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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

While it is one of the most expensive hours you will ever experience, it is still worth it. Find out what it’s like to go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

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A flash of silver surrounded by black is the first glimpse I catch as his gigantic body rises from leaning against the bamboo trunks. His monstrous head swivels atop a pair of broad shoulders.

Male Silverback Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

Male Silverback Gorilla in Uganda

“Hmmm-hummph”.

Frozen on the spot our guide imitated the universal Mountain Gorilla sound to let them know we were friends and everything was alright.

As the leading Silverbacks head finished it’s swivel, it locked it’s dark eyes on our group and didn’t even blink before turning back to it’s lunch of bamboo shoots and leaves.

Silverback Gorilla in Uganda

Silverback Gorilla in Uganda

Grinning at us our guide waved us closer.

“Don’t worry, they are happy with our presence.”

I wasn’t completely convinced, but when you are paying $550/hour trekking with Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, you don’t want to waste a minute. Inching closer we all began jostling for position. Elbow to elbow our cameras whirred away as we frantically tried to snap a few pictures under the very poor light conditions.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

And today the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was living up to it’s reputation as the heavy rainforest above our heads blocked out nearly all the available light.

Grasping the thick trunk with a fist that could crush your skull, the solo Silverback swung down the bank. Lumbering downhill towards his family on his knuckles, we followed at a safe distance.

Within minutes we spotted further movement ahead. A young male juvenile clambered up a tree just 10m from our position as his brother chased him. Launching from above he tackled his brother with a fistful of black hair sending them both into the undergrowth.

Gorillas in Bwaise Impenetrable Forest Park

Male Juvenile Gorilla in Bwaise Impenetrable Forest Park

The mother didn’t even react and I couldn’t understand why until movement over her shoulder caught my eye. A baby Mountain Gorilla, only a month old to the day, peered at us with intensely deep brown eyes before disappearing again.

New born Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

New born Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

As the dominant Silverback we had spotted earlier continued away from us, the rest of his 10 strong family followed in his wake.

For the next hour it felt like we were continuously harassing them as we snuck closer for a few minutes before they decided to move on. End even though we were not allowed to approach them closer than 7m, they would saunter closer to us on several occasions.

While they barely paid us any attention, it felt like we were constantly intruding on their territory and within their personal spaces.

Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

Mountain Gorilla trekking in Uganda

The Trekking Experience – Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Only half of the experience is actually watching the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. One of the best parts of the day is trekking through the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest searching for them in the first place.

We were considered lucky as our maximum group of 8, accompanied by our guide and an armed guard to scare off potential poachers and wildlife, had slashed, stumbled and hiked only 45 minutes from our start point to our first sighting of our designated Mountain Gorilla family in Uganda, Bitukura.

In comparison, the other group from Oasis Overland, who I am travelling across Africa with, hiked over 3 hours each way before they spotted their first glimpse of the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

Just 10 minutes into our Gorilla trekking in Uganda we were halted in our path as we caught glimpses of brown flanks downwind of us through the dense forest. A herd of Elephants were in a clearing ahead and were known to charge at “muzungus” in their path.

Smaller than their desert dwelling cousins, they use their size to ease their way through the undergrowth in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. Their lighter weight also allows them to scale the, at times, near vertical Bwindi Impenetrable Forest valley walls.

Unslinging his AK47, our guard told us to run if they decided to charge us before sending them trumpeting into the bush with a single “CRACK” of the bullet whizzing above their heads. It’s slightly unnerving to see how quickly they can move in a forest that I can barely see through.

Gorillas in the Mist Uganda

Gorillas in the Mist Uganda

Slipping deeper and downhill in to the Ugandan Rainforest we were only given a 2 minute warning before we spotted that first male Silverback.

And bang on 60 minutes our excellent Mountain Gorilla guide slowly started to pull us away from the group. It was a magical experience that I will never forget.

Have you seen been trekking with the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda before? Is it on your Bucket List?

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Thomas Dembie

    May 19, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Great post! I recently did a similar trek in Rwanda. The hike to find the gorillas was extremely difficult, and it rained the whole time. Nevertheless, it was an awesome experience.

    • Cole Burmester

      May 23, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      We were really lucky that our hike was so short! And it only started raining after we finished 😉

  2. Candice

    May 20, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    I have always wanted to do this, and everyone I have spoken to that has, says it is worth the money! You got some amazing shots on your trip!

