BWINDI GORILLA TREKKING
FACE TO FACE WITH MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
With your chances of seeing gorillas at 90%, Bwindi gorilla trekking is what Uganda is renowned for. Few wildlife experiences can match the undiluted thrill of sitting with a gorilla family as they forage and interact with each other. Set deep in the rainforest, it’s a charmingly gentle scene – the gorillas are habituated to our presence – but they remain watchful, perhaps as curious of us as we are of them.
Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is part of the great rainforest that blankets equatorial Africa and it provides sanctuary to half of the world’s thousand or so remaining mountain gorillas. It is also one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa and gorilla trekking is just part of the Bwindi experience. This is a destination where you can search for other rare primates such as the golden monkey and enjoy sightings of endemic birds as well as clouds of dazzling butterflies. There are local communities to meet and hiking trails to explore plus opportunities to go mountain biking or on a boat cruise.
Bwindi gorilla trekking takes place from specialist lodges set in the park itself or scattered around its edges. There is a good range of accommodation available – complete with honeymoon suites as well as larger family units – and you’ll find something to suit all budgets from budget-friendly camps to top-of-the-range lodges with butler service and a complimentary massage.
Accessible by road or air from Uganda’s international entry point of Entebbe, Bwindi Forest is usually part of a larger itinerary within Uganda or destinations further afield. Keep it local and you can add Uganda’s heavyweight safari destinations like Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls to the experience as well as one of Africa’s best chimpanzee trekking destinations – Kibale Forest. Go further afield for the Serengeti, Masai Mara, Kruger Park or Zanzibar – each a tried-and-tested combination with Bwindi.
Browse our recommended Itinerary Ideas or simply contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend an itinerary or will tailor-make one for you.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park on the map
Kibale chimpanzee trekking is rapidly becoming part of the Uganda wildlife experience, giving you the opportunity to view rare chimpanzees in combination with your gorilla trek.
Located a short flight or a morning’s drive from Bwindi, Kibale National Park is home to both mountain and lowland rainforest, providing a unique sanctuary to a dozen different primates as well as hundreds of bird species and clouds of butterflies. And thanks to a conservation corridor between Kibale and next-door Queen Elizabeth National Park, it’s possible to look for other animals too – bush pigs, buffalo, antelope and even elephants.
Chimpanzee trekking accommodation is available in the park itself as well as nearby. Lodges within Kibale Forest are set close to the trekking trails and offer a more immersive experience – animals such as monkeys and small antelope are often seen from camp or indeed pass through it. Kibale lodges located near the park offer a greater range of budgets and include our top family-friendly camps. These lodges come with stunning views and are only a short drive away from the start of the trekking trails.
Chimpanzee trekking is the main focus at Kibale and there are opportunities to experience much more. Nature walks reveal the depth of the bio-diversity in Kibale – a walk with local guides through the Bigodi Swamps is especially recommended – and there are chances to visit and interact with local communities too.
The best time for Kibale chimpanzee trekking is during the year’s two dry seasons which happily coincide with the two gorilla trekking seasons: from December to February and again from June to September. These periods offer the easiest conditions for trekking and the best sightings of chimpanzees; temperatures remain fairly constant at these times – daytime temperatures are 28°C/82°F on average, falling to about 14°C/57°F at night.
We’ve highlighted our favourite Kibale experiences below as well as our suggested accommodation for inspiration and ideas. Contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend a packaged tour for you or will tailor-make one to your specifications.
Kibale Forest on the map
EXPLORE A PRISTINE RAINFOREST
Hike a jungle trail with expert guides & your reward could be the sight of a troop of wild chimpanzees, foraging for food in their rainforest home. Kibale offers some of the best & most accessible chimp trekking in Africa.
Black & white colobus, Blue monkeys & Olive baboons are among the 13 different primate species found in Kibale; you’ll be on the lookout for them on your chimpanzee trek as well as on nature hikes & even around your jungle lodge.
With an amazing 325 species recorded in the park – including an endemic thrush – Kibale Forest is a bird watcher’s paradise. You’ll see plenty from camp but join a specialist bird guide on a forest trail & the Bigodi Swamp Walk for more.
