Visiting the Mountain Gorillas
Dates: Year Round
Group Size: 1 - 10 - For prices on a sliding scale see the Itinerary tab.
Winston Churchill coined Uganda "the Pearl of Africa". And indeed, this small country combines the best of East Africa: its varied and unique fauna, its hospitable and colourful people, its beautiful lakes and landscapes. Visit this vibrant country, in search of beautiful fauna such as climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park and visit our close relatives, the gorillas.
The visit to the mountain gorillas of Uganda, a unique species that cannot survive in captivity, has been described as many as a life changing experience. These beautiful mammals, whose males are called the Silverbacks, share 98% of our DNA. To have the chance to see them close gives us a new perspective on who we are and how we, as are species are acting today, on our planet Gaia.
About the Operator
We are an enthusiastic team of anthropologists, naturalists and specialists in responsible tourism, offering tours in West and Central Africa since 2005. We all share a passion for this unexplored part of the African continent and believe that well-managed tourism is the key for protecting and maintaining the delicate natural ecosystems, cultural diversity and traditions while offering a better future for the inhabitants of these areas.
We organise individual and small group tours to the most interesting parts of Central Africa. We aim to combine nature and ethnographic aspects and bring our clients in close contact with hidden mountain, jungle or desert tribes and explore the unbeaten path.
Despite that focus, quality lodging, food and transport are fundamental elements for the development of our tours. Plus, we strongly believe that the person guiding the group is key for a successful travelling experience. Our common motto: “a good guide means a good trip”. You will be introduced to your guide before you travel.
Our tours are orientated towards responsible tourism, adventure and are as eco-friendly as possible. We use mostly local services in order to make sure the communities receive the benefit from tourism. At the same time we help to protect the environment and work with the locals to maintain their ways of living, which are largely endangered by several external factors. We also collaborate with different NGO’s on projects for water distribution, small income generating projects for widow groups, sponsoring of orphans, school projects, etc.
Being a responsible tour operator is at the heart of what we are all about. Minimising the impact upon the diverse cultures, communities and environment we interact with, plus a serious commitment to socially conscious, grassroots style travel, has driven us on our tourism project from the very first day we started in 2005.
That is the reason why we work with local communities in order to develop responsible tourism opportunities that help local economies to advance and prosper. At the end of the day, and mainly due to their own input and work, the local population is able to improve education and sanitary systems and increase quality of life.
Tourism can help to recover, and maintain, local traditions and cultural expressions, such as crafts, dances and songs. Avoiding unnecessary rural emigration is a key aspect of our project. Our aim is to offer possibilities to younger generations so they stay in their villages and work as guides or drivers, sell arts and crafts or agricultural products and even set up a food stall or offer lodging possibilities. It’s a way of reinforcing identity and preserve cultural heritage while working towards a better future.
We are committed to operate according to our codes of conducts available to all parties involved so everybody is aware about our obligations and commitment towards Responsible Travel.
At the same time we aim to travel in spirit of humility, interact with, and learn from, local people, observe and enjoy different ways of life. Reflecting on these new experiences and sharing thoughts and views with fellow travellers and the guide will lead to enrichment of our own lives.
We are involved in different community and environmental projects. All these are small scale projects. It is not our aim to change the world but we do believe we can help make a difference and assist to build up something positive for the future of many.
Our sustainability rules for staff and for travellers:
Minimize impact on environment; do not litter, use biodegradable soaps and detergents and pick up litter left by others. Remove packaging from items before leaving home or take them back home again. Conserve water. Do not distribute non-degradable, breakable gifts or items in non-degradable packaging. Do not buy, or consume, plant products harvested illegally from nature. Accept that campfires are inappropriate in areas where wood is scarce or during the dry season.
Minimize impact on wildlife; do not disturb wildlife, instead; observe and move along cautiously and quietly. Do not collect any souvenirs from nature and do not use recordings or loud noises to attract wildlife or birds. Observe (and respect) locally established rules and regulations for correct conduct and do not buy, or consume, animal products from unmanaged wild populations.
Minimize impact on local inhabitants; interact with local inhabitants in the different areas visited. Act directly to accomplish conservation and community development. Make donations to schools, local museums and community groups (the organization or our guides can help you here). Attend village dances and cultural pageants. Discuss conservation with locals and inform family, friends and colleagues back home about the sustainable use of the natural environments visited. Respect local cultures and provide a balanced view of Western material culture. Take photographs within the guidelines suggested by your guide. Purchase souvenirs made by the villagers whose town you visit or at a craft centre. Do not excessively bargain. Dress neatly and conservatively. Listen, learn and teach; do not preach or criticize different cultural practices.
Avoid non-responsible practices; avoid accommodations, organizations, vendors, operators, villages, or individuals who consciously violate environmental, wildlife and ethical regulations or principles or support any kind of corruption.
