There are about 400 Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Forest living in about 36 groups with a few solitary males. Of these, nineteen groups have been habituated in four different areas of Bwindi Forest which can be tracked each day by tourists. Each group of tourists (which is limited to eight people) is allocated a different gorilla family to track. The groups vary in size from seven to twenty gorillas. [There is also one group on Mgahinga on the Rwanda border. In addition, there are two habituated groups in Bwindi which are visited for research purposes.]
A Permit is required to track Gorillas. Permits need to be bought in advance. Homestead Tours and Safaris are happy to book your Gorilla Tracking Permits for you and organise your Gorilla Safari. Until 30th June 2020, a day’s permit in Uganda costs US$600 (and $1,500 in Rwanda). After 1st July 2020, the price will be $700 per person in Uganda. For us to buy your gorilla permit, you will need to provide us with your full names, nationality and passport number, preferred date of trekking and the full permit fee. Since only eight people are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day, the demand for permits, especially in the high season, is high. The minimum age for visiting the gorillas is 15 years.
It is possible to join one of the teams visiting the two research groups each day, which allows you to spend up to four hours with the groups. But there are only four permits available for each group and cost $1,500 each.
Gorillas are wild animals which are free to range large distances through the forests, so having a permit cannot guarantee that you will see gorillas, although Rangers go out very early every morning to locate the groups before you leave on your trek. Once you have found your group, you are allowed to stay near them for one hour only. There are no refunds for any reason.
A good level of fitness is required for gorilla tracking. Trekking through the mountainous forests and boggy valleys can be very demanding, especially if it is hot and humid or raining. The trek can take anything from one hour to ten hours. You should be prepared to walk a long distance through thick vegetation in steep, muddy and wet conditions.
Take good sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots. You will be lent a long stick to help you. Perhaps take a pair of gardening gloves to project your hands from nettles and thorns. It is advisable to wear long trousers and a long sleeved shirt, and take a waterproof jacket with you. You are strongly advised to hire a porter – they are a huge support and will carry your bags as well as provide a stabilizing arm on tricky stretches.
You will not be allowed to go on the trek if you have a cold or any other infection because of the danger of transmitting it to the gorillas which would be devastating for them. Unfortunately, you will not get a refund.