silverback gorilla in uganda on gorilla trek
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Best 10 Day Uganda Trip with The Mountain Gorillas(2024)

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Nicole

Going to see the mountain gorillas in Eastern Africa was a dream come true. These majestic creatures live in the Virunga Mountains, a range of extinct volcanoes that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. We decided to go see them in Uganda, and expand our trip to visit many other parts of Uganda. In all, we spent 10 days exploring one of the most beautiful countries in Africa that I have ever visited. We spent two days with the mountain gorillas, one day with chimpanzees, and a whole slew of days doing other types of safaris and outdoor adventures. It was simply incredible.

best Uganda itinerary to see gorillas
One of the gorillas we saw on our adventures.

Background

My husband, adult son (22 years old) and I went on this adventure. We spent most of our time exploring Uganda by car but also took two domestic flights.

I worked with Home To Africa, a local travel operator to help create our 10 day Uganda itinerary. In addition to creating an amazing itinerary, they hired Brian, our guide and driver, selected and booked our vehicle, booked our hotels and domestic flights, and chose restaurants when necessary.

The below map shows the whole scope of our 10 day trip.

If you remove the 2 domestic flights at the start and the end of our trip, then this is a general outline of where we drove in Uganda.

You will see from the day to day description of our itinerary that we did A LOT on our trip. Some of our days were very long and tiring, and may not suit someone who wishes a slower paced trip. However, I really enjoyed our itinerary.

Review of Home To Africa

There were many areas where Home To Africa were exceptional. They worked tirelessly over weeks helping me create my itinerary, always patient and kind when answering all of my questions. They listened to everything that I wanted to do, see and accomplish, and made sure that my itinerary included it all.

Brian, our driver and guide, was one of the best guides that we have ever had. He was attentive, easy going, kept a close eye to our schedule, and gave us space to enjoy our time together.

However, I can not give them a full endorsement. There were a few issues:

  • We were never told that our suitcases had to be soft sided or the domestic airline would not take them. In addition, we were unaware that our total baggage (checked, carry-on, and personal bags) had to be under 15kg or we would have to pay extra. So unfortunately, we had to pay over $100 USD in overage fees and the airline told us the next time, they would refuse to take our luggage because they were not soft sided. Seeing as we had a second domestic flight at the end of our trip with the same airline, this caused us a lot of unnecessary stress.
  • Our safari vehicle was a too small. There was 4 seats in the back and only 3 of us. However, there was practically no trunk so we had to pile our luggage into the vehicle with us making it very crowded. This could have been easily avoided with a bigger vehicle.
10 Uganda adventure
Our vehicle for transfers and safaris.
  • We were never told that a couple of our lodges offered free laundry service. Had we known, we would have packed less.
  • I specifically asked that they confirm that air conditioning was available in each lodge. They confirmed that there was, but only 2 out of 6 of our lodges offered it.
  • They swapped out one of our hotels without our consent. The final payment for our tour was due two weeks before we left. The day after we paid, they sent us a note advising that they had swapped out a hotel, without any explanation. I spent hours and hours reviewing our accommodation choices before finalizing our itinerary and paying our first deposit months before. Ultimately, they rebooked us into a similar quality hotel but in a terrible location. We were originally supposed to be in and around the forest where the gorillas lived but they moved us to a hotel in town, surrounded by buildings.

Notwithstanding these issues, our trip was beyond amazing. We loved our time in Uganda, the Uganda people, and our experiences.

Whether you choose to use Home To Africa for your own trip, or another tour operator, make sure that you follow up with your travel company if any of these issues may be of concern.

10 day Uganda vacation
Views from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Important Information And Tips On A Visit To Uganda

After 10 days in Uganda, I want to pass on some important tips that we learned.

