Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Want to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest? The best gorilla tours take place from this Ugandan forest. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda, covering 331 square kilometers. It’s home to over 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 120 species of mammals, 10 species of ferns, 163 species of trees, and over 1000 species of flowering plants.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The park was established in 1991 to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. This national park harbors half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, with the other half occupying the Virunga ranges in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo. See some of our Bwindi gorilla trekking safaris and tours below.

Top Bwindi Gorilla Tours

The Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The Mountain gorilla is one of the world’s most sought-after primates. This species of gorillas can only be found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Mountain gorillas have fur on their bodies that helps them live in cold temperatures. They inhabit elevations of 2200-4300 meters above sea level.

Gorillas are terrestrial and quadrupedal, and they can also run bipedal. They move by knuckle-walking with their arms supporting their body weight.

Adult male gorillas are called Silverbacks because of the gray fur they develop on their backs with age.

They can climb trees to pick fruits if the branches can support their body weight. Their arms are longer than their legs, just like chimpanzees.

Characteristics of Bwindi Gorillas

Discounted Gorilla Permits in Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorillas inhabit tropical forests with thick bamboo trees. They can hardly survive in zoos and often die after a short time. The gorillas found in zoos are usually lowland gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are very gentle animals. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that they are wild animals and will charge severely when they sense danger.

Mountain gorillas have short trunks with wide shoulders and chests. The eyes and ears are dwarfed by a large muscle, just like the head.

Mountain gorillas can be identified by their nose prints, which are identical to each individual, just like with humans.

Gorillas move in groups of 5-30 members, with each family led by a dominant silverback that dictates and makes rules in the group. This is one of the most interesting facts about mountain gorillas.

Mountain gorillas stay in higher altitude places that can sometimes get very cold. They have thick hair and fur on their bodies that help them adapt to this environment.

Gorillas can obtain food like ants using stems from holes and can also store foodstuff in their mouths.

When gorillas charge, they will scream, stamp the ground, tear vegetation, and stand on their hind legs. During such situations, the silverback also makes signals to the rest of the family so that they take cover.

A female mountain gorilla will give birth to 2-5 offspring in a lifetime. They start giving birth at the age of 10 years, and their gestation period lasts for about 8-9 months.

Mountain gorillas also have milk teeth that later get replaced by permanent teeth. The teeth of gorillas are 32, just like for humans.

Gorillas are bound to be affected by diseases like cold, flu, pneumonia, Ebola, and many more infectious diseases.

They mostly get infected with diseases through transmission from human beings or from climatic changes, like when it’s too cold, they can acquire pneumonia.

Mountain gorillas share over 98% of their DNA with humans, making them the closest relatives to humans after chimpanzees. They also have feet similar to those of humans.

Baby mountain gorillas are born weighing 4 pounds, just like humans. They always breastfeed for 1 year and often cling to their mother’s backs from the age of 2-4 years.

The dominant silverback gorillas will protect their families even at the expense of their lives. The female mountain gorillas, on the other hand, take charge of protecting their babies.

Mountain gorillas eat a range of foods like bamboo, shoots, stems, fruits, flowers, leaves, bulbs, tree bark, and more. They also complement their diet with termites and ants.

Gorillas rarely drink water because most of the food they consume contains large amounts of water. They also fear water and can only cross streams by placing logs that they use for crossing over.

Mountain gorillas make new nests every evening. The nests are made of plant materials and leaves and can only be shared by a mother and a baby. The males sleep in their own nests.

Female mountain gorillas groom their baby gorillas, and after some time, the baby gorillas groom themselves.

The male mountain gorillas are called silverbacks because of the silverback hair they develop on their backs as they age.

Importance of Bwindi Gorillas

Gorilla Trekking

Mountain gorillas are important because they consume large amounts of vegetation as food, which plays a crucial role in the natural food chain. Disruption of this food chain could affect other animals in the area.

Gorillas are also significant for the people living near the mountain gorilla habitat because they benefit from eco-tourism when visitors from around the world come to visit the famous apes.

Countries where gorillas are trekked earn substantial income from gorilla trekking annually.

Gorillas also play a critical role in dispersing seeds in the rainforests where they live, creating spaces for seedlings to grow and replenish the forests. This benefits humans as well, as they depend on this regrowth to sustain the environment.

Mountain gorillas are also important for the study of the great family of Apes, including humans, and for sustainable tourism.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest National Park

Navigating Low Season Gorilla Permits in Uganda - Pricing and Tips

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest National Park take place in four sectors: Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma, and Ruhija. Each sector has a distinct terrain and mountain gorilla families.

