With half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population residing in Uganda, it is one of several countries where it is still possible to observe these beautiful creatures in the wild.
While gorilla trekking is topping many travellers’ bucket lists, the recent move by Rwandan authorities to implement a significant price increase for compulsory trekking permits from US$750 to US$1,500 per person, has made Uganda a considerably more affordable choice with just US$600 per person.
One of the best places to see gorillas in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest, which is home just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas, as well as the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp.
With just eight tents, it is one of the most remote camps in Africa, and thanks to its unique location, it is frequently visited by gorilla families, making it the perfect base for a once-in a-lifetime encounter with mountain gorillas.
Sanctuary Retreats’ director of sales Australia, New Zealand & Asia, Michael McCall shares his top insights on what one can expect when embarking on a gorilla trekking trip and staying at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp.
1. Early starts
Expect a wake-up call around 6:30am, and enjoy a hearty breakfast before heading to the starting point for the gorilla trek, just five minutes’ walk from the camp to meet your guides and have safety briefing. You’ll be one of just eight trekkers, accompanied by a Uganda Wildlife Ranger plus two armed rangers (to fend off any rogue forest elephants). There’s also a porter for each guest to carry everything you need during the trek, including water and a packed lunch.
2. The trek
Every trek is different, lasting between four and 10 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas. The terrain is varied and may involve climbing up and down some mountainous trails. Along the way, your guide will be looking and listening out for clues – the aim is to find out where the gorillas have spent the night, as they tend to only travel up to one kilometre per day and are likely to still be nearby the nest.
Once you’ve located a gorilla family, you’ll have around an hour to observe them in their natural habitat. The rangers are extremely knowledgeable and will be on hand to answer all your questions and explain gorillas’ behaviour.
3. Back to camp
When you arrive back at camp, your drink of choice and a refreshing towel will welcome you back. The laundry team are also on standby to clean boots and clothes for your next adventure, and for those with stiff muscles, a visit to the masseuse in the mini spa for a well-deserved post trek massage is a must. After dinner it’s time to kick back, relax and share stories around the campfire.
4. Trekking essentials
For anyone planning a gorilla trek, here is a list of essential must-pack items:
– Good quality, waterproof camera
– Poncho or rain jacket as it can rain heavily, even in the dry season
– Walking stick, provided by the Camp
– Gloves which are useful for grabbing bushes, or sliding down hills…you never know where the adventure will take you!
– DEET strength insect repellent
– Good quality, solid and comfortable pair of hiking boots
– Cool, breathable, comfortable clothing in muted colours – long sleeves, pants, high socks and gaiters work best for keeping bugs out and preventing scratches