  • The southwestern part of the country was absolutely stunning (from Kibale to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest). Make sure you give yourself some time to explore and appreciate this beautiful part of Uganda.
  • The people as a whole were some of the kindest and gentlest people that we have ever met.
  • Food at the lodges was very good and plentiful. As a whole, I think Uganda offered some of the best food that we have ever had while on an African safari.
  • The gorilla and chimpanzee treks were truly exceptional bucket list experiences. We also did a couple days of traditional game viewing by car and boat in two national parks (Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park). Although we enjoyed our game drives and boat trips and we saw a lot of animals, there are far better spots in Africa to do traditional game viewing if you have the time and can afford to travel elsewhere. From my past safaris, those include Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia (although Namibia is too dry to offer boat safaris, it offers other unique animal experiences.)
  • The roads were not great. The main highways are paved, but local roads were not. They were dirt roads with lots of huge potholes making for long drives over short distances (or really long drives over long distances!). If you have a bad back (like my husband), the drives could be particularly difficult.
  • Accordingly, when creating an itinerary, not only ask about the distance between lodges, but also the state of the roads before deciding on whether this is the best itinerary for you and your loved ones.
  • Air conditioning was not always available at lodges. We had air conditioning in a couple places where it was very hot, but not in other places where it was cooler at night. That might sound fine, but we also could not open windows. There were not any screens and bugs were a potential issue. That meant the air in the rooms was often a bit still and uncomfortable.
  • Free laundry service was available at some of the lodges at which we stayed. This is an ideal perk If you want to pack lightly and one that I’d recommend confirming is available prior to booking a lodge.
  • Several of our lodges were set into hills or mountains with lots and lots of stairs. If you have any mobility issues, you should definitely research whether you must climb multiple floors to either reach the rooms or the dining area. I have no physical limitations and some of the lodges at which we stayed were still physically challenging.
  • For the gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, you need light long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks that go midway up your calf. You need to protect your body from scratches from branches as you trek to wherever the chimpanzees and gorillas are located. In addition, you need to put your pants into your socks to protect yourself from bites from red ants.
  • Trekking for both chimpanzees in Kibale and gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest require a decent level of physical health and fitness. The terrain is uneven and you are pretty much guaranteed long hikes climbing up and down mountainsides. There are rangers and guards to give you a hand but they won’t carry you!
bwindi impenetrable forest
The beauty, lushness, and denseness of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
  • Having said that, when we were there, they offered helicopter rides to and from the gorillas for an extra cost.
  • Some people do multiple treks for chimpanzees and gorillas over several days. We did one chimpanzee trek and 2 gorilla treks (all very different experiences – see below), and were very happy with our decision. I wouldn’t have wanted more or less.
  • If you choose to do multiple treks, try to give yourself a day of rest in between or at least some time for afternoon naps. These are very long and physically tiring days.
  • There were a lot of people involved in each trek and accordingly, you need to bring a lot of cash for gratuities. For the chimpanzee trek, there was one English speaking ranger-guide, and two other rangers with guns for security. On the gorilla treks, there were 3 trekkers who left early morning to locate your gorilla family, and another 3 rangers (similar to the chimpanzee trek) who accompanied you. Everyone expected a tip and since groups are very small, it would be very awkward to not have enough cash for everyone. I gave $20 USD to the English speaking ranger-guides and $10 USD to everyone else. In other words, I brought $40 to the chimpanzee trek and $70 to each gorilla trek.

Day-To-Day Details Of Our 10 Day Uganda Trip

The following is a detailed description of our 10 day Uganda adventure. I supply an overview of what we did and where we stayed, followed by a section on my overall impressions and recommendations so that you can decide what might work for you.

Day 1 In Entebbe At Protea Hotel by Marriott Entebbe

We arrived in Entebbe from our international flight around dinnertime. Brian, our guide and driver, met us at the airport and drove us the 3 minutes to our hotel, the Protea Hotel by Marriott Entebbe. We checked in, had dinner, and enjoyed a relaxing night.

Impressions of Protea Hotel by Marriott Entebbe

The Protea Hotel by Marriott Entebbe is the closest hotel to the airport. It is a western style hotel sitting on the shores of Lake Victoria with decent rooms. My only complaint is that for the quality of the hotel, it is pretty expensive.

