Mountain Gorillas are some of the most endangered primate species in the world. In the entire world, they can only be found in the forested landscapes of the Virunga Massif or otherwise known as the Virunga Mountains. The mountains are a volcanic range north of Lake Kivu in east-central Africa, extending about 50 miles (80 km) along the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
In Uganda, there are two protected national parks where you can see the endangered mountain gorillas; the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park both located in south western Uganda.
The current mountain gorilla population stands at just about 1004 individuals, half of which are found in Uganda. Gorillas are gentle Giants and are closely related to humans since they share up to 96% of their DNA composition with Humans.
Unlike the lowland Gorillas, the mountain gorillas have never been able to survive in captivity and therefore no mountain gorillas are found in Zoos outside of Africa. To Visit the Mountain gorillas, you must come to either Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic republic of Congo and trek through the dense tropical rain forests the Mountain gorillas call home.
In the late 1960’s to 80’s, the Mountain gorilla population reduced drastically due to poaching, diseases, civil wars and encroachment of the gorilla habitat by Humans. However, after the creation of the protected areas and national parks, the mountain gorilla population has been increasing steadily over the years.
A lot of conservation efforts are done to ensure that gorillas are brought back from the brink of extinction. In the recent 1990’s the protected areas where opened up for Gorilla tourism and some of the mountain gorilla families where habituated to allow tourists visit them.
At the moment, there are close to 20 habituated mountain Gorilla families in Uganda, which are all available for tourists to visit.
In order to visit the Gorillas, you are required to purchase a Gorilla trekking permit and this has to be done in advance to ensure that your slot is guaranteed.
The gorilla trekking permit can be purchased through a local tour operator, or directly through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) if you are already in Uganda.
The Uganda gorilla trekking permit costs $700 dollars for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents and Shs 250,000 for East Africans, which money greatly helps with the Gorilla conservation.
The government of Uganda uses proceeds from sale of gorilla trekking permits to further conservation and intervention efforts as well as building infrastructure. The local communities also receive a percentage of this money through the Uganda Wildlife Authority, as well as allocation by government to the local governments in areas where the national parks are found.
Therefore, by coming for Gorilla trekking in Uganda, you greatly impact on the conservation of these great species of primates.
Gorilla trekking can be done all year round, however the most recommended period is during the dry season months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During this period, there is very little rain fall and therefore the conditions are conducive for a hiking through the dense forested landscapes of Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
You can combine your Uganda safari to visit the mountain Gorillas by also visiting the other national parks in Uganda for an authentic African wildlife experience. The other popular national parks in Uganda are Murchison Falls National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and Lake Mburo National Park.
As earlier explained, gorilla trekking is only in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo – the only three countries in the world where you can see the mountain gorillas. However, visiting the Gorillas in Uganda is more recommended. This is because of two main reasons; the permit price in Uganda is $700 while the Rwanda Gorilla trekking permit costs $1500 for the same experience! This makes Uganda the better option as compared to Rwanda.
On the other hand, the DR Congo permit costs only $400, however due to civil wars and guerillas near the Virunga National Park, it is not safe and therefore Uganda still beats Congo as your security while on a gorilla safari is guaranteed.
There are lots of accommodation options near Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These range from basic budget to luxurious lodges and therefore, every tourist is sorted. As for transport you can reach Bwindi by road or fly with internal flight providers.
The accommodation, transport and gorilla permit booking can all be arranged for you by local outfitters.