Adult male western lowland gorilla

Where do gorillas live?

Feb 14, 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Short answer: gorillas live in the forests of equatorial Africa. But there are four different types of gorillas, and each has its own region. We tell you where each one lives AND, importantly, where to go to visit them!

Ah, gorillas. They've captured all of our hearts. Big, shy and sociable, these beautiful creatures are both familiar and mysterious.

There are two species of gorilla, each with two subspecies. The most well-known subspecies is the mountain gorilla. Sadly, all four subspecies are critically endangered. But wonderfully, conservation efforts have led to growth in the mountain gorilla population!

Here's a summary of the distribution of each subspecies of gorilla, and where (if safe) you can go to see them.


Eastern gorillas are the bigger ape. They have mostly blackish hair, distinguishing them from western gorillas which have more brownish hair.

Both subspecies of the eastern gorilla (gorilla beringei) live on the eastern fringe of the Congo Basin.

Mountain gorillas

Mother and infant mountain gorillas


  • Countries: Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC
  • Habitat: Montane rainforest (up to 4,000 m above sea level)
  • Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei
  • Population: Estimated 1,100 to 1,200

Mountain gorillas live in two separate groupings:

  • The Virunga Mountains (which straddle the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda)
  • Bwindi Forest (in southwest Uganda)

Mountain gorillas have the longest hair of any gorillas; they need it to keep them warm because they live at high altitude.

Interesting fact: There's talk of classifying the Bwindi gorillas as a separate subspecies to the Virunga gorillas.

Where you can visit mountain gorillas

Both Rwanda and Uganda have well-organised, safe and thriving gorilla trekking setups. We recommend choosing between these two countries over the DRC.

As such, you have three great options of places to see mountain gorillas:

As we discuss in Gorilla trekking Uganda vs Rwanda, it costs US$1,500 to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda, versus $800 to go gorilla trekking in Uganda. The treks are identical in nature. This makes Uganda the much cheaper option. And for this reason we mostly take clients gorilla trekking in Uganda.

That said, we do also offer gorilla trekking in Rwanda. This is because Rwanda's mountain gorillas are much easier to reach. From Kigali International Airport, you must only drive three hours to reach Volcanoes National Park. If you fly into Uganda's Entebbe International Airport, on the other hand, you must drive for roughly nine hours to reach Bwindi or Mgahinga.

That said, note that you can also drive from Kigali north into Uganda, and thereby reach either of Uganda's gorilla parks much quicker than if you drove there from Entebbe. It only takes four hours to drive from Kigali to Mgahinga, and around five hours to reach the southern sector of Bwindi.

Eastern lowland gorillas

lowland gorilla eating a tomato


  • Country: The DRC
  • Habitat: Forest (between 600 and 2,900 m in elevation)
  • Scientific name: Gorilla beringei graueri
  • Population: Estimated 4,000

Where you can visit eastern lowland gorillas

Eastern lowland gorillas live only in the eastern DRC. The two best places for gorilla trekking to see this subspecies are:

The difficulty with gorilla trekking in the DRC is accessibility and safety. Accommodation options are also very limited.

Please do your research very carefully before planning any gorilla trekking in the DRC.


The western gorilla (gorilla gorilla) lives west of the Congo Basin. Both subspecies of the western gorilla have brownish hair, with a reddish-chestnut crown.

Interesting fact: There's a gap of nearly 1,000 km between the closest western and eastern gorilla populations.

Western lowland gorillas

Silverback adult male western lowland gorilla


  • Countries: Cameroon, Gabon, the Congo, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, CAR
  • Habitat: Swamp and montane forest (up to 800 m above sea level)
  • Scientific name: Gorilla gorilla gorilla
  • Population: Estimated 110,000

Where you can visit western lowland gorillas

It's not very easy to visit western gorillas as tourism in the region isn't developed like it is in Eastern Africa. That said, it can of course still be done.

Probably the best place – and arguably the safest – to go to see wild western lowland gorillas is Loango National Park in Gabon. This is, in fact, the only place in Gabon where there's a habituated troop of gorillas to visit. (Habituated gorillas are those that have become accustomed to the presence of humans over time and are thus less shy.)

You can also see lowland gorillas at Monte Alen National Park in western Equatorial Guinea. But these gorillas haven't been properly habituated, as gorilla trekking is still in its infancy there.

Cross river gorillas

Cross river gorilla

Photo by Julie Langford

  • Countries: Cameroon and Nigeria
  • Habitat: Lowland montane forest (from 150 to 2,000 m above sea level)
  • Scientific name: Gorilla gorilla diehli
  • Population: Estimated 250-300

Cross river gorillas live in human-dense areas, which is a big challenge to their survival.

They are smaller than other gorillas, and have narrower faces. They are the most endangered of all gorilla subspecies.

Where you can visit cross river gorillas

The cross river gorilla inhabits a very small territory. In fact, it lives only in small, isolated pockets of remnant forest in Nigeria's Cross River State (hence its name) and just over the border in Cameroon.

Current travel advisories from multiple countries advise against visiting the region that forms their habitat.

So as you can see, not all gorilla subspecies are accessible to foreigners. As we discuss in Is gorilla trekking safe?, you need to head to well-established and secure gorilla national parks, in stable countries, where the trek guides know how to keep you safe.

So while gorilla trekking has shown to be really helpful in gorilla conservation, it clearly can't (at present) be the driving force behind conservation efforts for all of the subspecies. We would suggest that you try to support some of the gorilla subspecies from afar through advocacy and funding.

But as to seeing mountain gorillas – we can help you there! Check out our exciting mountain gorilla trekking itineraries. And please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to chat about anything with us. ❤️