Below is how gorilla trekking is done in the various sectors of Bwindi.

Gorilla Trekking in Buhoma Sector

Buhoma gorilla trekking is awesome but highly competitive. It’s challenging to secure a permit in Buhoma just days before your gorilla tour. You should book well in advance to have a chance.

Buhoma is one of the sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, located in the southwestern part of Uganda. The other sectors are Nkuringo, Ruhija, and Rushaga. Buhoma was the first place where gorilla trekking in Uganda started.

The Mubare gorilla family in Buhoma sector was the first habituated gorilla family in Bwindi in 1993. The park is also the only place where you can participate in gorilla habituation.

There is also other wildlife, butterflies, trees, and bird species within the park.

Gorilla Trekking in Ruhija Sector

Ruhija gorilla trekking experiences take place in the Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Ruhija is one of the excellent sectors for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The trails are not too steep and are easy to trek. This sector hosts the second highest population of gorillas in Bwindi after Rushaga. Ruhija gorilla trekking takes place in the eastern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is one of the most preferred sectors in terms of location, trekking difficulty, and gorilla families.

Gorilla Trekking in Rushaga Sector

Rushaga gorilla trekking takes place in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in southwest Uganda. Rushaga is one of the only four sectors of Bwindi where tourists can trek mountain gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are endemic to the Virunga region and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking in Nkuringo Sector

Nkuringo gorilla trekking offers the best scenery viewing experiences.

Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is situated in the southern part of the park.

It has the fewest mountain gorilla families but offers the best scenery viewing experience among all the four sectors.

Best Area for Trekking Gorillas in Bwindi Forest

Rushaga Gorilla Trekking Safaris & Tour Highlights
View of Rushaga, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is divided into four sectors: Rushaga Sector, Nkuringo Sector, Ruhija Sector, and Buhoma Sector.

Determining the best sector for gorilla trekking is not easy because all these sectors have advantages and disadvantages, and the chance of trekking in a certain area will depend on the availability of gorilla permits.

Uganda Gorilla Habituation in Rushaga Sector of Bwindi Forest

Gorilla Trekking for a Solo Traveler
Gorilla Habituation in Rushaga Sector, Bwindi

The Gorilla habituation experience (GHEX) in Uganda was introduced in January 2014. Gorilla habituation is the process of acclimating mountain gorillas to human presence before they can be opened up for trekking by tourists.

Tourists interested in gorilla habituation will join researchers in the gorilla habituation process and participate in the activity.

This is more advantageous than gorilla trekking because you spend more time with mountain gorillas compared to gorilla trekking, and the number of people in habituation is also reduced to only 4 people.

The Gorilla habituation process (Not gorilla habituation experience – GHEX) can take 2 or more years to be completed, depending on the gorilla family.

During the habituation period, researchers and rangers keep visiting the gorilla group on a daily basis, learning and studying each gorilla’s behavior, and they are given names in the long run as gorillas also get used to human presence.

Why is Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Expensive?

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations - Essential Guidelines

Mountain gorillas were on the brink of extinction in the 19th century, but due to the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who dedicated her life to the conservation and study of mountain gorillas, their numbers have increased.

The conservation efforts continue today, and a lot of money is needed for conservation, which is obtained from gorilla permits.

Mountain gorilla trekking is also expensive because communities surrounding gorilla national parks must receive a portion of the income generated from gorilla permits, and workers like guides and rangers in the park must also be paid from the same income.

These communities have reduced poaching because they benefit from gorilla trekking.

Uganda Gorilla Permits for Bwindi National Park

Rwanda Gorilla Families

Bwindi gorilla permits are distributed among four sectors:

Ruhija gorilla permits:

Most tourists prefer Ruhija gorilla permits because the park is easily accessible from Entebbe and is also close to the Katuna border of Rwanda. Ruhija sector is located near the fascinating Lake Bunyonyi, also known as the Lake of Little Birds, where tourists can explore and relax after gorilla trekking. Lake Bunyonyi is just 52 kilometers from Ruhija sector and is also a birders paradise.

Rushaga gorilla permits:

Gorilla permits in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi cost $700 per person, and gorilla habituation costs $1500 per person. Children under the age of 15 years or tourists with infections like flu will not be allowed to trek with gorillas.

Nkuringo gorilla permits:

Nkuringo gorilla permits are the fewest.

