Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is surreal unlike any other experience in Africa. The atmosphere of the trek through the jungle mist is unreal. With each step your expectation builds and the reward of seeing the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world is spectacular. The setting, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is arguably one of the most mystical in all of Africa.

Way before we decided to self-drive across Africa I asked fellow travelers about their gorilla trek experience. “To see the gorillas is incredible, it’s worth the high cost to see them in their natural habitat,” my friend had told me.

So, when we had the opportunity to go gorilla trekking we made our way to Uganda to visit the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world.

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking is a hike into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a jungle that is home to mountain gorillas. The trek involves getting a little dirty and bushwhacking through thick jungle with an experienced local guide to find a troop of habituated gorillas.

Where are the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda?

Mountain Gorillas can only be found in the Virunga mountains in the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda and also in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda holds 60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world with about 400 of them residing in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Bwindi is the most popular place to trek the gorillas in Uganda. The park is located in the Southwestern part of the country and is one of the most diverse national parks in East Africa.

Bwindi is divided into four regions: Buhoma region, Ruhija region, Rushaga region, and Nkuringo region. Make sure to book your accommodation where your gorilla trekking permit is issued.

Buhoma Region

The Buhoma region is the most popular region for trekkers. There are four groups of gorillas near Buhoma that are habituated to humans. The group names are Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, and the Nkuringo group.

What are the gorilla trekking groups like?

On that day of trekking, trekkers meet at a designated meeting point like  Buhoma park headquarters. You will show up at 7:30 for a short video and gorilla guidance with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. From there we were divided into groups assigned to the different groups.

Groups are allocated with a maximum of eight people. Small numbers are easier to manage and do not overwhelm the gorillas.

What’s the start of the trek like?

Some groups start their trek from the park headquarters, while others will have to drive to a starting point into the forest. You typically will not know until the day of if you will need to drive or start your trek from the headquarters. We have our own truck so the 30-minute drive to the other side of the forest was no problem.

Once you drive to your designated starting point and park it will be time for the physical stuff. You will follow your guide, through the thick of the forest and up and down the rolling hills of Uganda. The groups are always accompanied by armed security guards

How long can I expect to trek ?

It takes one to five hours(sometimes and more) to find your allocated gorilla group

These are wild animals and the trackers have to locate where the gorillas have gone each day. If you are in at least decent shape and health a gorilla trek in Uganda will prove enjoyable.

If you’re worried about the trek we would recommend hiring some of the local porters. They porters come from the surrounding villages and cost $15 day plus a tip.

What About When it Rains?

Sometimes it rains during the due course of trekking and you have to continue trekking because of its one of a great experience.

It feels like the gorillas do not move around as much in the rain, so gorilla families will easily be found and you will be able to enjoy the hour without them running up and down the hillside as much as others have experienced.

When it rains, make sure your cameras are protected and covered from being reached by rainfall.

For those who have mirrorless or SLR cameras, odds are good you may have a UV lens protector screwed on to the front of your lens. When this gets wet (or more specifically, water on the inside), the humidity will cause the cover to fog and will ruin a bunch of images.

Take this lens cover off and you’ll be just fine (which is exactly what I did). It is a risk to your camera not having the extra protective screen on top of the lens, but during the rain, it was the only way I found I could get good photos.