Hiking & Nature Walks in Murchison Falls National Park

Hiking and Nature Walks are among the top activities in Murchison Falls offering holidaymakers an opportunity to explore this vast wilderness on foot. Located in North-western Uganda covering an area of 3,840 sq km, Murchison falls National Park has varied sceneries and vast landscapes starting from the savannah plains, swamps, forests, the amazing wildlife, awesome culture and lastly the eye-catching magnificent falls on the Victoria Nile. The park harbors a lot of wildlife such as giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes, Jackson’s hartebeests, lions and elephants among others. Plant species like the whistling acacia, sausage trees, over 420 bird species, butterflies, and many more.

Most attractions in the park and around the conservation areas can be explored on foot, and although there are different trails that can be followed; tourists are only permitted to follow particular designated trails such as: to the top of the falls, in Rabongo forest and in Kaniyo Pabidi. hiking and nature walk adventures will be a great reward to Nature lovers and birders as they will reward you with great views of wildlife in Murchison falls National Park, birds and different plant life at a close range as they walk through low hills, gullies and riverine forests.

Hiking to the top of the falls

This is considered to be the most remarkable hiking trail in Murchison Falls National Park. the adventure begins with a boat ride on the Nile to the base of the falls at a point known as the ‘The Baker Point’ where its alleged to be the exact spot that early explore Sir Samuel Baker back in 1864 stood as he admired and appreciated the splendor and might of the waterfalls which he named after the then serving president off the Royal Geographical Societ – RGS which sponsored his expedition in Africa.

he boat leaves you at the base and you head for a 45 minute guided hike that will require some bit of physical fitness, while on this hike you will have a great time watching rolling hills, vegetation types, hear the thunderous roar of the falls and see different birds in Murchison Falls National Park. once you are at the top you will be able to watch the waters of the river Nile make their way through a small gap in the rocks about 8m wide hence forming a 45m fall as it drops down to continue with its course.

Nature Walks in Kaniyo Pabidi

This is an area of Natural forest in the Budongo forest located about 8km from Kichumbanyobo one of the park gates to Murchison Falls National Park along Paraa road in Masindi. It is a great place for hikes and nature walks and perfect to have a Uganda Chimpanzee Tour. Also other things to see are the big ironwood and Mahogany trees, various native medicinal plants and birds such as the Hornbills, Chocolate backed Kingfishers among others can be spotted. There is a camp site equipped with firewood and water found within the park so guest can easily find where to stay.

Rabongo Forest Walks

It is located in the southeast of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and approximately a 1 hour and 30 minutes drive from Paraa. It is a great place for hiking and nature walks as well as primate watching tours with primate trekking. This area is encompassed with savannah grasslands and also here you find good forest cottages and a campsite. During your walk you can spot beautiful birds, medicinal plants, primates like vervet monkeys, black and white colobus, baboons, red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees among others.

Best time to have a nature walk or hiking tour in Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry season despite the fact that the park can be visited all year round. During the dry season, the trails are generally dry and easy to traverse unlike in the rainy months when they are muddy and slippery

There is also a 2 to 4 hour guided swamp walk to the Nile delta that gives you opportunity to see various ecosystems and also the rare shoebill stork especially if the water table is low.

Cape Buffalos (Syncerus caffer)

The African buffalo is a very robust species. Its shoulder height can range from 1.0 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft) and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 m (5.6 to 11.2 ft). The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm (28 to 43 in) long. Compared with other large bovids, it has a long but stocky body (the body length can exceed the wild water buffalo, which is heavier and taller) and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. Savannah-type buffaloes weigh 500 to 1,000 kg (1,100 to 2,200 lb), with males normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range. In comparison, forest-type buffaloes, at 250 to 450 kg (600 to 1,000 lb), are only half that size. Its head is carried low; its top is located below the backline. The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is heavier and more powerful than the back.

Savannah-type buffaloes have black or dark brown coats with age. Old bulls often have whitish circles around their eyes and on their face. Females tend to have more-reddish coats. Forest-type buffaloes are 30-40% smaller, reddish brown in colour, with much more hair growth around the ears and with horns that curve back and slightly up. Calves of both types have red coats.

A characteristic feature of the horns of adult male African buffalo (southern and eastern populations) is that the bases come very close together, forming a shield referred to as a “boss”. From the base, the horns diverge downwards, then smoothly curve upwards and outwards and in some cases inwards and or backwards. In large bulls, the distance between the ends of the horns can reach upwards of one metre (the record being 64.5 inches 164 cm). The horns form fully when the animal reaches the age of 5 or 6 years old, but the bosses do not become “hard” until it reaches the age of 8 to 9 years old. In cows, the horns are, on average, 10–20% smaller, and they do not have a boss. Forest-type buffalo horns are smaller than those of the savanna-type buffaloes from Southern and East Africa, usually measuring less than 40 centimetres (16 in), and are almost never fused.


Fun Facts

  1. The horns of the cape buffalo are an excellent indication of age and gender. The females and young males do not have the hard shielding that protects the base of the skull in large adult males.
  2. Cape buffalos are extremely social and live in large, mixed herds of up to 2000 members! Both sexes have a separate hierarchy, with males dominant over females. Members of the same subgroup will stay in direct contact with each other and will often sleep with their heads resting on one another.
  3. The African buffalo, which is often confused with the Asian water buffalo, shares many of the same characteristics but is considered a separate species.
  4. Cape buffalo are always within a day’s walk of a water source. This is especially true in the dry season when they are eating dried grasses.
  5. Cape buffalo have the reputation of being dangerous when they are cornered or injured. There are many tales told by big game hunters earlier this century of injured buffalo turning back and goring or killing the shooter.