Nkuringo has the fewest families; hence, it has the least number of gorilla permit allocations per day.

The trek here is strenuous, and you ought to be in the best physical shape to conquer it.

Buhoma gorilla permits:

Buhoma gorilla permits have the highest demand.

Buhoma sector of Bwindi National Park is home to five habituated gorilla families, and eight permits are available for trekking each group daily, meaning Buhoma sector provides 24 gorilla permits in total per day.

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Tips & Advice

Uganda Gorilla Trekking Cost
Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Reading through tips and advice is a great way to prepare yourself, and the same applies to gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park.

Browse through some of our common gorilla trekking tips below.

  • Tourists must always book their permits in advance, especially when trekking with gorillas during the peak season.
  • While booking gorilla permits, tourists are advised to book with the organizations responsible for selling permits or use a trusted tour company.
  • Mountain gorillas live in higher elevations of tropical and sub-tropical rainforests that sometimes receive rainfall even in the drier months. You are advised to come with raincoats, warm clothes, waterproof hiking boots, jackets, and garden gloves, among other items.
  • For budget travelers, the best time for trekking with gorillas is in the low season.
  • Luxurious and mid-range travelers can visit the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
  • Tourists should endeavor to book accommodation within the sector in which they have obtained permits. This is because you can spend a lot of time moving from a lodge in one sector to trek in another sector.
  • People with disabilities should inform the park headquarters in advance or a tour operator about the situation to make it easier to book sedan seats or bamboo stretchers ahead of time and also to allocate a nearby gorilla family for you.
  • Always follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations and avoid making gorillas feel insecure to prevent them from charging at you.
  • Engage in physical fitness exercises because gorillas live at high elevations that require hiking and physical fitness is essential.
  • Rwanda and Uganda share the same climate zone in their gorilla trekking national parks. Mountain gorillas can be visited all year round, but some months are more convenient than the rest, so the best time for gorilla trekking is from June to September and December to February.

The Four Trailheads of Bwindi

Gorilla Trekking Clothing

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four sectors, and these include Nkuringo, Rushaga, Ruhija, and Buhoma sectors. You can also call them gorilla trekking regions.

Nkuringo Sector:

The Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in the western part of the park. The sector is home to the famous Nkuringo gorilla family, well known in Bwindi National Park for their playful behaviors because of many juveniles.

Rushaga Sector:

Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located at the extreme southern part of the park near Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, making it easily accessible from Rwanda. Rushaga sector of Bwindi National Park is home to over five gorilla families.

Ruhija Sector:

The Ruhija sector of Bwindi National Park is located in the southern part of the park and is home to three gorilla families: the Oruzogo gorilla family, Bitukura gorilla family, and Kyaguriro gorilla family. Ruhija sector offers adventurous hiking and interesting trails with chances of seeing a lot of wildlife.

Buhoma Sector:

Buhoma sector of Bwindi is situated in the northern sector of the park and is one of the most visited. Buhoma sector of Bwindi has the first gorilla family to be habituated in the national park.

Mubare gorilla family was the first habituated in 1992 as soon as Bwindi National Park was established.

Mountain Gorilla Families in Bwindi Gorilla Park

Gorilla Families in Rushaga Sector of Bwindi

Uganda has over 18 habituated mountain gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Each family can be visited by 8 tourists per day and they are distributed within the four sectors of Bwindi: Ruhija sector, Rushaga sector, Buhoma sector, and Nkuringo sector.

Trekking Nkuringo Gorilla Families

Though the gorilla families in Nkuringo are few, you can still stay in Nkuringo and trek gorillas in the Rushaga sector because of its proximity.

The gorilla families in Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi include: Christmas gorilla family and Nkuringo gorilla family.

Trekking Ruhija Gorilla Families

The Ruhija sector of Bwindi opened up for gorilla trekking in 2008. The sector initially had two mountain gorilla groups for trekking, and one group was dedicated for research purposes but later introduced to trekking.

One of the old groups split into two groups, forming the third. Today, Ruhija sector boasts over five mountain gorilla families.

There are habituated Ruhija gorilla families that can be trekked from this sector of Bwindi, including Bitukura gorilla family, Oruzogo gorilla family, Kyaguriro gorilla family, and Mukiza gorilla family, among a few more.

Trekking Rushaga Gorilla Families

The Rushaga region/sector of Bwindi also has the highest number of habituated families compared to other regions in Bwindi.

