Jungle safaris offer the optimal safari experience for those who enjoy getting up close and personal with nature – experiencing both flora and fauna first-hand. There’s always the hope of something of interest lurking on the other side of tall grass or hanging in the branches above.
And African jungles, in particular, are world-renowned for their primates, offering the opportunity to see all sorts of African monkeys, and perhaps more excitingly chimpanzee and gorilla trekking experiences.
What exactly is a jungle?
Nearly everyone has an idea about how they’d define the biome, and most of them probably do have some correct information.
The best way to think of a jungle would be a densely forested area with tangled vegetation and underbrush in a tropical climate. Jungles are very similar to rainforests, but are drier than their relatives and don’t have as much skyscraping vegetation.
Where are Africa’s jungles?
As you might imagine, jungle safaris can take you into the heart of some of Africa’s most exotic locales. The majority of Africa’s jungles are focused close to the center of the continent, between the Sahara and Kalahari deserts, but pockets of jungle can also be found in Uganda and Tanzania in East Africa.
As with most wildlife, jungle animals are dependent on nourishment from water to live. Because of the difficulty of spotting wildlife in dense jungles, the majority of jungle safaris focus on wildlife spotting from or around water sources. This usually means spending time close to one Africa’s rivers or the surroundings of one of the many great lakes dotting the Rift Valley which form part of the borders between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The one significant exception here is when taking a jungle safari to enjoy an ape trekking experience where venturing deep into the jungle – and even up mountains or volcanos – is required.
Here’s our pick of the top national parks to experience a true jungle safari:
Parc National Des Volcans is a dense, wet jungle on the upper reaches of towering volcanos. Made famous by Dianne Fossey and her life’s work on the resident gorilla families.
Nyungwe National Park Dense, mountainous virgin forests with waterfalls, chimpanzees, and a host of smaller monkeys. There’s also a snazzy new jungle canopy walkway which gives a whole new take on the jungle safari.
Murchison Falls National Park has the Murchison Falls and Nile river running through thick forest and savanna with wildlife viewing not limited to the big five. A classic jungle safari whether you’re in a jeep or trekking.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Steep mountain rain forest with wide altitude span offering the ultimate jungle safari with the chance of coming face to face with a gorilla.
Kibale Forest National Park is made up of lush tropical rain forest in an area of outstanding natural beauty and habituated chimpanzee families to enliven your jungle safari trek.
Gombe National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
What to see on a jungle safari
There are all manner of jungle-dwelling animals in Africa – from the bongo to the African forest elephant. But probably the most alluring aspect of a jungle safari is the presence of our primate relatives. Monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees can all be seen in jungle environments in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Gorilla trekking on a jungle safari
There’s no creature on the face of the earth that has piqued more human interest than our evolutionary ancestors, the gorilla. Gorilla trekking is the best opportunity to observe the majesty of our primate relatives up close and personal, and in their natural habitat.
With dwindling numbers and habitat, gorilla safaris where you’re virtually guaranteed a sighting of a habituated gorilla are limited to just three national parks in Uganda and Rwanda. Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is possible, but an on/off affair, and not advised at this time due to security conditions in the country.
Tips for gorilla trekking
- A jungle environment tends to bring out even more bugs and flying insects than other types of safari, so be sure to have enough insect repellent.
- The trek to find gorillas can be a long and tiring one through dense rain forest, so ensure you’re well prepared – strong waterproof footwear and long sleeves and trousers are recommended to avoid scratches from plant life and the ever-present jungle ants.
- Garden gloves may sound silly but will prove useful when trekking through overgrown brambles and thorns.
- The hour that you get to spend with a gorilla family when you finally encounter them goes incredibly fast. Make sure you take time out of photographing them to simply watch and admire them.
- If you’re ill you won’t be allowed to trek to the gorillas, as illnesses can be shared. You’ll need to arrange a doctor’s note for a full permit refund in Uganda or a 50% permit refund in Rwanda.
- In order not to be viewed as a potential threat you should speak only very quietly when in the presence of a gorilla and don’t make any sudden movements.
- If a gorilla charges at you the advice is to crouch down in a submissive position until they calm down – never turn your back and run!
Best time to enjoy a jungle safari
If you’re heading to central Africa for a safari you should do so between December and March, during the dry season. The rainy season from May to September makes travel extremely difficult, with most dirt roads closed due to rain and mud. Flooding is common in the rainy season (particularly around rivers), and the risk of getting malaria is increased.
Jungle safari tips
Bloodborne illnesses are extremely common from mosquitos, flies, wasps, spiders, and other jungle insects. Companies that offer jungle safaris may request specific immunizations before your safari. Either way, you should seek professional medical advice and take proper medical precautions before you travel to Africa.
A jungle environment tends to bring out even more bugs and flying insects than other types of safari, so be sure to be well-stocked with insect repellent.
If you’re planning to do any walking in the jungle, long sleeves and trousers are recommended to avoid scratches from plant life. Read more on what to wear on safari.
Never travel alone in the jungle – always travel in groups and hire a guide.
Avoid using a flash on your camera if taking photos as it can ward off the wildlife. Want to know how to take the perfect wildlife photo?
Jungle safari resources
That’s our round-up of jungle safaris done. Any useful tips? Or any questions or additions you think we should make to the article? Let us know in the comments section below.