Several Kibale lodges offer the chance to visit a local village & meet the indigenous Batoro community. You’ll have the chance to gain fascinating insights into life in the rainforest as well as perhaps contribute to a local development programme.
After the thrills of the chimpanzee trek, go on a guided nature walk to absorb the smaller details of the rainforest – there are over 300 types of tree in Kibale, more than 200 different butterflies & 60 orchid species.
Trek for chimpanzees & other primates in Uganda’s pristine Kibale Forest
OUR RECOMMENDED KIBALE CHIMPANZEE TREKKING LODGES
Murchison Falls safari
A swathe of wooded savannah neatly bisected by the River Nile, Murchison Falls National Park offers a very different wildlife experience compared to Uganda’s more famous gorilla trekking destinations. This is safari country, home to elephant and buffalo as well as big cats and hyenas. Troops of chimpanzees live in the park’s Rabongo Forest and in nearby Budongo Forest while the river plays host to hippos and crocodiles.
And it’s the river that provides the park’s biggest spectacle as well as its name. Sit back on a boat cruise to where the mighty River Nile, squeezed through a narrow ravine, erupts with urgency and force to create the Murchison Falls, a sight and sound that will live long in your memory.
Located in the north-west of Uganda, it’s the country’s biggest park and a destination that easily combines with its top gorilla and big game destinations: Bwindi Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park. A Murchison Falls safari will take you to well-established accommodation in the park – our recommended lodges have riverside settings and en suite comfort – and they offer a mix of game drives, boat cruises, bird watching and chimpanzee trekking.
The best time to visit Murchison Falls coincides with Uganda’s two gorilla trekking seasons – December to February and again from June to September. In a country where you can expect rain at any time of year, these are the two drier seasons and offer the easiest and most comfortable conditions for both gorilla trekking and wildlife viewing. Indeed, the later you visit in a dry season, the better the game viewing will be as animals concentrate in ever-increasing numbers at the river.
Browse our recommended Murchison Falls accommodation below or view our Itinerary Ideas for gorilla trekking tours that include a Murchison Falls safari. Alternatively, simply contact us with your
ideas and budget and we’ll create an itinerary based on your requirements.
Murchison Falls National Park on the map
WHAT TO SEE & DO AT MURCHISON FALLS
Enjoy sightings of hippos and crocodiles as you travel on the River Nile to the thundering spectacle of Murchison Falls, the point where the river is forced through a fissure in the rocks not much wider than the boat is long!
Early morning & late afternoon drives in specially-adapted game viewing vehicles take you in search of the park’s classic savannah species such as elephant & giraffe; your sharp-eyed guide will be on the lookout for lion & leopard too.
Two of Africa’s most accessible places to see wild chimpanzees, the park’s Rabongo Forest & next- door Budongo Forest Reserve, offer chimp trekking with expert guides – a unique chance to see our closest living relatives in their natural home.
With over 450 recorded species in the park, Murchison Falls is a bird watcher’s dream destination. There is usually great birding around the lodge but drives & river cruises reveal many more – ask the lodge for a specialist guide.
Ask us about accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park that offers a hot-air balloon safari, your chance to view the dramatic Great Rift landscape from above & marvel at the scale of Africa’s mightiest river.
Combine your gorilla trek with a Murchison Falls safari for wildlife viewing, chimpanzee trekking & amazing scenery.
OUR RECOMMENDED MURCHISON FALLS SAFARI ACCOMMODATION
One of the world’s most biologically diverse wildlife reserves, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is an excellent combination with your gorilla trek in Uganda. Located a morning’s drive from gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest, the QENP conserves a mix of savannah, forest, wetland, and river habitats; the result is wildlife ranging from elephants and hippos to big cats and chimpanzees plus a bird list of an almost unbelievable 600 plus species.
A Queen Elizabeth National Park safari is a multi-experience offering. Game drives in specially- adapted game viewing vehicles tend to be the main focus and the park’s famous tree-climbing lions are among the most sought after sightings. But a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel – a wonderland of birds and animals – is a must-do activity and there are opportunities to go chimpanzee trekking in the park’s Kyambura Gorge as well as go on hot-air balloon safaris and birding trips.
