BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST | Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is thought to be one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa and one of the oldest dating back to over 25,000 years ago. On the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, the rainforest is attractively swathed over steep ridges and valleys rising up to an altitude of 2,600m. The forest used to stretch down to the Virunga Mountains on the Rwandan border but this huge tract of forest was broken up about 500 years ago when agricultural people moved into the area.
Tracking endangered mountain gorilla
Taking in 350 species of birds and huge numbers of butterfly
Captivating jungle scenery with dense foliage, high ridges and deep river gorges
Meeting the Batwa, Uganda's oldest living ethnic group
Spectacular walking trails through the forest
A true rainforest adventure, holidays to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest surpasses themselves. Teeming with captivating wildlife and rare flora, the rich biodiversity found in this lush jungle is regarded as one of the best in Africa. Dense and ancient, the deep river gorges and high ridges have remained forested for millions of years, ensuring Bwindi lives up to its impenetrable status.
The forest has at least 90 mammal species, 350 species of birds, 324 types of tree, a huge number of butterflies and, perhaps its defining feature, around half the world's population of mountain gorillas. The largest living primates, the great apes are endangered as a result of poaching and deforestation. Although big steps have been taken to conserve the species the threat of extinction still remains, so tracking these rare creatures is incredibly moving and certainly one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in the world. In order to track mountain gorillas in the wild be prepared for a potentially arduous day that could last from around a 15 minute walk to an 8 hour trek; the terrain is hilly, very muddy and can involve scrambling through dense vegetation.
Although gorilla tracking is the main focus of any visit, there are numerous other activities to explore in the area. Several forest trails ranging from a half hour stroll to several hours hard walking are on offer and the chance to meet the local people lends an authentic insight into Batwa life. The Batwa are Uganda's oldest living ethnic group and a tour usually concludes in an energetic display of cultural dance.
Selected Bwindi Gorilla Tracking Itineraries
Our favorite itineraries, contact our consultants for a tailored itinerary
Gorilla Tracking Experience in Bwindi
Mountain gorilla Tracking is one of Africa's most superb wildlife experiences. It is difficult to describe the exhilaration attached to first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla. The three gorilla groups in the Buhoma area of Bwindi are Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura. After a full briefing, you depart on the gorilla tracking. Trackers will have left at dawn to locate the gorillas and will direct your guides via hand-held walkie-talkies to the troop.
The walk to the gorillas can be strenuous climbing steep hills and passing through thick vegetation, and may take anywhere from an hour to all day. The guides do their best to get you to your allocated gorilla family during one of their rest periods, so you can watch them relaxing, eating, grooming and playing. You will be permitted to spend one hour with the gorillas and it is forbidden to eat or smoke in their presence. It is also forbidden to approach within 7m of the gorillas. Gorillas are susceptible to human diseases and if one ill tourist infects a gorilla they will have no resistance and this could cause the death of the whole group. Never track gorillas if you have a cold or flu.
The best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi is open for gorilla tracking all year long, but the best times to go are from June to August and December to February. At these times, the forest trails are drier and therefore less slippery.
Best time to go: June to August and December to February (Drier trails make for easy mountain gorilla tracking)
High Season: June to September (Gorilla permits need to be booked long in advance at any time of the year)
Low Season: March, April, May, October and November (Some lodges and camps close down)
Best Weather: June to July and December to February (Less rainfall)
Worst Weather: April, May and September to November (High rainfall, forest trails might become slick and hard to use)
June to August and December to February
- Gorillas are easier to track, and the trails are drier
- There are more sunny days
- It is hazy, and the views are less spectacular
March to May and September to November
- Gorillas can be tracked any time of the year
- Migratory birds can be found
- Some access roads may become hard to travel as the trails become slick
- It might drizzle for days
- It tends to be misty and wet
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Weather
Bwindi has a wet, yet mild, climate. Temperatures remain consistent year-long due to its short distance from the equator. Daytime temperatures of around 23°C/73°F are usual, with a significant drop at night to around 11°C/52°F. The altitude in Bwindi is varied, from 1160 to 2607m (3806-8553ft). This results in wide climatic variations within the park, as the temperature is lowered by about 6.5°C for every 1000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1000ft). Tourists mostly visit the area of lower altitude.
Rain can happen anytime in Bwindi, as there is no Dry season. The months of June and July receive the least rain, while there is a period of lesser rainfall from December to February. From March to May and October to November the rainfall is highest. It is recommended to pack waterproof clothing and good hiking shoes that are suitable for walking wet forest trails.
Health and safety
In our opinion, Bwindi is comparable to most parks and reserves, in that you can visit it safely. The list of people whom you will encounter includes staff of parks, camps and tour operators, as well as other tourists such as yourself.
Malaria & vaccinations: It is advised that you take measures against malaria, as well as have certain vaccinations, which your local doctor or travel clinic can administer. You can protect yourself from malaria risk by using a mosquito repellent which contains at least 30% DEET, covering up in the evening and by taking antimalarial medication.
Selected Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Accommodation
Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge
Located in a totally mosquito free area in the entire Bwindi Impenetrable forest, Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge is the perfect safari lodge for you if you want to trek the Nkuringo Gorilla Group. This luxury lodge is also a perfect choice if you want to take walks in Bwindi Forest.
Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge
Nearby the Munyanga River, Mahogany Springs overlooks the immense and beautiful Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This forest lodge provides simple yet stylish accommodation, which is ideal as a base for gorilla trekking. The lodge's main area is ideal for al fresco dining.
Gorilla Tracking Safety Precautions
How to limit dangers and annoyances
Please note: By reading the advice below, you may get the impression that primate tracking is a dangerous activity. This is not the case. Tracking gorillas and chimpanzees can be considered very safe as long as you treat them with respect and use common sense. It is extremely rare that dangerous incidents occur, and your professional guide is there to ensure your safety. The advice below is solely intended to further lessen the already minimal risk.
Mountain gorillas are, in essence, gentle giants. They show very little aggression toward each other and their overall vibe is extremely peaceful. Chimpanzees are, by nature, a lot more aggressive but the groups you can visit are habituated. Aggression towards humans in that context is extremely rare.
- Always follow your guide's instructions and guidelines.
- Great apes are susceptible to human diseases. Never visit if you are ill and turn away if you need to cough.
- If you need to go to the toilet, dig a hole in the ground and cover it up if you need to go to the toilet. Apes can get diseases from your feces.
- Always keep the recommended distance (at least 5 meters / 15 feet) between you and the primates. Back off if the animals approach you to close that distance.
- Slowly back off if any gorilla shows aggression towards you.
- If a gorilla charges follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass).
- Never look large primates in the eyes.
- Don't use a flash when photographing.
- Don't talk or laugh too loud.
- Don't make any quick movements.
- Stay close to your guide and group.
- Never block the path of gorillas when they are walking.
- Never take food or drink close to chimps or gorillas. You can leave your daypack behind with the trackers when you approach the animals.
- Watch where you put your feet while walking in the forest.
- In the forest, cover your arms and legs to avoid nettles and use insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes. The repellant should contain at least 20-30% DEET.
- Wear a hat, use sunscreen, and drink plenty of water.
- Bring good waterproof clothing and a waterproof bag for your camera and other belongings.