Uganda & Rwanda Gorilla Trek, Chimps Tracking Safari - 5 Days
An affordable 5-day Uganda Rwanda gorilla trek & chimps tracking safari with 2 gorilla treks, the first in Uganda's Bwindi and then in Rwanda's Volcanoes Park as well as chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park with over 12 other primates. The Uganda & Rwanda gorillas and chimps tracking safari can start from Rwanda or Uganda but you will have the best of your time with gorillas and chimpanzees in both countries. We can start this gorilla tour from Rwanda or Uganda but ending would be in either countries (not the same as the starting). If you prefer to start and end the same country, please let us know in time.
Overview of the Uganda- Rwanda Gorillas Trekking, Chimps Tracking Safari - 5 Days
- Day 1: Meet in Entebbe or Kampala at your hotel, drive to Kibale National Park, afternoon guided walk in Bigodi Wetland
- Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park & Afternoon drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Day 3: Gorilla Trekking in Uganda' Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Day 4: Transfer to Rwanda via Chanika border in Kisoro.
- Day 5: Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park & transfer to Kigali Airport for departure. End of Uganda & Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, Chimps Tracking Safari.
Detailed Tour Plan for the 5 Days Uganda - Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, Chimps Tracking Safari
Day 1: Meet at hotel in Kampala or Entebbe, drive to Kibale National Park
We shall start the tour from your hotel in Entebbe with a briefing before driving to Kibale National Park in western Uganda (about 5 hours).
Our first call is the community-conserved Bigodi Wetland Primates Sanctuary. The sanctuary is largely a wetland located at borders with Kibale Forest National Park. There are at least 9 primates species that call the sanctuary home and several East African endemic bird species. We shall engage the expert services of the local community guides for a walk in the sanctuary.
Afterwards, we shall continue to check-in at our lodge/ camp for overnight and diner.
Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)
Luxury: Primate Lodge Kibale
Meals included today: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale National Park & Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Plan to get up early morning for breakfast before assembling at the Kibale Park head office for the chimpanzee tracking experience. The chimps trek starts at 8 AM daily with briefing about etiquette while in the jungle.
You will then be allocated to a group with other 8 visitors to track a troupe of habituated chimpanzees. The trek is mostly gentle with occasional climbing and sloping as you traverse the thick jungles of Kibale. After about 1-2 hours of walking, you shall be meeting the chimpanzees in their wild home. The team of park rangers with you shall further instruct the guests on the best conduct as they clear the bushes to ensure the best views of the chimps. Skilled guides are besides you all the time to give as much information about the chimpanzees as possible and answer any questions that you might have. After 1 hour of being in the presence of the chimps, you will be guided back to the park offices where you link up with your driver once again.
After the chimps trek, we proceed driving to Bwindi via Queen Elizabeth National Park and here you may spot many wildlife including elephants, buffaloes, among others. This is the lushest highland rain forest on earth, filled with primates and exotic birds, valleys, hilltops and papyrus swamps.
Bwindi Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)
Meals included today: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 3: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This morning, after breakfast, we shall be having our first gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Your driver shall be making all arrangements to ensure your are available at the park office at 8:00am for the briefing that precedes the trek. It is here that you shall be allocated the gorilla group you are to trek to. Everyday, each gorilla group can be visited by not more 8 persons. The gorilla group you will be visiting is allocated on the day you are visiting the park.
You shall be trekking through the thick undergrowth of rainforest and bamboo covered slopes, accompanied by a guide and trackers, in search of your allocated mountain gorilla family. The walking can sometimes be tough and long, more so because of steep slope terrain but when you catch a glimpse of the magnificent silverback gorillas, all your discomforts will be quickly forgotten. When sighted, visitors will be guided to within 6 metres from the gorillas, sit around them for a whole hour while gazing into their big round eyes.
After your 1 hour of viewing the gorillas, the park rangers shall guide you back to the park offices from where you link up with your driver. The evening is spent relaxing at the lodge as you interact with the other visitors, sharing each other's gorilla trek experiences.
Bwindi Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)
Meals included today: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 4: Transfer to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park
Take breakfast and depart from Uganda to Rwanda. You will cross the border via Kisoro or Kabale then clear at the border. Once you enter into Rwanda, you will be going for about 30 minutes before arriving at your accommodation close to Volcanoes National Park.