Ecology and Conservation

By living in large herds and eating tall coarse grasses, Cape buffalo play a vital role in the ecology of the grasslands. Many of the smaller grazers are unable to digest the tall grasses, and the tall grasses may prevent them from getting to the shorter, more palatable grasses in the absence of buffalo. 

Competition for food sources by non-native species such as goats and cattle have challenged the native African grazers. However, the introduction of foreign diseases from non-native species remains the biggest threat. Currently the national parks of Uganda are taking great steps to protect their native wildlife against Bovine Tuberculosis. While this does not have a serious effect on domestic cattle it can decimate the herds of cape buffalo and their prey species such as lion and hyena.

Social behavior

Herd size is highly variable. The core of the herds is made up of related females, and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy. The basic herds are surrounded by subherds of subordinate males, high-ranking males and females, and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, which is recognizable by the thickness of his horns. During the dry season, males split from the herd and form bachelor groups. Two types of bachelor herds occur: ones made of males aged four to seven years and those of males 12 years or older. During the wet season, the younger bulls rejoin a herd to mate with the females. They stay with them throughout the season to protect the calves. Some older bulls cease to rejoin the herd, as they can no longer compete with the younger, more aggressive males. Males have a linear dominance hierarchy based on age and size. Since a buffalo is safer when a herd is larger, dominant bulls may rely on subordinate bulls and sometimes tolerate their copulation.Bulls in position to spar

Adult bulls spar in play, dominance interactions, or actual fights. A bull approaches another, lowing, with his horns down, and waits for the other bull to do the same thing. When sparring, the bulls twist their horns from side to side. If the sparring is for play, the bull may rub his opponent’s face and body during the sparring session. Actual fights are violent but rare and brief. Calves may also spar in play, but adult females rarely spar at all.

African buffaloes are notable for their apparent altruism. Females appear to exhibit some sort of “voting behavior”. During resting time, the females stand up, shuffle around, and sit back down again. They sit in the direction they think they should move. After an hour of more shuffling, the females travel in the direction they decide. This decision is communal and not based on hierarchy or dominance. When chased by predators, a herd sticks close together and makes it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. A buffalo herd responds to the distress call of a captured member and tries to rescue it. A calf’s distress call gets the attention of not only the mother, but also the herd. Buffaloes engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators. They have been recorded killing a lion and chasing lions up trees and keeping them there for two hours, after the lions have killed a member of their group. Lion cubs can get trampled and killed

Mpanga forest reserve

Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is located in Impigi District about 35km out of Kampala, covering 453 hectares (1,120 acres). The forest is best known for its 181 species of butterfly, while red-tailed monkeys can be seen during the day and bushbabies during guided night walks that go for 20,000 shillings per person. The forest reserve was gazetted in 1950 and later in 1953. it first served as a scientific research site.

Visit Mpanga Central Forest Reserve — Gorilla tracking safaris
mpanga forest is a home to over 97 butterfly species and 112 moths.

Mpanga is recorded to have over 500 tree species and shrubs, with some trees estimated to be 100-years old. There are over 200 bird species recorded in this reserve. The common birds to watch include, hornbill, spotted greenbul, black and white casqued, African pied hornbills, long tailed cormorant, black headed heron, Egyptian goose, black kite, lizard buzzard, African palm swift, Uganda woodland warbler, great blue turaco and the ross turaco. Mammals found in Mpanga include; bushbuck, red-tailed monkey and flying squirrels. Several butterfly species can also be observed throughout the reserve.

The forest reserve is a home to three monkey species; vervet, red tailed then the black and white colobus monkeys. other mammal species spotted in the forest are banded mangoose, squirrels, pottas and bush babies.

Mpanga forest is another destination for butterfly safaris.

Kabaka’s lake

Kabaka’s lake is situated in Ndeeba in between Nabunya road and Ring Road. It is a few kilometers away from Kampala capital city approximately 5 kilometers.  The lake was constructed in 1880 under the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II who wanted it to act as an “escape corridor” during the British armed conflicts. The kabaka’s lake is the largest man-made lake in Uganda and it is Africa’s excavated lake. The lake was constructed under the cooperation of over 52 clans of Buganda who jointly agreed to construct the Kabaka’s Lake during the Ssekabaka Mwanga’s regime between the 1885 and 1888 and this was a sign of respecting the king’s orders.

Kabaka Mwanga II not only wanted the lake to act as an escape but he had other interests for this lake such as; he wanted the lake to act as a channel connecting to lake victoria where he can travel on boat to access lake victoria so that he can enjoy fishing and swimming, Mwanga II also wanted an easy access to his other built palace in Mulungu hill which is close to lake victoria in Munyonyi built by his father Mutesa before his death

Kabaka Mwanga II was known for his pride, aggressiveness, notorious and a Ruthless holocaust during his reign, despite the Kabaka’s aggressiveness and ambitious plans towards the Kabaka’s lake, the construction of the lake was abruptly interrupted and stopped before it was connected to Munyonyo, the failure to complete the lake was due to the religious wars that arose in  Buganda kingdom.  