International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP)
The option to add a donation to this programme to your payment will be offered to you by Gaia Conscious Travel.
The goal of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is to ensure the conservation of mountain gorillas and their regional afromontane forest habitat in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A unique partnership:
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) was formed in 1991 as a coalition programme. The IGCP coalition currently consists of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The partnership also incorporates the respective protected area authorities of the three countries in which IGCP works: the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).
To conserve the critically endangered mountain gorillas and their habitat through partnering with key stakeholders while significantly contributing to sustainable livelihood development.
IGCP recognizes that the earth’s survival is dependent on humanity’s ability to maintain a healthy and balanced environment that includes all species of wildlife.
IGCP’s ultimate aim is to protect the afromontane forest and the many species it harbours, by ensuring that it is managed sustainably and by tackling the threats to its survival. In order to achieve this goal, it has set itself twin objectives: to reduce the threats to mountain gorillas and their forest habitat by creating widespread support for conservation among local communities, interest groups and the general public; and to improve the protection of gorillas and their habitat by encouraging the relevant authorities to adopt a consistent, collaborative approach to conservation policy and legislation throughout the region, grounded in conservation science.
There is a growing recognition among conservationists that a regional, ecosystem-based approach to management is crucial to effective long-term species and habitat protection, particularly in areas of political instability. One of IGCP’s main objectives is to increase collaboration between the protected area authorities and their partners in the region. The programme provides a mechanism for the respective countries to develop a regional approach to the conservation of a shared habitat.
Discover all the land, wildlife and people projects run by IGCP here.
Or watch this 2 min video testimony by David Attemborough:
Day 1: Entebbe
You will be met on arrival by our driver guide who will warmly receive, welcome you and transfer you to your accommodation for Dinner and overnight stay at Airport Guest House (B&B)
Day 2: Entebbe - Queen Elizabeth National Park (8 hrs)
Today, your driver/guide will take you to Queen Elizabeth National Park –One of Uganda’s most beautiful national parks. En route you can stopover at the Uganda Equator for photos and souvenir. With lunch en route, enjoy as a scenic drive as you pass through rolling hills and plantations. Dinner and overnight at buffalo lodge (B, L, D)
Day 3: Queen Elizabeth National Park
You will have an early morning game drive on the Kasenyi plains with chances of seeing the cats in action. Besides the cats, you are likely to spot antelopes, elephants, buffalos, plenty of warthogs and various bird species. Later on in the day, you will go for a boat ride on the famous Kazinga channel which connects two lakes George and Edward. On the boat ride, your will see unbelievable numbers of hippos. The channel has the highest concentration of hippos in Africa. There is also an abundant bird life and many African elephants taking a swim or quenching their thirst. Later return to the lodge for dinner and relaxation. Dinner and overnight at bulodge lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4: Queen Elizabeth - Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (7 hrs)
Early morning after breakfast, we shall head for the southern part of Queen Elizabeth national park look out for the tree climbing lions. The Ishasha area also has a very scenic landscape and other animals like the elephants, buffaloes, antelopes and a varierty of bird species. You will later proceed to Bwindi National Park the home of the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Dinner and overnight at Buhoma community Bandas, (B, L, D)
Day 5: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Rise up early and leave for your gorilla tracking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for the highlight of your safari. You will walk along rugged foot paths, through entwined vines and round mud puddles for the next two to seven hours. When you finally find a gorilla family, the tiring experience will be rewarded by staring at close range as these tropical forest giants behavior and you are allowed a one hour window in which to behold them. After an hours encounter with these gentle giants, you will graduate and join the rest of the world who describe this as the greatest highlight of an adventure in Uganda. Dinner and overnight at Buhoma Community Bandas, (B, L, D)
Day 6: Bwindi National Park - Lake Bunyonyi (4 hrs)
After breakfast we depart to Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in Africa. Relax, take a swim or go for a canoe trip while you watch the beautiful sunset. Dinner and overnight at Bunyonyi Overland Resort. (B-L-D)
Day 7: Lake Bunyonyi – Kampala (8-9 hrs)
After a calm breakfast we depart the beautiful lake and head back to the capital city. En route we will pass the Equator where we will make a stop for photos and souvenir shopping. Late in the afternoon arrival in Kampala and proceed to Entebbe International Airport for your onward flight back home. (B-L)
Day 8: Arrival Home
- Ground transport per private 4WD
- English speaking driver/guide
- Accommodation in places mentioned in
the itinerary, based on a twin/double room
- Meals as described in the itinerary
(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
- Bottled mineral water in the safari
- Entrance fees and ranger fees for
- Activities and excursions mentioned
in the program
- VAT for upcountry hotels and lodges
- International flight
- Gorilla Trekking Permits in Bwindi
Np (USD 600). See discounts available in low season.
