only find them and see them in Africa, in the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to census data released by the Uganda Wildlife Authority November 2012, there are only about 880 some Mountain Gorillas left in the world and over 400 of those live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest alone plus those of Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda, East Africa.

Say the word Gorilla and one’s mind will come up with all kinds imaginative images from King Kong to some Tarzan movies. The Mountain Gorillas were not even known about by westerners until 1902. Rwanda was a German colony when a Captain von Berenge was climbing Mount Sabinyo on the Rwanda side with some friends and they were at the 9300 foot level and camped when a group of Mountain Gorillas was spotted and he shot two of them but could only retrieve one. It was a young male about 5 years old, 220 pounds and not too large, but larger than any apes the German had seen. Bones and skin were sent to Berlin where it was identified as a gorilla.

No one had thought that gorillas could exist in such a high and much colder climate than West Africa.

Uganda Mountain Gorilla Tracking Tips and Guidelines

For most travelers, trekking the Mountain Gorillas ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Uganda, 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 and it is estimated that there are only 880 (November 2012) left throughout the world. Almost half of these can be found in Uganda, as well as populations in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to The Ugandan Wildlife Authority, there is a 95% chance that you will come across the Gorillas on your trek. Your journey will be an exhilarating one: cutting your way through dense jungle, thick bamboo, past local homesteads and up forested hill. Tracking spans vary and can be anything from a little as 30 minutes to 7 hours! Your efforts will be rewarded with your first sighting of the Gorillas, as these gentle giants shyly approach you and you come face-to-face with one of nature’s greatest animals.

Before you set off on your Mountain Gorilla Tracking (Trekking) Safari

  • Be in reasonable shape and have no communicable diseases or cold or flu. If you need to cough, sneeze, blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
  • Be at least 15 years of age.
  • Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
  • Wear appropriate clothing since it is often cool there, a jacket might be helpful, a light backpack where you can put your packed lunch, proper boots to support your ankles.

The Mountain Gorilla Tracking Experience

  • A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated Gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbances to the Gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
  • Always wash your hands before you head out to the Gorillas.
  • Pack it in and pack it out. Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you since it would spoil it for the next visitors.
  • You will be taken to where the guides left the Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the Gorillas’ trail to find them. Look out for the Gorillas nesting sites along the way.
  • When you approach the Gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
  • 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.

In the Presence of Mountain Gorillas Your time with the Gorillas

    • Keep a minimum distance of 5-7 meters (15-21 feet) from the Gorillas. (This reduces the risk transmitting diseases between humans and Gorillas.
    • Keep your voices pretty low at all times but it is okay to ask the guide questions.
    • Do not partake of food or drinks in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.
    • Sometimes the Mountain 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 (this will increase the risk of attack).
    • Flash photography is not allowed, when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully. Do not make lots of movements when taking pictures-keep it calm.
    • Do not touch the Mountain Gorillas, remember they are wild animals.
    • The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the Gorillas is one hour; however, if the Gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.
After the visit, keep your voices low until you are at least 200 meters away from the Gorillas.
Health Guidelines
Since Mountain Gorillas are closely related to us they are susceptible to diseases carried by humans. If you not well, let it be known and remove yourself from the gorilla tracking team. If you need to cough, sneeze, blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum. No smoking, eating of food or drinking of beverages is allowed in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.

How To Get A Gorilla Trekking Permit in Uganda

Within Uganda, Gorilla trekking is conducted in Bwindi National Park or in Mgahinga National Park. But because of the inconsistency of gorillas in Mgahinga, majority of the sold permits are for Bwindi NP. In Uganda, every gorilla permit goes for US $ 600. In the past years, April, May and November used to cost US $ 450.Please note that these offers no longer exist. On a single day, nearly 72 people travel into Bwindi to see gorillas and only 8 people are allowed to see  a gorilla family. We strongly encourage you to book your gorilla permit with a safari agent, the most prominent mistake is to book a gorilla family which is far away from your choice of accommodation! The routes to Bwindi and its various regions are often tricky; this is a remote area. If you would like to do the gorilla trek on your own so as to save costs, you might end up incurring more. Safari guides have been trained to help you with this.

Several travelers intending to trek gorillas have found this process  tiring and they have opted to the quicker less tiring option of reserving their trekking permits through a local Uganda safari operators. These tour operators normally add an extra fee of US$60 to US$100 for each permit. These gorilla tour companies won’t charge you for purchasing a gorilla permit in case you are going to use their other tour services such as transfers however if you simply want only a permit from them then they will put an extra charge of up to US$100 per gorilla permit they book, since they need to make calls, pick the permit, deliver it to you and other administrative costs.

The process is more like the above, although the tour agencies normally speed up the reservation so you will be able to confirm your gorilla permit faster.

  • You inform them of the dates for your tour to Uganda and specify the date for trekking the gorillas
  • They will inform you if your preferred dates are available for trekking and also temporarily book them.
  • They will send you our bank details so that  you can transfer the money for the gorilla permits or even pay by credit card.
  • They will send you an acknowledgement email for the money transfer. Please remember to instruct your bank to deduct the bank charges for the transaction from your account. they don’t ask for any extra money for the gorilla permit if you are reserving the rest of your tour through them. Any additional costs will be for services like telephony and transport that will be incurred when acquiring the permit.
  • You will send a copy of your passport availing the details which will be used to register for your permit. Normally they need just your full names, nationality and the passport number
  • Your names will be registered and then we acquire the gorilla permit. On receiving the payment they will buy the gorilla permit but then having this permit doesn’t 100% guarantee you seeing the gorillas although chances of seeing them are about 98%.

Important to note is that tour operators in Uganda through their joint organization of AUTO normally buy as much as 80% of the permits for a time of up to two years to the intended date of trekking the gorillas. Each of the member agencies can buy as many as 20 permits in a single month. However individuals as well as those not under the AUTO umbrella can buy at most two gorilla permits every month three months before the intended month of the gorilla trekking when the reservations open on the very-first working days from Monday to Friday of that month. Permits that aren’t sold on opening of the booking days are resold the next day without any limit put on the number of permits sold by a single operator or even individual person.