The legendary story behind the construction of the Kabaka’s lake is extremely interesting. At the beginning of the construction, the parish chiefs plus the prince and princess had refused to take part in the digging of the lake so they were reported the Kabaka, something which annoyed Kabaka Mwanga II who decided to take up the tusk by himself and joined other people who had obeyed to dig. By doing this the parish chiefs, princess and princes got ashamed and they as well joined in the digging along with the kabaka.

Apparently, the kabaka’s lake covers an area of about two square kilometers and approximately 200 feet in depth. It is among the top attraction places to visit on your Kampala city tour and it is a significant conservation site to the kingdom of Buganda. It is one of the birders paradises with numerous bird species such as the little egrets. The kabaka’s lake has got intriguing picture views which backed by awesome surrounding environment. A visit to the kabaka’s lake will offer you a chance to explore Kabaka’s palace which is just adjacent to the lake. You will an see people who occasionally cross the lake on traditional dugout canoes.

In the annual Buganda tourism Expo which takes place around August, the king of Buganda takes courtesy with his subjects to be of the officiate watersports on the lake. The Kabaka is accompanied by his soldiers known as Abambnowa dressed smartly in their traditional attires well-armed with shields and the spears together with the ministers as well as dignitaries and a security convey.

The kabaka’s Lake has no inlet river tributaries which supplies water to this lake; it is instead supplied by underground springs.There are two islands on the lake; one in the middle, with Buganda’s Coat of Arms where Ssekabaka Mwanga II sat while watching boat races, swimming competitions and birding. The second island, found in its left wing, is a birders paradise with water plants which attract over 70 species, the dominant one being white egrets and pied eye kingfishers.

Lake Nkugute

Lake Nkugutte also called lake Rutoto is located in Rutoto Sub-county Rubirizi District. The lake is after a very small urban area only made vibrant by roadside matooke, yellow bananas, and passion fruit vendors.

The lake is tucked between Imaramagamba Forest, Omunkombe and Ryemondo hills. It is belted by Bushenyi-Kasese highway and surrounded by banana, pine and eucalyptus groves. Rutoto area is heavily populated and wooded.

The inhabitants are the Banyaruguru (the emigrants from Buganda), Banyankore, Bakiga and Banyarwanda who grow commercial trees, bananas, coffee and sugarcane.

Centre for tales
The lake has been associated with many myths and spiritual activities. For instance, it is believed the lake is in the shape of the map of Africa, is very deep and that it doesn’t have fish.

Another myth is that the lake has spirits that give wealth and that the water crosses the road thus, rampant road accidents near it. Many people carry out rituals on the lake.

Nyamwonyo who begun fishing on the lake since he was 10 years old has heard all the stories and also witnessed some of the bizarre incidents. In 2002, a bus belonging to SB Coaches collided with a fuel tanker at Kaziko on the southern tip of the lake.

The bus caught fire killing all the 72 people on board. This triggered the belief that the spirits in the water were responsible for the tragedy, that it was an act of sacrifice by the lake spirits.

The lake is a source of water and fish to the local community. There are about 20 boats and you can also find about 10-20 people fishing using hooks. There is tilapia and mudfish but not in big quantities, according to Nyamwonyo.

Though the lake is partly fenced and authorities prohibit any misuse, people directly bathe and wash from it, much as washing and fetching points in form of slabs are provided for.

The lake has also been reducing in size as a result of human activities of cultivation and construction. Nyamwonyo says some points where they used to throw hooks and catch fish years back are now banana plantations.

You can include lake nkugutte on your itinerary to Queen Elizabeth National park.

Habituating the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda

Uganda is home to approximately half of the world’s endangered mountain gorilla population, and gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of the most incredible wildlife experiences on the continent.

Standard gorilla treks give you the chance to spend up to one hour in the company of the gorillas in their natural habitat. This has been made possible by gently introducing the gorillas to human presence, a process that takes between 2 and 5 years. This is essential for the continued research, care and conservation of the gorillas. 

For those wishing to take a more active role in the protection and understanding of these gentle giants, you can join the rangers and conservationists in the habituation process of two more gorilla families in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

During a habituation trek, you can spend up to 4 magical hours with these highly intelligent and emotional animals. 

It is an incredibly humbling experience, and the habituation process is fundamental to the continued protection of the gorillas.

LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK

Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck.

Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now contains much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes.Explore lake mburo with verdoro safaris uganda

Why seeing chimpanzees in Uganda is one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences

Chimpanzees may get much less hype in the travel media than endangered mountain gorillas, but tracking our closest relative through the African jungle is in fact one of the world’s most thrilling wildlife encounters (and it costs a fraction of visiting our larger cousins).

Although there are around 300,000 chimpanzees left in the equatorial forests of Africa, observing them in their natural habitat is a rare treat. One of the best places to do so is Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda as it’s home to five habituated groups that are within easy walking distance.

A mature male chimpanzee sits in dense green foliage atop a large branch with its legs tucked up and its forearms hanging over its knees - it is looking pensively up to the trees above© Bella Falk
A male member of the Kanyanchu chimpanzee group in Kibale Forest National Park © Bella Falk

Africa’s chimpanzees

Chimpanzees live in communities of up to 150 members, which are divided into smaller subgroups and led by an alpha male.  They’ll typically spend much of their day high up in the treetops, grooming, sleeping, and feeding on fruit, leaves and bark. However, it’s when they descend from the canopy that you’ll have your best chance of getting close to them.