If I were to do this all again, I would explore other hotels near the airport, looking for better quality and value. However, there is nothing wrong with this hotel, and is a good, easy option.

Murchison Falls in Uganda on 10 day Uganda trip
Murchison Falls from our boat.

Days 2-4 In Murchison Falls National Park At Pakuba Safari Lodge

We opted to take a one hour domestic flight from Entebbe to Murchison Falls National Park, rather than drive since we had a lot of driving ahead of us for the rest of the trip. Brian, our guide, picked us up at the airport near the National Park (an airstrip next to a wide open field with a small hut) and drove us to Pakuba Safari Lodge, our accommodation for the next 2 nights.

What was so fantastic was that almost immediately upon leaving the airport, we were on safari and began spotting animals everywhere – elephants, cape buffalo, and giraffes, in particular!

safari in Uganda by Murchison Falls National park
Elephant in Murchison Falls National Park.
cape buffalo in Murchison Falls in Uganda
Cape Buffalo in Murchison Falls.

Pakuba Safari Lodge was only a 30 minute drive. We checked in and had a late lunch. Afterwards, we jumped back into the car and began a leisurely late afternoon safari in Murchison Falls National Park.

The next morning, we did another driving safari and in the afternoon, we took a boat tour to see Murchison Falls.

The boat tour was 2 hours long and it was on a double decker boat that held about 50 people. On our way to the Falls, we glided by countless hippos, elephants and crocodiles in or around the water. In several instances, we were so close that I felt that we could have reached out and touch them (which, of course, I didn’t do)!

Impressions and Recommendations

The Falls were beautiful and impressive and the animal sightings were lots of fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any lions or leopards.

land safari in Murchison Falls National Park.
Mother giraffe and baby in Murchison Falls National Park.

In terms of the landscape, there is nothing remarkable about this part of Uganda compared to the beauty of the southwest where the gorillas live. In addition, you can see the same animals in or near Murchison Falls National Park as you can in Queen Elizabeth Park. Accordingly, if you have limited time or funds, you should feel relaxed about skipping this part of Uganda.

Pakuba Safari Lodge was classified as a moderate hotel. We shared a triple in a very large, comfortable and clean room. Animals freely roamed through the grounds of the lodge, including a huge bull elephant sauntering near the pool one early evening. If this sits comfortably in your budget, I would recommend staying here.

Pakuba Safari Lodge in Uganda
The elephant by the pool at Pakuba Safari Lodge.

Other Resources

If you want help planning an African safari or learn tips about how to save money, then check out two of my articles:

If you are interested in reading more about our Subsaharan African adventures, please see the following:

Days 4-5 In Kibale at Kyaninga Lodge and Queen Elizabath National Park at Kasenyi Safari Camp

Days 4 and 5 were absolutely packed with driving and activities.

Day 4

We started our day very early and drove 211 miles (340 km) from Murchisson National Park to Kyaninga Lodge at Kibale, which without stopping for lunch or bathroom breaks, took over 6 hours. Most of the drive was on paved roads, which was great, but nonetheless, it took a long time.

Our itinerary originally included driving to the top of Murchisson Falls before leaving for Kibale but we opted out of that activity since it would have added another 2 hours to the drive. In addition, the Falls were lovely to see by boat, but nothing so extraordinary that we wanted to add the extra travel time to our day.

We arrived at Kyaninga Lodge by early afternoon, ate lunch, then went on a guided hike on the hilltops around Kyaninga Lake, learning about the history and culture of the area. It was very beautiful and a wonderful way to stretch our legs after the drive. We also went swimming in Kyaninga Lake, a refreshing dip surrounded by mountains.

Kyaninga Lake in Uganda
Kyaninga Lake on our hike with the lodge behind us across the water.

Day 5

The next morning, we woke up very early and drove around 45 minutes to Kibale National Park to go trekking for chimpanzees. This was fantastic.

