Best Time To See Mountain Gorillas In Uganda
What is the best time to see mountain gorillas In Bwindi impenetrable forest national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park? Uganda is a landlocked country located in the eastern part of Africa surrounded by DR Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan, Kenya, and Rwanda. The country has a good climate making it favorable for travelers to visit at any time of the year. Uganda is crossed by the equator and has got two main seasons in a year and these are the dry season happening in December to February and June to September and the wet season happening in October to November and March to May.
In Uganda mountain gorillas can be seen in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park both located in the southwestern part of the country. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda on the borders with Rwanda and has got more than a half of the total mountain gorilla population surviving in the whole world. The Park is home to about 20 habituated mountain gorilla families that live in four sectors of the park namely Buhoma sector located in the north, Rushaga sector in the south, Ruhija sector in the east, and Nkuringo sector in the south.
The other national park in Uganda where you can meet mountain gorillas in Uganda is Mgahinga national park which is located in the southern part of Uganda in Kisoro district and is part of the Virunga massif. The Park is a home of about 80 mountain gorillas as well as one habituated family called Nyakagezi. Nyakagezi gorilla family was open for trekking in 1994 and is the only gorilla family with the highest number of silverbacks. Other mountain gorillas can be seen in volcanoes national park Rwanda and Virunga national park DR Congo.
Mountain gorillas are the largest primates surviving in the world living in the sub-tropical and tropical rain forests of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, Mgahinga national park of Uganda, Virunga national park of DR Congo, and volcanoes national park of Rwanda. In Uganda, rainfall ranges range from 1000mm to 2000mm every year and the temperatures range from 21.5 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees Celsius.
Mountain gorillas in Uganda can be visited and trekked at any time of the year though some months are better than other months, the dry season in the country happens in June to September and December to February and this is the best time to visit these giant apes. during the dry season, most of the day is sunny and the vegetation is not so thick therefore you can easily come to see mountain gorillas. in the dry season, all roads leading to the national parks are accessible and the trekking trails are all dry in good conditions giving you the best gorilla trekking experience. Tourists planning to visit gorilla parks in the dry season are advised to book their gorilla permits in advance of 3-4 months to avoid disappointments when they arrive in the country and there are no permits available.
During the dry season, many of the hotels get fully booked so it’s also good to book where you are to stay in advance before coming to the country, and if you are to trek in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park its better you book accommodation in the sector you are going to trek from.
During the wet season of October to November and March to May, there is plenty of food for mountain gorillas, and easily accessible so they don’t move far to higher elevations in search of food, they can easily be allocated in a few hours although the rainfall during this season makes the roads leading to the parks impassable and the trials sleepy and muddy.
Another advantage of trekking in the wet season is that most of the lodges at the parks reduce their rates making it a perfect time for budget travelers to travel, gorilla permits are also available, unlike the peak season where you have to trek in advance. In the wet season, bird lovers can combine gorilla trekking with bird watching because it’s during this time that the migratory birds come to the country from North Africa and Europe. The wet season is also the best time to take photography when the vegetation of lush green.
How to get to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla park
Both Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla park are located in the southwestern part of Uganda and visitors to these parks can access it using road transport or 9-10 hours or air transport for 45 minutes.
There are several ways of accessing these national parks using road transport. One of them is driving from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara to Kabale then connect to any sector of Bwindi or Mgahinga national park. The journey from Kampala to Kabale or Kisoro takes you about 9-10 hours.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park can also be accessed Ishasha sector of queen Elizbeth national park which is the second largest national park in Uganda. While in Queen Elizabeth national park you will drive from Mweya peninsular through Ishasha sector where you will get a chance to spot tree-climbing lions and then proceed with your journey to Buhoma located in the Northern sector of the park taking you only 3-4 hours.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla park can also be accessed from Kigali international airport by road transport through Cyanika border in Kisoro or Katuna border in Kabale and this takes you about 4-5 hours.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park can be accessed by air transport from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrip taking you about 45 minutes and upon arrival at the airstrip, you can use road transport to connect to the park headquarters taking you a few minutes.
Accommodation in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park has got four trekking sectors and each sector has got its own accommodation facilities as explained below
Ruhija sector is located in the eastern part of Bwindi national park and the gorilla families in this sector are Bitukura, Orugozo, Kyaguliro, and Mukiza. The sector has several accommodation facilities ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury and some of these include Broadbill Forest camp, Gift of nature lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Cuckooland Tented Camp, Gorilla Mist Camp, Ruhija Safari Lodge, Ruhija Community Rest Camp, and Trekkers Tavern among others.
Rushaga sector is located in the southern part of Uganda and hosts the highest population of mountain gorillas. gorilla families in this sector include Kahungye, Busingye, Bweza, Mishaya, Nshongi, and Mishaya. Rushaga sector has several accommodation facilities ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury so where to stay depends on your travel budget. The lodges here include Gorilla Safari Lodge, Nsongi Camp, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, and Rushaga Gorilla Camp.
This is the oldest sector where gorilla habituation started from with Mubare gorilla group in 1992. The sector is located in the northern part of the park and has gorilla families namely Mubare, Rushengura, Habinyanja Muyambi, and Katwe. There are several accommodation facilities in Buhoma sector ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury and these include Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp, trekkers tavern, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Buhoma Lodge, Silverback lodge, Gorilla Conservation Camp, and Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge among others.
Nkuringo is one of the four sectors of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park on the southern side of the part. The sector has four gorilla families and these are Nkuringo, Bikingi, Bushaho, and Christmas. Where to stay in Nkuringo sector depends on your budget for there is a lot of accommodation ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury. The lodges here include Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Back Packer’s Lodge, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Safari Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Safari Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, and crested crane Bwindi lodge among others.
Where to stay in Mgahinga national park
There are different accommodations facilities in Mgahinga national park which are categorized into the budget, mid-range, and luxury facilities such as Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Lake Chahafi Resort, Gahiza Island Retreat, and Mutanda Lake Resort among others.
Price of the permits
Mountain gorilla trekking permits in Uganda can be purchased from Uganda wildlife authority or through a trusted tour operator at a fee of $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 foreign residents, and shs250,000 East African citizens while gorilla habituation permits cost $1500 per person per trek and this is only done in Rushaga sector of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. You are advised to book gorilla trekking permits 3-4 months in advance before the actual trekking or habituation date because of high demand most especially during the peak season.
What to carry
Mountain gorilla trekking is best enjoyed when you come prepared and this requires you to be physically fit because gorillas stay on high elevations that require one to hike so you will need to come with good waterproof hiking boots, sunscreen, garden gloves, a lot of drinking water, energy-giving snacks, long-sleeved clothes, face mask, sanitizer, good quality camera, insect repellents, and so much more.