Today we know that chimpanzees are humans’ closest genetic relatives – sharing around 98% of our DNA – but it was the celebrated primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall who first observed their astonishing human-like behaviour. In the 1960s Dr. Goodall moved in with a community of chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, where she was able to prove that chimpanzees kill and eat small mammals, and can make and use tools, ideas that were completely unknown at the time.

By spending time with the chimps she eventually taught them to accept her – a process known as habituation which is not only fantastic for scientists, but also opens up the opportunity for ordinary visitors to get almost within touching distance of these incredible creatures.

A baby chimpanzee has its mouth full of fruit, with one hand on a branch and the other grasping more fruit, while an elder chimp sits down the same branch and carefully tastes a piece of fruit - bunches of fruit hang from the branch they are sitting on © Bella Falk
Living the high life, two chimpanzees feed on fruit in the tree canopy of Kibale Forest National Park © Bella Falk

The chimpanzees of Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest in Uganda is home to around 1500 chimpanzees living in 13 communities. Of these, various groups have been successfully habituated; some for scientific study and others, such as the Kanyanchu group, are used for tracking.

The Kanyanchu group, made up of more than 120 individuals, is led by an alpha male named Totti (after an Italian footballer) who took the top job in 2016 after a two-year battle with the previous alpha, Magezi. Visits to the group take place in the mornings and afternoons and typically last 3-4 hours with up to one hour spent with the chimps. The cost of the tracking permit is US$150 per person, a fraction of the US$750 and US$1500 price tags for gorilla permits at Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and  Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park respectively.

If an hour isn’t enough for you, then the park also offers a habituation experience, where you’ll spend a full day (US$220) following one of two communities currently undergoing the two-year habituation process. You’ll need to be prepared for a fair bit of brisk walking – chimps can move fast – but it will be worth it for the rewards of a more intimate encounter.

Several tourists walk single file up a slope into the thickening undergrowth of the rainforest while tracking chimpanzees© Bella Falk
Tracking chimpanzees on foot through the undergrowth © Bella Falk

What to expect from your chimpanzee experience

Most visitors opt for the half-day, which should provide you with plenty of time to find the group and enjoy a thrilling hour in their company.  The adventure starts with a briefing, during which you’ll learn a little about the animals you’re about to see, as well as being given some dos and don’ts. Top of the list: avoid getting too close. Not only for your own safety, but also for theirs as our colds, viruses and diseases can easily spread to them due to shared DNA. It’s also not wise to imitate their calls. While it might seem fun to mimic them, if you’re not careful you might accidentally end up recreating a battle cry and bring 120 angry chimpanzees down upon you. Once you’ve been briefed, you’re separated into groups of up to seven, each accompanied by a guide, who is armed in case of emergencies. And then it’s time to head into the forest.

Pushing through the tangled undergrowth, ducking under low branches and watching your step for twisted roots, you’ll hike in the direction of where the animals were last seen, all the time listening for their cries in the trees above. With a bit of luck you’ll soon hear them: that harsh, high-pitched screeching that rises to a crescendo and then fades away again as the family members call to one another. It’s an eerie, thrilling sound, and one that you know means you’re about to meet the stars of the show.https://18ce46e2aaff34aa8050b0cb960be572.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

As you follow the direction of the cacophony, you should soon find one of the family’s sub-groups. They may be high up in the treetops, feasting on figs, grooming or playing. But if you’re lucky, some will have come down to the ground, and that’s when the real magic happens.

An adult chimpazee laying on its back atop a large branch, with one arm outstretch - its palm left open and skyward - above its head, the other folded gently across its chest; its head is upside down and it is gazing gently at the camera © Bella Falk
Habituated chimpanzees are not tame; they are wild creatures who have simply had their fear of humans removed via the process of habituation

Face to face with chimpanzees

No matter how prepared you are, nothing beats that first, up-close, chimpanzee encounter. That intense buzz of being no more than a few feet away from these completely wild creatures. The thrill of seeing how intelligent they are, with their poses, expressions and interactions that could be almost human. The way they look right at you with their bright eyes, and even pose for your camera, you may wonder if they’re enjoying the interaction even more than you are.

The gorillas may be Uganda’s star attraction, but coming face-to-face with a wild chimpanzee is every bit as breathlessly exhilarating. In fact, this experience is arguably better, because the terrain is much easier, the forest less dense, the chimpanzees easier to find, and the price significantly cheaper.  All good reasons why you might want to consider putting chimps right at the top of your must-see list.

Africano, the Ugandan park guide, stands dressed in his green uniform, with one arm resting on a tree, the other holding the shoulder strap of his rifle © Bella Falk
Africano, one of the skilled guides leading chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park © Bella Falk

The unsung heroes of Kibale

Like any African wildlife experience, chimpanzee tracking is only as good as its guides. Fortunately, the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers who run the show are among the best of the best. Working in wildlife tourism in Uganda is a highly-prized job, and for the lucky few it offers a chance to spend every day out in nature, helping to protect the country’s precious ecosystem and sharing their passion with other wildlife-lovers.  Little wonder that there are 50 applicants for every job, and that the selection process is tough, involving a written exam, oral interview and fitness test. Rangers must be truly knowledgeable about conservation, have great people skills and speak excellent English – which makes them among the most dedicated and interesting people you will meet anywhere on your travels.

