Africa has a piece of my heart forever. Ever since I have set foot on the continent I have been wanting to go back and explore a new destination, and Uganda was on my bucket list for gorilla trekking!
In this blog post, I will share my experience and tips on planning your trip to this beautiful East African country.
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Basics of planning a trip for gorilla trekking in Uganda
What is gorilla trekking?
You must be wondering what gorilla trekking is? Gorilla trekking essentially is a hike (usually long and challenging) to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.. This is something very popular in countries with a high population of gorillas, and/or where tropical forests exist.
Why should you go on a gorilla trekking trip in Uganda?
Bwindi and Mgahinga parks in Uganda allow you to experience this majestic natural wonder. We did a lot of research and finally chose Bwindi National Park for my trek, and I must admit I am impressed.
They do an amazing job in providing the best environment for the wellbeing of the mountain gorillas.
Bwindi National Impenetrable Forest is where I went to see gorillas with my little family, and I stayed at the Mutanda Lake Resort for 3 days to experience this.
Documents for gorilla trekking in Uganda
In order to travel to Uganda, you will need to apply for an online visa or e-visa. Use this website – Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration – to apply for a tourist visa. Application costs are $50 USD.
This is the only way to get a visa to Uganda, and visa on arrival is no longer available.
Ensure your passport is valid for 6 months prior to your application. Do note that if you are booking a group tour package which I recommend, then they will assist in application (getting your questions answered, etc).
However, it is easy to apply as the process is entirely online and seamless.
You will also need vaccination certificates to be allowed entry into Uganda. Yellow Fever vaccination is required, and this is one certification that will be requested for during visa approval as well as for border crossing.
Always double check the list of vaccination requirements. At the time of writing, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, DTP, Cholera and Malaria vaccines need to be taken.
Also, due to the pandemic related requirements, additional vaccination records are needed. You will need a negative PCR test, 72 hours before travel to Uganda. Here is the latest from Uganda on travel requirements, and I recommend checking it prior to your visit
Keep in mind, your entry can be denied without test results.
You will also have to register on Uganda’s online registration system prior to departing from the country.
For your return to your country, you can get a test done in Kampala. Tests start at $30 USD.
Uganda gorilla permits and prices
Once you are in the country (or at the planning stage) remember that you will need a permit for trekking.
A gorilla trekking permit costs $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents of East African countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania). You can go on gorilla trekking at all times of the year and it is the same price, without any discounts.
So yes, no discounted or expensive permits exist – keep this in mind incase you find fraudulent agents.
Booking with a tour operator or hiring a guide for gorilla trekking
The best way of obtaining a gorilla permit is via your hotel or Tour Operator in Uganda. Tourism does help residents/locals in Uganda so definitely hire a guide to explore the landscape.
Keep in mind, gorilla trekking is nothing like hiking. Yes it does involve hiking, but it is through difficult terrain, thick vegetation, hills, valleys, muddy areas and more. With a guide in tow, they will be leading the way, and keeping you safe along the way.
A guide along with a porter will give you assistance with your belongings, give you company and lend you a helping hand. And let me tell you, they are super friendly and helpful!
One of the best parts of the gorilla trekking experience is that it is very accessible. It doesn’t matter if you have hiked before or not, if you can walk or not – guides and porters have you covered! Porters charge a minimum flat rate per day, and it is about $15 USD.
Permits for the visits of gorillas in Uganda can also be obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority from the age of 12.
Contact them via email@example.com. Booking in advance during the high season (mid-December-February and June-September) is highly recommended.
National park fees
National parks in the country have fees that are set by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). You can expect to pay around $40 USD. They differ in different parks and sanctuaries. Check the latest National Park Fees in Uganda here.
My experience with gorilla trekking Uganda
For my gorilla trekking trip, I stayed at the Mutanda Lake Resort for 3 nights. We arrived at the Entebbe International Airport, near Kampala and then made our way to the resort by road during our Uganda road trip.
This stunning resort is perched on the Lake Mutanda peninsula, with the picturesque backdrop of the Virunga Mountains. Not only are they great for accommodation, they also provide amazing views in Uganda – yes, yes, the one with lakes, mountains and blue skies.
It is a perfect base for gorilla trackers, and I could not have asked for a better place to stay, and unwind after the hike.
Gorilla trekking is strenuous as you could be walking/hiking for hours, sometimes in poor and slippery conditions. During our trek we were guided in a group of 8, with experts leading the way. Always listen to the local group leaders as they are there for your safety, as well as the safety of gorillas – because you don’t want to disturb their natural habitat.
Our hike was steep, and we were in the middle of the jungle – which was amazing, and I loved every bit of it.
