Written by: Thomas
Gorilla trekking in Uganda was definitely one of the coolest travel experiences we’ve ever had so far. It was also one of the toughest. I want to share a bit about our experience and how we came to book a gorilla trekking / habituation experience with Churchill Safaris in this part 1 post, and subsequently in my next post, I will write about how the whole thing went. Check out part 2 here.
There are basically 3 areas in East Africa where you can go gorilla trekking – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. Being that DRC is not the safest place to be, that option was immediately struck off the list. That left Rwanda and Uganda.
After reading about the Rwandan people in Will Ferguson’s Road Trip Rwanda: A Journey Into the New Heart of Africa, I was all set to go trekking through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and I started to get quotes from travel companies. In Rwanda, the permit for a gorilla trek is $750 USD / person. The basic gorilla trekking experience is essentially the following: trek up the mountains starting from dawn, track gorillas by starting from the location of their previous night’s nest (could take from 1-5 hours), find them and interact with them until your 1 hour is up, and then finally come back down from the mountains.
We were all set and about to book until I found out about Gorilla Habituation Experience. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has began to offer this new experience as of 2014, and it allows people to effectively move through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with trackers for 4 hours to track and observe the gorillas. The overall experience is more or less the same, however the difference with this experience lies in that these gorilla families are not quite ‘habituated’ yet, in the sense that they aren’t used to being around humans. They are truly wild, and move around considerably more when approached by humans. The permits are double the price of normal gorilla trekking for $1,500 USD / person, but you get to spend 4 hours instead of 1! So, obviously I was sold, and thus we ended up choosing Uganda.
So after communicating back and forth with a few more different Ugandan companies, we finally went with Churchill Safaris. They helped us fill out our itinerary, which was the following:
- Day 1: Land in Kigali
- Day 2: Spend the morning in Kigali, cross border to Uganda, and arrive in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Day 3: Gorilla Habituation Experience, overnight at Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Day 4: Drive through Kabale region, arrive at Lake Bunyonyi, boat tour, overnight at Birdnest @ Lake Bunyonyi
- Day 5: Whole day at Lake Bunyonyi
- Day 6: Drive back across border to Rwanda, fly out of Kigali
Part 2 of this post talks more about how the gorilla habituation went, and other thoughts on Rwanda/Uganda.