Accommodation is available in the national park as well as close by; there’s a good range of options – small boutique lodges, larger hotels and intimate hideaways – plus family-friendly lodges with larger or interconnecting rooms and all offer en suite comfort and great views.
The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park coincides neatly with the best time to go gorilla trekking in Uganda. In a country where you can expect rain at any time of year, it is best to visit during the two dry seasons – December to February and again between June and September. These two periods offer the most comfortable and rewarding conditions for gorilla trekking and as well as for game viewing in Queen Elizabeth NP as wildlife is concentrated at water sources.
We’ve listed below our favourite things to do during a Queen Elizabeth National Park safari as well as our recommended accommodation. Browse through our choices or visit our Itinerary Ideas for inspiration; alternatively, simply contact us with your requirements and we’ll tailor-make a gorilla trek and Queen Elizabeth safari for you.
Queen Elizabeth National Park on the map
WHAT TO SEE & DO ON A QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK SAFARI
Early morning & late afternoon game drives with a guide reveal the wealth of wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park: elephant, buffalo & hippo are among the heavyweights with lions, crocodiles, leopards & hyenas making up the predators.
A great chance for photographers to get close-up shots of big animals & many different bird species, a Kazinga Channel motor boat cruise is one of the wildlife highlights at Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Head for the forests of the park’s Kyambura Gorge for wild chimpanzees & encounters with habituated chimps; you can also add on a chimpanzee trek at nearby Kibale Forest, one of the country’s best chimp destinations.
No-one is quite sure why they do it but the lions in the Ishasha region of Queen Elizabeth National Park have taken to climbing trees; they don’t look especially comfortable but it makes for charming wildlife photography.
Home to two thirds of Uganda’s bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the world’s top birding destinations & the best time for birding there coincides with the December to February gorilla trekking season!
Experience the extraordinary! Let us tailor-make your trip.
OUR RECOMMENDED QUEEN ELIZABETH SAFARI LODGES
Gorilla Trekking, Chimpanzees & Big Game
Lying at the green heart of Africa, Uganda is one of the most naturally diverse countries on the continent and offers rewarding, great-value gorilla trekking. The success rate of encountering these gentle giants in the magical Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is 90% and the Uganda gorilla trekking permit is considerably cheaper than the Rwandan equivalent.
It is one of the world’s most memorable wildlife experiences – sitting for an hour with a habituated gorilla family while they go about their daily business. Mothers fuss over their babies and teenagers wrestle and chase each other while the male silverback keeps a regal eye over proceedings. It is also a two-way relationship: such is the positive impact of trekking that the local mountain gorilla population is actually increasing after decades of decline. Uganda’s gorilla trekking is a good example of sustainable eco-tourism at work.
And while gorilla trekking is Uganda’s biggest draw card, this is also a country of open grasslands, tropical forests and thundering waterfalls. Uganda offers not just gorilla treks but also big game safaris and chimpanzee trekking too. Its national parks are home to classic animals such as elephant, buffalo and lion while its forests are filled with primates and butterflies. You’ll enjoy game drives and river cruises plus nature walks and some of the best bird watching in the world.
A hilly and green country with a warm climate and rain at any time of year, Uganda is a country of sometimes limited but improving infrastructure. Itineraries usually fly you between destinations to reduce the amount of travel time and maximise your experience. Our recommended accommodation in Uganda offers a good range of options and you’ll have a private bathroom and a room with a view throughout.
Browse our Accommodation and Itinerary ideas pages for inspiration or simply contact us with your requirements and we’ll tailor-make a Uganda tour for you.
Our top destinations in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – home to Uganda’s best gorilla trekking, Bwindi is a majestic jungle environment that also teems with birds & butterflies.
Queen Elizabeth National Park – with 600 bird species it’s a bird watcher’s paradise but also home to tree-climbing lions, buffalo, elephants & chimpanzees.
Murchison Falls National Park – most famous for its spectacular waterfall, Uganda’s biggest park is also home to big game, chimpanzees & great bird watching.
