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Gorilla Trekking


Encounters with Primates

Primates – and mainly gorillas - are where we started over 15 years ago. Specialising in primate and gorilla trekking safaris worldwide we were the sole global specialists in this field. While we've come a long way since, now covering 42 destinations around the globe, encounters with our primate relatives remains close to our hearts.

Our CEO and Founder Will Bolsover spent many years in the jungles of Central and East Africa, working in the gorilla parks of Uganda and Rwanda, the Eastern Lowland Gorilla and Mountain Gorilla parks of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and tracking the chimpanzees of Tanzania in Mahale and Gombe. He was the first person to lead gorilla trekking safaris in Gabon working with Emmanuel de Merode who now runs Virunga National Park in DRC. Will even acquired the nickname of ‘swamp boy’ due to his penchant for spending time in the deepest parts of the jungle. It's not really a surprise he has been awarded the honour of being one of a few travel specialists recognised by Conde Nast Traveler for multiple years in a row as being the go to travel fixer for this part of the world.

Natural World Safaris started as the niche gorilla trekking holiday specialist World Primate Safaris back in 2005. This expert level of knowledge and expertise of these incredible primates is still exemplified in our favourite trips today. Also, from each safari sold we donate a percentage to the conservation of primates in a destination of choice.

Sl Rwanda Gorilla David Yarrow

Where do Gorillas live?

Gorillas are native to the forests of central Sub-Saharan Africa. They can be found in several countries across this region, including:

  • Uganda
  • Rwanda
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Republic of Congo
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Nigeria
  • Angola

Within these countries, gorillas inhabit a variety of forest types, including lowland rainforests, montane forests, and bamboo forests. There are two species of gorillas: the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei), each with distinct subspecies.

It's important to note that gorillas are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and diseases. Conservation efforts are essential to ensure their survival and protect their natural habitats.

Sl Rwanda Gorilla David Yarrow

The Best places to see Gorillas

When looking to plan a gorilla trek one of the most common questions is should you choose Rwanda or Uganda. It is perhaps unfair to suggest that one destination is better than the other, however, there are differences to take into consideration which may help you make your decision

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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Uganda is home to two subspecies of eastern gorilla, the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla, although only Mountain Gorillas are tracked at the moment.

As tourism is relatively new in Uganda the country offers an authentic travel experience with fewer crowds and a lot more variety in your trip.

In Uganda, there are two locations where you can track gorillas; Mgahinga National Park which flanks the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a mist-covered forest swathed over steep ridges and valleys on the edge of the Rift Valley. Gorilla tracking permits here are $700 per trek.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla are the largest of all gorilla subspecies and whilst some small populations may exist in southwestern Uganda near the border, they can mainly be found in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Condo. For this reason, gorilla trekking in Uganda is only focused on mountain gorillas.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is well-regulated and permits are required to visit the gorillas. To minimise the impact on their natural habitat and to ensure their ongoing protection these permits are limited and revenue generated from gorilla tourism plays a vital role in funding conservation efforts.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Rwanda is renowned for its efforts in gorilla conservation and is home to the endangered mountain gorilla. The mountain gorilla inhabits the dense forests of the Virunga Mountains which spans across the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Volcanoes National Park is the only location for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

Rwanda offers some of the best primate tracking on the planet through the ancient jungle-covered slopes of Volcanoes National Park. Set against the backdrop of its endless green hills, Rwanda as a destination has great infrastructure and some of the best luxury lodges in Africa. This comes at a price and gorilla tracking permits here are $1500 each; these permits are again limited to minimise the impact on both the gorilla and their natural habitat.

Rwanda has been dedicated to gorilla conservation and responsible ecotourism for many years and is a great success story as the mountain gorilla population in the region has been steadily increasing.

Best time to go Gorilla Trekking

The best time to go gorilla trekking depends on a few factors, including country, weather, availability of permits, and your personal preferences. Whilst gorilla trekking is possible year-round, seasonality plays a big part in when we’d recommend visiting.

