Meet the Mountain Gorilla
Found in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, critically endangered mountain gorilla live in cloud forests on the slopes of dormant volcanoes. Their dynamic family groups include tiny babies right up to the enormous silverback who stands 1.7m tall and weighs up to 180kg. Their diet is mostly shoots and leaves, but they sometimes eat insects, or even wood, too.
When to go
In Uganda, the mountain gorilla can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The best time to visit Bwindi is between June and August, and then again in December through to February. These are the driest months, with the best chance of sunny skies and clear days perfect for wildlife viewing, although showers are always possible.
Gorillas can be seen year-round in Rwanda, with each season offering its unique charm. For those seeking drier trails and easier treks, we recommend visiting from June to August and December to February.
While other times may see increased rainfall and the allure of muddy adventures, rest assured that there’s a trek perfectly suited for you at any time of year.
Whether you desire a shorter hike into the foothills or a more challenging expedition to the furthest gorilla families, expert guides assign groups based on fitness levels, ensuring an unforgettable yet manageable experience for all.
There are 12 habituated families of mountain gorilla in Uganda. Once you reach the gorilla, you will spend an unforgettable hour with them, a privileged view into their jungle world. If time allows, include a habituation trek, spending up to four hours with a newer family as they become more accustomed to our presence.
Nicknamed the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is home to glorious landscapes, including the mountains the Great Rift Valley, lakes, rivers and rainforest, alongside plains and savannah where you can enjoy diverse game-viewing (including tree-climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park) and superb bird-watching.
For us, meeting new people and building connections is a hugely important part of exploring a new destination. Uganda’s diversity means the opportunities to authentically immerse yourself in culture are virtually endless. Visit rural villages and homesteads where local people share their traditions and day-to-day life with you.
WHERE TO SEE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
Bwindi National Park
Lush flora, powerful rushing waterfalls, slithers of sunlight breaking through the leaves above you and the sounds of birdsong filling the air - Bwindi is perfect for meditative nature walks, soaking in every sight and sound. A vast range of wildlife can be found here too, including several species of monkey, butterfly, bird, reptiles and amphibians, and even an elusive herd of forest elephant.
Where to stay: Gorilla Forest Camp
This tented camp is the only property within the boundaries of the park - it simply couldn’t be better placed. Eight tents, each with their own en-suite and bathtub, are on raised platforms, giving you unrivalled views of the mist-shrouded forests. Woods, natural toned furnishings and white linens combine to create an elegant camp that is luxurious but never ostentatious, designed to honour its position amongst the scenic beauty of Bwindi.
More than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas - some 604 individuals - live within the jungle of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains. 12 of their family groups have slowly been habituated to the presence of people, and so in small groups you can trek on foot through the dense vegetation and visit them on a gorilla safari.
You’ll fly into Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and from there you’re just a three hour drive to Volcanoes National Park. As the park’s name implies, the hikes can be steep (you’ll be allocated a route according to fitness levels) but the reward is undoubtedly worth your efforts.
Known amongst visitors for its safety and well-managed systems, the tourism industry in Rwanda is well-developed. Consequently, accommodation here is of an incredibly high standard. Of course, we use only the very best lodges and camps where you can enjoy the beautiful wilderness in both comfort and privacy.
WHERE TO SEE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Africa is home to some truly awe-inspiring dramatic landscapes and with five majestic and mysterious volcanoes, their peaks enveloped with misty clouds, Volcanoes National Park is certainly one of them. Visitors usually come primarily for the gorillas, but there’s so many more hidden treasures to enjoy. Explore underground caves, hike to the top of a waterfall or spend time with local people in nearby villages.
Where to stay: Bisate Lodge
The six domed villas of Bisate Lodge are built into a hillside, cleverly designed to look like birds nests within the rainforest. Inside, the natural theme continues with neutral tones and delicately placed green touches, a nod to the forest and lush grasses surrounding you. In the mornings, be sure to step out onto your balcony and take a few moments to soak up the incomparable views of Mount Bisoke.
Good to know
Fitness and Health Considerations
You’re only able to trek if you are well, and in order to enjoy the experience in full, we recommend that you have a good level of fitness. Treks vary from 45 minutes to 4 hours and some are more challenging than others, with varying degrees of altitude. Africa Exclusive will always tailour your mountain gorilla experience based to your ability.
What to Wear
Long sleeves and long trekking trousers (not jeans), waterproof hiking boots, gaitors, weatherproof gear, gardening gloves with a rubber tip (to help with those sharp thorns), reusable face mask.
80 permits are issued per day in Uganda, each priced at US $700. In Rwanda, 96 are issued and they cost $1,500. Just over a quarter of this fee funds the protection of the mountain gorilla or is put back into the local community. Your permit will cost the same price whatever the season. With so few permits available, we recommend planning your visit at least 12 months ahead.