Kibale Forest – discover the diversity of a tropical forest: expert guides take you in search of chimpanzees, birds & shy jungle creatures.
Uganda on the map
Volcanoes National Park
Go Gorilla Trekking & More
Home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, the Virunga Volcanoes are shared between the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda but it is in the forests of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park that you find the easiest, safest and most reliable gorilla trekking.
A Volcanoes gorilla safari is both rewarding and accessible. Expert trackers go ahead of you to locate the gorillas while local guides share their wealth of information with you as you hike through the forest. The success rate of finding a habituated gorilla family is 90%, and you spend a precious, privileged hour in their company, observing familiar patterns of behaviour as family members socialise, play and argue with one other.
It’s relatively easy to go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park too. You fly into the capital Kigali and since the park is only about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away, you can either transfer there directly or spend a pleasant night in Africa’s cleanest – and by all accounts – safest capital city before travelling to the park for your gorilla safari the following day.
There are several lodges set around the Volcanoes National Park, obviously focused on gorilla safaris but also designed to deliver a more holistic experience in the rainforest. They offer guided walks through the forest to search for other primates and small mammals as well as birds and butterflies. You can visit local communities to experience the human perspective of the environment, or explore under your own steam by mountain bike or on a hiking trail.
Back at your lodge there is plenty of comfort after a day in the rainforest. Our top Volcanoes gorilla lodges include a post-trek massage as part of the service and your suite comes with a deep bath and fireplace. There are honeymoon-perfect suites as well as larger family units, and you’ll sit down to hearty home-cooked meals to the sounds of Rwandan traditional song and dance.
And a Volcanoes gorilla safari works well with other African safari and beach destinations. Kigali connects to the continent’s major travel hubs such as Nairobi and Johannesburg so you can combine your gorilla trek with, for example, a big game safari in Tanzania or a beach holiday in Kenya or Zanzibar. Browse our recommended Itinerary Ideas or simply contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend an itinerary or will tailor-make one for you.
Volcanoes National Park on the map
East Africa’s largest remaining swathe of mountainous jungle, Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the continent’s oldest forests, home to towering tree ferns, showers of butterflies and the most diverse primate population in the region.
Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, are the biggest draw card here and Nyungwe chimpanzee trekking is becoming more and more popular, especially in combination with a gorilla trek. Living in highly mobile families, the chimps are harder to find and keep up with than the more sedentary gorillas of Volcanoes National Park but their behaviour is as fascinating and they appear as warily curious of us as we are of them. The forest is also home to a dozen other primate species including colobus monkeys in troops numbering up to 300 individuals as well as several hundred bird species.
It is a four or five hour drive to Nyungwe Forest from the capital city of Kigali and accommodation is available at a handful of lodges on the edge of the forest. Our top of the range Nyungwe chimpanzee trekking lodge has air-conditioned suites, a gym, swimming pool and Wi-Fi but there are more budget-minded accommodations too and all offer chimpanzee trekking.
Activities offered at Nyungwe’s lodges naturally focus on trekking for chimpanzees and other primates but there are also hiking trails throughout the forest, allowing you to explore this unique landscape on walks ranging from one to eight hours. Especially recommended is the forest’s aerial walkway, allowing you to stroll above the rainforest canopy for stunning views.
The best time to go to Nyungwe Forest for chimpanzee trekking is as it is for gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park – the two dry seasons of December to February and between June and October. These periods will certainly give you the best weather and the easiest hiking conditions but bear in mind that Nyungwe’s chimpanzees are often more difficult to find during these drier times as they are forced to look for food deeper in the rainforest.
Along with chimp trekking, we’ve highlighted our favourite Nyungwe experiences below as well as our suggested accommodation for inspiration and ideas. Contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend a packaged tour for you or will tailor-make one to your specifications.
Nyungwe Forest National Park on the map
EXPLORE AFRICA’S OLDEST MOUNTAIN RAINFOREST
Nyungwe is home to one of the most important chimpanzee populations in East Africa. Expert guides take you into the forest to find & follow a family of chimps as they forage in the forest, hooting & whooping as they move, displaying moods & behaviour that may seem somewhat familiar to watching humans!