Take 34-year-old Africano, for example. He grew up in Kibale forest, the son of poor parents who scratched a living from subsistence farming. When the forest was made a national park in 1993, everyone living there was forcibly evicted.  For a long time, young Africano was furious with the government and with life, until he realised that if he followed his passion, he could turn the situation to his advantage. He studied hard at school, learned about tourism and wildlife management, and got a job as a ranger in the park. Now he’s not only able to help protect the forest he loves, he’s supporting his family in the process.

Kibale is not the only place to see chimpanzees in Uganda; there are also opportunities around Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park and in some smaller forest reserves.  But thanks to Kibale’s large population the chance of seeing them is said to be around 90%, which is why it’s become known as Uganda’s premier chimpanzee tracking destination

Gorilla Trekking In Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla Trek is a highlight of all visits done in Uganda and Rwanda and certainly mountain gorillas are the major reason as to why very many people visit these 2 destinations Find information about gorilla trekking holidays to see gorillas in the wild, how to acquire a permit, as well as tour companies arranging such treks. Gorilla trekking is defined as a hike to the tropical forests of Africa to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Covid 19 Updates:  Bwindi and Mgahinga parks have been reopened. You can now trek the gorillas of Uganda. Covid restrictions of social distance and other guidelines still apply.

When To Go To See The Mountain Gorillas In Africa?

Gorilla trekking can be conducted all year around in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. The best time to go gorilla trekking in during the months of June, July, August, September and December. This is because there are less rains and the parks are drier, making it simple to hike and see the gorillas .In Bwindi the average temperature throughout the year is 11°C/52°F in the morning and 23°C/73°F in the afternoon.

  • January and February: Low season offering less huge crowds. Very little or on rain.
  • March, April and May: Its rains a lot during these months. Most challenging during the trek, the slopes are slippery.
  • June, July & August: Peak season, its important to buy your permits early since they run out. Best time for gorilla safari in Uganda and Rwanda.

Which Company Should I Use For Gorilla Trekking ?

Best Gorilla Trekking Companies in Uganda
1. Verdoro safaris Uganda
2. Wild Whispers Africa
3. Kori Safaris
There are so many gorilla safari tour operators in Uganda and Rwanda. How to choose a tour company will depend on various factors including price, availability of gorilla permits, online reviews and recommendations on various websites.

bwindi gorilla trek

Where To Stay ?

Choosing the best safari lodge or accommodation will depend on how much you can afford. Some lodges charge as high as, $2500 while the budget ones can pocket as low as $ 50 for a double room. Its all about the facilities, location, food, services and so much more.

Average Cost Of Hotels & Lodges

  • $50 to 100 for budget accommodation
  • $150 to $200 for midrange
  • Luxury from $300 to $2500 per night.
  • book close to the tracking point, ask your tour operator.

Best 5 Gorilla Safari Lodges In Uganda

  1. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, from $760
  2. Gorilla Height Lodge from $ 700
  3. Mahogany Springs from $ 240
  4. Gorilla Safari Lodge from $ 233
  5. Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge from $ 173

How Much Does A Gorilla Safari Cost In 2021?

  • 1 Day Gorilla Trekking Uganda Costs About $1100
  • 2 Days Gorilla Safari Costs About $ 1280
  • 3 Day Gorilla Tour Costs About $ 1450

Of course, various tour operators will give you quotes, roughly the cheapest gorilla safari should have a price of about $ 1100 of course depending on the number of people. The super luxury should be cost you between $ 4000 to $ 6000 per person. Based on reviews of most gorilla tour operators in Uganda, most tourists prefer the mid-range, not so budget, but affordable.  Booking your safari during the low season should get those costs lowered! In Case you are not interested in Uganda.

You may wonder why gorilla trekking is expensive and whether it is worth the money. Here is the breakdown.
A Gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $ 700 and 75% of the money raised is to conserve the gorilla surviving population. The government pockets 15% while 10% is meant for the local communities around the parks. As you purchase the permit, note that the cost includes park entrance fees, gorilla watching for an hour, advance trackers and ranger fees.

Other Trekking Costs To Consider

Cost Of Food
Food and Drinks about $50 per day. Most Tour Operators include meals and soft drinks.

Transport Costs
Air ticket from your country should cost $ 500 to $ 2400.
Chartered flights from airport to close to gorilla trekking points, $ 600.
Hiring a car should cost you about $80 per day.

Cost of Items For Packing
insect repellents, sunscreen and more.

Visa and Border Crossing
East African tourist visa costs $100, which can take you on safaris in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.

Cost of Porters
$ 20 dollars, and  $500 to hire a Sedan chair for porters to carry you.

Tips On Cutting Costs

  • Do not travel alone.
  • Stay in best budget lodges.
  • Choose Uganda over Rwanda.
  • Avoid public transport buses do not leave on time.
  • Avoid chartered flights.
  • Book Your gorilla tour during low season.
gorilla tracking experience

What Country Provides The Best Option For Seeing The Mountain Gorillas ?  Comparing Uganda Vs Rwanda

This is quite a tricky question since they are all mountain gorillas living in the forests! Almost same environment. Comparing Uganda to Rwanda is not a good idea since Uganda has more wildlife than Rwanda. Besides the mountain gorillas, you can visit Murchison Falls, or see other primates in Kibale Forest National Park. If its about the cost, please note that, Gorilla permits within Rwanda were recently increased up to $1500 per individual and then in Uganda they go each for USD 700.

