Our guide to
Gorilla Trekking and Primate Safaris
Worth every bite, scratch, smear of mud and bruise
Gorilla and primate trekking are some of the best wildlife safari experiences in the world today.
Africa is home to an outstanding number of primate species from the largest mountain gorilla, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees to the smallest pygmy mouse lemur.
A primate safari holiday is rewarding because primates are lively creatures, very clever and very similar in behaviour to humans.
Like us, they have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. Early primates 50 million years ago had long noses like the lemurs yet most other monkeys and gorillas have evolved relatively small noses like humans today.
Most primates, except gorillas and of course humans have adapted to an arboreal or tree living lifestyle and are diurnal, active by day and sleeping at night.
To see primates in the wild is to see a highly social animal world that is filled with playing, vocalising, grooming, eating and sometimes fighting!
Whilst lemurs are visible only in Madagascar, there are multiple places to venture fr a Mountain Gorilla safari including Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Republic of Congo safaris offer the chance to see the Lowland Gorillas in the wild. Ethiopia offers the rare chance to see Gelada Baboons whilst Chimpanzee safaris are in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda primarily.
An intimate hour is spent with the gorillas and you simply watch as these wild animals interact with their troupe in their natural habitat. In Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda you can also go on a chimpanzee trek where landscapes are stunning rainforests and wildlife interactions truly life changing. The gorilla safari or primate safari may not be an easy climb, sometimes the animals are located in remote sections of rainforest and the hike can be hard going. Rwanda offers the ‘easiest’ hike as the gorillas often come down the mountain close to the edge of the national park in search of the young bamboo shoots.
Does a primate safari sound enticing to you?Get in Touch
Best time to Primate Trek
It all depends on what primate species you wish to see on your primate safari.
Chimpanzee safaris in Uganda are year round. In Tanzania, whilst it is officially year round, it’s best in Mahale from June to February and the ultimate month October when the ground is at its driest.
Gorilla trekking can be done all year round in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. There are preferred times when less rain is about, namely June to September and December to February. Having said that, in the cooler and more likely to rain months, the gorillas venture down the mountain closer to food source and away from the cold tips of the forest so hiking time is less. Don’t let the fear of mud be a deterrent as all of the accommodations in Rwanda and Uganda we use assist with shoe cleaning as part of your stay!
Lemur Safaris in Madagascar are great most of the year depending on where you go. There is a cyclone season to be mindful of when planning a lemur safari.
Gelada Baboon spotting can also be done throughout the year in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains although the best time to trek is between September and November when it is dry, green and relatively dust free. October is often spectacular with mountain wildflowers in full bloom.
Where to Go
The primary countries for primate safaris are Uganda, Rwanda, the Congos, Tanzania and Madagascar.
Where and when you go will depend on your preferences to wildlife viewing, weather during travel, availability of permits and many other factors.
So get in touch today and we can help you in the planning process and make your primate safari dream a reality.
Top Tips for Primate Safaris
For primate safaris into forest areas with steep mountain slopes, we highly recommend you take gardening gloves to protect your hands as the going can get tough. These can then be donated to your lodge afterwards.
If you are seeking a gorilla safari, keep in mind Rwanda has easier and shorter climbs to reach the gorillas compared to Uganda and the DRC during rainy season.
If you are wanting a lemur safari, it’s worth understanding the diversity of landscapes and location of different lemur species in Madagascar because you won’t get to see all of the types. We recommend focusing on a minimum of two to three regions to ensure you get the opportunity to spot at least 15 – 30 different lemur species.
Chimpanzees are a more tricky wildlife safari because they move about and cover vast distances quickly. Expect to be trekking for a good 3 – 5 hours, sometimes more.
Mountain Gorilla Safari
Africa offers you the hugely rewarding opportunity to see mountain gorillas in the wild, something only a few people will ever have the opportunity to experience and there are various places you can go to trek to see them. Some 450 mountain gorillas inhabit an extinct volcanic region called the Virunga Range along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in East Africa. The other 350 or so inhabit a nearby area of Bwindi in Uganda, a near impenetrable rainforest. Both Rwanda and Uganda offer beautiful scenery, comfortable weather year-round and above all friendly people that will make your gorilla safari a journey to remember.
From the forest floor once you reach the chimpanzee family, you get to observe their daily interactions as they eat, play, fight, preen and rest with astonishingly similar movements to humans. It makes sense because chimpanzees are classified as great apes sharing 98% of our genes. Highly rewarding, it’s important to note that a chimpanzee safari is not easy! Expect to be hiking and scrambling through forest and across tough terrain in either Tanzania or Uganda for a number of hours (anywhere from three to nine). Highly sociable creatures, you are likely to see a dominant male, multiple females and young, sometimes up to twenty chimpanzees together. You may hear them before you see them as they communicate through screams, pant hoots, squeaks and barks.
Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar and with some 100 species recognised formally, you are not likely to ever get through the list.
Our favourites are the largest, Indri known for their size, running style, unusual wailing song and teddy bear appearance. They inhabit eastern rain forests like Andasibe.
Ring Tailed Lemur are stunning with banded tails and dark, mask like eyes. They can be found in dry scrub, deciduous and gallery forests in the south and south west around Isalo, Andringitra and Berenty.
Mouse Lemurs are abundant and found throughout the country, especially in Andasibe and Ranomafana.
Ethiopia Gelada Baboons
Socially adventuresome primates known as geladas live in herds of up to 1,200 high in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia and are quite a wildlife spectacle.
Actually monkeys, they are also known as the bleeding heart baboons and are fantastic to listen to and watch, with falsetto cries, explosive barks and soft grunts.
These noisy primates are also very playful and easy to follow, grazing in smaller harems amongst grasses.
Geladas are visually striking, their eyes burn bright, canines are like vampires and their golden manes glisten in the sun. This vegetarian primate is far from boring and it is like one big soap opera as a researcher once told us.
Gorilla & Primate Trekking feedback
From those who have ventured
Rwanda was a great holiday, we were sad to leave. Thanks Encompass Africa once again for organising such a great trip. Getting so close to the gorillas is certainly a tick on our very long Africa safari bucket list.
Rwanda gorilla experience – The SmithsRead more
Our holiday exceeded our expectations, It was absolutely fantastic!!!
Rwanda and Tanzania experience – Harris FamilyRead more
We saw so much more wildlife than I had imagined and so much closer with amazingly up close and personal experiences with lemurs, chameleons, geckos, fossa, snakes, birds and more!