Chimpanzees are the main draw at Nyungwe but they are just one of 13 species of primate in the forest. Guided walks take you in search of these smaller monkeys which include the well-known black & white colobus monkeys as well as rarities such as L’Hoests’s & owl-faced monkeys plus endearing galagos, also known as bush babies.
Spotting wildlife from the rainforest floor isn’t always that easy so make sure you spend some time 60 metres (200 feet) above ground level on Nyungwe’s canopy walkway. Suspended between giant trees & running for 200 metres (660 feet) over the rainforest, it makes the ideal place to spot birds & monkeys as well as orchids & butterflies.
With 27 Albertine Rift endemics on a list of around 300 bird species, it’s no wonder Nyungwe Forest has been described as a bird watcher’s paradise. It is rated by Birdlife International as Rwanda’s most important site for bio-diversity conservation & lodges have expert guides to take you straight into the action.
With all the excitement going on around primates, it’s easy to forget that Nyungwe Forest is home to countless other plant & animal species; guided walks open up the secrets of the rainforest, revealing forest glades shimmering with butterflies & curious-looking orchids hanging off giant trees.
Experience the extraordinary with Safari Online, let us tailor-make your trip to Africa.
OUR RECOMMENDED NYUNGWE FOREST ACCOMMODATION
Rwanda’s capital city Kigali is the country’s entry and exit point for travellers on a gorilla trek. Set at the heart of the country, it is a relatively easy destination to reach – you can travel to Kigali from Johannesburg, Nairobi, Entebbe and Dar esSalaam– and since the Volcanoes National Park is only 100 kilometres(60 miles) from the city, many visitors transfer straight to the park after their arrival and go gorilla trekking the following day.
Some gorilla trekking itineraries do need an overnight stay in Kigali however and although the attractions in Kigali are modest, if first impressions generally count then they certainly do here. It is almost without question the cleanest city in Africa; plastic bags are banned and citizens take part in monthly clean-ups. Home to a warm and sunny climate with an average of ten days of rain a month, Kigali is also one of the safest and friendliest cities on the continent (one of its greatest attractions!) and it is well worth a stroll around the city centre or to a local market if you have time.
The city lies on a series of low hills and has been the capital since independence from Belgium in 1962 though it was founded in 1907 when the country was under German colonial rule. A city with little over a million in habitants, Kigali offers accommodation in the form of modern hotels – usually part of an up-market international chain. Standards and service are as you’d expect from these establishments; they are well equipped with gyms and saunas plus Wi-Fi and a choice of restaurants. Kigali’s hotels lie within easy reach of the international airport but also the vibrant city centre with its shopping and commercial area set around Kigali’s most famous accommodation, the Hotel des Mille Collines.
Some of our itineraries have time to include a city tour and the attractions in Kigali before you transfer to your gorilla trek. The tragedy reflected by the Genocide Memorial is balanced by visits to colourful markets and the Muslim Quarter; you can also walk with local guides around multi-cultural Nyamirambo, the heart of the city and sample eclectic urban culture before heading to the rainforests and the gorillas.
Kigali on the map
OUR RECOMMENDED KIGALI ACCOMMODATIONS
Gorilla Trekking, Panoramic Views, And More
Travel to Rwanda for gorilla trekking – one of Africa’s most memorable wildlife encounters. Habituated to our presence, these gentle giants allow us to join their family for an hour in an unspoiled jungle habitat. You’ll sit spellbound as you watch familiar dynamics unfold around you – shy but curious babies; wrestling, mischievous teenagers and watchful, patient parents.
Rwanda offers what is regarded as the easiest, most accessible and the most reliable gorilla trekking in Africa. You fly into the capital Kigali and usually overnight in the city before travelling to the nearby Volcanoes National Park the next day. A protected swathe of pristine rainforest, the park was bought to the world’s attention by the late primatologist Dian Fossey of ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ fame and is home to several gorilla families as well as a wealth of other wildlife – smaller primates, dazzling butterflies and exotic birds.
