Although Mountain gorilla trekking can be done else where in Uganda, gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest is the best. Uganda hosts half of the remaining mountain gorillas and is the only country where mountain gorillas can be found in two different national parks.
Located in Southwestern Uganda, Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park has the highest population of mountain gorillas in the world and is arguably the best place to see mountain gorillas.
Bwindi impenetrable national Park is divided into four main sectors – Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma and Ruhija. The Rushaga and Buhoma sectors have the most number of gorilla groups and are the most popular area for gorilla tracking. Visitors who are interested in a gorilla habituation experience can do it from Rushaga. 3 Days gorilla habituation experience allows visitors to study a particular gorilla group more closely for four hours under the guidance of researchers and experienced trackers.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is done throughout the year but the peak season is the best time to visit gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The peak season falls in the dry months of December to February and between June and August. The wet season is in March to May and October to November. Tracking gorillas during the rainy season is more challenging because of the overgrown forest vegetation and muddy trails. However visitors shouldn’t be discouraged coming in the rainy season. Bwindi is a rain forest – some rain should be expected throughout the year. The rainy /low season attracts discounts for gorilla permits and less crowds in the park giving visitors a more intimate time with the gorillas and guides.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest starts with a briefing at the park headquarters at around 7am. Visitors should sleep early before the day of tracking and wake up by 5am to take breakfast before starting the journey from your lodge to the park office. After the briefing at the park office, trekkers are separated into smaller groups of 8 with each group following a different gorilla family. Some of the groups might start tracking the gorilla family near the park offices while others will need to be driven to starting points in one of the four sectors of the park. The park guides from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, two armed rangers and porters move with each group. The guides are very experienced, knowledgeable and well trained. They are willing to share information about each of the gorilla group members and Bwindi forest in general.
Once you spot the family, you will be allowed only one hour with them – so that they don’t start getting uncomfortable. Watching gorillas can be an extremely emotional event as gorillas behave like humans and share about 98 percent of our DNA. Take your time to observe their behavior and different personalities while taking some great photos for your memories. Follow the rules and regulations for gorilla tracking such as not smoking or eating within sight of the gorillas. Do not run away when a gorilla charges at you – lie down with your heads down as a sign of submission.