- Visa (US$ 50). Good news!: The visas for Uganda were reduced from USD 100 per person to USD 50 per person in July 2016
- Meals and drinks not mentioned above
- Items of personal nature
Note: The given rates are subject to change. Accommodation and activities can only be guaranteed after confirmation and payment of the requested deposit. The final price will be dependent on the facilities available at the time of booking. We can always offer suitable alternatives should any of the facilities not be available. Some of the budget facilities based on are basic and non-self-contained.
Prices PP on a sliding scale
For the following number of people travelling together - in 1 or 2 4x4 mini vans, as shown below.
1 mini van
2 mini vans
$ 2125 USD
$ 875 USD
$ 1300 USD
$ 837 USD
$ 1069 USD
$ 805 USD
$ 960 USD
$ 875 USD
$ 837 USD
$ 805 USD
Our rates are fixed in USD. Other currencies are subject to change, depending on the rate of exchange.
Standard price per person sharing: $1300
Single Supplement: $825
You will be picked up at the Entebbe airport, near Kampala
Accommodation and meals
Meals are included as described on the itinerary tab with the following codes: B&B=Bed and Breakfast, B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Single Supplement (general information):
All of our group tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation.
When a Single Supplement is available it is included in the Prices tab. Depending on the Experience chosen, all accommodations may not have the capacity to offer single accommodation.
The Single Room supplement also applies to the third person in a party of three that will be accommodated in a single room
You may obtain the visa at the entrance border (airport) or you may purchase it online at https://visas.immigration.go.ug/, which will save you some extra admin after your flight.
The government of Uganda requires all arriving and departing travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Since there is currently a shortage of yellow fever vaccine worldwide, travelers may need to contact a yellow fever vaccine provider well in advance of travel.
It is a condition of booking with Gaia Conscious Travel that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on travel, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit, which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for domestic travel
Preparing your trip
Baggage Limits Weight limits on light aircraft flights within Uganda are 15kg + 1 small hand piece. All bags must be soft – no hard suitcases or wheeled bags permitted. No excess baggage is usually allowed on these flights.
The climate is good in Uganda all year round and the bulk of the country is tropical with daytime temperatures generally hovering between 24 and 28°C. It can cool down considerably at night (to about 16 to 18°C), enough to warrant bringing a sweatshirt, fleece or wrap. The rains generally come twice a year, in October/November (short rains) and late March to end of May.
Kampala has a slightly milder climate; and the parks in the south tend to be a bit warmer during the day, and cooler at night. The areas at high altitude, such a Bwindi, get considerably colder as temperatures tend to drop about 6°C for every 1000m one climbs. The parks further north, such as Murchison Falls, and Kidepo Valley are usually warmer with daytime temperatures at about 32°C. The hottest months are usually January and February when the average daytime range is 24- 33°C with peaks of up to 40°C in the far north.
The south has two wet seasons: from mid- September to November and March to May. The dry season from December to February means only that it rains less, but the gorilla parks still remain fairly wet during these months. The second dry season from June and July is considerably drier. Still, with 1000 to 2000mm (39.4-78.7in) of rain every year, it can rain at almost any time. The north, including Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley, has one continuous wet season from March to November and a more obvious dry season from December to February. Generally, when raining, it can make travel more difficult since dirt roads and forest trails used for gorilla tracking can become more challenging to navigate. However, rainy season is no real reason to postpone travel as it generally rains for while, leaving the rest of the day clear and sunny. It is essential to remember that weather patterns worldwide are no longer predictable and this information is a guideline only.
You are going to be hot, cold and possibly wet! So we would suggest a variety of light clothing: shorts, light long pants, t-shirts, flip flops, hat, rain jacket, as well as study shoes (essential for tracking). Long sleeved shirts and a sweatshirt or fleece are needed for evenings. Women in rural towns may feel more comfortable wearing clothing that cover their knees and shoulders, but this is not mandatory. It gets quite hot by midday, but evenings are always pleasant. Lodges do not have a dress code and for the most part casual clothes are 'de rigueur'. Please note our recommendations for gorilla treks:
- Long-sleeved shirts and trousers (older clothes recommended as they can get dirty and torn from the thorns and jungle foliage). Avoid navy or black clothes as they attract tsetse flies
- Good comfortable sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support
- Long socks to truck your trousers into (or gators)
- Rain jacket
- Gloves (old gardening gloves, just in case the tracking gets extreme through the thick foliage)
- Hat and sunglasses
- Camera (but please note that using a flash is not permitted while photographing the gorillas)
- Waterproof rucksack (or plastic bags inside your rucksack)
- Insect repellent and sunscreen
The Uganda Shilling (UGX) is the local currency and it is available in useable denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000. It is best to bring American Dollars to exchange. There are numerous forex bureaux and banks in Kampala and the main towns.