The permit offers you one hour with the mountain gorillas in a group of 8 people. In case you are threatened by the price look at it in this point of view that you are contributing to the conservation of mountain gorillas and as a form of thank you, you will be rewarded with an hour in the midst observing and enjoying their company.

Keep in mind that just 80 people are allowed to see the gorillas in their natural habitat each day. Because their habitat is very fragile, every time you walk in this forest you leave a footprint. Conclusion, Uganda is the best place to see gorillas.

 Where Can I See Gorillas In Africa?

You can see gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. However, note that gorillas are mainly divided into the mountain and the lowland with a couple of other sub-species in that. We suggest Rwanda, Uganda for views of the mountain gorillas and the Republic of Congo for the lowland gorillas. It is also possible to find mountain gorillas within the DR of Congo however due to the instabilities within the country, it has been challenging in some areas.

Some tourists think that you can find gorillas even where you opt for safaris in Tanzania ! This is wrong. However Tanzania and Kenya can be a great addition to your safari tour especially during the great wildebeest migration where herds of animals cross the Mara river into the Serengeti plains! On google, you find searches as Kenya gorilla trekking. There are no gorillas in Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa. These are multi destination safaris which we always encourage you to visit especially in East Africa.

Generally, the lowland gorillas are smaller and have brownish-gray far coats and a distinct brow ridge, whereas the mountain gorillas are larger with darker black coats. The Mountain gorillas are the most uncommon primates in the entire world with less than 800 surviving in the African wilderness. on the contrary there are more than 100,000 lowland gorillas just in the Republic of Congo.

Where To Go For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

Uganda has 2 sections for gorilla safaris namely, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In total there are 18 gorilla groups or families and you can only track only one group a day.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has 17 gorilla group making it the best place or park where you can see the gorillas in the wild. Bwindi an ancient forest has 90 mammal species, 11 primates including the black and white colobus monkey.

Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Groups

  • Ruhija Trek : with gorilla families, Mukiza, Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguliro
  • Buhoma Trek: Habinyanja, Katwe, Mubare, Rushegura
  • Nkuringo Trek: Christmas, Nkuringo, Bushaho
  • Rushaga Trek: Kutu, Bikingi, Mishaya, Bushigye, Kahungye, Rwigi, Bweza, Nshongi, Mucunguzi

Mgahinga Gorilla Family
In Mgahinga Park, you can track the Nyakagezi group which is surrounded by the Slopes of Virunga Volcanoes, Mt. Muhavura(4,127m) Mt Gahinga (3474m) Mt. Sabinyo(3645m),

Packing List For Gorilla Tours In Africa

  • Waterproof hiking boots.
  • Day pack.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Light weight rain jacket.
  • Poncho
  • Camera.
  • Binoculars,
  • Bottled water
  • Boots: hiking boots,
  • Gloves, old pair of gardening gloves
  • Long pants or trousers
  • Energy snacks.

How Difficult Is Gorilla Trekking?

Gorilla Trekking has a numerical rating of 50 to 100
Difficult Rating: Moderate Hike

There are many factors that influence the gorilla trekking difficulty and the commonest is your physical fitness. Others include weather conditions and your pack weight. It is possible to ask for a gorilla group that will march your fitness levels. A porter is important, Gorilla Trekking is not very hard, some people in their 60’s and 70’s have done it.

So how strenuous is the hike? To begin with 60% of Bwindi Forest National park has an elevation of over 6,600ft. Elevation of the entire park is from 3,904 to 8,553 ft. It has steep slopes in some areas. The experience takes between 2 to 6 hours depending on the gorilla family.

Gorilla Tracking Rules For Post Covid Visitors

With these apes sharing 98% of our genes, its possible that gorillas can get corona virus. Gorillas can catch flu and other airborne diseases making Covid 19 a big threat to the survival of the gorillas.

  • Observe a distance of 7 meters away from the gorillas.
  • Age limit of 15 years or more stands.
  • You are allowed only 1 hour to see the gorillas
  • Wearing of masks is important
  • Avoid sneezing.
  • Sanitize and observe other SOP guidelines.

What To Expect On A Gorilla Safari

On the day of your trek, expect to leave your comfortable bed early enough, am move to the briefing point by 7:30am. After briefing, tourists will be allocated different tracking routes, each 8 tourists. Head to the forest accompanied by guides and rangers as you begin you search for gorillas.

In the forest, you may see monkey species, butterfly species, mammals and so much more. Sometimes the forest is challenging and a good level of fitness will be required. At the end of the day, expect to be muddy and sweaty.

Once you see the gorillas, its okay to take photos with your camera or iPhone but avoid flash or else the gorillas might charge. You will spend between 40 minutes and 1 hour in company of these gentle giants. It will be such a life changing experience. After the trek, head back to you accommodation or opt for a cultural village experience of the Batwa pygmies.

Other Primate Safaris In Africa

Besides the mountain gorillas, you can track the Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest National Park or the golden monkey in Chimpanzee trekking, golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and a number of other monkey species in Uganda.
After your gorilla safari, you can visit the tree climbing lions of Ishasha, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and PianUpe Reserve for the very best of wildlife safaris in Uganda.

How About The Gorilla Habituation Experience?

Gorilla habituation is the training of wild gorillas to get used to humankind. Gorillas are trained by researchers and park rangers for a period of 3 years. Its during the training that that you can join the group of researchers and park rangers. Only 4 visitors are allowed. This makes it special. The cost of gorilla habituation is $1500 per person per day. The most exciting reality about this experience is that you actively engage in the gorilla habituation!

