Where to go for Gorilla Trekking (Uganda versus Rwanda)
Gorilla trekking in Uganda are majorly done at two national parks located in western Uganda that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a home to the highest concentration of primates on earth. Around 10 habituated gorilla families can be found in Bwindi National Park, with each group limited to a maximum of 8 visitors per day. The gorillas are constantly on the move, so it is hard to narrow down just one area in which to track them. As a result, the total time you spend gorilla trekking can be anything from half an hour to nine hours. Mgahinga National Park is another option for gorilla trekking in Uganda, although the park’s small size means the gorilla family residing here is slightly more elusive. Mgahinga spreads across three inactive volcanoes – Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura – making its 34 square kilometer landscape incredibly dramatic. Because it can be slightly more difficult to find the gorilla family at Mgahinga, it’s great to spend your time here doing a few other things as well, such as hiking one of the three volcanoes or connecting with the indigenous Batwa tribe.
In Rwanda Gorilla trekking is carried mainly in volcanoes national park whose gorillas are the mostly wholly habituated and often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easier. Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s preferred destination for gorilla sightings, with the region’s gentle slopes and open bush catering to all types of travelers. Volcanoes National Park was given its name by virtue of the fact that it’s the home to five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains Combined with blanketed rainforest, open grassland and small lakes, the landscapes across Volcanoes National Park are worth visiting.
- Ease of Securing Gorilla Permits
The Uganda Gorilla trekking Permit costs $700 Us Dollars while the Rwanda Gorilla trekking permits cost $1500 Us Dollars. Therefore while planning your gorilla trek, you should choose the destination whose gorilla trekking permit fits in your travel budget. However, in Uganda you need 8 hours to drive from Entebbe Airport and another 8 hours back to the airport. This would mean at least two days to complete your gorilla tour, even though the Uganda gorillas permits are cheaper, you would incur a transport cost of about $500-$600. In Rwanda it’s a 2 hours drive from Kigali Airport to volcanoes national park making short and cheap in transport wise.
- Accessibility to Gorilla Parks
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is considerably more accessible than Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. The drive from Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, to Volcanoes National Park takes up to 3 hours on a good road. The drive from Entebbe, Uganda’s gateway for most visitors, to Bwindi Impenetrable forest takes between 8 and 10 hours. While there is only one starting point for gorilla treks in Rwanda, there are four different trail heads in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the long drive to Bwindi impenetrable national park is endowed with great sceneries all through like the Equator, lake Mburo national park, abundant wildlife, terraced mountains with flowing rivers things which do not exist on the Kigali drive to the volcanoes National Park.
- More Incentives
In Uganda the people are friendly – and welcoming others is an important part of Ugandan culture. Uganda has beautiful scenery and interesting terrain with parks like the Kidepo Valley that are home to the striped aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and kudu in the grasslands of the savannah; and of course, the gorillas of the misty Bwindi plains. There are also many vibrant markets like the Nakasero and Owino markets in Kampala offering fresh produce and clothing.
Rwanda is such a clean country – there simply is no litter anywhere. Both the cities and the rural areas are spotless. By law, everybody goes into their community once a month to pick up any litter. Plastic bags have been banned, and there are many re-forestation programs in the country. The Rwandan people are friendly, welcoming and warm. They’re still mourning the horrific genocide in 1994. A visit to the Genocide Museum in Kigali is extremely emotional but, in my opinion, extremely important to understand the country. This is a proud nation – and so they should be.
- Where to Stay
There are good accommodation options for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda. Rwanda has perhaps more choice in top-end luxury lodges, while Uganda has a few more mid-range options. Several lodges in Uganda border the park and have a true forest feel, while in Rwanda many lodges have mountain and/or lake views, but most are a bit farther away from the forest boundary.
- Gorilla Treks
Uganda has more habituated mountain gorillas and so admits more trekkers per day. About 80 people a day are allowed to visit Uganda’s gorillas. In Rwanda, the number of daily visitors is about 56.The trekking itself is generally more challenging in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda) given that the gorillas are more tucked away and after viewing the gorillas you often have to ascend steep slopes out of the forests. In Rwanda some of the gorilla groups are often found closer to the park entrance, requiring a shorter hike. In Uganda the gorillas tend to be found deeper in the forest in groups of between 10 and 20, with at least one silverback. In Rwanda groups range between 9 and 39 gorillas including at least one silverback
- Safety and Security
The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda can be visited safely, is well managed and has a permit system that is functioning efficiently. Uganda has also been very safe since their political war that ended in 1986.Bwindi forest is very safe and they also have an efficiently functioning permit system.
Ruhija sector is located in the Eastern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park with 3 gorilla families. The gorilla families include Bitukuru, Oruzogo, and Kyaguliro, and each family is only allowed to be visited by a maximum number of 8 visitors a day.
A gorilla trekking permit in the Ruhija sector currently costs USD 600 for foreign non-residents, USD 500 for foreign residents, and 250000 Uganda shillings for East African residents making it a total of 24 permits per day. A traveller is allowed to choose any gorilla family he/ she wants to visit depending on the availability of permits. All permits are booked from Uganda wildlife Authority 3 months in advance.
On your visit to the Ruhija sector, visit and support the community-based projects run by the local people like basket weaving, and crafts among others, and also the tourists can take part in the activities to feel part of the community.
Ruhija sector is also the best spot for bird watching which is home to almost 23 bird endemic species and is recognized as an important bird area. Nature walks through the forest can also be an adventurous feeling that one cannot miss when you trek gorillas in the Ruhija sector where you expect to meet many wild animals and the sounds of birds singing.
Ruhija sector has also many accommodation facilities that cater to all categories of visitors including luxurious, midrange, and budget accommodations. The most commonly known lodges are Gorilla mist camp, Bakiga lodge, Trekkers Tavern lodge, and Agandi lodge among others which assures travellers of comfortable lodging services.
Apart from gorilla trekking, the Rushaga sector offers other tour experiences to the travellers like the Batwa community tour, and Lake Mutanda exploration among others.
Rushaga sector has a variety of accommodations depending on travellers’ budgets that the travellers can enjoy. Some of the lodges in the Rushaga sector include Chameleon Hill lodge, Gorilla safari lodge, Lake Mutanda resort, Rushaga Gorilla Havens Lodge, Rushaga gorilla camp, Ichumbi gorilla lodge, Bwindi valley lodge
Nkuringo sector is situated in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable National Park known for gorilla trekking with 2 gorilla families that have been habituated to prepare them for the trekking process. The commonly known Nkuringo family which has existed since 2009 headed by Bahati the silverback separated itself from the Nshongi family of Rushaga and the recently habituated family Christmas.
Apart from gorilla trekking, the Nkuringo sector is also good for nature walks which are normally done early morning and evening as you enjoy the calm environment and also meet more wild animals like baboons, and monkeys among others.
Bird watching is also another activity that you cannot miss on trekking gorillas in Nkuringo as you hear the beautiful melodies of singing birds.
Travellers can visit the Batwa and Bakiga communities and learn more about their traditional lifestyles and cultures, their traditional dances, songs, and poems welcoming visitors to the community.
From Entebbe Airport, the Nkuringo sector can be accessed via Kabale-Kisoro to Nkuringo in 8-9 hours drive by road transport means or you can use air transport means 2 hours to Kisoro district.
Nkuringo sector has excellent accommodation facilities depending on the budget and interests of the travellers including Clouds mountain lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, and Nkuringo Gorilla campsite with excellent staff with good customer care.