There are only 800 mountain gorillas left in the world— with half in the bwindi and half in the Virunga Ecosystem. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda is $600 for the permit while in Rwanda it is $1500. Obviously there are fewer people who are in Rwanda and the accommodation are basically all luxury. I am a big more mid-level so I went with Uganda. To be safe, I would recommend getting your permit one month in advance, but we go our two weeks in advance because it was low season.
I shopped around for quite a few tour groups for pricing, and we settled on Encounter Africa (at $1160 for Mid-range). The lodge we stayed at was so lovely-- with a gorgeous balcony, and really comfortable rooms and showers.
Here are some price comparisons for different gorilla trekking companies
Gorilla Trek Africa: $1400 for Budget, $1500 for Mid-Range, $1650 for Luxury
Wild Whispers Africa: $1159 for Budget, $1320 for Mid-Range, $1648 for Luxury
Oree Safaris: $1950 for Mid-Range, $2250 for Luxury
Explore Rwanda Tours: $1250 for Mid-Range
Let's Go Tours: 1 day only, $890
Insight Safari Holidays (Rwanda): $2180 for Budget, $2277 for Mid-Range, $2430 for Luxury
It is 8 hours to drive to Bwindi from Entebbe but only 4 from Kigali, so we flew into Kigali. For those who are coming from near, this is an easy 3 day trip.
Day 1: Arrive and drive to Bwindi
Day 2: Gorilla Tracking
Day 3: Transfer back to airport, and fly out
You can easily combine it with some extra days in Kigali or Kampala.
This is INTENSE rain forest. In the beginning part, there is a fairly easy trail. However, remember you are literally following in the footsteps of the gorillas and they are not bothered by the terrain. That means the guides are basically machete-ing through this rainforest and creating a trail. At times it’s deep mud, a loose canopy of vegetation that you might step through, and really steep, slippery hills. Even though I am pretty in shape, the altitude and the type of hiking was difficult for me.
You start at 8 am, and depending on your luck, it’s usually about 6 hours. We found the gorillas at about 11 am, hung out with them for an hour, and got back around 3:30. If the first group of trackers have not found them by 3 pm, you turn back and they give you 50% of the deposit back. Here are the things you definitely need:
What to bring
- Rain jacket: It can start raining at any time, it is a rainforest after all.
- A pair of good hiking boots with good grip because the mud makes it hard to go up and down the steep sides of the mountain
- Hiking gloves are also highly recommended, because you’ll be losing your balance as you walk and will want to grab onto things, but often times the things are prickly
- Warm jacket: while it’s hot when you’re hiking, when you’re watching the gorillas it gets pretty cold
- They will give you a walking stick that becomes SO helpful.