Intelligent, powerful, and endangered; gorillas are our closest living relatives after chimpanzees and bonobos. Do you dream of gorilla trekking? Is it on your bucketlist? Did you think gorilla trekking was off limits for families with young children? The national parks in Uganda do require children to be 12 years of age or older, but if I learned anything over the last three years of traveling with Athena, it’s that nothing is impossible with children. Sometimes you just need to be creative with planning and direction.
83% of American families plan to take at least one vacation with family members, including children, this year. They don’t need to be restricted to all-inclusive beach vacations. Embrace family life and continue showing the world that we are only restricted by our imagination.
Here is an itinerary from Africa Adventure Safaris that incorporates family with wild adventure. Parents still experience gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking without leaving the kids at home. Kids, too, have the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a bucketlist dream come true.
Day 1: Transfer to Kibale Forest National Park & Chimp Tracking
Early morning at 6:00am, you will be picked from your hotel in Kampala and set off to Kibale Forest National Park reaching early for Lunch. One parent will go for afternoon chimp tracking as the other remains with the child to go for nature walk. Dinner and overnight at Chimpanzee Guest House/Kibale Primates Lodge/Ndali Lodge.
Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking & Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park
In the morning after an early breakfast, one parent will go for Chimpanzee tracking as the other remains with the child/children. You will then have Lunch and drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park reaching early for evening game drive. Dinner and overnight at Enganzi lodge/Mweya Safari Lodge/Kyambura Game Lodge.
Day 3: Game Drive & Boat Cruise
In the morning, you will go for game drive along the Kasenyi sector in search of game such as lions, elephants, hyenas, bushbucks, and many more. Return to the lodge for late breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon, you will go for a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel. This will reward you with game such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and buffalo. Dinner and overnight stay.
Day 4: Transfer to Bwindi National Park
After an early breakfast, transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park through the Ishasha the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park for viewing tree-climbing lions, which are common in this place. You will have lunch en route and proceed to Bwindi National Park for an evening arrival. Dinner and Overnight stay at Bakiga Lodge/Ruhiija Lodge.
Day 5: Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi & Cultural Walk
After an early morning breakfast, one parent will drive to the park headquarters for briefing and go for gorilla tracking adventure. The child and the parent will meanwhile go for nature walk. Dinner and overnight stay.
Day 6: Gorilla Tracking & Transfer to Lake Bunyonyi
After an early morning breakfast, the other parent will drive to the park headquarters for briefing and go for gorilla tracking adventure. It normally takes between 1 to 6 hours to encounter the gorillas. You will be allowed to stay in the presence of these awesome primates for at least an hour. On return, you will drive to Lake Bunyonyi for overnight at Bunyonyi Overland Resort.
Day 7: Transfer back to Kampala/Kigali & Departure
In the morning after an early breakfast, you will EITHER set off back to Kampala with several stopovers to do shopping and photography, reaching Kampala in the afternoon and transfer to Entebbe airport for departure flight OR transfer to Kigali for departure from Kigali.
Tips for Gorilla Trekking and Visiting Uganda with Kids
1. Book with a tour company like Africa Adventure Safaris. I can’t stress this enough. Traveling in Uganda can be difficult. There are two different rainy seasons, the roads are difficult to navigate, access to hotels can vary greatly, permits can be difficult to obtain, the distances between parks is vast, road signs are almost nonexistent, and cell or navigation services can be limited. You can avoid unnecessary stress by working with professionals. They will help you choose the best schedule, activities, and accommodations to meet your needs and they will be with you for the entire process to ensure an enjoyable trip.
2. Book during the dry season. Uganda’s climate is tropical. This means it is generally rainy (particularly during the months of March to May and September t0 November), while the remaining months (December to February and June to August) comprise Uganda’s two dry seasons. The rainy season can be much more unpredictable with mudslides and impassable roads. There are less tourists during the rainy season, but it’s unnecessary stress when traveling with young children.
3. Pack snacks from home and bring them on your adventures. Restaurants and markets can be spread apart and the food is drastically different from the comfort foods of home, especially if you’re an American. A few snacks will go a long way with kids when you’re traveling to the next adventure or searching for wildlife. (Just be sure you’re allowed to eat if you’re on foot in a national park.)
4. Pack light-weight, long sleeve shirts and pants. It’s hot in Uganda, but long clothes give you protection from the sun and bugs. I brought two pairs of shorts but I never wore them once. Layering clothes is the best way to plan.
5. Pack wipes for you and for them. The water in Uganda can contain harmful bacteria. While you are usually give bottled water to drink and brush your teeth, it’s helpful to have wipes on hand for washing and cleaning.
6. Some lodges have age restrictions. If you are not booking with a tour company, don’t forget to ask if the hotel or lodge has age restrictions. Also, ask about the distance or steps between your room and the lobby or restaurant. Many hotels are located in mountainous areas and can be difficult to reach with kids.
7. Pack rain ponchos. The weather can change from one minute to the next in Uganda. It’s a great idea to have a rain poncho for each member of your family. It’s light-weight and easy to pack. It’s much better than doing a nature walk soaking wet.
8. Let your kid play with locals. The children in Uganda are friendly and curious. Some of my favorite travel memories with my toddler daughter are allowing her to meet and interact with locals. It’s amazing the unique opportunities that develop from interacting with children from different countries.
9. Local kids love asking you for a pen. Bring extra pens from home and let your children share them with locals. They will be grateful and it’s a great conversation starter.