The Great Gorilla Project

Enjoy witnessing the stunning Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat on this gorilla conservation project!

This award-winning gorilla project gives you the chance to get up close and personal with captivating and endangered mountain gorillas in the forest greenery of their natural Ugandan habitat. The work undertaken on this project is essential in bridging the gap between indigenous communities and the gorillas who share their vulnerable rainforest homes.

As a volunteer, you will not only be able to actively contribute to the ongoing protection of these incredible creatures, but you will also have the privilege of watching them roaming freely in their natural habitat. Your gorilla treks will take place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - a sanctuary that is home to half of the world's endangered mountain gorillas, and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Here you will collaborate with the local communities on environmental protection efforts, along with livelihood initiatives. Additionally, you will help to educate the local community on the importance of gorilla conservation and help them implement strategies to actively contribute towards this cause.

As well as two permit-inclusive gorilla treks, this volunteer project also includes an excursion to Lake Mburo National Park where you’ll embark on two classic African game drives and venture out by boat to spot pods of hippos and crocodiles. You will also have the opportunity to track wild chimpanzees in Kalinzu Forest, where you’ll participate in their habituation process.

Not only is this an incredible opportunity to experience once-in-a-lifetime great ape encounters, but this project will also wrap you up in the warmth of Uganda’s local communities and paint a picture of the country’s unsung beauty and incredible wildlife that will stay with you for a lifetime.   

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Lauren Mackinnon

Activities

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.

Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Gorilla Trekking Take part in two gorilla treks (on separate days) to see two families of 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.
Chimpanzee in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience Immerse yourself in a one-of-a-kind adventure in Kalinzu Forest as you embark on a trek to seek out chimpanzees. You'll follow the resounding calls that echo around the forest, and once you've located the troop, you'll spend time with them and be a part of their acclimatisation to human presence. The chimpanzee habituation process offers visitors and researchers more time to spend with the troops than a typical trek, and the permit fee (included in the price) contributes to forest preservation by mitigating poaching and habitat loss, benefiting both local communities and wildlife.
Ellen DeGeneres Campus - Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Ellen DeGeneres & Dian Fossey Museum Take a guided tour around the Ellen DeGeneres campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. You will learn more about gorillas and the local environment and gain an insight into the important work that is being done to help conserve gorillas in Rwanda. There is also a beautiful on-site restaurant where you will get to enjoy lunch and look out at the stunning Volcanoes National Park.
Mgahinga Community Development Organisation
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!
Local School Visits
Local 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
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!
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo Game Drives & Boat Trip You'll be treated to a whole day of classic African wildlife viewing on two game drives and a boat trip on Lake Mburo! Starting early, you'll embark on a morning safari in Lake Mburo National Park, where all manner of zebras, buffalos, hyenas, and more roam the grounds. You'll then board a boat and explore the lake, spotting hippo pods and crocodiles as you go. Finally, you'll wrap up the day with an evening game drive in search of the elusive leopard and other fascinating nocturnal wildlife.
Children at Potter's Village in Uganda
Potter's Village Spend a morning visiting the Potter’s Village child crisis and medical centre. As one of the charities you will be supporting as part of your project fee, you will collect items that have been purchased and deliver them directly to the centre to help support the babies and children that so desperately need them. You will then get involved with some more hands-on activities as you support the centre by helping with some small maintenance tasks or assist with the nutrition programme. This offers a wonderful eye-opening experience, and you will leave knowing you have made a real impact to the lives of the children here.
Pygmy Community Visit
Pygmy Community Visit During an afternoon spent with the Pygmy Community, you will hear captivating stories about their tribe's history and the heart-wrenching displacement from their homeland. The Pygmy people have an exceptional connection with the forest, which they once called home, and they will demonstrate this through their unique storytelling, accompanied by breath-taking views of their ancestral land. You'll be welcomed wholeheartedly and encouraged to join them in traditional songs, dances, and hunting practices. You will have the privilege of experiencing a cultural exchange that helps preserve their way of life and secures a future for their children.