The three of us were placed in a group with around 6 others, an English speaking ranger who guided us, and two other rangers who carried guns. We walked deep into the forest for around 45 minutes where, out of nowhere, 3 chimpanzees ran right by us. The rangers told us to give chase and off we went.

We followed these guys, who quickly found some delicious fruit trees and climbed around 100 feet to the top. After watching for around 20 minutes, it started to rain hard. The chimps stayed up the tree so our ranger decided to walk further into the forest, hoping to find others. And we did! We quickly came upon another 8 chimpanzees, all on the forest floor, seeking shelter from the rain.

chimpanzee in Kibale National Park in Uganda
A very wet but relaxed chimpanzee on our trek.

This is where it got quite extraordinary. These guys were so relaxed. We were within mere feet of them and they really couldn’t have cared less about us. We hung out with them for another 15 minutes and then, started the long walk back to the car.

After our trek, we drove back to Kyaninga Lodge for lunch and then, started the 3 hours drive to our next lodge, Kasenyi Safari Camp, in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Once inside Queen Elizabeth National Park, we did a 2 hours boat tour of Kazinga Channel which connects Lakes George and Edward.

This boat tour was amazing. It was private in a small boat with a guide and a captain. We glided near the shores that were packed with hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lizards and lots of birds. We saw some incredible wildlife and got some breathtaking photos and videos, including ones of a young male elephant terrorizing hippos in the shallow waters near shore.

Queen Elizabeth National Park on 10 day holiday in Uganda
The young bull elephant playing in the water on our boat tour.
elephant and hippos in Kazinga Channel in Uganda
The elephant about to terrorize the hippos.

Afterwards, we drove 15 minutes, the last of the 3 hours drive, for our one night stay at Kasenyi lodge. We arrived to watch a beautiful sunset from the patio of this beautiful lodge.

Impressions and Recommendations

This day was incredible! We loved spending time with the chimpanzees and couldn’t believe how close we were able to get and how relaxed they seemed to be.

However, I believe that we were lucky that it rained and the chimpanzees spent a lot of time on the ground. Before it rained, the chimpanzees were mostly at the top of very tall trees and difficult to see.

The boat tour was excellent. If you had to choose between Murchisons Falls boat tour or this one, I would definitely choose this one. There weren’t any falls, but the private wildlife viewing in a smaller boat with our own guide was amazing.

injured baby hippo in Queen Elizabeth National Park
An injured baby hippo.
lizard in Kazinga channel on Uganda adventure
One of the lizards that we saw on our boat tour.

Both lodges were classified as “luxury” and very beautiful.

Kyaninga Lodge was perched high on top of cliffs overlooking the lake and mountains in the distance. The views were breathtaking. In addition, the food was the best that we had in Uganda.

view from deck of Kyaninga Lodge on 10 day Uganda itinerary
View from deck of Kyaninga Lodge in Uganda.

However, it was 45 minutes drive each way to Kibale National Park for the chimpanzee trekking which meant extra driving on an already long day.

I wanted to stay at Kayaninga to see the lake and go hiking, but not sure if this would be the right decision for everyone if you, like us, only had one night to spend in this area. There were lots of lodges very close to Kibale National Park.

Kasenyi Safari Camp was set in Queen Elizabeth National Park, also with beautiful views of a lake, but on a mostly flat plain. Wildlife freely walked around – in fact you needed a guard to take you back and forth to your cabin in the evening. You dine under the stars on an outdoor patio which was very pretty and romantic.

view from Kasenyi safari camp in Uganda
A table set for dinner on deck at Kasenyi Safari Camp overlooking lake.

Day 6 In Queen Elizabeth National Park And Buhoma Sector Of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest at Trackers Safari Lodge

We started very early and headed to the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park to look for tree-climbing lions. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the substantial efforts of our driver/guide, we could not find any over several hours.

Eventually, we had to give up looking as we had a 5 hours drive to the Buhoma Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The drive was unbelievably beautiful. Most of the drive was along local roads tucked next to the side of mountains with sweeping views of luscious green valleys and fields. We saw countless locals, including dozens and dozens of children, along the way going about their normal day-to-day lives. It was fascinating seeing the small villages and how they lived.

