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Best Countries to see gorillas in the wild

Where can you see wild gorillas in Africa? Our expert lists 10 countries for watching different species of gorilla, including mountain gorillas and western lowland gorillas…

Western lowland gorilla (Shutterstock)

1. Nigeria

Visitor infrastructure: 3/5
Chance of sighting: 1/5


Cross River gorillas
 are found only in Cross River State, where the government has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure (for example, the spectacular cable car up to the Obudu Cattle Ranch Hotel). However, the chances of seeing gorillas here are still slim. Their total population now consists of 200 to 300 individuals, spread across an area of 3,000 square miles, which includes Afi Mountain, Mbe Mountain, and the Okwangwo Division of the Cross River National Park. For this reason, scientists are cautious about habituating any.

But visiting the habitat does help to conserve it, and two outstanding primate sanctuaries and reintroduction projects – Pandrillus for drill monkeys and chimpanzees, and Cercopan for numerous monkey species – are based in Calabar.

2. Cameroon

Visitor infrastructure: 2/5
Chance of sighting: 3/5 (western lowland gorillas), 1/5 (Cross River gorillas)

Western lowland male gorilla (Shutterstock)

Western lowland male gorilla (Shutterstock)


Cross River gorillas
 live in the English-speaking part of Cameroon bordering Nigeria, in small pockets of forest that are the focus of a conservation project but with no tourism component yet. The only captive Cross River gorillas can be seen at the Limbe Wildlife Centre, which also cares for about 15 western lowland gorilla orphans with a long-term goal – funding permitting – of rehabilitation back into the wild.

Western lowland gorillas live in the French-speaking part of the country. The WWF is developing ecotourism in Campo-Ma’an National Park in the south-west, but it’s early days so gorilla viewing is not guaranteed.

More rescued western lowland gorillas – orphans of the illegal bushmeat and wild animal trade – can be seen in forest enclosures at Mefou National Park, located close to the capital city of Yaoundé.

3. Equatorial Guinea

Visitor infrastructure: 1/5

The Monte Alen National Park is a spectacular forested park, and its rugged terrain served to protect it from commercial logging. As yet, there are no habituated western lowland gorillas. The tourism infrastructure is in very early stages of development, and trained locals have started to conduct guided day treks.

4. Gabon

Visitor infrastructure: 3/5
Chance of sighting: 3/5

Western lowland male gorilla, Gabon (Shutterstock)

Western lowland male gorilla, Gabon (Shutterstock)

Gabon made a bold bid to diversify its economy by creating 13 national parks in 2002, most of them containing gorilla habitat. The western lowland gorilla habituation programme at the Mikongo Conservation Centre in Lopé National Park was terminated in 2010. But although visitors are no longer taken on specific gorilla-spotting treks, visitors can still see them while looking for other wildlife.

Moukalaba-Doudou National Park has some of the highest densities of gorillas, and an ecotourism project has begun there with help from The Gorilla Organization.

Loango National Park offers the rare combination of rainforest and Atlantic beach, where hippos have been seen surfing, whales and dolphins surface offshore and the forests are home to gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants.

5. Angola

Visitor infrastructure: 1/5
Chance of sighting: 1/5


Western lowland gorillas
 are found only in the Cabinda enclave, the part of Angola north of the mouth of the River Congo. There is little in the way of tourism infrastructure, but if it’s adventure you want..!

6. 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 western lowland gorillas. It’s 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).

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 western lowland gorilla orphans 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.

7. Central African Republic

Visitor infrastructure: 2/5
Chance of sighting: 4/5

Western lowland female gorilla, Central African Republic (Shutterstock)

Western lowland female gorilla, Central African Republic (Shutterstock)

One of the best places to track western lowland gorillas is Bai-Hokou in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. A WWF project has succeeded in habituating a group, and a calm contact is likely, though the dense forest and low light beneath the canopy make photography challenging.

8. Rwanda

Visitor infrastructure: 5/5
Chance of sighting: 5/5

Family of mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda (Shutterstock)

Family of mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda (Shutterstock)

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 dramatised 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.

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!

9. Uganda

Visitor infrastructure: 5/5
Chance of sighting: 5/5

Mountain gorilla, Bwindi, Uganda (Shutterstock)

Mountain gorilla, Bwindi, Uganda (Shutterstock)

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 the Democratic Republic of Congo. 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.

Just to the north, on dramatically winding roads, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is more biodiverse and at a lower altitude. It has four groups well-habituated 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.

10. Democratic Republic of Congo

Visitor infrastructure: 1/5 (western lowland gorillas), 3/5 (eastern lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas)
Chance of sighting (security permitting): 1/5 (western lowland gorillas), 3/5 (eastern lowland gorillas), 5/5 (mountain gorillas)

Silverback eastern lowland gorilla, Democratic Republic of Congo (Shutterstock)

Silverback eastern lowland gorilla, Democratic Republic of Congo (Shutterstock)

Three of the four sub-species are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla tourism with habituated groups began here in the mid-1970s, in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a stronghold of eastern lowland gorillas, and this park still offers one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences. Bukavu is the nearest town (with some beautiful lakeside hotels), but check the security situation if entering DRC from Rwanda.

Mountain gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park is also excellent, if security allows. Things have improved since the early 2009 arrest of rebel leader Nkunda, but the area is still unsettled. However, even during the troubles many people visited the gorillas at Djomba on day trips from Kisoro, Uganda, because permits were available in the DRC and sold out in Uganda. Take advice on the spot – it can change from one week to the next.

