On this gorilla project, you will engage in a wide variety of activities within the local communities, supporting areas of mountain gorilla conservation in and around the national parks. You will also take part in two breath-taking treks to see the beautiful endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Take part in two gorilla treks (on separate days) to see two families of the endangered mountain gorillas in the stunning Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The treks can last anything from 45 minutes to several hours, but once the gorillas are located you will get to spend a whole hour observing the family of apes as they feed and socialise with each other. Each family differs in size and personality, so you will gain a unique insight into how the social structures and behavioural patterns of the two differ.
You will have the chance to take part in a once in a lifetime chimpanzee trek in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It really is 'into the forest we go' to search for these great apes in the midst of their treetop homes - and hearing a chimp call for the first time is a truly unforgettable experience that will stay with you for life! While the chimps may be slightly easier to find than the gorillas, you will still need to keep your eyes peeled to spot them, and don't forget to bring your camera along for the journey too!
Spend the day visiting two of Gorilla Organisation's community projects. These grassroots projects consist of various activities: such as reformed poachers learning agriculture, beekeeping for farmers with small plots of land, and a visit to a local Batwa community who have been taught sufficient agricultural skills which give them the ability to provide for themselves and their families. All these projects have been developed to enable the local communities to have a source of income without relying on what can be found in the forests.
Pedal Power Cinema
On a visit to a local school, you will take part in Gorilla Organisation’s ‘Pedal Power Cinema’ initiative. Through the use of film, shown using a projector powered by an adapted bicycle, you will help educate school children on the importance of gorilla conservation. These children simply cannot afford to go and witness the gorillas in all their glory, despite the apes residing right on their doorstep, so these films captivate the children and encourage them to ask questions and learn more about protecting this endangered species, prompting them to act on this knowledge as they grow.
Mgahinga Community Development Organisation
Spend time with the local communities of Uganda as you assist with the varying community development projects run by this inspirational charity. These projects focus on environmental aspects such as tree-planting and reforestation work, through to livelihood and farming projects. This activity is primarily for the purpose of teaching the locals more about the issues surrounding deforestation. Plus, some of the seedlings planted may also provide the community with materials they can use for handicrafts!
Mgahinga Community Development Organisation - School Visits
You will visit some of the schools in Kisoro where you will help to educate the local children, through singing, dancing and other workshops. These activities help to expand their knowledge on the importance of gorilla conservation and the preservation of other Ugandan species which are on the brink of extinction. Additionally, you will help to educate the children and their parents on the significance of waste management and sanitation in the area for having a healthy environment for both humans and wildlife to inhabit.
Mgahinga National Park
You will take a trip to Mgahinga National Park with some of the local school children to educate them first hand about the fascinating biodiversity in the area. The children who will be joining you come from the only special needs school in the district: the Kisoro Demonstration School. This gives the children an opportunity they would not otherwise receive, as part of the money you will have paid will pay for their entry into the park and this activity is particularly rewarding for this reason!
Join a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park in search of various species of African wildlife. This park offers some incredible opportunities for spotting big game such as elephants, and potentially even the rare tree-climbing lions that call this park home. The stunning landscapes of this national park and wildlife it beholds truly provide ideal photo opportunities, so make sure you keep your camera at the ready because you never know what animals you may encounter!
Spend an afternoon aboard a boat cruising along the Kazinga channel to spot large pods of hippos and incredible birdlife. You may even see the occasional elephant or lion coming to the water's edge to drink! You will spend two hours out on the water where you can witness more of Uganda's stunning landscapes. Throughout this activity, you may want to keep your camera to hand at all times, as beautiful photo opportunities are sure to arise!
Please note, itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline. All trips, however, will include two gorilla treks, one chimpanzee trek and work with the local communities.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will be met upon arrival into Kigali International Airport by a project representative and transferred to your accommodation for your first night's stay. Here you will meet the rest of your group and enjoy a welcome dinner together before getting some rest before the adventure begins the following morning.
Day 2 - Arrive in Kisoro:
After breakfast, you will take a private transfer to Kisoro which is a 3-hour drive away. Along the way, you will travel through the Rwandan/Ugandan Border and also stop for a spot of lunch. You will then have some time to relax and settle into your accommodation upon arrival into Kisoro.