Itinerary

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 be 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 – Travel to Kisoro & Dian Fossey Museum: After breakfast, you will take a private transfer to Kisoro which is approximately a 3-hour drive. Along the way, you will visit the Dian Fossey Museum and take a tour of the Ellen DeGeneres campus where you will also enjoy a spot of lunch. You will then finish your journey to Kisoro, crossing the Rwandan/Ugandan Border as you go, and upon arrival, will have some time to relax and settle into your accommodation.
Day 3 - Community Development Projects: Today, you’ll be taking part in sustainable projects run by the Mgahinga Community Development Organisation which aim to give the local community a better life. These projects are a great way to integrate with and learn about the local communities and can range from teaching primary school children to helping with small building and agricultural projects to reforestation activities as you plant trees in the buffer zone of the national park.
Day 4 - Kisoro Demo School & Organic Coffee Tour: Visit the Kisoro Demonstration School, which works primarily with deaf and blind children and children with disabilities . This will be hands-on, and you may get involved in a variety of activities from teaching and playing games with the kids to helping renovate a classroom. Afterwards, 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.
Day 5 - Potter’s Village & Pygmy Community Visit: After breakfast, you’ll take a trip to Potter’s Village, a local child crisis and medical centre. Here you will see the compassionate work undertaken to care for Uganda’s abandoned, orphaned, and sick children. Included in the project fee is a donation to Potter’s Village so you will stop on route to collect the items that have been purchased and deliver them directly to the centre, allowing you to see how your participation in this project is making a real difference to local communities in need. After, you will visit a local Pygmy community and learn all about their history and culture.
Day 6 - First Gorilla Trek: Today you will join your first of two gorilla treks as you head into Mgahinga National Park. 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 as you witness the family of apes interacting and communicating with each other.
Day 7 – Leave for Lake Mburo National Park: Your group will transfer to Lake Mburo National Park today, stopping for lunch on the way. The drive will provide the opportunity to witness and appreciate the varying landscapes of Uganda and its remarkably diverse wildlife.
Day 8 – Game Drives & Boat Trip: Spend the morning driving through the wonders of the national park looking for all manner of iconic African species. By day, you’ll see zebras, buffalo, and birds galore! The afternoon will see you aboard a boat cruising along Lake Mburo, where you may be treated to sights of hippo pods and Nile crocodiles. Finally, you’ll wrap up the day searching for leopards on the hunt for their evening meal!
Day 9 – Transfer to Kalinzu Forest: Today, you'll transfer to Kalinzu Forest, where you will reach your eco-friendly accommodation in time for lunch. The Cielo Country Inn is a charming family-owned hotel that runs several ecological projects that benefit the environment and the local community. This afternoon, you might have the opportunity to participate in activities such as harvesting honey!
Day 10 – Chimpanzee Habituation Experience: Cross another experience off your bucket list by embarking on a trek to locate troops of wild chimpanzees! Once you find them, you will spend time with the troop as part of their habituation process and learn the intricacies of their conservation, alongside what makes their social hierarchy and behaviours unique.
Day 11 – Transfer to Kisoro: Today, you will be taking an overland transfer back to Kisoro. On the way, you will stop for lunch and visit a lookout point to see stunning views of Lake Bunyonyi. In the evening, you will have free time to relax at your accommodation and rest up for more adventures to come.
Day 12 – Mgahinga National Park: Having already spent time at the Kisoro Demonstration School, today you will get the opportunity to trek through Mgahinga National Park with some of the children. This not only provides a wonderful opportunity to interact with the kids on a personal level and share experiences, but you will also be providing them with a direct education in the forest they are being taught to protect.
Day 13 – Second Gorilla Trek: Today you will go on your second gorilla trek, this time into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, 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 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.

Start Dates & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking with a further deposit of $1,500 required 6 months prior to your start date to secure your gorilla trekking permits. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your start date.

Flexible Payment Options: If you select a start date more than 3 months in advance, we offer convenient payment plans, allowing you to pay off your balance in instalments.

Tip: Groups of 2 or more can book dates not listed below, but this is dependent on the availability of permits. Please get in touch with our travel team for more information.

Duration Price
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Payment breakdown


Accommodation

Accommodation

On the first night, you will be staying at a lovely hotel situated near Kigali International Airport. You will be given a spacious room that overlooks the beautiful gardens and has an en-suite bathroom. The accommodation in Kisoro, where you will be spending most of your time on the project, is basic but comfortable, and your room will include a mosquito net and en-suite bathroom. There is also a bar/lounge area where you can make use of the free Wi-Fi. Next, you will be in Lake Mburo National Park where you can enjoy stunning views of the lake from your safari tent. Your shared room will have an en-suite bathroom, linens, and power points to ensure your comfort after a busy day. In Kalinzu Forest you will be accommodated at an eco-friendly, family-run hotel that offers large, clean rooms with en-suite bathrooms and Wi-Fi.