Credit cards are accepted in major hotels and restaurants, but generally it is best to carry cash (shillings) upcountry while on safari. Regarding credit cards, it is essential to note that VISA is most widely accepted, with MasterCard occasionally accepted. AMEX and others are not recommended as establishments usually don’t support them.
US$ to UGX exchange rate indications are as follows: For the 6 months between 01 October 2015 and 31 March 2016, the exchange rate fluctuated between: US$ 1 = UGX 3,207 – 3,645 US$
Dollar bills smaller in denominations than US$100 may attract a less favourable rate of exchange and notes older than 2006 are not accepted by hotels, banks, etc.
In all instances tipping should be treated as a personal matter; and a gratuity only given if you feel the service warrants it. If you do wish to tip, it is important to recognize service people such as airport transfer drivers, restaurant and lodge personnel, and your local safari guides. If providing a tip for a group of people, please be sure to provide this in full view of others. If you are ever unsure, the Lodge/Hotel management or your Overland Guide will be able to direct you.
The following should serve as a useful guideline (“Group / party” refers to group / party of travellers within one booking ie travelling together If more than 5 in one group / party, then the amounts below should be increased slightly)
- Driver/Guides (Transfers) : US$ 5 – US$ 10 per group / party per transfer
- Driver/Guides (Overland) : US$ 10 – US$ 30+ per group / party per day
- Guides (Other) (Game Drives / Boats / Other Activities) : US$ 5 – US$ 20+ per group / party per day Porter (Airport & Lodge/Hotel) : US$ 5 per group / party
- Staff (City Hotel & Restaurant) : 10% of total bill (some city hotels & restaurants automatically include this)
- Staff (Lodge/Hotel) : US$ 10 – US$ 30+ per group / party per day
- Tracking (Gorillas) (Guides, Trackers / Security) : US$ 20 – US$ 30+ per track per group / party. This may be given to the head guide in view of the rest of the staff for distribution amongst the staff
- Tracking (Chimpanzees) (Guides, Trackers / Security) : US$ 10 – US$ 20 per track per group / party This may be given to the head guide in view of the rest of the staff
- Porters (Gorillas) : US$ 15 (set fee) + tip of approximately US$ 5 – US$ 10+
Tips may be given in Uganda Shillings or US Dollars. The lodges will usually have a staff tip box from which tips are distributed equitably amongst the entire staff.
General Travel Advice from the Operator
All areas we visit are safe ones with hospitable and kind people, nevertheless we are not in our Western world and some advices can come in handy as well as we should inform on safety regulations.
We kindly request our travelers to read through this section and respect, and follow up, the information herewith provided. Our FAQ section might also help you out with questions you might have.
Documentation and belongings
You should carry some form of identification at all times. This would normally mean a passport, including VISA and additionally your certificate of vaccination. Sometimes road controls request some form of identification.
Take sensible precautions to keep safe important items such as money, passports, jewellery and mobile phones. Avoid as much as possible to travel with valuable (unnecessary) items and don’t show your money or important belongings openly on the street.
You are requested to follow up the instructions of our (local) guides at all times (including in the National Parks or Game Reserves) and seek their advice in case any additional information is required. Don’t go beyond the main areas of town on your free days nor take unknown or unidentified vehicles on your own (except for official taxis or local transport). In case a police officer or military representative ask you some questions, just answer them politely and stay calm under any circumstances.
When travelling to this part of the world you could eventually bring needed items along.
We usually advice to bring school material, drawing material and color pens, reading books in French or English, footballs (kids love these and it’s great to play with them) or some clothing, like t-shirts, caps or shiny bijouterie for the ladies.
Please don’t give presents or sweets to the children on the street. Instead you can leave some things with the home-stay families, the ladies cleaning the rooms, the local guides or make a deal: some pictures against a pen. Otherwise contact the organisation, we sometimes visit schools, orphanages etc. Sophisticated (battery run) games don’t make any sense in these countries and please don’t bring balloons
Destination Info - Uganda
Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”, has ten national parks displaying the best of East Africa. Their Rift Valley landscapes and tropical forests make dramatic backdrops to an extensive variety of flora and fauna.
Managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the parks offer ‘traditional’ savanna safaris along with boat tours, forest hikes, mountain climbing and wildlife research activities. Uganda is unrivalled on the continent as a bird watching destination withover 1,000 species of birds – several of which are found nowhere else on the planet. It is also home to 13 types of primates including over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas; and our closest relative – the chimpanzee.
Explore the wild Kidepo Valley; spot Queen Elizabeth’s tree-climbing lions; trek up the Virunga Volcanoes; summit the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains; take on Bwindi’s “impenetrable forest”; learn ancient tribal traditions and crafts – or just relax at your lodge surrounded by the wonderful sights and sounds of one of Africa’s most hospitable destinations.
Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda is the world's second most populous landlocked country after Ethiopia. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.