Gorilla trekking in Uganda: The ultimate luxury experience


Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa, but it’s not this gemstone that brings people to the country. For many, it’s the chance to see the endangered mountain gorillas in the remote Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the Virunga Mountains, or in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. With only around one thousand of these majestic animals left in the wild today, gorilla trekking requires the expertise of a DMC such as Gorilla Walking Safaris.

The once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing wild gorillas in their natural environment is something that is sure to live with you forever. It’s an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants and man’s closest relatives, and one only afforded to adults above 15 years of age. And every day, the experience is a unique one since the gorillas move within their habitat, making the trek different each time. Tracking the gorillas will involve penetrating the forest with rangers and porters, often having to cut your way through trees and shrubs to make a path. And this is rainforest territory, so of course you’ll need to be prepared for it being wet underfoot (hiking boots are recommended).

As you get close, you will be filled with a sense of excitement and trepidation. Thanks to the process of gorilla habituation, the gorillas you encounter will already have a degree of familiarity with the presence of humans. Your initial glimpse of these awesome creatures will be from a distance yet few wildlife experiences can match the thrill and excitement you’ll feel when you first lock eyes on these adorable beasts. You’ll be able to spend up to an hour with them and get as close as just 32 feet away (around 10 metres) – recently increased from 23 feet to give the gorillas added protection from any human diseases.

During your hour with these incredible animals, you could see them going about any of their daily activities during that time, be it feeding, breastfeeding, resting, mating or simply playing whilst still under the stern watch of the huge dominant silverback. A certain level of fitness is required with treks typically taking around 5 hours, including the one hour with the gorillas, in groups of up to 8 people. But the experience of being one of the privileged minority around the globe to witness gorillas in the wild is a luxury in itself, and one that will remain with you always.

When going on a gorilla trek, you will need to factor in accommodation as well as a gorilla permit and transport to and from the start of the trek. There are a number of luxury accommodation options: Mount Gahinga Lodge is a great option for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, whilst Trackers Safari Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp and Buhoma Lodge are among the luxury accommodation options for Bwindi. Staying at a luxury property will ensure that you are well-rested before your gorilla trek and that you have a comfortable place to relax after what could prove to be a challenging – but ultimately enormously rewarding – trek.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Gorilla Walking Safaris.


Comments (23)

  1. Janet Gordon says:

    I’ve got to agree that a gorilla walk would be a once in a lifetime experience. I’d love to do this.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Get in touch with Gorilla Walking Safaris, Janet! Alex is very responsive and I’m sure will be happy to help you with any questions.

    • Tayebwa Vita says:

      We are a group of local guides who does different activities in Uganda, let me know what else you are interested at! We customize your trip into what you want.

  2. Greg Wells says:

    It’s a sensible precaution that the distance has been increased to 32 feet. We only need to look back to COVID to see what happens when infection slips from one species to the next. When there’s only around a thousand gorillas left we’ve got to look after them.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Yes, visitors also need to take two masks with them when they do the trek. One to wear on the trek, and another (fresh) one to put on when they reach the gorillas.

  3. Debs says:

    Those cute pictures really sell a gorilla walk. Those gorillas are so adorable.

  4. Sue says:

    If anyone’s thinking of booking a friend stayed in a fabulous resort a few years ago. She said that accommodation standards are first class.

    Also, I remember seeing a round up of luxury resorts, probably in A Luxury Travel Blog, and again they all looked luxury.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      There’s an article here where there are suggestions for where to stay for different safari experience, including gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

      We also have an article here that offers a number of eco-lodge suggestions but it was written almost 10 years ago, so I would check this aginst more current content.

      Hope this helps,

      Paul

  5. Lorraine Berry says:

    I really agree with the “ultimate experience” headline. Seeing gorillas is right at the top of my travel bucket list.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Hi Lorraine – I hope you get to do it one day soon. You are right… such as special experience and I would think on many people’s travel ‘to do’ lists!

  6. John Talbot says:

    Spotting Gorillas ain’t a cheap and easy option. I’d want to know that I had very experienced guides to make the most of the opportunity.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      You’re right – it’s a good idea to do your research and choose a reputable company such as Gorilla Walking Safaris. Also note that the cost of a permit is much, much higher in Rwanda, making Uganda a more affordable option for the trek, particularly if there is a number of you in your party.

    • Stephen says:

      I’d wrongly assumed that the cost of the permit was per head and not for the whole group. Very useful to know.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Sorry, perhaps I wasn’t very clear in my response. The cost of a permit is per person, and current costs are as follows:

      DRC $400 per person
      Uganda $700 per person
      Rwanda $1500 per person

      The point I was trying to make was that if, like me, you are a family of 4, then there becomes a big difference between 4x $700 or 4x $1500. A difference of $3200 to be exact, which can go a long way towards other aspects of your trip.

    • Thank you for the article Paul. You write good articles about destinations. We follow closely. The rates shared are correct for Uganda. Let me add in Uganda you can enjoy gorilla habituation experience for $1500 (Stay with the gorillas for 4 hours),$700 (1 hour).

  7. Dina says:

    What a great idea for our next trip will share with the family and get their thoughts on this.

  8. Jim says:

    How fit do you have to be to do a gorilla walk? How far will you have to trek before finding your gorillas? What’s it like underfoot? Is it tough going?

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Hi Jim – because the gorillas move around (and are not GPS tracked), you can never be sure how far you will have to walk. It could be as little as 20 minutes, or could be many hours. The terrain can be difficult and hilly so a certain level of fitness is required. As for how it is underfoot, it really depends on the season you visit. This is rainforest after all, but December is popular because it falls in the dry season and will make it easier underfoot. Hope this helps!

    • Gary Childerly says:

      Jim must be a mind reader as the same sort of questions were going through my mind. Many thanks for answering them.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      You’re welcome, Gary!

  9. Yakub Birungi says:

    Thank you for the article Paul. You write good articles about destinations. We follow closely. The rates shared are correct for Uganda. Let me add in Uganda you can enjoy gorilla habituation experience for $1500 (Stay with the gorillas for 4 hours),$700 (1 hour).

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