Gorilla Trekking...in Uganda

There are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas alive today, and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is one of the primary places they can be seen. If you don’t need all the frills of the ultra-luxurious lodges found in Rwanda, there are certainly several unique and inviting accommodations to choose from for your gorilla trek right here.

1. CLOUDS MOUNTAIN GORILLA LODGE

Get settled in: Remotely located at more than 6,500 feet above sea level, this is Uganda’s highest-end option for trekking. Each of the eight spacious cottages have been constructed of local volcanic stone and feature private sitting rooms with cozy double-sided fireplaces, phenomenal views of the area’s volcanoes, and local art. With a five-star rating, the service is top-notch.

There is a view in every direction from the luxury cottages of the Lodge. ©Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda
There is a view in every direction from the luxury cottages of the Lodge. ©Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda

Proximity to the primates: The best part is its closeness to the Nkuringo (“rolling hills”) trailhead. You can literally walk from your cottage to meet your guide and begin trekking. No other lodge offers this kind of direct access. Plus, the Nkuringo gorilla family is one of the largest in Bwindi with around 19 members, including three silverbacks. Despite immediate trail access, this is also one of the most difficult treks in the park, beginning with a steep 1,500-foot descent. Good news: You can book a driver to meet you for the return ascent if you’re concerned about running out of steam. To see other gorilla families, you’ll need to drive about 45-minutes.

Meet the locals who live nearby. ©Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda
Meet the locals who live nearby. ©Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda

Why else you’ll love it: We’re big fans of Cloud Mountain’s partnership with Nkuringo village, which technically owns the lodge and exclusively employs community members. The lodge developed out of the need to protect both gorillas and locals. The lodge and its land now act as a buffer between outlying communities and gorilla families, while also providing important local revenue.

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2. BUHOMA LODGE

Get settled in: This rustic hidden gem is unlike any property you’ll find in the area. Built into the forested mountain slopes, it has a strong treehouse sensibility that sets it apart. With 10 spacious chalets, each with its own en suite bathroom, the lodge offers an intimate feel. The secluded and serene space is made extra cozy with a fireplace set into an elevated, outdoor lounge that's perfect for soaking in the lush surroundings.

These treehouses allow guests privacy and a view from the mountainside unlike any other. ©Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda
These treehouses allow guests privacy and a view from the mountainside unlike any other. ©Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda

Proximity to the primates: One of the only two lodges actually inside the boundaries of Bwindi, it’s just a minute walk to gorilla-viewing headquarters. The incredibly convenient location makes it one of our preferred options, especially for travelers already feeling daunted by an early morning trek departure. However, convenience doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be assigned to a group that requires a long drive before you begin your trek or that the hiking portion will be easier. Travelers should always be prepared for strenuous walking at high elevation.

A guest enjoys her coffee with an unbeatable view of the forest from her balcony. ©Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda
A guest enjoys her coffee with an unbeatable view of the forest from her balcony. ©Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda

Why else you’ll love it: Buhoma has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, thanks in part to the friendly on-site managers. It may sound cliché, but it really can feel like “coming home” after a long day in the mountains. The lodge also gets extra points for its eco-conscientiousness. It’s been designed using as much sustainable, local material as possible to help support surrounding communities, and the cottages are lit with solar power.

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RELATED: 6 Ways to Get Ready for Your Gorilla Trek

3. CHAMELEON HILL LODGE

Get settled in: With five volcanoes in the backdrop, this is a special place with a mesmerizing view—one that can be enjoyed from all 10 chalets. An oft-overlooked option, the lodge is perfect for travelers seeking an uncommon and somewhat edgy place to stay. Each chalet is decorated in a distinct vibrant color scheme and has its own veranda. It’s one of our very favorites for trekking in Uganda, and a must for those searching for a truly a off-the-beaten-path adventure.

Each room at Chameleon Hill has its own unique and whimsical style. ©Chameleon Hill Lodge, Lake Mutanda, Uganda
Each room at Chameleon Hill has its own unique and whimsical style. ©Chameleon Hill Lodge, Lake Mutanda, Uganda

Proximity to the primates: Gorilla and golden monkey treks are both available, but it's important to know that Chameleon Hill is not close to the action. It will take about 45 minutes to an hour drive each way for trekking, so folks who like to hit the snooze button should consider this before booking.

More adventure awaits guests at Lake Mutanda which is nestled just below the Lodge. ©Chameleon Hills Lodge, Lake Mutanda, Uganda
More adventure awaits guests at Lake Mutanda which is nestled just below the Lodge. ©Chameleon Hills Lodge, Lake Mutanda, Uganda

Why else you’ll love it: While farther from trekking, Chameleon Hill offers a wider variety of activities than most. Surrounded by dense vegetation overlooking Lake Mutanda, active travelers will love canoeing around the lake, exploring its numerous islands and nearby villages. Don’t expect canned experiences. The community interactions here are authentic and meaningful, whether you stop to chat for a few minutes, or spend the day assisting local farmers, getting a taste for local cuisine at the market, or learning about weaving and jewelry-making from craftswomen. Guests can also combine culture with added adventure on guided hikes.

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RELATED: Where to See Gorillas: Congo, DRC, Uganda, or Rwanda?

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