During my recent trip to Uganda, I was lucky enough to host 3 nights at the Gorilla Forest Sanctuary Retreats.
Gorilla hiking has been on my lists for a long time, but there are only so many permits allowed at a time to preserve the natural environment and prosperity of gorilla mountains. So, I wasn't sure if it was really going to be achieved.
However, the Gorilla Forest Camp Sanctuary Retreats made it possible and the design process was a breeze.
Dreaming of going to a gorilla and staying in one of the hottest jungle hotels? Here is my review of the Gorilla Forest Camp Sanctuary Retreats camp in Uganda!
Best time to visit
We visited at the end of the dry season, which I thought was a perfect time, as many of the animals are out to see. Camp rates correspond to different seasons of the year. You can find all these prices here!
From April 1 to May 30 and from November 1 to December 20, pricing is estimated at $ 415 on average. From January 6 to March 31, June 1 to June 30, and October 1 to October 31, the average price is $ 630. And from July 1 to September 30 and January 21 to January 3, pricing is around $ 795.
If the weather is your number one concern (and not the budget), I highly recommend visiting from June to August and December to February. Not only is it easier to spot wildlife, but the crowds are also much smaller.
Get there + what to expect
The easiest way to get to the camp is to take a plane from Entebbe to Kihihi. There is an airport located about 1.5 hours from the property and Bwindi. The camp can also be reached by car from Kampala, although it is 10 hours by car and can be quite time consuming.
Once you arrive, you have been assigned a host for your entire trip that I really liked!
They will pick you up from the airport and stay with you for the remainder of your stay. It led us to our activities would inform us daily. We knew him very well and it was great to have someone we could do everything for.
With only a total of 8 scenes, you never feel like you're in a big resort. The experience is much more intimate. Because you are in the middle of the jungle, the rooms are quite simple but comfortable. Any leisure would feel out of place.
The permanent tents are recently refurbished with extremely comfortable mattresses, bedside mosquitoes, full size bathtubs, double sinks, private showers and much more.
Rooms also feature bath salt, toiletries and clothes. And most importantly, we can't forget about umbrellas and lamps – perfect for bad weather when walking back to your "tent" at night.
You wake up every morning with a gentle knock on the door and coffee or tea. You don't have to worry about loud alarms. It's a good way to refresh and not be on your phone.
However, if you want to be on your phone, each scene has Wi-Fi that works very well. There is no Wi-Fi in the main accommodation, but I was very surprised by how fast the connection was to our room!
We stayed in one of the highest altitude scenes, so it was a bit further away from things … however, we had incredible views of the forest from our private balcony.
They were all foggy trees as far as the eye could see!
One morning I woke up and there were monkeys in the trees around us. Some even set out on the terrace to be truly nature. In fact, there are photos of gorillas on the property.
You never know what you'll get and that's part of the magic of this place.
Food + Food
One of the great benefits of staying at Gorilla Forest Camp Sanctuary Retreats is that everything is all-inclusive. This means that breakfast, lunch, dinner and alcohol are all provided.
If you are going for a hike, they will help you arrange a lunch and order the day before the trip so that it is ready for you on the day.
Breakfast is a buffet bar where you can get all sorts of delicious meals, including eggs made in the classroom. Lunch and dinner are rotating menus, but you can always choose a start, a master and a dessert. As a teen soup lover, I was offered a choice of soup before every meal, so I was in heaven!
In the evenings, you can sit by the fire in the central area and enjoy a drink of your choice. After dinner, Meyer and I would enjoy an Amarula and hot chocolate – Bailey's South African version.
Activities you can take part in at Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Camp include:
- Gorilla Trekking
- Batwa Tribe Experience
- Walking Tours
- Walk in the woods
- Queen Elizabeth National Park Drives
- Community Walking
We went for the gorilla hike (something that has been on my list for centuries!) But in terms of activities, there are some things you could do. Depending on your stay, you may only have time for a gorilla hike and visit the community.
We stayed for three nights which I think was perfect – you could do a fourth night if you were traveling too far, but we felt that three nights (and two full days) were perfect for us.
You could always do four nights if you want to do two days of gorilla hiking.
