Where to see gorillas

Best places to see gorillas in the wild

There’s no doubt that trekking through the jungle in search of gorillas is one of the planet’s ultimate wildlife experiences. This adventure is truly a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, and if you’d like to experience it yourself, these are the best places to see gorillas in the wild:

  1. Uganda
  2. Rwanda

The majority of mountain gorillas can be found in the Virunga Mountains, a cluster of forested volcanoes that straddle Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since civil unrest continues to plague certain parts of the DRC, it's not recommended to go. 

Read on for more detailed information about each destination.

Africa map: Where to see mountain gorillas in the wild
Africa map: Where to see mountain gorillas in the wild

Tips for gorilla trekking

Keep quiet
The quieter you are, the more likely you are to see gorillas.
Keep your distance
You must maintain a distance of 5 to 7 metres between yourself and the gorillas at all times.
Wear long pants
Certain trekking areas are notorious for stinging nettles.
Turn off your flash
Flash photography is not permitted as it disturbs the gorillas.
Don't trek if you're unwell
Gorillas can catch colds and illnesses from humans.

Best destinations for gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking destination #1: Uganda

One of Uganda’s biggest draws is its affordability. Gorilla trekking permits cost $600 per person per day here, which is less than half of what it costs in Rwanda. The only caveat? It’s more difficult to reach gorillas in Uganda. From Kampala, it’s approximately an 8-9 hour drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (which isn’t advised as the road conditions are generally quite poor). The only alternative to driving is to hop on a domestic flight to Bwindi. And, since Bwindi’s terrain is characterized by thick forest and steep ridges, the hikes themselves are often longer and more challenging in Uganda. When it comes to additional activities and excursions, however, Uganda is the clear winner. You can combine your gorilla tracking with chimpanzee trekking, big game viewing, or white-water rafting.

National parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla trekking permit cost: $600
Arrival airport: Entebbe
Distance between the airport and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: 445 km (1.5h domestic flight)
 
Uganda gorilla treks

Gorilla trekking destination #2: Rwanda

Although gorilla permits are more expensive in Rwanda ($1500 per person per day), this destination offers a number of benefits when it comes to gorilla trekking. Firstly, gorilla trekking is more accessible here: Volcanoes National Park is an easy 2-3 hour drive from the capital, Kigali, and the country’s excellent infrastructure ensures it's a pleasant overall experience. What’s more, Rwanda is an incredibly beautiful country; the views of the surrounding volcanoes are nothing short of stupendous, and the treks tend to be shorter and less challenging in Volcanoes National Park. You also have the opportunity to visit the Dian Fossey Foundation and add a golden monkey trekking excursion to your experience.

National parks: Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking permit cost: $1,500
Arrival airport: Kigali
Distance between the airport and Volcanoes National Park: 105 km (2h drive) 
 
Rwanda gorilla treks

Best time to see gorillas

  1. Uganda

    December to February, June to September

    Although it’s regarded as a year-round activity, the best time go gorilla trekking is during Uganda’s two dry seasons: between December and February, and from June to September. Many travellers choose to visit during these periods as there’s less rainfall (or even sometimes no rainfall at all) and the conditions are ideal for trekking. During the high season, you can expect higher prices, more tourists, and an increased demand for gorilla permits. If you’re planning to travel during the high season, be sure to book your permit well in advance.

  2. Rwanda

    December to February, June to September

    Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be done year-round, but the best time to travel is during the country’s dry seasons: from mid-December to early February, and during the longer dry season months of June to September. These periods are considered to be the high season as they offer the best hiking conditions. Bear in mind that permits will be in high demand during the high season, so you’ll need to book your permit well in advance if you’re planning to book a gorilla safari throughout these months.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is Uganda or Rwanda better for gorilla trekking?

    Gorilla trekking is easier but more expensive in Rwanda, while Uganda offers the opportunity to combine your experience with additional activities such as chimpanzee trekking. Price is often the main determining factor when deciding between the two, but you should also consider important factors such as the location where the trek starts and accommodation options when making your decision.
  • How can I get a gorilla trekking permit?

    Permits can be secured online through a tour operator. Bear in mind: permits are extremely limited, so it’s best to obtain your permit as far in advance as possible, and at least 4-5 months before you intend to travel. Additional fees — such as national park and conservation fees — are often included with your tour price, but we’d recommend double-checking with your operator when you book.
  • What should I pack for my gorilla trek?

    First and foremost, you’ll need to bring a good pair of hiking boots on your trek. Warm layering pieces — such as a down jacket, a hat, and gloves — are also essential, as well as long trousers. If you’re visiting during the wet season, be sure to bring a raincoat and waterproof clothing for added protection.
  • Is it safe to go on a gorilla trek?

    Rwanda and Uganda are considered to be two of the safest countries for gorilla trekking. That being said, it’s imperative that you follow the rules and guidelines for gorilla trekking, and listen carefully to your guide at all times.
  • How to choose the right gorilla safari?

    Do you want a budget-friendly safari with options for additional activities, or luxury accommodation and easy accessibility? Ultimately, your choice depends on your personal preferences and several important factors, including your budget, the type of accommodation you want, and the accessibility of the parks.
     
  • How can I book a gorilla safari?

    The easiest way to book a gorilla safari is on TourRadar! Our tours are automatically listed in order of popularity, so you can check out the most highly rated tours right from the get-go. Explore our extensive range of gorilla trek tours now to find the perfect tour to suit you.

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