Gorilla Trekking FAQs
Uganda: Gorilla Conservation Adventure >
You wake up and have breakfast with the sun rising over the equatorial jungle in the distance. The landcruisers arrive signaling the start of a once-in-a-lifetime experience – trekking next to gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Venture along the dirt roads to the starting point of the trek, a thatched roof visitor’s center in the interior of the jungle. This is where it all begins, but in order to have a safe and successful journey, there are a few things you need to know and prepare!
Part of the excitement of visiting the gorillas is not knowing exactly where you will find them. The altitude, the dark forest, the rain, and mud can make it tiring, but it’s well worth the effort.
You will find the gorillas in very different settings, depending on your location: in an open clearing, with clear views and plenty of sunlight or in a denser part of the forest under a thick canopy. Keep the lighting conditions in mind when planning your photos as flash photography is strictly prohibited.
Remember that sightings are not guaranteed but there is at least a 95 percent chance that you will find your gorilla family.
Read some of our FAQs below:
Q: Is Uganda the best place to view mountain gorillas?
Nearly all of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the shared border forests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. About half of these gorillas, around 400 live in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Thus, Uganda has the highest concentration of gorillas and is known for its safety and stability. Each gorilla family that receive visitors have been habituated meaning that they can safely be around humans. There are a maximum of 8 people allowed to visit each gorilla family each day – this visit will be a special one.
Q: How long does the trek take?
A: The trek takes anywhere between an hour to 4 hours each way depending on how deep the gorillas are in the jungle. The paths are mostly well worn and do have some inclines. Parts can be shrouded with thicker jungle and foliage which is why the guide leads the group with a machete to clear the brush. We highly recommend you hire a porter (about $15 plus tip) during your trekking as they will help to carry your bags and assist you along the way (and it helps support the local community).
Q: Does the trek with the veterinarian cut into our time spent with the gorillas?
A: Not at all. All travelers will get one hour of uninterrupted time with these magnificent creatures (per the permit) before returning to their nest to collect stool samples. These samples will be used later in the day to understand the family’s health back at the lab – an exclusive experience for Discover Corps participants.
Q: Can I get my own gorilla permit?
A: Discover Corps obtains your gorilla (and chimpanzee) permits as part of the trip fee. These permits are issued by the Ugandan Government and are strictly non-refundable. Discover Corps must purchase your gorilla permit for you well in advance. The funds from the permits are used to preserve and protect the gorillas.
We highly recommend you book your trip 6 to 8 months in advance to ensure that we can obtain the gorilla permits for you. They are in extremely high demand and a set amount are released to organizations like Discover Corps each day for tourists.
Q: What is the age limit for gorilla trekking?
A: Although habituated to be around humans, gorillas are still wild animals and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority has placed a strict minimum age of 15 years old when visiting the gorillas. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Q: Do I need to be in very good shape to handle the hiking? How difficult will the trip be physically?
A: Gorilla trekking is, by its nature, a highly physical experience. The trek itself can last anywhere from an hour to four hours each way depending on how deep the gorillas are in the jungle. This equates to walking a mile to several miles each way in dense equatorial jungle. You will have a guide and optional porter with you who will help you throughout the experience. There is no maximum age, but we do recommend that you feel comfortable with walking long distances in the heat (and likely rain) along uneven trails. Please contact a Travel Specialist if you would like to discuss this in more depth.
Q: What should I wear for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking?
Trekking in the equatorial rainforest requires you to bring the right gear. The weather can be extremely unpredictable and often quite wet. Additionally, you will be trekking, in some cases, for up to 7-8 hours so you want to be comfortable. You will be provided with a detailed packing list before you take off, but here are some of our main recommendations:
Long Sleeved Shirts
Light waterproof hiking pants
High socks that can be tucked in your boots (to avoid safari ants)
Walking poles (compact and collapse-able – you will also be provided with a walking stick if you do not bring these)
Hat & Sunglasses
Plenty of Water
Q: How does Discover Corps ensure the safety of its travelers while on the trip?
A: Tracking gorillas in the middle of Africa may sound like a hairy experience, but don’t worry, gorilla trekking is extremely safe. You will be accompanied by an expert tracking guide, a set of porters (optional) and an armed ranger (for protection against wild elephants). The gorillas themselves have been habituated meaning they will not be aggressive or harm humans. You just have to always be aware and abide by all rules that are stated prior to the trek including keeping a safe distance.
Q: What is the refund policy for the Gorilla Conservation Adventure?
A: Our terms and conditions are slightly different for this trip due to the permitting challenges. Therefore, it takes $780 per person to register for the program, and because this deposit is used for the gorilla and chimpanzee permits, this deposit is non-refundable. Please visit here or request an itinerary here to read more about the specific terms and conditions for this trip.
Q: What if I end up ill or get injured on the trip and am unable to continue? What happens then?
A: In the case of injury or illness, first and foremost, we would seek proper medical attention. In each of the locations we operate, we have designated medical clinics and hospitals that we take travelers to in such cases. If you are unable to complete the gorilla trek and need to be evacuated out, emergency evacuation is provided by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority at a cost of approximately $600 per person. Termed the “African Ambulance”, you will be carried out of the jungle on a stretcher by local staff. This is rarely used but is available in case of emergencies in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Discover Corps also includes a comprehensive medical insurance policy for each traveler who goes abroad with us. Please see the medical insurance section of your pre-departure handbook for exact coverage descriptions. If you are unable to join Discover Corps prior to the trip, travel insurance will cover the costs depending on the severity of and reason for the situation. After booking, we can help you select the right travel insurance for you and/or your family.
Q: What essential documents do I need to take?
Any international travel requires a valid passport. Discover Corps recommends you take 2 photo copies of your passport and leave one at home and take the other with you. You will also need a visa to enter Uganda – please visit G3 Visa Services to obtain your visa or online via the Ugandan Government’s E-Visa website.
Q: Is the water safe to drink in the country I’m visiting?
Please bring a reusable water bottle as water will be provided by Discover Corps throughout the trip. It is not recommended to drink the tap water; however all of your accommodations will provide safe drinking water.
Q: Do I need to get vaccines before I travel?
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, your yellow fever vaccine is required. Other vaccines, such as the measles vaccine and malarial pills, are recommended but not required. We advise that you consult with your local travel clinic for recommended inoculations for all international travels.
Q: Will my mobile phone work? Will I have access to the Internet?
It’s not guaranteed that your phone will work, depending on your phone carrier they may offer roaming services. There are other options such as renting a mobile phone or buying a SIM card. For more information, click here. Internet is available in all of the accommodations that you will be staying at during the trip. Please note that internet can be extremely slow in Uganda, so high bandwidth activities may be restricted.