How To Get A Gorilla Trekking Permit In Uganda

Within Uganda, Gorilla trekking is conducted in Bwindi National Park or in Mgahinga National Park. But because of the inconsistency of gorillas in Mgahinga, majority of the sold permits are for Bwindi NP. In Uganda, every gorilla permit goes for US $ 700. In the past years, April, May and November used to cost US $ 450.Please note that these offers no longer exist. On a single day, nearly 72 people travel into Bwindi to see gorillas and only 8 people are allowed to see  a gorilla family. We strongly encourage you to book your gorilla permit with a safari agent, the most prominent mistake is to book a gorilla family which is far away from your choice of accommodation! The routes to Bwindi and its various regions are often tricky; this is a remote area. If you would like to do the gorilla trek on your own so as to save costs, you might end up incurring more. Safari guides have been trained to help you with this.

Gorilla Permit Price

  • Uganda gorilla permit costs $ 700 (1 Hour with the gorillas)
  • Uganda Gorilla Habituation Permit Costs $1500 ( A full Day Experience)
  • Rwanda gorilla permit Costs $ 1500
  • Congo Gorilla Trekking Permit Costs $ 400
  • East African Citizen ,pay 250,000 shillings for the permit

Several travelers intending to trek gorillas have found this process  tiring and they have opted to the quicker less tiring option of reserving their trekking permits through a local Uganda safari operator. These tour operators normally add an extra fee of US$60 to US$100 for each permit. These gorilla tour companies won’t charge you for purchasing a gorilla permit in case you are going to use their other tour services such as transfers however if you simply want only a permit from them then they will put an extra charge of up to US$100 per gorilla permit they book, since they need to make calls, pick the permit, deliver it to you and other administrative costs.

The process is more like the above, although the tour agencies normally speed up the reservation so you will be able to confirm your gorilla permit faster.

  • You inform them of the dates for your tour to Uganda and specify the date for trekking the gorillas
  • They will inform you if your preferred dates are available for trekking and also temporarily book them.
  • They will send you our bank details so that  you can transfer the money for the gorilla permits or even pay by credit card.
  • They will send you an acknowledgement email for the money transfer. Please remember to instruct your bank to deduct the bank charges for the transaction from your account. they don’t ask for any extra money for the gorilla permit if you are reserving the rest of your tour through them. Any additional costs will be for services like telephony and transport that will be incurred when acquiring the permit.
  • You will send a copy of your passport availing the details which will be used to register for your permit. Normally they need just your full names, nationality and the passport number
  • Your names will be registered and then we acquire the gorilla permit. On receiving the payment they will buy the gorilla permit but then having this permit doesn’t 100% guarantee you seeing the gorillas although chances of seeing them are about 98%
mountain gorilla figure

Important to note is that tour operators in Uganda through their joint organization of AUTO normally buy as much as 80% of the permits for a time of up to two years to the intended date of trekking the gorillas. Each of the member agencies can buy as many as 20 permits in a single month. However individuals as well as those not under the AUTO umbrella can buy at most two gorilla permits every month three months before the intended month of the gorilla trekking when the reservations open on the very-first working days from Monday to Friday of that month. Permits that aren’t sold on opening of the booking days are resold the next day without any limit put on the number of permits sold by a single operator or even individual person.

 What To Wear ?  Choosing The Right Clothing

Gorilla Trekking gear guide, Good quality walking boots if trying any hikes or even climbs, warm layers of cloth for the cold evenings and clothing for wet weather remember it becomes cold and wet at this high altitude. A light weight jacket is a must. Gloves, long sleeved shirts, trousers, Knee high hiking gaiters are important. You need to find the best hiking boots for gorilla trekking. More on Safari clothing wear on an African safari as well as the best camera and binoculaKrs to use on an African safari.

Background Information On Mountain Gorilla In Uganda –Behavior, History, Facts Of Mountain Gorillas, Predators, Habitat Plus Diet

The endangered impressive Mountain Gorillas in Uganda don’t live in any zoo across the planet since they cannot survive in detention and thus there aren’t any known mountain gorillas surviving within zoos. These can only be found and seen in Africa  in just three countries including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Most tour companies such as Gorilla Holidays Uganda do arrange packages to all of these destinations. There are approximately 786 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world with approximately half of them staying in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest plus the Mgahinga Gorilla Park within Uganda found in East Africa.

When you talk about Gorillas imaginative thoughts cross anyone’s mind; with thoughts of Tarzan movies and King Kong. Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda weren’t known about by the western world until 1902.  Rwanda then a German colony, Captain von Berenge was mountaineering Mount Sabinyo on the side of Rwanda together with his friends and at 9300 foot-level where they camped, they spotted a group of Mountain Gorillas and there he shot 2 of them although managed to retrieve just one.  The victim was a young-male approximately five years of age, not too big at 220 pounds, however larger than all apes the Germans had ever seen.  The Bones plus skin were later forwarded to Berlin and there it was acknowledged as a mountain gorilla.

Nobody had imagined that gorillas could stay in a high and colder environment than West -Africa.  The news of gorillas attracted hunters to the region, especially within Congo and there several Mountain Gorillas where shot and others captured.  Actually Prince Wilhelm from Sweden shot fourteen mountain gorillas in an expedition within this region done from 1920 to 1921.