If you’re looking for Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon or Central African Republic), it’s possible to have a great trip during the rainy season since the terrain is flat and rains normally occur in the afternoon and night. The air is often clearer and a great chance to see animals that you can only see during the rainy season such as Bongos or grey parrots. It’s really based on your personal preference and what you’re looking to experience.

For those looking for Rwanda and Uganda then you might want to look more closely at the dry/wet seasons:

Dry Season

The dry season is generally considered to be the best time to go gorilla trekking as the weather is more predictable and trekking conditions are more favourable. In both Rwanda and Uganda, the dry season occurs from June to September and December to February.

During this time the trails are less muddy and easier to navigate, making the trekking experience more comfortable for most. Some of our favourite times for gorilla trekking is the ‘edge of season’ in February or September when it is slightly less busy and you are on the fringe of ‘the rains’ which is great for photographers.

Wet Season

Wet season in both Uganda and Rwanda runs from March to May and October to November. Gorilla trekking during this time can be more challenging due to heavy rains, which make the trails slippery and muddy. It’s worth remembering that gorilla trekking permits may be more readily available during the wet season and some people prefer the reduced crowds and lush greenery.

What to wear on a gorilla trek

For a successful day of gorilla trekking, the choice of essentials depends on the time of year you plan to embark on this adventure. To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience, we recommend having the following items with you:

  • Lightweight Clothing: Expect the trek to be hot and demanding, so opt for lightweight clothing to avoid discomfort and unnecessary sweating from thick materials.
  • Rain Jacket: Although not guaranteed, there's a possibility of rain during the trek. Be prepared by carrying a good quality rain jacket to keep you dry and protected.
  • Sturdy Walking Shoes: Negotiating muddy and uneven terrain requires reliable, water-resistant hiking boots. Ensure you have broken them in before setting off on your journey.
  • Long-Sleeved Top and Trousers: Despite the heat, covering your skin with long-sleeved attire is vital to shield yourself from bug bites and scratches while trekking.
  • Long, Thick Socks: Similar to the long-sleeved clothing, wearing long, thick socks prevent bugs from coming too close to your legs and feet, enhancing your comfort and safety.

By having these essential items in your possession, you'll be well-prepared for an unforgettable gorilla trekking experience. Remember to plan according to the time of year and follow the guidance of your knowledgeable guides to make the most of this remarkable adventure.

UGA St Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Mountain Gorilla Shutterstock Gudkov Andrey

Why book your gorilla trekking safari with NWS?

Our exclusive safaris dig a little deeper than the norm. We can include scenic helicopter transfers offering a remarkable bird’s-eye view of this endangered habitat. We also offer the opportunity to spend time with the doctors of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project learning about the incredible conservation work they do through veterinary medicine; you can choose to visit them, have them join you at your lodge for dinner, or even have a Gorilla Doctor accompany you on your trek. Working closely with conservationists, we can offer the change to join habituation safaris and more. Our exclusive network on the ground links us to all the best lodges in the region and we are often able to add that little NWS twist to your trip, transforming it into something really special.

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How fit do I need to be to go on a gorilla trek?

You will need to navigate through thick foliage in hot and humid conditions whilst also walking both up and downhill. There will be times where the ground beneath you can be unstable and slippery. It will help to engage in physical activity leading up to your gorilla trek to help improve on stamina and endurance. Cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and leg workouts will all be useful preparation for your trip. If you have any underlying health conditions be sure to consult with your doctor before embarking on the trek and pack any necessary medications.

If you have any concerns about booking a trip to view gorillas then just get in touch and we'll be able to help you make the right decision.

Is there a chance I won't encounter any gorillas on my trek?

Whilst we can never guarantee you will see gorillas on your trek, we can comfortably say that it is highly unlikely not to encounter a family. This is because our teams on the ground are in constant communication as to where the various gorilla families are on a given day so beginning your trek you guide should already have a great idea on the direction to head in.