The highlight of my Uganda Safari was undoubtedly a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to see the Mountain Gorillas. Actually, this is the reason I came to Uganda and I was not disappointed! Definitely a day to remember forever, a Uganda Gorilla Trek is not to be missed.
EverBased Tours organised everything for me and I did not have to think about a thing! Driving to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is an adventure in itself, turning off the asphalt highway and driving up, up and around the beautiful hillside. The views are breathtaking and the local farmers wave cheerily as you pass by their little farms.
PHOTO: Bakiga Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
We arrived at Bakiga Lodge as night was falling. The weather here was very cold at night, so different to the rest of Uganda. Obviously, it is a rain forest and so rain can fall at any time. So peaceful to be up here in the forest at quite a high altitude of up to 2,607 metres above sea level.
What to pack in your backpack for the trek:
- lots of water! It is hot, high altitude and a tough trek. Take a LOT of water
- Energy snacks and Berocca for energy. You will stop on the way back for a picnic. Your Tour group will provide a picnic but I recommend taking high energy bars to keep you going. High protein nuts and dates will give you more energy than a sandwich.
- spare socks. your feet may get wet during the trek, you will appreciate dry socks.
- gloves. If you do a tough trek through the forest, tough gloves are essential
- hat. Essential!
- plenty of spare camera batteries.
I paid a porter to carry by rather heavy back pack! The water alone will with you down. The local people really need the work.
It is important to choose a Lodge nearby to the Gorilla Trekking Centre. Yes, Bakiga Lodge was a little bit more basic than the other Lodges I stayed in, but it was fine for a night and perfectly located for the trek. Just wish I had packed a hot water bottle! More importantly, this is a non profit making safari lodge, a registered Charity that works with the local community to help access safe water.
Early morning start at the Gorilla Trekking Centre in Bwindi Forest National Park
After a briefing, we head off in our assigned groups. I have seen photos of groups watching Gorillas on a nice forest path and it depends which Gorilla family you follow as to where you go on the trek.
PHOTO: Kyaguriro family and our Ranger guide
The groups consist of 8 people to visit 1 Gorilla family. There are 8 families in the National Park. I visited the Kyaguriro family. Trackers are sent ahead to locate the family and then they relay the information to the rangers who then trek to the location.
I can only describe my own personal experience. The whole trek took 4 hours and this included 1 fantastic hour spent with the Gorillas. We set off at a fairly fast pace along a narrow forest path. We were soon off the track and scrambling up the mountain into “impenetrable forest’. I now understand why it has that name! If you note the terrain in these Gorilla photos, this is exactly the terrain we climbed, no paths anywhere! The going was quite tough, just make sure you have a reasonable level of fitness.
PHOTO: Bunyindo taking a nap
Luckily I hired a Porter for $15 (obviously I gave more), who not only carried my rucksack but guided me carefully through the forest. He was invaluable, showing me where to be careful not to fall down holes and led me along the best route. The weather warmed up and it was hot, sweaty and the altitude obviously has some affect. However, this was all part of the adventure and eventually we caught up with the trackers! Within minutes we could see the Gorillas.
“You must keep a 7 metre distance between you and the Gorillas” we are told in the briefing meeting. However, no-one has passed this message on to the Gorillas! They come up so close to you. I heard a rustling behind me and turned my head to see a little hand appear and grab some leaves. I held my breath and watched the Gorilla munch away on leaves literally 1 metre behind me!
Then… blissful hour watching the Gorilla family eat, play and rest, totally unconcerned that we are watching!
PHOTO: Mountain Gorillas Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This photo was snapped on my mobile, but shows just how close up you will be to the Gorillas. Awesome experience and well worth the strenuous 3 hour hike. Well…. scramble up the mountainside rather than hike! Such an incredible experience and a Uganda Gorilla Trek is wholeheartedly recommended to you.
PHOTO: The Silver backed male eating his way through the Forest
A return to Bakiga Lodge for a hot shower and very late lunch!
My whole trip was organised by EverBased Tours. They took care of everything from the accommodation, Gorilla trek pass and transport. http://www.everbased.com
Prepare for your trip:
I run most days at least 3km, lift weights and walk my dogs. I increased my hikes to two long hikes a week to increase stamina. This was great preparation and I recommend you do something similar.
The Gorilla trek guide jokes that it costs $300 to carry you back down if you can’t make the trek! Actually it would not be very funny to miss such a great experience because of fitness levels. Make sure you prepare before you travel.
The Gorilla Trek Pass costs $600 and must be obtained well in advance, numbers are small and very limited.
When to visit Uganda? I travelled in late September which is a good time of year to visit.
Refer to my ‘What to Pack for Uganda’ blog but here are some essentials. Breathable, light weight insect repellent clothing, gloves for the trek (I forgot mine!), walking sticks, plenty of water and some energy boosting foods, Good walking boots and breathable socks, hat, sun tan lotion and insect repellent. Sweater for the cold early morning and light weight rain jacket.
For more details about my Uganda Safari:
I was a guest of EverBased Tours