Hiking runs through the national park, so this is not a hotel activity.
However, the host sat us down the night before the hike to get through everything we needed to know to feel prepared. We could ask any questions about the experience, about Uganda, Bwindi, gorillas etc.
I think it took us an hour to explain all this, which I really appreciate, so that we can really be present and in the moment during the actual experience. Talk about great service and hosting!
On the day of hiking you will be taken to the hiking meeting point, where you will have dropped off and your hotel will pick you up at the end of the day. Everyone communicates, which is great – our host knew exactly when and where to get us.
I'll soon share more about gorilla hiking!
Batwa Tribe Experience
The experience of the Batwa race was free, however, one thing to note is that you have to make a donation or buy something to support each of the parties.
Support the local community!
You will start walking through the community to see different types of bananas and some coffee plantations. This is a great way to learn a little about local crops.
For the community piece, you'll get a guide and guide you through the whole thing and translate for you … a little more on that below! 🙂
Traveling to the village
While touring the village, wander around a mini village set up for tourism (no one lives there, people go there to showcase traditional lifestyles – so you don't really go to one's village, go to a section that was created to it looks and feels like a traditional village).
They demonstrated how they used them to cook, live and separate homes for women and children. From there, you go to see a traditional medical man, who felt a bit like a demon, but the other people in the "village" shared cultural things.
Then go see the Batwa people. The Batwa section has recreated the area where they lived in the rainforest.
In fact, with the Batwa, once the rainforest became a protected land, no one was allowed in the rainforest. As a result, they were essentially forced to leave their home, which was the only place they had lived in for generations. And then they came out on the outskirts of the communities, it was a really sad situation, and I was so excited about their situation.
However, one of the ways that people can now benefit from tourism is to go and visit the community and learn about the Batwa.
You can dive into what "traditional" life was like. They do a little demonstration of how they hunt in the rainforest and in the dance. You will then come across a lady who makes a traditional bread made of mushroom and millet flour and also makes delicious coffee, where she shows you how to bake it. Then another section where juice, rum and beer are made of bananas!
This is like the complete community experience! It is intended to be a showcase for tourism, so it is not the most authentic feeling, but you can buy from Batwa and it is something they can share and a way to give back to the people.
Bicycle repair shop
We stopped at Ride for Women – the bike repair shop where you can buy a whole bunch of baskets and beautiful things that local women do. You can support a victim of domestic abuse and help them.
While there, we visited some of the different projects that have been developed to empower locals. There are enough organizations to employ women and give them a safe place to work – from creating wraps and crafts to selling to tourists, to a fantastic bike repair shop.
We went to the children's hospital, which was extremely shocking, we went out to see them in their neonatal unit, which is a very incredible facility to have to help with sick newborns.
You can see how much infrastructure they have to be in such a remote part of Uganda and how well they are doing. So it was very cool to see. Again, you can donate here or you can go online after donating
We finished the day by asking our driver to take us to the city so I could make some food on the way, and then we went to a local bar to grab a beer with her and the locals to see what everyday life was like. It was fun to watch football sipping on boiling water.
Depending on your level of interest, the community experience can take anywhere from about 3-5 hours and can cost anywhere from $ 100 and above (depending on whether you buy things as I did).
In my opinion
The property is extremely comfortable and they have a small spa which has been great since we traveled so far. It is definitely a bucket list as a destination.
The office has a small gift boutique which is quite convenient because you can shop for local crafts there without having to leave the property.
In terms of activities, it was great because we could close everything with the property so they could help us secure our gorilla hiking licenses. This is useful because it is very limited. I really found the property went above and beyond to make sure we had a really great hiking experience.
They also have extra equipment so they borrowed (at no cost) a backpack and a walking stick. If you need gloves or any other piece of gear, have them, which is a very nice touch. I had brought my own dry bag, but it was too small, and I didn't think to bring a second backpack to bring lunch and water, so we ended up borrowing one of the great ones.
I would definitely recommend staying at Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Camp – especially if gorilla hiking is on your bucket list, and if you want to get a deeper understanding of the people of Uganda.
Thank you for staying at Gorilla Forest Camp Sanctuary Retreats for my stay. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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