Where to see gorillas

As only one or two days of your gorilla tracking vacation will be taken up with gorilla watching, we have included a other highlights on our map of where to see gorillas. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda are the prime gorilla tracking locations, but there are so many other national parks that give a monkeys. And indeed a lot of other wildlife to boot. After all, gorillas don’t exist in an exclusive club out there in the wilds. Such as chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park, tree climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, red-tailed monkeys in Kibale Forest National Park, and endless hiking to be had in all the locations we have highlighted.
1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
2. Dzanga-Sangha Reserve
3. Jane Goodall Institute
4. Kahuzi-Biega National Park
5. Kibale Forest National Park
6. Lobéké National Park
7. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
8. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park
9. Nyungwe National Park
10. Queen Elizabeth National Park
11. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
12. Virunga National Park
13. Volcanoes National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi is Uganda’s most famous gorilla trekking location, and home to around half of all remaining mountain gorillas. These Ugandan Highlands are more tropical than Rwanda and, consequently, the gorillas are considered by some experts to be like an intermediary between the eastern lowland populations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the mountain gorillas of the Virungas. There are over a dozen habituated families to track here.
Dzanga-Sangha Reserve

2. Dzanga-Sangha Reserve

This is CAR’s wildlife highlight: over 1,000 sq km of forest including swamp forest areas and mineral-rich clearings which attract wildlife – particularly elephants – in huge numbers. This is one of only two places in the world where you can trek to see habituated lowland gorillas with an expert Ba’aka tracker, and it’s an Important Bird Area, too. CAR vacations tend to base themselves entirely within this reserve.
Jane Goodall Institute

3. Jane Goodall Institute

A great stop on arrival in Entebbe airport, Uganda. Primatologist Dame Jane Goodall is the world authority on chimpanzees and founder of this Institute. Although most of her work is based in Tanzania, JGI Uganda is one of the Institute’s many centers and home to the Chimpanzees Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, co-founded in 1997 with Born Free Foundation and other international conservation organisations.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park

4. Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Named after two dormant volcanoes that slumber within its 6,000km2 of forest, this national park protects mountains, rainforest, bamboo forest, marshland and rivers, providing rich habitat for a huge variety of wildlife. Eastern lowland gorillas are its most famous inhabitants and the largest gorilla species; you can track them in the rainforest. Chimps live here too, along with bush elephants, buffalo, hippo and bush babies.
Kibale Forest National Park

5. Kibale Forest National Park

Another panoply of primates, don’t miss this Ugandan addition to your vacation. There are no gorillas in Kibale, but the chimpanzee colonies here have been habituated over a period of two years, so they are used to humans passing through. Guided tours will give you an opportunity to see L' Hoest’s, red colobus, red-tailed monkeys, brown monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabey. Some tours also offer the chance to take part in a habituation experience.
Lobéké National Park

6. Lobéké National Park

In Cameroon, the park is one part of the Congo Basin Sangha River Tri-national Protected area (STN), the two others being Dzanga Sangha Special Reserve in Central African Republic and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in Republic of Congo. Combine a trip to Lobéké with Nouabalé-Ndoki, both home to western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. Gorilla trekking here is very remote, but with fewer ‘habituated’ gorillas and also very few tourists.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

7. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Along with Bwindi, this is Uganda’s other mountain gorilla trekking spot, although a little less reliable for sightings, as its resident Nyakagezi gorilla family sometimes wanders into Rwanda. However, there are populations of golden monkeys and other primates here. This park also endeavours to support its indigenous and displaced Batwa people who lead hikes through the forest and run a guest lodge.
Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park

8. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park

In the Republic of Congo, the Mbeli Bai area is home to western lowland gorillas. The park is one part of the Congo Basin Sangha River Tri-national Protected area (STN), the two others being Dzanga Sangha Special Reserve in Central African Republic and Lobéké National Park in Cameroon. Gorilla trekking here is extremely remote, and poaching still prolific, so it is important to support their preservation through tourism.
Nyungwe National Park

9. Nyungwe National Park

At over 1,000km², Rwanda’s Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest and a must on any primate itinerary. Although you won't find gorillas here, Nyungwe is also home to a colossal collection of chimpanzees, as well as Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys. This is most definitely the land of monkeys in the mist. As with the gorillas, when you find a family of chimps, you will get to spend an hour with them.
Queen Elizabeth National Park

10. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Although there are no gorillas here, Kyambura Gorge in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is known as Valley of the Apes, and is perfect for chimpanzee tracking. A 1km-wide tropical rain forest filled gorge, this is in great contrast to other savannah regions of the park, where you can take on a more traditional safari seeing elephants, hippos, crocodile and lions.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park

11. Rwenzori Mountains National Park

To combine gorilla trekking with serious mountain hiking in Uganda, the Kilembe Trail, cuts through the national park, linking the Rwenzori Mountain peaks. This range is one of Africa’s lesser known hiking experiences, upstaged by the likes of Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. But you won’t meet any charity climbers in this rainforest. Just a plethora of primates and a bevvy of birdlife.
Virunga National Park

12. Virunga National Park

Some 1,000 mountain gorillas roam the forests of the Virunga Mountains along the borders of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. Expert trackers will take you into the forest here to spend an hour in the company of a habituated group – a truly magical encounter. You can visit a nearby gorilla rehabilitation project, too. This forest also shelters habituated chimps, so you can track two great apes in one park.
Volcanoes National Park

13. Volcanoes National Park

Situated in NW Rwanda, this is a landscape of six active and three extinct volcanoes, but thankfully home to the far from extinct mountain gorilla. They thrive in the cool temperate bamboo and evergreen, elevated forests. The national park is the Rwandan section of the Virunga Mountains that straddle the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, a massif that minds around 400 mountain gorillas.

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Gorilla Safari & the Masai Mara

Gorilla Safari & the Masai Mara

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From US $4649 to US $7149 16 days ex flights
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Best places to see gorillas

Paul Callcutt at our supplier Natural World Safaris shares his tips on where to see gorillas:
"Rwanda is generally viewed as easier trekking in order to see the gorillas. They tend to be out in the open a bit more and along easier hiking trails than in Uganda, where things can be a bit steeper and undergrowth is thicker. That is not to say that Rwanda is better than Uganda for gorilla trekking, Not at all. Uganda is great for people looking for a more adventurous trekking experience but the rewards are excellent. Such as getting to see the extraordinary Nkuringo gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. In Uganda, the longest you could trek is eight hours, but even this is unlikely. However, it is not impossible. When I've done it, I haven’t walked for more than two or three hours in both Uganda and Rwanda. But if you have mobility issues, I'd probably recommend Rwanda first."
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christopher Michel] [Bwindi Inpenetrable NP: Martijn.Munneke] [Dzanga-Sanga Reserve: Damiano Luchetti] [Jane Goodall Institute: NH53] [Kahuzi-Biega National Park: Rennett Stowe] [Kibale Forest: Joe Mckenna] [Lobeke NP: Amcaja] [Mgahinga Gorilla NP: SuSanA Secretariat] [Noubal-Ndoki National Park: Thomas Breuer] [Nyungwe NP: Justin Raycraft] [Queen Elizabeth NP: Justin Norton] [Rwenzori Mountains NP: Jorn Eriksson] [Virunga NP: Mike Davison] [Volcanoes NP: John Cooke] [Up close: Chris Nener]
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