Located in the far north-west of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is home to the steep slopes of this wonderful mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which cuddles evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Top Accommodation options in Volcanoes National Park (all on full board basis)
Luxury level: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Moderate: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge
Low Budget: Muhabura Lodge
Meals included today: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 5: Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park & drive to Kigali
Have a hearty breakfast before the transfer to Volcanoes National Park offices for our second gorilla trekking experience. Gorilla tracking here commences at 7:30 AM from the park headquarters with a briefing. Once you get allocated to the gorilla group for the trek, it is going to be about 2-4 hours of walking over the volcanoes before getting that coveted glimpse of the mountain gorillas. Through gaps in the forest canopy, the marvellous peaks are sighted, easily easy to get to and among the uppermost in Africa, indicating an ascent.
In Volcanoes National Park, visitors are allowed a maximum of 1 hour with the gorillas. You will be guided to the best gorilla viewing spots as you the gorillas stay unbothered by your presence. Once you have spent your time, you will be guided back to the park offices to link up with your tour guide/ driver.
We then embark on our drive to Kigali which should be about ±3 hours from Volcanoes National Park.
The driver shall be dripping you at Kigali Airport in case you are planning to fly out this evening, otherwise s/he can also drop you off at the hotel you've booked to stay in Kigali.
End of the 5 Days Uganda & Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, Chimps Tracking tour.
2021 Tour Prices for the 5 Days Uganda - Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, Chimps Tracking Safari (with 2 gorilla trek permits/ days)
Solo travelers are welcome, they only pay the cost of 1 person. All the other tour prices are based on 2 or 3 people sharing a room. You can pay the extra single room supplement if you prefer not to share a room.
If you are traveling in March, April, May, October, or November, please mention it to access special season offers.
Single Room Supplement
- Two gorilla trek permits (one in Rwanda and one in Uganda)
- Kibale Chimps/ primate trek permit
- Meals indicated on programme
- Drinking water
- Services of an experienced English-speaking safari guide
- Accommodation as per safari programme
- Park fees for the various parks
- Private transport using a 4x4 safari vehicle
Start Planning Your Rwanda & Uganda Gorilla Tour / Safari
Client Reviews about Uganda & Rwanda Gorilla Trek, Chimps Tracking Safaris
After doing a mountain of research on the Net, I finally settled on Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris to contact to see if they could help me with a life long... read more
We (my husband and myself (60) travelling with a younger couple) spent the most wonderful time in Uganda and Ruanda. We were taken with a most appropriate car to the... read more
We can highly recommend Gorillas and Wildlife Safari Tour company. We went with them on a chimpanzee and Gorilla expedition and loved it. Communication with Ivan was great - he... read more
We recently returned from our 13 day flying safari with GWS.
Dealing with Ivan was a breeze and he always answered my questions promptly. He was also keen to... read more
My husband and I went on Gorillas & Wildlife Safari's 4 day/ 3 night trip. We first went to the Buhoma Sector of Bwindi National Park to see the... read more
My family and myself just did a 6 day tour with this company and had a great experience. Our guide was Ahmed Kezzi who was wonderful and really made the... read more
What an amazing and unforgettable experience! Eric is an excellent guide and driver. Loved the chimps, the two gorillas tours and everything in between. The lodges were lovely and... read more
We went on the 6 day safari to Riwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls National Park, Kibale National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We absolutely loved our time in... read more
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THE MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE
Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, for the last 14 years, no one has trekked the gorillas and failed to see them in Uganda. Certainly, you won't be the one with bad luck! On the trek, once you find the gorillas, you will be allowed an hour with the gorillas and you can only go not more than 6 meters from them. As the gorilla tracking can sometimes take a full day, you will need to go with your packed lunch and lots of drinking water when trekking to the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths.
TIPS FOR THE BEST GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE IN UGANDA
Secure Gorilla Trekking permits early
Gorilla Trekking is the most popular foreign tourist activity for Uganda. On every single day, only 128 tourists can trek the gorillas in Bwindi. Uganda has the cheapest gorilla permits prices at USD600 (or USD700 beginning July 2020) for safe gorilla tracking as Rwanda's gorilla permits cost USD1500. This means the competition is quite high for the few gorilla permits in Uganda and it becomes hard to secure gorilla trekking permits a few days to your Uganda gorilla tour (although it is often possible with luck more so in the green season months of October, November, April and May). It is best to have your gorilla trek permit fully confirmed at least 4 months in advance.