All rooms are allocated on a twin-share, same-sex basis, although double rooms are available for couples. For more privacy, it is also possible to upgrade to a single room for an additional fee.

Meals & Beverages

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.


Project Details

When is the best time to volunteer?

The most popular months to go gorilla trekking in Uganda are from May to September and December to February, as whilst it is warm throughout the year with average temperatures of 25-28°C (77-82°F), these are the driest months and so offer the best conditions for trekking.

Average Monthly Weather in Kisoro, Uganda

We offer select group start dates during these months but can also offer private trips for groups of two or more throughout the year, except for in July and August as the schools are closed for holidays.

Getting There

You will need to arrive into Kigali International Airport (KGL) on the start date of your project, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to Hotel Chez Lando in Kigali for your first night's accommodation. Arriving before 6pm is preferred as there is a welcome dinner at approximately 7pm, but if you have a flight arriving later, a transfer can still be arranged.

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.

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities will require a tourist visa to enter Rwanda and Uganda. It may be possible to obtain a visa on arrival, but if not, 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. Tourist visas for Rwanda can be applied for online at https://irembo.gov.rw/user/citizen/service/dgie/request_a_visa, and tourist visas for Uganda can be applied for online at https://visas.immigration.go.ug/.

Fitness & Skills

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.

Vaccinations

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.


Videos

The Great Gorilla Project - Project Video 2023
Discover The Great Gorilla Project

See how you could spend your time as a volunteer on The Great Gorilla Project. This project combines incredible wildlife experiences with community impact as you adventure through stunning national parks, visit indigenous communities and schools, go on a game drive and a boat cruise, and of course, join the highly anticipated gorilla and chimpanzee treks.



Reviews

Debra Gaudet, 2024
         

We had a fantastic trip!! Our guides Dennis and Peter were amazing and really went above and beyond to make sure we had the best experience possible. The highlight of our trip is visiting the communities and seeing the children who live there. It was very eye opening seeing first hand the challenges of everyday living for them. We were so happy that we were able to contribute monetarily to the school, the hospital and also to the Batwa people. Our highlight is being able to give the Batwa tribe in Kisoro water. We are currently able to finance more projects with the help of our guides. Our goal is to help them be self-sufficient in the future. Our money goes much further in Uganda. Of course the gorillas were amazing and such an amazing experience. We were very humbled by how we were received by the people in Uganda. It was one of the best trips we've done so far.


Sharon Silverman, 2024
         

First and foremost, I have to say that this was an experience of a lifetime. I am slowly living my bucket list and gorilla trekking was on it. Doing this with The Great Projects made it affordable for me. It was an opportunity to both give to members of the community in Uganda and to also live my dream of seeing gorillas in the wild. We also got to see chimpanzees, another experience I can now check off of my bucket list. About this wonderful trip and the people and animals I met along the way…. The folks at the Golden Monkey, our home in Kisoro were all kind and helpful. I will never forget Dennis, who was our driver, guide, and friend. Dennis went above and beyond to get us out to and sometimes share in our day adventures. Sheba, who runs the project in Uganda is a person who makes you feel like you matter. After our first gorilla trek at Mhahinga, Sheba celebrated this exceptionally wonderful day with drumming and dancing. During his time with us at our daily dinners, he shared stories about himself and his community that were both funny and poignant.


Hillary Schubach, 2023
         

Our local host was lovely/fun/interesting but could have been 1) more organized about scheduling, and 2) generous in certain aspects of our experience. Our volunteering experiences were also somewhat different than advertised, but it worked out in the end (we all would have liked to do more). Thank you for all - I would definitely travel with you all again.



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What's Included

  • Two gorilla-trekking permits
  • One chimpanzee habituation experience permit
  • Two game drives in Lake Mburo National Park
  • A boat trip on Lake Mburo
  • A visit to the Ellen DeGeneres Dian Fossey Museum
  • All accommodation and meals
  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Full orientation and support from the project managers
  • A monetary contribution to the Mgahinga Community Development Organisation and the Potters Village Child Crisis Centre

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • All beverages