    • Cole Burmester

      May 23, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      Was really hard to get the photos as the light was so dark. Took 87 photos and these were the best!

  3. Walter Bailey

    May 21, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Wow! Amazing pictures you have captured. I love to this as well but I can’t afford $550/ hour.

    • Cole Burmester

      May 23, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      It was lucky it was half price for 2 months this year due to Ugandan celebrations 😉

      • Instinct Safaris

        November 5, 2013 at 7:18 PM

        In the low season months it is always reduced to 350 USD! This promotion is in November, as well as March, April, and May. 🙂 So you don’t have to wait until the next 50th Independence Day to get a big discount.

  4. Jonathan Look, Jr.

    May 22, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    Wow! What an amazing adventure to get so close. Thanks for bringing some awareness to these amazing creatures.

  5. Justin @ True Nomads

    May 26, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    This is definitely on my bucketlist now!

  6. Kristy of Family Visa

    May 29, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    I was shocked about the price because it is a bit expensive but it shows that you really had a great time trekking and seeing those gorillas in personal on their territory through your pictures of the said trip.

  7. Shirley

    May 29, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    That was quite an adventure I must say, and quite risky in my opinion.. and you wrote it very well, engaging much that I felt your nervousness whenever the gorillas catch you eying on them.. ah, that must be intense!

  8. Jim

    May 30, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    You have a great way with words but these pictures are phenomenal. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Nomad backpacker

    June 3, 2013 at 11:12 PM

    Wow, that’s insanely expensive! But at the same time unforgettable!

  10. tourism uganda

    June 4, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Uganda is naturally given the artificial wonders are even not given a lot of concern mainly because of competition from a lot of natural aspects.

  11. Stu

    June 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    WOW!!! That experience truly is once in a lifetime! It looks awesome and despite the cost you will never forget it! From a photographes point of view, photographing Gorillas in their naural habitat is definitley up there. I think i may need to add this to my bucket list! Photos are great considering the difficult conditions, well done 🙂

  12. We Travel and Blog

    June 14, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    550 an hour!!! Did you book locally or did you go through some kind of tour agency. Seeing silver back gorillas is definitely on my bucket list. It would be nice to be able to camp in the jungle though so you could have a chance at getting some better light on the gorillas.

  13. Amanda

    June 18, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Definitely something I would love to do – but that sure is a hefty price tag!

  14. Tyrhone

    June 27, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Wow, that looks incredible. I lived in South Africa and Zimbabwe so have been around wild animals a fair bit. But I never got to see gorillas. Sarah and I would love to do Africa after South America.

    Do you mind me asking $550 sounds like a lot! Was that for two of you? We would probably do a tour like the one your on, but I remember noticing some of the extras can add up to big money.

    Adventure on!

  15. Arti

    June 30, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    550$ for an hour?? That is a huge sum of money!!! But it must be one very unique and adventurous experience!!

  16. Bruised Passports

    July 3, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Wow! That looks like quite an experience. Tempted to book it right away – you guys have SUCH a way with words 🙂

  17. Martin

    July 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    What a great gorilla trekking. Great photos u share with us.

  18. Jeff

    September 4, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    A great adventure indeed though quite expensive. Great and quality pictures.

    • Cole Burmester

      September 6, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      Definitely expensive for just one hour. But also a once in a lifetime experience.

  19. Wild Whispers Africa Safaris

    December 6, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    These mountain gorillas are endangered and as such, the fee you pay goes to the conservation efforts. I see nothing wrong with charging $ 500 per person per trek.

    • Cole Burmester

      December 8, 2013 at 2:05 AM

      Exactly. It’s a great cause and a once in a life time opportunity.

  20. Peter @ Nairobi National Park Day Tours

    December 22, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    That Silver back just looks kingly. Great picks and Gorilla tracking travelogue cole.

    I agree, inorder to limit the numbers of visitors hence impact; and at the same time boost revenues, the $ 500 per person hour is justified.

  21. Africa Kenya safari

    February 27, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    You were the lucky one having to trek only for 45minutes and being treated to the rare sighting of the Gorillas.

    Though the Permits are expensive, We believe they are justifiable since the revenue generated go along way in the fight for survival of the Mountain Gorillas

    The whole experience of gorilla watching is thrilling and a must for everyone who can afford. Its a memorable experience given the fact that they are engendered species

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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