Visit The Mountain Gorillas

No matter what your plans are when you visit Uganda, a visit to see the mountain gorillas is an absolute must.

The world's remaining mountain gorillas live within four national parks, split in two regions that are 45 kilometers (28 miles) apart that spans 3 countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo).

One population of mountain gorillas inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A census in 2006 recorded 302 gorillas here.

The second population of mountain gorillas is found in a mountainous region referred to as the Virungas, which includes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo). A census conducted in 2010 showed 480 gorillas live in the Virungas.

Tracking Mountain Gorillas

Getting to see gorillas is not easy, nor are you guaranteed to see them. The trek to where the gorilla groups live takes you through very dense vegetation, up steep slopes and can last several hours. The dense vegetation is filled with burning and stinging nettles, so wearing gloves is a good idea. Red ants are also common, so wear long socks to tuck your trousers into. Gorillas move around so they aren't all that easy to track. The gorillas you'll be meeting are habituated to humans which is why you are able to get quite close to them. 

Some basic rules of tracking gorillas include:
  • You have to be over 15 years of age
  • You can not be sick or have any infectious disease
  • Only one hour is allowed with the gorillas and you have to keep a distance of at least 5 meters
  • Maximum number of visitors per day is 6-12 people per group
  • No flash photography is allowed
  • Trekkers must be fit and well equipped, which includes warm clothing for the wet cool climate high in the mountains
  • No eating or drinking in the vicinity of the gorillas
  • No touching the gorillas (although they may decide to touch you)
  • No pointing at gorillas

Gorillas Tracking Permits

You need an official permit handled by each of the national parks to see the gorillas. Usually you have to obtain these several months in advance. The Little Angels project can arrange these permits and transport for you or if you are going with a tour operator it will be arranged for you by them.
In Uganda it costs USD 500 per day per person for a gorilla permit in high season. In low season a permit costs $350 to track gorillas during the months March - May and October - November. You can get the permits in Kampala (the capital of Uganda) at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters. It is possible to make an international booking for permits using email direct with UWA but they do not accept credit cards so it gets a bit complicated. See their website for more details.

In Rwanda you can get permits through the Rwanda Tourism website in Kigali or Ruhengeri (near the PNV). You can call (250) 576514 or 573396 or email at reservation@rwandatourism.com. The permits cost USD 500 per person per day (as of Summer 2007). For more information see the Rwanda Tourism website. Gorilla permits can be sold out in advance, so book early especially if you plan to go between June - October.
In the DRC its best to just arrange your permit (USD 400) and tour through a tour operator. 
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