Watching mountain gorillas in their natural environment is a breath taking experience, and Uganda is the perfect destination to see these rare and endangered primates. This is what you have to know before you book a gorilla trip in Uganda.
Where to stay
Clouds Gorilla Lodge, close to the border of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, is the perfect base from where you can explore the park’s primates and other tourist attractions in the park. Each of the rooms at the lodge is equipped with a small fireplace, living room, and veranda and features work by a Ugandan craftsman. It can be cold at night and housekeeping put a hot water bottle under the blankets for your bed to be more inviting after a long day of trekking in the jungle.
As the most astounding lodge in the region, the view from Gorilla Lodge Clouds is amazing, when clear day you can see the edge of the Virunga volcano in Rwanda, particularly on clear nights you could see the red glow from the volcanoes. The view of Bwindi is similarly amazing —the trees are so thick it’s immediately obvious why it’s known as the Impenetrable Forest. Another advantage to staying at Clouds is that they work nearly with the local community, and a lot of revenue goes back into the community and into conservation efforts.
Getting Gorilla Trekking Permits
In case you’re planning for gorilla trekking trip, make sure to book your gorilla permit well in advance to avoid inconvenience and last time disappointments, because gorilla permits are on a high demand—you can book gorilla permits through contacting Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)direct or through tour operators or through your lodge. Gorilla permits are quite expensive, yet the experience is more than well worth it, and in the low season the cost of the permits is cut almost in half. We got gorilla permits to track Nkuringo Gorilla Group, which is the nearest group to Clouds Gorilla Lodge, and at the time had two silverbacks and around 13 members in the group in total, including a baby.
What to wear
You’re encouraged to wear natural colors on the tracking and avoid wearing white. I wore dark running leggings and a black quick dry long sleeve tee. You will need to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and I advise the use of all fast drying materials. Obviously you will sweat, and being in a tropical jungle, you never know what the weather will do. As such, additionally make sure to pack a light rain shell and rain pants, and also a good hat.
Sturdy boots are an absolute necessity since the ground can be a bit muddy and slippery. Make certain also to pack something warm for the evenings, and in addition pair of comfortable sandals to wear after tracking.
Don’t freak out, but do keep your distance.
After a sweaty 2 – 6 hour trek through the gorilla buffer zone and farmland and in the end into the Bwindi Forest National Park, our ranger guide alerted us that the mountain gorillas were right next edge. Despite everything I wasn’t prepared to really see them! Their fur is so dark and thick, and they’re huge—it’s not at all like anything I’ve ever seen in nature. Indeed, even the teenagers seem as though they could rip a limb off if they wanted to.
Luckily, this gorilla family / group is habituated to the point of being friendly to tourists. Guests are encouraged to keep up seven meters away from the these animals, however that is difficult when a young gorilla run past you, grabbing your leg playfully —something that really happened to me—or when the alpha silverback lumbers past you with scarcely six inches of clearance. It’s difficult to overlook that these are wild creatures, and that they’ll do whatever they want, so for the 1 hour I spent with these animals in the jungle I was in sort of terrified awe, not having any desire to get very close.