Expert trackers are sent ahead of your hiking party and you’ll be guided by local naturalists for near certain encounters with gorillas. And after gorilla trekking there are other activities and discoveries too; you could search for the rare golden monkey, hike a volcano or visit a local village for an insight into local culture and customs.
Accommodation takes the form of specialist trekking camps and lodges set in forest clearings with panoramic views and all the comfort and en suite convenience you need. Trekkers are rewarded at the end of a damp and muddy day with roaring log fires and hot baths in their suites while hearty meals bubble away in the camp’s kitchen.
The experience needs at least three days and so most visitors who travel to Rwanda for gorilla trekking do so as part of a larger itinerary. Stay within the country and you have access to Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park for chimpanzee trekking adventures or you could combine gorilla trekking with a big game safari in Kenya or Tanzania. Add on an Indian Ocean beach holiday for the perfect ending: easy air connections put East Africa’s best destinations together and you can even include South Africa, Victoria Falls or Botswana onto your Rwanda travel plans – ask us how.
Our Top Destinations in Rwanda:
- Kigali – Rwanda’s modern capital city is one of the safest in Africa & makes the ideal overnight
stopover on your gorilla safari.
Volcanoes National Park– just a 2-hour drive from Kigali, this rainforest reserve is one of Africa’s premier gorilla trekking destinations & a famous bio-diversity hotspot.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – a magnificent rainforest reserve, home to birds, butterflies, orchids & 13 species of primate including our closest relatives – chimpanzees.
Rwanda on the map
Travellers looking for a unique twist to an East African tour have a new experience to savour: a Rubondo Island safari. Set in the southern reaches of Lake Victoria and accessible from Tanzania, Rubondo Island is a poignant reminder of the fauna and flora that used to dominate here – thick rainforest ringing to the calls of parrots and home to elephants, antelope and chimpanzees.
Limited accommodation (there is only one lodge on the island) and fly-in logistics means it is both an exclusive and somewhat expensive experience: there is a price to being so far off the beaten track. But what an experience: virtually untouched by tourism, Rubondo offers its visitors a chance to explore Africa’s largest island national park by 4X4, on foot and by boat – a world of forest and grassland, sandy beaches and papyrus swamps.
Decades of conservation have resulted in breeding populations of chimpanzees, giraffes and elephants on the island though these animals are rare sightings. More commonly seen are hippopotamus, crocodile and the bizarrely semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope, perfectly at home in flooded wetlands. And with hundreds of resident and migratory bird species recorded on the island, Rubondo offers excellent, easy bird watching.
The best time to go to Rubondo Island is during its dry season – early June to late October – when the climate is at its mildest and driest (great to combine with the Serengeti Migration River Crossing). For bird watchers however, the best time to visit is during the November to May rainy season when migratory birds arrive. It’s not especially hot or cold on Rubondo – the average annual temperature ranges between 19 – 26°C (66 – 79°F) – and it’s important to note that the rainy season has two distinct wetter periods: December, and then April and May.
Recommended for adventurers and wildlife-lovers, a Rubondo Island safari is your chance to combine the great herds and predators of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater with the primates, butterflies and orchids of Rubondo’s rainforests. View our recommended itineraries or simply contact Safari Online and we’ll tailor-make a tour for you based on your requirements and budget.
TOP RUBONDO ISLAND EXPERIENCES
Explore Africa’s largest Island NP
There’s no guarantee you’ll see Rubondo’s wild chimps but trekking into the forest often reveals their nests & feeding grounds.
Take a safari deep into the island’s interior to search for elephant & giraffe while a boat trip will reveal hippos & crocodiles.
A multitude of unspoilt natural habitats means an astonishing diversity of birds on the island, easily seen from a vehicle, on foot & by boat.
Motor boat safaris offer you the chance to visit bird nesting sites, crocodile-strewn sandbanks & the aquatic home of the elusive sitatunga antelope.
With Nile perch weighing in at over 100kgs (220lbs), Lake Victoria has long been a destination for sport anglers – try your skills against the mighty perch!
Combine your Tanzania safari with Rubondo Island & search for chimpanzees & elephants in an unspoilt rainforest paradise.