The Belgians launched a Mountain Gorilla preservation’s program and later followed the English who did it in Uganda.  Within Uganda for several years no one was allowed to receive visitors to see these Mountain Gorillas.  Within Kisoro, Walter Baumgärtel was offered permission to establish visits for tourists to his beautiful Traveller’s Rest Inn, a facility where up to date you can stay within Uganda.  Baumgärtel wrote an interesting Book “Up among the Mountain Gorillas” which actually is about his personal encounters with the tranquil giant apes in southern Uganda.  It is a great book with reference to a man, the attractiveness of the Uganda’s countryside and an inn, and generally about the fascinating Mountain Gorillas and Uganda gorilla safari.  Actually Dian Fossey lived there on a frequent basis similar to George Schaller a many other renowned personalities.

bwindi water, gorilla trekking

The majority of Gorillas which you may have seen in a zoo are the lowlands gorillas of western Africa, and the mountain gorillas are actually a subspecies known as Gorilla beringei beringei.    These can only be found  in the wilderness of the Virunga highlands of Rwanda within Volcano Park. Visit Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park as well as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These parks are found only 48 km from each other.  Within Uganda as well as Rwanda these parks can be accessed easily, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the rebel activities that happened, there was a probable threat to the lives of visitors.

There are more than seven hundred and eighty six mountain gorillas in the whole world.  Uganda hold close to half of their total population, and the majority of them live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, whereas the others are found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park, however these at times cross over to Rwanda.  Fortunately the Gorillas are growing in numbers because of the protection they are offered from the government of Uganda which also included efforts of the adjacent communities to the parks to whom part of the USD 600 fee of Gorilla tracking permits charged from foreign visitors to Mgahinga as well as Bwindi is offered.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking, How Do Gorillas Look Like ?

Usually The Males are two times the size of the females, they may grow to 6 ft tall and even weigh 350 -500 pounds.  These are strong, with long arms and muscular.  The males are referred to as the silverback because as they mature the hair on their back turns somewhat silver, hence the name Silverbacks.  The strength of the males is ten times stronger compared to the strongest boxer, even taking steroids.  The arms of silverbacks can stretch to 7 feet.

Mountain Gorillas possess longer plus darker hair compared to their lowland counterparts because they stay in colder climates and higher altitudes.  Their life span is between 40 and 50 years. The mountain gorillas mainly stay on the ground although they will climb a tree occasionally given that it can support them, however just like children, their young play in the trees. A fascinating fact is that Gorillas plus Humans are share 98% of their genetic composition.

How Do Mountain Gorillas Feed ?

Uganda has two places where these Mountain Gorillas may be seen, one is Mgahinga Gorilla Park; a stunning park and a component of the Virunga chain of towering volcanoes that extend into the DRC and Rwanda, and then in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest supports the hugest Population of Mountain Gorilla.  It is a ancient forest also called the “Place of Darkness.”  The tree cover makes it very dark within this forest.  The forest’s altitudes are between 1,160m and 2,607m above sea level. The Bwindi plus Mgahinga each possess varying characteristics as well as similarities. The Bwindi isn’t an extinct volcanic region while the Mgahinga is.

gorilla feeding

Mgahinga Gorilla Park sits on higher altitudes and the Mountain Gorillas move up and feed on some of the afro-montane vegetation.  Typically Mountain Gorillas eat large quantities of flowers, leaves, fruit, roots, bamboo and shoots in season.  The Adults can consume up to 75 pounds each day.

The day of a Mountain Gorilla starts at 6 am up to 6pm with a snooze around lunch time.  Uganda receives Light just past 6 am and darkness falls around 7pm. These move every day to different locations where they make nests using twigs plus leaves and spend their night.  Some people have found these reasonably comfortable, just enough to actually slumber in.

Are Mountain Gorillas Dangerous Species?

Visitors into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest frequently inquire if mountain gorillas are dangerous?  Although dominant and very strong, these are gentle as well as shy, and in addition the mountain gorillas which visitors see within Uganda have been habituated.  In other words they are habituated to people, which process that takes close to 2 years.  Dian Fossey actually was against the idea of visiting mountain gorillas which is done today, however it’s the money collected that survival of this endangered species, and seen their number increase over the recent years.

While mountain gorillas are threatened they do attack so as to protect their very own.  When different Mountain Gorilla groups meet, there is a fight between the leader Silver backs to death.  Recently 2 Silver backs fought within Democratic Republic of Congo and the rangers had to intervene.

Mountain gorillas exist in groups which differ in size from 2 – 30 or 40, however commonly in groups of 10.  There is no specific mating season while babies are born through the year.  The Males begin breeding at around 15 years while the females start giving birth between 10 and 12 years.  Females can give birth after every 2 to 3 years giving birth to 4 – 6 offspring through their lifetime.  Males leave their group at about 11 years of age, while a little over half of the females will leave their group.  Mountain gorillas communicate through sounds like roars, grunts and shouts, and 25 sounds currently have been documented by researchers.

clouds lodge bwindi

Mountain Gorilla Predators:

The supreme threat to the Mountain Gorillas is human encroachment for settlement around them.  previously there was a slash as well as burn mentality however, through an educational program by the Uganda Wildlife Authority plus cash motivation to the community through the tourism industry that the gorillas within Uganda are today no longer as threatened by various poachers as it was in the DRC. Additionally they are threatened by various diseases transmitted by human visitors into the park, and for that reason the Uganda Wildlife Authority has set up strict rules to prevent spreading of such diseas