We arrived in the late afternoon at the Trackers Safari Lodge. It was a beautiful lodge with incredibly friendly and hospitable staff. Food was delicious and the room was enormous and luxuriously appointed with lots of thoughtful gifts left in our room.

We had time to sit by the pool, have a massage and enjoy our dinner.

Trackers safari lodge in bwindi impenetrabel forest in uganda
View from walkway to the rooms at Trackers Safari Lodge.

Impressions And Recommendations

Most of the drive today was on deeply rutted unpaved roads which made the drive very slow and bumpy. My husband’s back was quite sore by the time we got to the lodge. He was very happy that the lodge offered massages (which helped a lot)!

The safari in Ishasha sector was very disappointing. Not only did we not see any lions in trees, but we barely saw any animals. What animals we did see, we had seen many more of them in Murchison Falls National Park.

I also understand that by going to this sector to try and find the climbing lions, it made the drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the Buhoma Sector in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a few hours longer.

If I was looking to redo our itinerary, I would certainly be tempted to remove the safari drive in the Ishasha sector, especially since we have seen lions on several other safaris.

Something to think about depending on how long you have in Uganda.

As for the lodges, the Trackers Safari Lodge was the lodge to which our tour operator moved us, without our consent, after we fully paid for the trip. It was definitely a luxury hotel, but the setting was unattractive. Instead of being by the forest, where our original lodge was located, we were in the center of town.

best 10 Uganda itinerary to see mountain gorilas

Days 7-9 In Buhoma And Rushaga Sectors Of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest At Four Gorillas Lodge

Days 7 and 8 were the 2 days that we did gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Bwindi is 80,000 acres (321 square km). There are four centers/gates from which you can trek for gorillas. There are approximately 25 gorilla families in the Forest (about half of all mountain gorillas in the world), although not all are habituated. 

We trekked for gorillas in 2 different sectors of the Bwindi Impenentrable Forest because we did 2 different kinds of gorilla trekking – one day with fully habituated gorillas where we had one hour with them and one day with semi-habituated gorillas where we spent 4 hours with them.

Habituated means “to be accustomed or used to something”. So, fully habituated gorillas means that the gorillas are used to humans and are accepted as part of their environment.

I always use the example of a squirrel when explaining what habituated means. When we sit in our garden, squirrels are usually all around us. I don’t really pay attention to them and they don’t really pay attention to us. We just accept each other as being part of our mutual environment.

Semi-habituated gorillas are in the process of getting used to humans as being part of their environment. Since they are still getting used to humans, spending time with them can be unpredictable.

For example, we were charged by the Silverback on our 4 hour trek with the semi-habituated gorillas when a female gorilla became curious and came too close to us. The Silverback obviously did not like that!

Everything ended up being fine – he stopped a few feet short of us – but that does not normally happen with habituated gorillas.

silverback gorilla in uganda on gorilla trek
Silverback gorilla that charged us.

Both gorilla trekking experiences were extraordinary, but without a doubt, the trek to see the semi-habituated gorillas was the more incredible of the two.

Please see below for more information.

Day 7

This morning we woke up early and headed to the Buhoma center to be organized into our group for the trek to see the habituated gorillas.

The center is busy. There are lots of people who gather there to be briefed about their upcoming gorilla experience and to be put into groups.

Each group is assigned one gorilla family and can have up to 8 people. In addition, each group has one English speaking park ranger who acts as a guide, and two park rangers with guns. Three other park rangers leave hours before to trek and find your gorilla family.

I am not exactly how, but we ended up in our own private group – there was just 3 of us – which was amazing!

our group for the one hour gorilla experience in Uganda
Our group for the trek.

We drove to the area from which we were going to start our hike up into the mountain and into the Forest. We waited for the trekkers to find our gorilla family, contact our guide, and then, we started our hike to meet them.

uganda itinerary to trek for gorillas
A couple of groups at the start of the trek. We each went in different directions.

