UGANDA'S most celebrated residents are its majestic mountain gorillas. In fact, the country has half the world's remaining mountain gorilla population.
Seeing them, however, is not without its challenges.
Here is the ultimate guide to seeing these endangered animals in the wild:
Where to go
There are only two populations of mountain gorillas left in the world, numbering about 1000 in total. The first lives in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, with groups scattered between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second is deep in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country's south-west.
To ensure a successful gorilla experience, the two most significant seasons you need to consider are the wet and dry. Each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. During the two dry seasons - June to September and December to February - rainfall is very low and the gorilla habitat remains relatively dry, making it easier to hike through Bwindi's dense vegetation and steep slopes in search of gorillas.
The wet seasons - from March to May and again October to November - are characterised by heavy rainfall, ensuring that trekking is much more challenging. On the upside, however, more plentiful food makes it a little easier to locate gorillas in their usual habitat, unlike the dry season where limited food supply makes them move much further afield in search of something to eat.
Permits in Uganda
To take part in gorilla safari, a permit is mandatory and currently costs US$600 (increasing to US$700 from July 2020). Make sure you book your permit early enough, at least three months prior to your actual trek, as permits are limited to just a few people each day and demand is typically high.
Permits can be obtained through a trustworthy tour operator or the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
What to pack
The following items are essential:
- STURDY waterproof hiking shoes to help you navigate rocky and often slippery surfaces. The trails can be muddy and slippery, especially during the rainy season.
- INSECT repellent.
- GARDENING gloves can come in handy when the gorillas are ranging within sparky, thorny and stinging vegetations.
- A GOOD camera to capture the best shots.
- LONG-SLEEVED shirts and long pants to protect you from the cold and stinging nettles.
- WATERPROOF backpack to protect your camera and other fragile items.
Where to stay
There are safari lodges near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to suit every budget, but one of the best is the award-winning Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp.
Tucked away on a flat ridge deep within the heart of the impenetrable forest, the camp comprises just eight private luxury tents.
The atmospheric camp's small size ensures it retains an intimate, exclusive feel, enabling guests to experience a camp with the lightest of footprints, while enjoying practically every mod con.
For the remainder of 2019, you can take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats' extended stay offer with savings of around 30 per cent.