Day 3 - First Gorilla Trek:
Today you will join your first of two gorilla treks as you head into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. You will be led by park guides who will impart their local knowledge and wisdom about endangered mountain gorillas, their habitat and their conservation. This will be where some of the best memories are created on your trip, so pay close attention to the guides!
Day 4-5 - Community Development Projects:
These days will be spent taking part in sustainable projects run by the Mghahinga Community Development Organisation which aim to give the local community a better life. These projects can range from teaching kindergarten and primary school children to helping with small building and agricultural projects and are a great way to integrate with and learn about the local communities.
Day 6 - Second Gorilla Trek:
Today you will go out on your second gorilla trek, this time into Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for a chance to see the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. You will be going to see a different gorilla family, offering you the chance to understand and appreciate the difference in behaviours between the two groups of apes.
Day 7 - Queen Elizabeth National Park:
Today you will transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park. This will give you the perfect chance to take in the surroundings of one of the most beautiful countries on earth as you pass through the varying landscapes of verdant Uganda. Upon arrival, you will have some time to relax before having dinner and getting some rest.
Day 8 - Kazinga channel & Game Drive:
Spend the morning driving through the wonders of the national park looking for all manner of iconic African species. After going in search of herds of elephants and the majestic African lion, you will spend the afternoon aboard a boat cruising along the Kazinga Channel, where you can expect to see more hippos than you could ever imagine!
Day 9 - Chimpanzee Trek:
To check another primate off of your list, you will spend the morning searching for chimps as you embark on a chimpanzee trek. The call of a chimpanzee can be heard from impressive distances, so this is an animal you will definitely hear before you see!
Day 10 - Transfer to Kisoro:
Today you will take an overland transfer back to Kisoro. After arriving, you will visit a local family project where organic Arabica coffee is made. You will see all parts of the process from planting to consumption and then get the chance to participate in the process, before tasting the coffee of course. The evening will then be free for you to relax back at your accommodation.
Day 11 - Gorilla Organisation:
Join the Gorilla Organisation for a full day with their pedal-powered cinema. You will spend a day with the team who are taking the pioneering pedal-powered cinema system to remote schools and communities showing conservation, education and gorilla-based films. This is a great opportunity to interact with the local school children and show them why conserving Uganda's national wildlife is so important.
Day 12 - Mgahinga National Park:
Today you will trek through Mgahinga National Park with the children of the Kisoro Demonstration school which works primarily with children with special needs. Each child will get a direct education in the forest they are being taught to protect. On this day, you will visit the park with the children, and witness their willingness and passion to protect the world they live in.
Day 13 - Gorilla Organisation:
Today will be spent at one of Gorilla Organisation's many community project sites. This could involve anything from teaching reformed poachers about how to provide for their families through agriculture, beekeeping with local farmers, or visiting the local Batwa community.
Day 14 - Final Day:
Today you will transfer back to Kigali and you will then be taken to the airport if you have arranged to catch an evening flight. Should you prefer to stay overnight and travel the following day, or if you will be staying in Rwanda for longer, you will be transferred to your accommodation in Kigali.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking with a further deposit of $1,131 required 6 months prior to your start date. This is required so your gorilla trekking permits can be secured. Your final balance payment will then be due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
It is possible for groups of 2 or more to book dates not listed below but this is dependent on the availability of permits. Please enquire for more information.
Updates & Outcomes
This trip (founded in 2011) has been voted as one of the most innovative eco-travel initiatives in the Guardian's Green Travel List. This is the most responsible and sustainable manner in which to view endangered mountain gorillas in the wild, as the programmes that this project supports have truly remarkable positive impacts on local communities.
One of the most remarkable of these is the Kisoro Demonstration School for children with special needs, which this project supports financially. This school provides a safe learning environment for these children in the area, who may not otherwise have access to an effective education. We are thrilled to be able to support these children on a year by year basis, and seeing their progress each time volunteers visit is a thrilling privilege. One of the children who we have supported through their schooling is Gedion, and you can read about how this courageous young man is doing today here.
