Boasting most of the world’s mountain gorilla population, Uganda must be the best place to see gorillas in Africa.
But that international reputation means there are a huge number of tour companies offering gorilla trekking trips. Who are the good guys? Who should you avoid at all costs? Here are our thoughts on how to choose a Uganda gorilla tour company which won’t let you down!
Do Your Homework
The best way to choose a Uganda gorilla tour company is probably through a personal recommendation. If you’ve family or friends who have already gone gorilla trekking in Uganda, ask them which tour company they used and what they thought of them. Would they use them again? Were there any issues?
If personal recommendations aren’t possible, check out travel forums online. They exist everywhere from standalone websites run by the big guidebook companies and travel magazines, to Facebook pages. And although guidebooks are another good shout, their information can end up being several years out of date, and companies can rely on their much-sought-after listing to bring in customers without maintaining their standards.
Finally, try and see if the company you are thinking of choosing as your Uganda gorilla tour company is listed by the relevant tourism authorities. For example, Home To Africa is a member of several, including the Association of Uganda Tour Operators. If a company is shy about giving you this information, there’s probably a reason!
While it can be tempting to book the first gorilla tour that sounds like what you’re after, it definitely pays to shop around when choosing a Uganda gorilla tour company. Prices can vary wildly, and although differences can be down to the accommodation used or other similar factors, sometimes there is no reason for it!
You should compare the packages offered by three or four different Uganda gorilla tour companies before making any decision. Don’t get rushed into booking either. Take your time to consider packages sensibly, away from the heat of the moment. Although required gorilla trekking permits do sell out, no good tour company will push you into making a booking.
You should especially avoid making use of the touts that sometimes hang around towns close to national parks. Instead, find a tour company with its headquarters in the region (Home To Africa is based in Kampala, the Ugandan capital) which has the experience and expertise of operating for years.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of anyone you might choose as your Uganda gorilla tour company. Questions can include exactly how long you’ll spend in each national park, or the standard of the accommodation you’ll be staying in.
Be sure you know the answer to additional questions you might not consider at first, such as tour group size. Is there a maximum group size? What’s the average size? Is there a minimum which means the tour might not go ahead? Importantly, you should also ask whether the cost of the gorilla trekking permit is included in the quoted price. If you don’t, you could end up with a shock – and a big unexpected bill too.
However, you can also ask more general questions. A good tour company won’t be afraid of telling you when the best time to visit Uganda is, or when is the best time to go gorilla trekking. And they’ll be able to explain exactly why too, demonstrating their knowledge and love for what the company does! By speaking directly with staff, you’ll soon be able to work out whether they know their field or not, even if you’re not an expert yourself!
Consider the Rest of Your Trip Carefully
Gorilla trekking experiences usually last two or three days. This means you’ll have plenty of time to check out the other tourist attractions in Uganda. After all, unless you’re locally based, you’re not going to want to visit for just a couple of days!
We’d recommend an itinerary which lasts at least ten to 14 days. Itineraries of this length will give you ample opportunity to delve as deeply into the wonders of Uganda as you have the forests where its mountain gorillas live.
Traditional style vehicle-led Uganda safaris provide the chance to encounter many of Africa’s most-loved species. The national parks of Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, and Murchison Falls each offer the chance to be just a few meters from entirely wild buffalo, elephant, giraffe, lion and leopard.
Beyond Uganda’s Gorillas
You’ll have to be a little lucky to catch sight of leopard it’s true, but a whole range of herbivore species can be seen on game drives in Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley national parks. Meanwhile, taking to the water of Murchison Falls National Park’s Kazinga Channel by boat is an alternative wildlife viewing option – alongside seeing the mighty River Nile squeezed through a channel a handful of meters wide.
But Uganda has something for everybody, not just animal lovers. Beach fans can soak up the sun on the sands of Lake Victoria and its islands. Hikers can explore on foot with a variety of treks in the Rwenzori Mountains, also known as the Mountains of the Moon. The highlight here is Mount Ngaliema (Mount Stanley), the third highest peak in Africa after Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya. And then there’s Uganda’s rich culture and history, which can be unraveled at sites including Kampala’s Uganda Museum and nearby Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Uganda may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t! For more guidance on what to expect from any trip to the country, you can do much worse than checking out these Uganda travel tips. They cover issues as diverse as how to obtain a visa to a selection of annual unmissable festivals and celebrations.
Choosing a Uganda Gorilla Tour Company
Knowing how to choose a Uganda gorilla tour company can feel a little like trying to work out the best way to find a needle in a haystack. However, in this article we’ve provided some helpful advice on what to look out for to ensure your trip to Uganda goes without a hitch.