Assess your fitness levels
There is a likelihood you could walk for 3-6 hours on a gorilla trek. Gorillas are located deep in Bwindi forest with thick undergrowth over several steep volcanic slopes. Gorilla groups keep roaming this forest looking for their favorite food. They are never stationed in the same place over days. Your gorilla trek will follow this same trend and it is quite unpredictable knowing how long or tough your gorilla trekking shall be. The longer trek is not necessarily a problem, just something to be prepared for. A bit of moderate physical fitness is needed for gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Guides & Porters for the gorilla trek
You will be guided through the forest on your gorilla tracking by a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide whom you will meet at the departure point in the morning of your trek. Your guide can help you book a porter (or two!) so that you can track without having to carry the few essential items listed below in a day pack which you should bring with you. The porters are from the local community and very used to the local conditions and can assist in pushing, pulling and supporting you during your trek to the gorillas. They are usually an additional fee, over and above your safari cost, and you should budget on approximately USD15-20 per porter per day as a fee with additional tipping being optional.
As the porters do not have tracking permits they will be stopped a short distance from the point you will be viewing the mountain Gorillas. Please remember to take whatever you may need from your bag to view the gorillas and rather leave valuables at the lodge/camp.
You will be allowed up to one hour for viewing of the gorillas from when they are sighted by your group. This is to ensure that the wild animals are not overexposed to human presence. Whilst in their presence you will also be required to keep minimum distances from them – generally between 5-7 metres and your guides will ensure this is enforced.
What to pack on gorilla trekking
• Plenty of water – 1-2 litres per person
• High energy snacks in addition to your packed lunch provided by the lodge/camp
• Spare film and batteries for videos and cameras
• Gloves (gardening type are good)
• Waterproof bag to protect photographic equipment
• A hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and band-aids might be useful
• A lightweight waterproof jacket/poncho
• Walking sticks are made available at the start of the trek for some of the steeper and more slippery tracks and may prove to be very handy.
Gorilla Trekking Age Limits
The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and the authorities are very strict on this! With special written permission however, a 14yr old might pass.
Videos & Photography for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
In Uganda, it can be difficult to capture good photos under the dark canopy of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, as the name suggests! If you are very lucky, you may encounter your gorilla family in a clearing.
Here are a few tips for photographing the gorillas in Uganda:
- If you’re taking photos using a standard point-and-shoot camera, then make sure your camera is fully charged.
- Always take extra memory cards.
- Remember that flash photography is not allowed when you are with the gorillas. Make sure you have your camera manual with you so you know how to disable the automatic flash and automatic focus light functions.
- We recommend a good SLR camera. The best lenses are those with a wide aperture such as f2,8 which allow in max light and are best in gloomy conditions. A 24 – 70 mm and a 70 – 200 m is a good combination. If you have space then consider a 300mm and a wide angle but it’s a steep walk so consider hiring a porter. A 50 mm 1.4 lens is also ideal for low light shooting and something to consider as a standard lens.
- Professional filmmakers require permission and need to purchase filming permits in advance from UWA (Uganda) or RDB (Rwanda).
- Keep your camera and/or phone in a waterproof bag (such as a large Ziploc bag). Cue: you’re in the rainforest.
Professional photographers, film makers or media should advise us at the time of booking as special procedures are required as well as costs to be incurred for photographing and filming.
CAMERA SETTINGS FOR GORILLA PHOTOGRAPHY
Shooting in RAW format is the way to go. A jpeg is smaller in size because it discards a lot of information and so information cannot be retrieved if your exposure is slightly out. If you are shooting in jpeg, make sure your camera is set to the largest file size and also set your white balance according to the light conditions.
ISO and shutter speed
It can get dark in the forest – very dark. And gorillas are very dark subjects. If you have a Nikon D3x or D800 you can shoot at ISO 3200 and get away with it very well. My recommendation however is to try to keep in the range of IS0 800 to 2000 for maximum quality of image. High ISO gives a faster shutter speed but can affect quality and cause noise. Keep ISO as low as possible without getting blurred images. A rule of thumb is don’t shoot below 1/200th of a second with a 200mm lens. If you are using an 80 mm lens then you can shoot at slower speeds of say 1/80th and so on. If the gorillas are on the move you should up your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second or more.