About 90 minutes later, the trekkers and the guide started to call out to each other and we eventually found each other and the gorillas.

We were very lucky. Two gorilla families were together. This is unusual but the two Silverback gorillas were brothers. Accordingly, there were 17 gorillas to see.

However, we quickly focused on a smaller group of about 8 gorillas who were hanging out in a small opening. In addition to the Silverback lounging around, there were two adult females, a 6 month old baby and around 4 youths who were playing around.

The baby quickly transfixed all of us. It was so little – it could barely walk and was so cute.

baby gorilla and mother on uganda safari to see gorillas
Baby gorilla and mom.

After one hour with the gorillas, we started our hike back to the car and drove the 4 1/2 hours for our 2 night stay at Four Gorillas Lodge in the Rushaga Sector.

Day 8

We did our second day of gorilla trekking, but this time with semi-habituated gorillas located in the Rushaga Sector.

There is only one gorilla family that they are currently in the process of habituating in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They allow a maximum of 4 people to participate in this experience (again, there was only the 3 of us). The permits cost double compared to the one hour with the habituated gorillas, but it is worth every penny.

There are the same number of park rangers and trekkers. However, you start your day with the trekkers looking for the gorillas. Through this process, you find their nests from the previous night (they build new nests everyday) and learn how to trek them.

our ranger and guards for gorilla trekking in uganda
Our ranger and some of the guards and trekkers.

Once you find the gorillas, you get around 4 hours with them. There weren’t any babies in this family but there were about 9 gorillas – a Silverback, 3 females, and several youths.

Apart from the excitement of being charged, and constantly moving with the gorillas as they looked for food, it was a wonderfully relaxed experience and such a treat to spend several hours with the gorillas.

We returned back to the Four Gorillas Lodge for an afternoon nap, cocktails and dinner.

baby gorilla on uganda safari
Baby gorilla.

Impressions and Recommendations

These two days trekking for and spending time with the mountain gorillas were a dream come true.

Both were amazing experiences, but as I said earlier, I preferred the 4 hour experience with the semi-habituated gorillas to the one hour time with the habituated gorillas.

It felt more authentic. We were completely alone for the day – there wasn’t another group at or near the starting point. We had hours to learn about the gorillas from the ranger, how to trek them, and see their nests.

uganda vacation to see mountain gorillas
The silverback gorilla on the move.

Then, once the family was discovered, we had hours to enjoy them.

The drive between the Buhoma Sector to the Four Gorillas Lodge was along uneven dirt roads with lots of potholes. Like the drive to the Trackers Safari Lodge the day before, It was a long journey. However, the views across the mountains and the green lush valleys were stunning.

Four Gorillas Lodge was a luxury lodge set against a mountain within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. From our room, we were almost at the top of the trees, which was an amazing sight to see. Unexpectedly, we also had a gorilla family within view so we were able to keep watching gorillas even after our trekking experience was over.

Days 9 and 10 Returning to Entebbe and Protea Hotel by Marriott Entebbe For International Flight Home

We drove 3 hours from the Four Gorillas Lodge to catch our one hour domestic flight back to Entebbe.

We returned to the Protea Hotel By Mariott Entebbe for another night, relaxed and ate dinner.

The next morning, we headed to the airport for our flight to Ghana and our 10 day adventure there.

Last Word

Uganda was spectacularly beautiful. It is filled with amazing scenery, outdoor activities, and of course, incredible wild life.

Trekking for mountain gorillas was both an exhausting and exhilarating experience. You are truly transported into their world and amazed at these magnificent creatures thriving in the mountains of Uganda.

The hotels at which we stayed and the food that we ate were excellent. Service was exceptional at all hotels and restaurants at which we visited. The chimpanzee and gorilla rangers were also all extremely professional, polite, and very respectful of the animals.

If you love wildlife and nature, then Uganda should be your next bucket list destination!

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