You will be asked to be ready for the full day, with travel time. We were lucky enough to spot a family of silverback gorillas only after one hour of hiking – wow, it was such an amazing experience!
Keep in mind that sometimes it could take upto 6 hours (one way) to be tracking and tracing gorillas. Again remember the terrain can be unpredictable, sometimes rough, and of course gorilla sightings!
You are only allowed to spend an hour with the gorillas, not any time more than that. This is the duration that is set by authorities so that the gorillas know to expect that every day (an hour every day). Anything more than that could get them frazzled or distressed.
Ensure you bring your camera, and capture the beauty of the jungle!
On my trip to Uganda, other than gorilla tracking I also visited Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and many lakes. Be sure to add these, and Murchison Falls and Volcanoes National Park to your bucket list!
3 day gorilla trekking Uganda
For trekking permits, ensure you are planning ahead (at least a month in advance). Our accommodation partner – Mutanda Lake Resort – can arrange for a 3 day gorilla trekking in Uganda. There are many areas where trekking is possible, and the resort takes care of everything.
There are packages and guided tours for 3 day gorilla trekking itinerary options available,
This package includes round transportation from Kisoro, which is the nearest town from Mutanda Lake Resort (about 45 minutes away).
- Day 1: Transfer Kisoro – Mutanda Lake Resort, with a sunset boat cruise
- Day 2: Return transfer for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or Mgahinga National Park, for gorilla habituation experience
- Day 3: Breakfast and activity at the resort, and then return trip to Kisoro
This 3 days Bwindi gorilla trekking package is great if you are in Kampala and don’t want to lose time traveling to and from the Bwindi area.
- Day 1: Fly from Entebbe International airport to Kisoro. Transfer from Kisoro to Mutanda Lake Resort, followed by a sunset boat cruise
- Day 2: Gorilla trekking at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park
- Day 3: Breakfast and fly back to Entebbe via Kisoro (scheduled Aerolink Flight – 11-seater)
Kigali International Airport is only 3.5 hours from the resort. And this is a great choice if you are already in Uganda and exploring.
- Day 1: From Kigali, make a transfer to Mutanda Lake Resort, and enjoy the sunset boat cruise
- Day 2: Gorilla trekking in the Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park
- Day 3: Breakfast and transfer back to Kigali
All the accommodation is at the Mutanda Lake Resort, and they take care of permits, transportation, and trek requirements.
You can check out their current offerings and request further information here.
What to pack for a trip to Uganda gorilla safari?
For your trip to Uganda, and for gorilla trekking do remember to pack the following items
- 2-3 casual but long sleeve tops
- 1-2 bottoms, jeans, pants, etc.
- 1 sweater, light jacket, fleece, sweatshirt, or long sleeve shirt.
- 2-4 pairs of socks
- 1-2 pairs of comfortable walking or hiking shoes for the trek and sightseeing
- 1 reusable water bottle, and some snacks
Do carry your camera, battery backup, and an adaptor and converter. Ensure you get a mosquito repellent, and apply sunscreen.
When is the best time to go on a gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda?
In Uganda, there are essentially two major seasons – wet and dry.
You can expect dry seasons from December to February and then from June to August. Keep in mind that from December to February it can get very hot and can be super dry.
Wet seasons are from March to May and then from September to November, so rains are expected.
You can go on gorilla trekking safaris at any time of the year. Permits can be applied for and received, regardless of the season. But for a comfortable trek, the best time to visit Uganda is during the dry season from June to August and from December to February.
During this time, the weather is good to be outdoors without the rains, plus the terrain will be nicer to navigate. You can also easily see wildlife and camp.
These months are also the popular tourist season in the country, particularly due to gorilla trekking and weather. So expect hotels, tours, and flights to be expensive. Summers – June to August – are busy in most destinations in the world, but the good thing about Uganda is that it never really gets too crowded.
If you are planning to visit in the summer (dry) months, I recommend booking your flights, and tours ahead at least 1-3 months in advance. Permits will take one month for application and processing, so book at the earliest.
When visiting in the wet seasons, expect travel to be challenging; due to heavy rains, muddy terrain, slippery conditions, and road access issues. Nature trails might be inaccessible due to rains.
Should you visit Uganda for gorilla trekking?
I hope this post on 3 days gorilla trekking has given you major wanderlust! If not, then let me tell you – my Uganda safari was amazing. The people of Uganda, guides and porters and all super helpful and they will make you at home.
If an African safari is on your bucket list – into the wilderness – then do visit Uganda, I am sure you will not be disappointed. The landscape, the adorable gorillas and the friendly people are awaiting you to come visit!
Read more Uganda travel tips here.