Some western lowland gorillas survive in the far west of DRC in the beautiful Madiakoko Mountains, Bas-Congo, crossing back and forth from Cabinda (Angola), but you’d be a pioneer tourist here.

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Customer Reviews

Ngoni Safaris Uganda

Customer Reviews

Michael T 06/June/2021

TripAdvisor
Above & Beyond
Review of: 3-Day Gorillas trekking and Batwa Experience
Sedrick went above and beyond to accomodate our request for an itinerary alteration due to our compressed time in Uganda. He also compeltely took care of scheduling our covid 19 testing and drove us to the site on arrival.

Our driver/guide Ben was also outstanding!

**We highly recommend using a porter during gorilla trekking as their are some complex parts to the trail/terrain. This also benefits the local people by providing them work.**

David 24/June/2021

TripAdvisor
Seeing Lots of Animals and Uganda
The schedule suited my time in Uganda exactly and was a great opportunity to view some of the top wildlife and natural wonders of the country. Lodgings range from mid-range to near upscale and are in beautiful locations. Food is good and ample. My driver, Stanley, was expert at spotting wildlife and, very importantly on the Ugandan roads, a careful and skilled driver. You see various parts of the country on this tour, and due to distances, be aware you'll spend quite a few hours on the road. One thing they might add is an itinerary going into more detail ahead of time on each day's activity and suggested things to bring. I was concerned about the needed COVID test for return home, but they took care of arranging that, and it turned out successfully. Overall the tour was a real highlight and is highly recommended.

Justo Nov 18, 2019

Safaribookings
I went on an 11 day safari visiting Kampala, Jinja, Lake Mburo NP, Bwindi NP, Queen Elizabeth NP and Kibale NP. Communications with Ngoni were prompt and easy from the start. As soon as I made my booking, Sedrick contacted me through WhatsApp and guided me through the rest of the process. Leading up to the tour he made sure I was well-prepared to begin. He was always very clear and friendly. Service was exceptional. I had the pleasure of going on this safari with three members of Ngoni's staff - Sedrick, Nelson and Joel. These guys made my comfort their priority from the moment we met. Whether it was checking if I was okay with the accommodations or making sure I always had a bottle of water, I always felt like I was being well taken care of. Nelson is an excellent guide. His knowledge about the flora and fauna of Uganda was extensive, always able to answer any questions I had and was eager to teach - it's obvious that he has a great love for his country and it's environment and is eager to share this love with his clients. My experience with Ngoni and Uganda surpassed all expectations I had. Absolutely amazing, and thanks to the guys at Ngoni it feels like a new home - can't wait to come back and visit. Webale, brothers!

Stephany Aug 13, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
Sedrick was unique and stood out from the rest in the high quality communication he provided since the first inquiry. He called me to provide information about the itinerary and see if I had any questions even before booking the tour. We communicated through WhatsApp for any other questions that came to mind after that call. After picking me up from the airport, he and Pilot (additional tour guide) provided plenty of information about the country to give me some context and we started our long drive to the impenetrable forest. The food was delicious with many options; the accommodation was very clean with exceptional service; and the transportation from Entebbe to Bwindi park was very comfortable (although long). As a solo female traveler, both tour guides (Sedrick and Pilot) did an exceptional job at enduring I accomplished everything intended to in Uganda, and always made me feel safe. I highly recommend to book your safari with this company because the quality and professionalism will not let you down.

Shakira Dec 14, 2018

Ngoni safaris uganda is the best tour operator in Uganda. A few weeks back we traveled to Bwindi impenetrable with sedrick to explore the beauty that is Uganda. This company took care of us . with most comfortable car , Great guide .We highly recommend it to the next travelers

Winnie Dec 19, 2018

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
I was going on a gorilla safari with my friend and this was going to be the first ever safari for the both of us. Luckily, the communication with the office was super easy and we got answers to all of the questions we needed. The driver / guide (Sedrick) was very professional and funny and made our time very pleasant. Also, he had a proper knowledge of the local area close to the Mgahinga national park and he promptly spoke some 7 languages which we thought was super positive. The safari was surely the highlight of out East African trip!

Ritah Jan 2, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
My Team and I did a five day trip, including Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls and Kidepo. It was truly an incredible experience. Our guide, Sedrick, was knowledgeable, skilled in driving in some challenging settings and just plain fun to hang out with for five days. The lodging was perfect, especially Savannah Lodge. The tents and beds were high quality. The views were spectacular. Meals were delicious and varied. I recommend Ngoni safaris Uganda with all my heart and soul!

Pilot May 28, 2019

https://www.safaribookings.com/operator/t17733
Our six days trip was amazing. The driver/guide had an incredible knowledge of animal and bird-life and are so interesting to talk to. His driving skills through lashing rain and massive puddles was admirable! The cooks managed to produce varied and delicious meals from the kitchen, which we ate both at accommodation or roadside when we were travelling from one place to another . At all times we felt safe and well-looked after. All in all, an incredible experience, due not only to the abundance of wildlife we were lucky enough to see, but also to the great efforts put to have our Safari a better one . The safari was full of fun. Traveling with ngoni safaris is my life time memorable experience and I highly recommend it to travellers who would love to visit uganda or EastAfrica for holidays, vacations or Adventure.. Even five stars are too small .
 
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