Metering and priority settings
A good default setting is to use centre weighted metering, aperture priority and an aperture of f5.6 or so. If there is a lot of dark gorilla in the viewfinder you will need to underexpose by up to two stops of light – 2 using your AE +/- button or you will overexpose your image. It is also a good idea to consider manual shooting if you are in fairly consistent lighting conditions. Your camera likes shooting subjects where the differences in exposure are not too extreme and its for this reason that cloudy or shady conditions are often best for shooting dark subjects like gorillas.
Single point focus is usually always best – you don’t want the camera focusing on the tree instead of the gorilla and usually you will want to lock your focus on the eyes. If you have a group of gorillas that you want to keep as much in focus as possible then focus about 1/3 into the picture. You may want to change focus to multi -point if you have lots of moving subjects but suggest single focus points will give you more control. You will probably shoot on single shot, but may want to change your focus settings to continuous focus and rapid fire if they are on the move and playful.
SHOOTING TIPS FOR GORILLAS
When you are with the gorillas there is a 7 meter buffer rule between you and animals. The reason is that their DNA is so close to ours that it is very easy for them to pick up flu and colds. Gorillas don’t know this rule and so don’t be surprised if they do approach closer (and be ready for it with a wide lens available), but if the guides ask you to move away then always do so smartly.
Your time with the gorillas is precious. Don’t shoot away wildly. Plan your shots. Close ups, wide shots, angles and framing. Think about your options. Also don’t forget the wide shots of Make sure that you don’t spend the whole time looking through the lens. Sit and watch and consider the fact that you are watching one of the gentlest and most fascinating creatures on the planet.
As with all wildlife photography it’s about the moment. Try to catch the little moments such as when the gorillas are interacting or when the sun catches their eyes. Also why not video your friends as soon as its over and let them tell you about their experiences of this fantastic experience.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The park is located in south western Uganda, covering parts of Rukungiri, Kisoro, and Kabale Districts. It is situated in a hilly country-side that, together with some remnant lowland forest outside the boundary constitutes an important water catchments area for many rivers, supplying the agricultural land of the surrounding region.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a true equatorial jungle, inhabited by four gorilla groups. Amongst the dense vegetation the columbus monkey jumps from branch to branch, chattering its warning to its fellows hidden by the foliage. Chimpanzees, in families of 20 or 30, make the rounds, searching for fruit and edible plants.
It is situated in a hilly country-side that, together with some remnant lowland forest outside the boundary constitutes an important water catchments area for many rivers, supplying the agricultural land of the surrounding region.
The best time to visit Uganda is late December to late February, and from June to September, as the weather at this time of year is generally dry, and warm. Temperatures average at around 25 degrees Celsius.
Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda
Uganda provides the greatest opportunities for tracking Chimpanzees in East African region. You can do chimpanzee tracking in various parts of the country. The country is home to over 5000 chimpanzees in protected and unprotected areas. The Chimpanzee tracking areas described here are habituated, meaning that they are used to humans and will go about their days while you are near them. Meanwhile you can see chimpanzees in zoos or sanctuaries, there is nothing like seeing the chimpanzees in their natural habitat in the wild. There are also chimpanzees in Bwindi (not habituated) and other degraded forest fragments on private land across western Uganda. The increasing demand for tourism and research is leading to more groups of chimpanzees being habituated. The table below gives a basic guideline to Research and tourism sites with habituated chimpanzees in the Albertine Rift, Western Uganda (Please note that chimpanzees habituated for research only are meant for research not tourism. You can’t see this as a tourist).
Kibale National Park:
Kibale Forest is the leading Chimpanzee destination in East Africa. The jungle rainforest is a home to about 30% of the Chimpanzee population in Uganda. The recent census of Chimpanzees in Kibale forest puts it at about 1500. In addition to Chimpanzees, there are also twelve other different species of primates. Literally, it is referred to as the Worlds Capital City of Primates. You can not only see privates while tracking chimpanzees, there are also various mammalian species including forest elephants, forest buffaloes, both local and exotic birds, several butterfly species, mammals. While tracking Chimpanzees, you can see at least 5 of the 13 primate species in Kibale Forest. If you want to spend more time with Chimpanzees, you can do Chimpanzee habituation experience, meaning you can be with Chimpanzees for the whole day. If you go to Kibale, please don’t miss Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. This is a large wetland where you can also see various primate species, countless butterflies and birds, mammals and much more.