Gorilla families in Rushaga include: Busingye gorilla family, Kayungye gorilla family, Bweza gorilla family, Nshongi mountain gorilla family, Mishaya mountain gorilla family, Bikingi gorilla family, and Bushaho gorilla family, among others.

Trekking Buhoma Gorilla Families

Buhoma is the oldest region of Bwindi National Park with the oldest habituated gorilla family called the Mubare group, habituated in 1992.

Habituated mountain gorilla families in Buhoma include: Mubare gorilla family, Habinyanja gorilla family, Katwe gorilla family, and Rushegura gorilla family, among the rest.

How long does Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi last?

2 Days Bwindi Gorilla Trekking from Kigali in Rwanda

Trekking mountain gorillas can take from 30 minutes to 7 hours, and sometimes this can also depend on the physical fitness and ability of the group because they adjust to the slowest person in the group while trekking mountain gorillas.

Training before embarking on a gorilla safari is always guaranteed, as gorillas live at higher elevations in rain-forests that will require hiking.

Some mountain gorilla families live near the park headquarters where you start your gorilla trekking or near the lodges within the park.

These are the easiest gorilla families to trek and usually take a few hours to locate the family compared to other families that live deep in the forest.

During the allocation of gorilla families on the morning of gorilla trekking and briefing, the elderly and older people are allocated to easier groups to trek, while the youthful and strong tourists will be allocated to other families.

However, sometimes the nearest gorilla family groups can also move very far, and trekking them will take many hours.

Recommended Gorilla Trekking Gear & Equipment

Compliments to your Nkuringo Gorilla Tours

The recommended gorilla trekking gear for the wet season includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Good hiking boots
  • Garden gloves
  • Long-sleeved clothes
  • Warm clothes

The recommended gorilla trekking gear for the dry season includes:

  • Sunglasses and hats
  • Sunscreen

The recommended gorilla trekking gear for both the dry and wet seasons includes:

  • Drinking water
  • Binoculars
  • Cameras and batteries
  • Energy snacks and packed lunch
  • Insect repellents

Other Things to Do in Bwindi Besides Gorilla Trekking & Habituation

12 Days of Birding and Gorilla Trekking | Rwanda Safari
Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Besides gorilla trekking, there are other amazing activities to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, including birding, nature walks, and cultural encounters, among other tourist activities.

These activities span across all the sectors, and you can do each irrespective of the sector you are in. This is a big advantage of trekking with gorillas in Bwindi.

Getting to Bwindi by Air & Road

Aerolink Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can be reached by air through Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has four sectors, so traveling by air will require you to fly to an airstrip near the area you will be trekking gorillas from and where you have booked accommodation.

There are two airstrips near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Kihihi Airstrip, and Kihihi Airstrip.

Kisoro airstrip is just six kilometers from the Rwandan border and 343 kilometers southwest of Entebbe International Airport.

Tourists traveling to Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors in the southern part of Bwindi should fly to Kisoro airstrip.

Tourists traveling to Buhoma and Ruhija sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park should fly to Kihihi airstrips and then drive to their hotels.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can also be reached by flying into Kigali International Airport in Rwanda and then driving for 4-5 hours to Bwindi National Park.

Where to Stay When Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Choosing the best accommodation facility for your budget should be a significant part of your gorilla safari tour.

Gorilla trekking is a very tiresome tour activity; hence, you ought to be extremely comfortable before and after the trek.

Choosing a good accommodation facility is a big part of this comfort.

Bwindi has very good budget, mid-range and luxury lodges.

Some of the luxury accommodation facilities in Bwindi include Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Heights Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (The Best), among others.

Some of the notable mid-range accommodation facilities in Bwindi include Gorilla Mist Camp, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, and Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, among many more.

Recommendable budget accommodation facilities in Bwindi include Buhoma Community Bandas, Wagtail Eco Safari Camp, Bwindi View Bandas, Broadbill Forest Camp, Nshongi Campsite, Kisoro Travelers Rest, and Gorilla Valley Lodge, among others.

Useful links:

How we work

To offer a more rewarding way to travel, we do stuff the right way; right from the planning process.

We pay attention

We will spend time and pay attention to your expectations, then propose an experience that you might like.

We complement

Next we will discuss our selected options, point out the best safaris for you and make awesome recommendations.

We hold your booking

We will tentatively hold your booking and make reservations while we talk through the safari details or make changes.

Speak to an expert to start planning your African safari holiday...

Give a call to one of our specialists or arrange a video meeting/session for awesome ideas and safari advice.

+256 787 23 0575
Eddie Safari Guide
Ronnie Safari Guide