Gorilla tracking and permits

To track gorillas each person must have the day’s gorilla permit which needs to be arranged and paid for in advance. Each gorilla park (Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda and Parc National des Volcans [PNV] in Rwanda) has different numbers of permits per day (32, 8 and 40 for Bwindi, Mgahinga and PNV respectively). No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. To protect gorillas from disease and to avoid problems of arduous conditions in the forests young trackers below the age of 15 and those with illnesses are not allowed to track. Flash photography is not allowed and visitors are advised to use still cameras, at a distance of at least 5 metres away from the animals. Professional filming requires extra fees to be paid. Tracking through the thick jungle, traversing canopies of thick undergrowth can be tough, arduous and wet – the tracking can last from as little as 45 minutes to as much as 9 hours. Trackers therefore need to be well equipped with food and water, strong water-proof clothing and must be fit and healthy. Porters can be hired to carry equipment for all trackers (fees range between $5-20 per porter per day). Part of the fees paid to the park authorities goes directly to help local communities around the Protected Area(s).

Once inside the forest, the following must be observed:-

    • No spitting in the park
    • No littering in the park
    • No coughing in the direction of the gorillas
    • Only speak in whispers
    • Do not point at the gorillas
    • Movements around the gorillas must be unthreatening
    • No venturing behind thick shrubs. You may surprise a gorilla.
    • If a nettle stings you, do not cry out, scream, shout-out loud or make any sudden moves.

If a gorilla charges or vocalizes, do not look directly at it. Stand perfectly still unless the guide asks you to crouch or move back. 

To Top

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Is located in south-western Uganda on the edge of the western rift valley. It is one of the largest natural forests in East Africa, with both montane and lowland forest. About half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas – about 300 animals – are found in Bwindi. Three families are habituated at Buhoma – Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura (8 permits per day are available for each of these gorilla families); and one family is habituated in the South of Bwindi at Nkuringo (8 permits per day are available), making the park accommodate 32 trackers each day.

Tracking commences every morning from the park headquarters at 0830 hours, but clients should report to the headquarters at 0800 hours ready for a detailed briefing from the guides on gorilla etiquette. Gorilla tracking is a year-round activity, irrespective of season. The rain forest is moist, and it rains very often in Bwindi, even in the dry season. Porters are available to carry clients’ belongings. Bwindi is rich in other primates, including chimpanzee and blue monkey. Butterflies are the most conspicuous of the rich insect fauna of the park, with more than 200 species. There is a large variety of trees, dense undergrowth, an extensive stand of bamboo and a number of swamps. There are also a number of nature trails in the park to explore this primeval African forest – to the waterfall, along the Rushura trail for some sweeping views towards Lake Edward and the Rwenzoris; and to the Mubwindi swamp near Ruhija for some unusual bird species.


Situated 91 km NW of the capital Kigali, its an easy 2 hour drive on a fairly good road, through the countryside with its beautifully terraced hills that are so characteristic of rural Rwanda, to the town of Ruhengeri. You will then be driven on to the village of Kinigi, the starting point, where instructions will be given on how to behave in the presence of gorillas. The tracking then begins.

There are currently 7 habituated gorilla families that can be visited in Rwanda. Please click for more information. 

Click for all gorilla Families and Parks in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo

To Top


A small, lightweight, frameless, waterproof back/day pack

  • Light, waterproof hiking boots or shoes with treaded soles.
  • Thick socks.
  • High speed film 400 ASA minimum, 800 ASA recommended (no flash photography allowed on the track)
  • Long pants (jeans/khakis) and a long sleeved shirt
  • Leather or heavy canvas (gardening-style) gloves.
  • Waterproof rain pants, a rain suit or poncho with hood.
  • Light raincoat
  • Two sweatshirts/sweaters not necessary on the track, as it gets very hot during tracking.
  • A waterproof, squash-able hat.
  • A lot of drinking water

Permanent link to this article: https://www.virtuososafaris.com/travel-advice/important-gorilla-tracking-information.html