Photography of the mountain gorillas
The Gorilla Habituation Experience is one of the best wildlife photography encounters in the world - it offers more time to capture the perfect shot, however taking photographs of gorillas can still be challenging, due to the light conditions and the unpredictable distance between you and the gorillas.
You should ensure that you’re as prepared as possible to get the best photos. Make sure that your batteries are fully charged and you have plenty of space on your memory cards. Bring waterproof bags or covers for your camera as the rainforest climate means it can rain any time of year.
Your choice of camera is completely up to you – we’ve seen some excellent photos which were taken with an iPhone 6s, however a DSLR that can shoot at a high ISO is recommended.
As you’re required to be at least seven metres from the gorillas, a 70-200mm lens is ideal. A 2.8 lens is even better as the light in the forest can be very poor at times.
Flash photography is not allowed so make sure that you disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone before you get to your group of gorillas.
Your time with the gorillas is precious so you should plan your shots rather than shooting wildly. We recommend that you find a balance between absorbing this incredible experience and taking photographs of these fascinating creatures.
Don’t spend the whole time looking through your camera lens – you should focus on the experience as well as taking your photographs.
Gorilla permits in Uganda
There are 15 gorilla families in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, however only 13 are habituated for gorilla trekking.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) allows just 104 permits per day (8 gorilla trekking permits per family), so you’ll need to book a few months in advance to secure your gorilla permit.
There are only eight permits available per day for the Gorilla Habituation Experience, with 4 permits allocated for each gorilla family (the Bushaho and Bukingyi families).
We recommend booking at least six months in advance for the Gorilla Habituation Experience, especially if you plan to visit during the peak seasons which are from July to October and December to March.
We can incorporate the Gorilla Habituation Experience into any of our Uganda tailor made holidays (subject to permit availability).
Cost of gorilla permits in Uganda
A single-day gorilla trekking permit in Uganda is currently $600 (as of May 2019). In comparison, Rwanda has increased their prices to $1,500 per day for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Alternatively, the Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda also costs $1,500, and you’ll get four hours with the gorillas, rather than the typical one hour with gorilla trekking.
The price of the permits covers your park entrance, expert guides and trackers, 24-hour armed security in the park, and one hour with the gorillas (for gorilla trekking) or four incredible hours with the Gorilla Habituation Experience.
It also contributes to gorilla conservation including research, veterinary care, national park operations and community development.
We can secure your gorilla permit at no extra cost when you book your gorilla safari holiday with us.
Due to safety reasons, you must be at least 15 years of age to track gorillas or participate in the Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda.
Best time to visit Uganda
You can track mountain gorillas in Uganda all year round, with consistent temperatures ranging from 20-25°C. The best time for gorilla trekking is the dry seasons, from June to August and December to February.
During these months, the primates retreat into the dense forest during the rains, and the jungle is less muddy and slippery for trekking.
The heavy wet season runs from March to May, with a second lighter rainy season falling in October and November. Although you can still go trekking to see mountain gorillas, be aware that the trails can be quite muddy and harder to navigate.
The wet season can also offer the best conditions for gorilla photography, as after a rain shower, the air is clear of dust, providing a stunning atmosphere to capture the gorillas.
Read our month-by-month guide for Uganda to help decide when to go.
Where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
We recommend staying close to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - you'll be close to the park headquarters (you must arrive at 7:30am for your pre-trek briefing), and you'll have the chance to soak up the spectacular scenery of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Here is our top pick for a luxurious lodge stay near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:
Set on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Buhoma Lodge is one of only two lodges located within the national park. It’s also the closest entry point for mountain gorilla treks, with only a five-minute walk to the meeting point.
The lodge itself is luxurious and intimate, with just 10 charming eco-chalets, and uninterrupted views over the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
With all the chalets constructed from sustainable materials, featuring private decks that are perfect for birdwatching, you’ll sink into your stunning natural surroundings.
You’ll also find panoramic views from the elevated central lounge area, with a bar, restaurant and a cosy fireplace to gather around on cool evenings. There’s also an onsite spa, where you can soothe aching muscles after a long day of adventure in the Ugandan wilderness.
Although the mountain gorillas are the highlight, there are a range of activities available from Buhoma Lodge, including butterfly and bird watching safaris, a waterfall forest walk, and a Batwa cultural experience.
What to pack for a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda
It’s important to come well prepared for the incredible experience of tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda, however you don’t need too much gear.
Note that domestic flights usually have luggage limited to 20 kilograms per person and it’s best to use a soft case or holdall to maximise space.
Here's our advice on what you should pack for a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda:
- Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support. Make sure your shoes are well worn-in before departing to avoid any nasty blisters.
- Light, breathable, waterproof jackets and trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. It’s important to wear light, long layers due to the variable weather and to avoid any insect bites.
Wayfairer Top Tip: You'll likely encounter long trails of safari ants - tuck your long trousers into your socks to avoid getting bitten!
- Warm layers for the chilly mornings and cold nights.
- Long, lightweight woollen socks.
- Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
- Toiletries such as sun cream, insect repellent, after-sun, bite relief cream and lip balm.
- Garden gloves to protect your hands as you grip the vegetation during your trek.
- A small backpack to carry your water, lunch, extra clothes, binoculars and camera.
- Camera with extra lenses and batteries. Bring more memory than you think you need.
- Binoculars to have a clear view of everything and to spot other wildlife such as birds and monkeys.
- Snacks - the trek can be quite strenuous, so bring some snacks for extra energy.
- A reusable water bottle to limit waste - you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water on your trek.
- Multi-way travel adaptor. Rwanda uses plug types G (three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern), and operates on a 240V supply voltage and 50Hz standard frequency.
- Supplies for local community projects. Take a look the Pack for a Purpose page for Uganda, which recommends supplies you can bring to donate and drop off at partnering hotels, lodges and schools.
Plan your Uganda gorilla trekking safari