Tracking the mountain gorillas in the Virungas ranks among the absolute highlights of an African safari. The exhilaration attached to the first time encounter with these great apes on a wild safari is difficult to describe. Many travelers look for this lifetime experience and even book their tickets to the gorillas two years in advance in order to get their dream come true.
Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a captivating and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach the bamboo forest. Sitting amidst the shaggy gorillas, up to three times bulky as the average man is a lasting memory that you will experience on your gorilla safari into the Virunga Region. Despite their fearsome and aggressive appearance, these gentle giants are very peaceful and gorilla trekking is very safe.
On a gorilla visit, most hikers are surprised with the unfathomable attitude of the great apes to human presence. This experience brings in something different from the usual wildlife encounters. These great apes can leave their daily job and take time to study the human presence with their soft brown eyes staring deeply as if seeking a connection with humans.
Mgahinga National Park has one habituated gorilla group that can be tracked by tourists. Gorilla tracking is the most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The habituated gorilla group in this park is called the Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 2 infants. This group is mobile and sometimes crosses into Rwanda and DRC, so check for updates from Uganda Wildlife Authority (see Contacts).
Gorilla tracking is an intensive experience that can take the whole day. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way. We must stress that, while you have a very good chance of seeing gorillas, success is NOT guaranteed! However, from the past sightings, there are high chances of meeting the mountain gorillas. When tracking the mountain gorillas, travelers should know that the mountain gorillas are wild creatures with no fixed routine, and finding them requires the skill and experience of your trackers and guides, as well as luck.
Registration and briefing for gorilla tracking in Mgahinga National Park commence at Ntebeko at 07.45.
Tracking starts at 08.30 and can take three to eight hours. The trackers and guides have helped to habituate the gorilla groups and know them intimately. They will take you to the area where they left the mountain gorillas the day before. Before leaving they may be able to suggest how long the hike might be.
Best time to trek gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is open to visitors throughout the year. But it is best done in June, July, August, and September then December, January, and February. During this period, gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is easier because it is a dry season and the habitat remains relatively drier thus making it simpler for visitors to hike through the dense jungles and steep slopes to search for mountain gorillas. However, March, April, May, and October, November are equally good for one to embark on gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park but these months are characterized by heavy rainfall, muddy and slippery steep slopes which make it challenging for one to hike while in search for these apes. Read More
- While walking, please feel free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast and if you need a rest.
- Feel free to stop and look at birds or flowers, the guide will ensure that you don’t get left behind.
- Gorilla Tracking can be a strenuous walk, so go prepared. It is advisable that you:
- Wear shoes with good traction, suitable for steep muddy slopes
- Carry rain gear, sunscreen, and a hut, as the weather is unpredictable.
- Carry water and food
- Carry binoculars, you will see much more, you can hire from the park office
- When taking photos, remember your subjects are black animals in dim light, and flash is not allowed.
NB: Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought-after tourism activity. You should book well in advance to ensure that permits for your requested dates are available.
What to pack for a gorilla trek in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park requires you to pack appropriately starting with essentials first. In your packing list for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, consider the following a must to carry-waterproof hiking boots, gardening gloves, insect repellents, a camera with extra batteries, long-sleeved shirts/t-shirt, trousers, hat, sunscreen, first aid/medical kit, gorilla permit, valid visa/passport, a walking stick which you can find at the park headquarters a mention but a few.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking Rules
To protect the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, the following rules and regulations must be observed:
- No one with a communicable disease, such as flu or diarrhea, is allowed to visit the gorillas.
- Do not surround the gorillas but remain in a tight group.
- Leave a distance of at least 5m between you and the gorillas.
- If they approach you, move back slowly.
- Flash photography is strictly forbidden.
- Do not eat or smoke within 200m of the gorillas.
- If you need to sneeze or cough, turn away from the gorillas and cover your nose and mouth.
- Bury all human feces in a hole dug at least 30cm (one foot) deep and ensure that it is properly filled in afterward.
- All litter must be removed from the park for disposal.
- Do not spit on vegetation or soil while in the park.
- No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas.
- When with the gorillas, avoid making loud noises or sudden movements.
- Contact time with the gorillas is strictly limited to one hour.
- Please observe all instructions from your guide.
Good Manners for Gorilla Watchers
- Keep your voice down or be quiet. You will see and hear if you do.
- Don’t point or waive your arms- this can be seen as a threat. Move slowly.
- If approached by a gorilla, back away slowly to keep a 5m separation.
- Don’t use flash, this could threaten the gorillas and bother other visitors.