Where are Mountain Gorillas Found is a popular question primates lovers ask when planning gorilla trekking safaris to Africa. Mountain gorillas live in the Virunga massif and Bwindi forests. Read our full guide below!
Mountain gorillas are categorized as the endangered animal species in the world. These large apes still survive in small numbers, about 1063 and they are a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla species.
Unlike other primates, mountain gorillas can’t live in the zoo. The common gorillas in the zoos are the Western Lowland gorillas.
The last remaining mountain gorilla population survives only in 3 states and 4 National Parks: Mgahinga & Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Virunga National Park (Congo) and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. These are the only areas where to see mountain gorillas on African safari.
Where to Find Mountain Gorillas in Uganda?
Uganda is a prime habitat for the mountain Gorillas and they can be found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
These parks hold the largest number of endangered mountain gorillas which is why Uganda is most popular for gorilla trekking safaris and gorilla conservation. To get up close and personal with these huge species, you will be visiting any of the two parks, and this involves traveling to Southwestern Uganda.
Visitors intending to explore mountain gorillas in Uganda should be holders of valid gorilla permits. The permits can be obtained through the local tour operator such as All Uganda Safaris: email@example.com, WhatsApp: +256752906965 or through our social media platforms. Uganda gorilla permits are open for booking by foreign nonresidents at USD 700, foreign residents USD 600 and East African citizens at shs. 250,000.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is divided into 4 sectors; Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga. These sectors are made-up of unique terrains which gives travelers of different physical ability varying experiences.
Bwindi alone boosts about 20 habituated gorilla families with each sector hosting a few.
Habituated gorilla families in Uganda in the 4 sectors of Bwindi are; Nkuringo group, Oruzongo, Rushegura, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza, Mishaya, Bitukura, Bikingi, Habinyanja group, Mubare, Rwigi gorilla group, Mucunguzi group, Katwe, Mukiza, Bushaho, Kutu, Christmas, Kyaguriro, while in Mgahinga gorilla group includes only Nyakagezi gorilla family.
How to get to Bwindi and Mgahinga?
Getting to Uganda gorilla parks: by road, drive for 7-8 hours from Kampala city or Entebbe through Mbarara city to Bwindi and about 9-10 hours’ drive to Mgahinga NP in Kisoro district.
Or leave Kigali city for Bwindi via Katuna border or to Mgahinga N/Park through Chanika border, about 4-5 hours’ drive.
By air, All Uganda Safaris Ltd can arrange fly in gorilla tours on your behalf and you set off from Entebbe Airport, land in at Kihihi airstrip which is convenient to tourists to connect to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park.
If you are interested in tracking gorillas in Mgahinga, fly from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airstrip and connect to the park by road.
It should be noted that, besides gorilla trekking, Bwindi is the only gorilla park that offers gorilla habituation experience.
This is an adventure where tourists in a small group accompanied by researchers and conservationists visit a specific group of gorillas familiarizing them with human presence and studying their behavior for a period of 4 hours a day.
A gorilla habituation permit goes for USD $1,500 per person per day. Read more about the cost of a gorilla safari.
As for any responsible traveler, after identifying the destination, the time of travel is always next and by so, we can’t forget to share with you the best time of the year to visit Bwindi or Mgahinga.
There are 2 great seasons when gorilla trekking is most preferred, that is the 2 dry seasons between June to early September and December to February. This is when the trekking trails are drier and walkable and the impenetrable forest is clearer. Read more about best time to see gorillas.
Where are Mountain Gorillas Found in Rwanda?
Rwanda is one most famous gorilla trekking destination in Africa, containing up to 30% of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas. These apes can be located in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park –Parc National des Volcans.
This park is situated in the far Northwestern side of Rwanda lying within the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) –an area that also encompasses the Congo’s Virunga and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.
It is in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda where the popular the enthusiastic environmentalist –Dian Fossey conducted her research and also played a great role in the conservation of mountain gorillas plus other primates in the wild.
She did this for over 18 years till 1985 when she was mysteriously murdered and her body lies in the Volcanoes National Park. On a gorilla tour in Rwanda, it is possible to also incorporate the Dian Fossey hike and you have a deep insight into her mountain gorilla conservation legacy.
Unlike Uganda, Rwanda is recognized as high-end destination when it comes to gorilla safaris. Gorilla permits in Rwanda are available for reservation at USD 1500 per person and they can be booked through our team or the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Volcanoes National Park takes visitors on Rwanda gorilla tour the shortest time, about 2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali city to the park.
Where are Mountain Gorillas Found in Congo?
The D.R. Congo contains over a 3rd of the remaining world’s endangered mountain gorillas. These apes thrive within the Virunga National Park, one of the Virunga Conservation Areas located in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Expected habituated gorilla families to track on Congo gorilla safaris: Bageni group, Kabirizi, Humba, Rugendo, Mapuwa gorilla group, Lulengo, Munyaga group, and Nyakamwe gorilla group. Congo gorilla permits are a must-book if you are to visit any of the Virunga NP gorillas and each can be booked at USD 450 per person.
When is the Best time to See Mountain Gorillas?
Mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo can be visited at any time of the year.
However, the most favorable time is during the dry months/season which occurs twice a year: that is from June, July, August through September, and December to February.
This being the best time doesn’t stop enthusiastic primate trekkers from traveling and enjoy up close with mountain gorillas during the wet/rainy season. The remaining months are mainly the rainy season: March through May and October to November.
What should you pack for your gorilla trek?
There are many items to be packed but you need only essentials for your gorilla trekking tour.
These include a pair of trousers, insect repellent, energy giving snacks, gardening gloves, daypack, waterproof hiking boots, rain jacket, long-sleeved shirts, pair of socks, a sweater, bottled drinking water and others.
Why Are Mountain Gorillas Endangered?
There are few mountain gorillas left in the world, about 1064. Their existence was/is much threatened by mainly human activity such as hunting, destruction of their natural habitat, and endless wars that roamed their habitat.
Although, through gorilla trekking and habituation, mountain gorilla conservation efforts have yielded some positive results.