Where to find gorillas

Where to find gorillas

Most people who go to see gorillas see them in Uganda or Rwanda; only a few hundred make it elsewhere, Fancy bucking the trend? Here are ten places to see them for you

 

DR Congo

Visitor infrastructure: 2/5

Chance of sighting: 4/5

Since the loss of the habituated Lossi gorillas to Ebola in 2002, the nearby Odzala National Park now presents one of the best options for seeing WLGs. It is currently home to two habituated family groups that can be seen by visitors. They can also be seen from hides as they visit bais (open clearings in the forest). 


Western Lowland gorilla, Congo

The most famous bai is Mbeli Bai, in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, where about 100 gorillas have been monitored by the Wildlife Conservation Society for a decade; gorilla groups can be seen wading into the marsh to forage for water plants alongside forest elephants, buffalo and antelope such as sitatunga.

Rescued gorilla orphans (WLG) are being rehabilitated back into the forest in the Léfini Reserve (two hours’ drive north of Brazzaville), where visitors can view silverbacks on a forested island from a boat.

 

Rwanda

Visitor infrastructure: 5/5 

Chance of sighting: 5/5

Rwanda is about the size of Wales, with good main roads (making it quick to get around) and a relatively well-developed infrastructure. 

But it is the work of Dian Fossey, as dramatized in the film Gorillas in the Mist, that really makes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park many people’s first choice for a mountain gorilla safari

Umubamo Group mountain gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Relaxed gorillas and relatively open habitat – montane vegetation, often with stunning views – greatly improve the chances of good gorilla watching. 

The professionalism and kindness of the guides – many of whom have spent decades helping visitors cope with steep slopes, stinging nettles and nerves – makes every muddy, gasping step that bit easier. But when it's sunny, and the gorillas are only a short stroll from the park boundary, people tend to wonder what all the fuss is about!

Uganda

Visitor infrastructure: 5/5

Chance of sighting: 5/5

Second in popularity to Rwanda, the two gorilla parks in the south-west of the country offer different experiences. Mgahinga National Park is part of the tri-national Virunga Conservation Area, and its habituated gorillas often cross into DRC. However, climbing to the top of Mt Sabinio, where Rwanda, Uganda and DRC meet, is an outstanding way to see the whole mountain gorilla kingdom – an island of forest surrounded by a sea of densely populated farmland. 

Mountain gorilla, Uganda

 Just to the north, on dramatically winding roads, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is more biodiversity and at a lower altitude. It has well-habituated mountain groups for tourism, and two more are being habituated to cope with demand. Some taxonomists regard the Bwindi gorillas as a separate sub-species of eastern gorilla – the lack of hair on their brow easily distinguishes them from their shaggier Virunga cousins.


One of Uganda’s real plus points is the range of other activities on offer: combine your gorilla tracking with the country’s other national parks and adventurous activities, from hiking the glaciers in the Rwenzori Mountains to white-water rafting on the Nile, Culture, hospitable people and other interesting primates such as the intelligent chimpanzee, welcoming golden monkeys and so many others. Uganda is as well the source of river Nile, and sharing a part of Lake Victoria the Africa’s largest Lake and second largest worldwide.