As of 2019, the Mgahinga Community Development Organisation have achieved much through their community projects: establishing a botanical garden, planting 200 medicinal and indigenous tree species, ensuring waste management systems, sanitation and hygiene at both the local school, and trading centre by Mgahinga National Park, and even installing garbage collection houses and recycling bins! All of these activities have been completed by project leaders, school children and volunteers combined, but perhaps the most vital achievement is the expansion in gorilla conservation education for the custodians of the Ugandan ecosystem: the local communities.
The initiatives this project supports, and the interaction and dedication of the volunteers help greatly to bridge the gap between local communities and the endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit the same land.
Volunteers in Uganda are essential in all the work and success of this project, as their enthusiasm and passion help to empower the local people with knowledge and strategies. Both the initiatives the project supports and the interaction of the volunteers helps greatly to bridge the gap between local communities and the endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit the same land.
This is your chance to read all about the Gorilla families who live in the forest at the site of The Great Gorilla Project! There are currently four different Gorilla troops in the forest, but to see them all you'll have to make sure you keep your eyes peeled!
- posted on 11/10/2018
- by Joanne Dutton
Take a look at this detailed and exciting volunteer review written by Joanne Dutton after her trip to The Great Gorilla Project in Uganda. This is one testimonial you won't want to miss!
The Great Projects are proud to have sponsored a young Ugandan man named Gedion to help him through school and achieve his dream of being a carpenter, and we are delighted to bring you an update on how he is doing! Gedion is progressing well and 2017 has been another very good year for him, so take a look and read his story!
Is this trip for you?
Your first night will be spent at a beautiful guesthouse close to Kigali International Airport. There is an incredible garden grill restaurant here and all of the bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms. The accommodation in Kisoro is more basic, but still includes rooms with mosquito-nets and ensuite bathrooms. This guesthouse also boasts a stunning view of the volcanoes on a clear day.
In Queen Elizabeth National Park you will stay in a hostel right in the middle of the park and will be surrounded by wildlife. The rooms are again shared with shared shower and bathroom facilities. This accommodation also offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities you will have whilst in the national park, as elephants and hippos are known to make frequent visits.
Throughout the project, rooms will be allocated on a same-sex twin share basis, although double rooms are also available for couples. For more privacy, it is also possible to upgrade to a single room for an additional fee.
3 meals per day are provided and for most, you will have a full menu to choose from. All beverages (including alcoholic) are not included but are available at each accommodation and throughout the trip. When taking part in the gorilla treks, water and a packed lunch will be provided.
This project does not involve much in the way of physical labour but is heavily based around trekking on the gorilla tours - usually in fairly humid conditions. Therefore, all volunteers should have high enough levels of fitness to be able to partake in regular treks. No specific skills or experience are required, just commitment to the project and its aims. You must be prepared to work alongside other members of the team and to bring an upbeat, positive attitude to the endeavour as a whole.
All visitors to Uganda are required to have a yellow fever vaccination and must present the certificate upon arrival. Any other vaccinations will depend on your medical history, so we recommend speaking with your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination requirements.
When is the best time to volunteer?
Whilst you are able to volunteer throughout the year there are certain elements that are unavailable in July and August, namely any work at the Kisoro Demonstration School or with its pupils. Therefore, we are unable to offer this project in these months.
Popular months to gorilla trek in Uganda are May to September and December to February due to the drier weather, although it is warm all year round with temperatures between 25 and 28°C (77-82°F).
You will need to arrive into Kigali International Airport on the start date of your project, preferably between 8am and 7pm, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to Hotel Chez Lando in Kigali for your first night's accommodation.
On the final day of the project, you are transferred back to Kigali in the afternoon and so will need to book a flight that departs Kigali International Airport after 7pm. This is because you may not get back to Kigali until 4pm so this will ensure you have enough time and will not miss your flight. You can also book another night at Hotel Chez Lando and fly the next day if there are better flight options but this will be at an additional cost.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
We recommend obtaining an East Africa Visa as this allows you to travel between Uganda and Rwanda, and means you only have to apply for 1 visa. This can be applied for online at https://irembo.gov.rw/rolportal/web/dgie/east-africa-tourist-visa and costs USD100.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Two gorilla-trekking permits
- One chimpanzee-trekking permit
- A game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park
- A boat trip along the Kazinga Channel
- All accommodation and meals
- Transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- A monetary contribution to the two charities involved in the project
What's not included?
- Any flights
- All beverages