Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Comparing gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda.
Which country provides the best option to encounter this amazing mountain gorillas? Comparing Gorilla Trekking in Uganda vs Rwanda would require you to look at the cost, safety, degree of hiking, availability and so on.
It may be unfair comparing gorilla trekking in Uganda to Rwanda or DR CONGO since Uganda has wildlife in savannah parks and many more activities to offer other than the other two countries where combining a savannah safari with gorilla trekking may not come as a simple choice. So Uganda safaris take the first point on this comparison. However, we will provide you with all the highlights and lowlights to help you make the choice that is right for you.
Gorillas are generally divided into mountain and lowland gorillas. The lowland gorillas are smaller and have brownish-gray far coats and a distinct brow ridge, whereas the mountain gorillas are larger with darker black coats.
There are more than 100,000 lowland gorillas but on the contrary mountain gorillas are endangered and are about 1063 left in the whole world today.
Where to see mountain gorillas
Lowland gorillas are only found in DR Congo or central Africa while mountain gorillas are distributed in two regions around the Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo border.
In Uganda mountain gorillas can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In Rwanda, the mountain gorillas are only in Volcanoes National Park. While in DR Congo they can been seen in Virunga National Park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park are found on the Virunga Mountains.
Aggressiveness of the gorillas
Trekking mountain gorillas is not a dangerous activity. Most of the gorilla groups available for tourism in these wild jungles are habituated by experts to avoid dangerous encounters with humans. These gorillas seem very dominant and very strong when seen but are really shy to aliens in their habitat and will only attack to protect their own when they feel threatened. You’re always advised to take great precaution not to threaten them when you meet them.
Depending on where the gorilla group is located, one could be jungle trekking Gorillas from 1 to 8 kilometers over very steep inclines and muddy terrain in some instance.
Recommended: Chimps tracking in Kibale
Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO hosting more than 400 mountain gorillas. 12 habituated mountain gorilla groups are open to tourism in four different sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and the Nkuringo all under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
- In Buhoma– Mubare group, Habinyanja group, Rushegura group
- Ruhija Region– Bitukura group, Oruzogo
- Rushaga Region– Nshongi group, Mishaya group, Busingye group, Bweeza group, Kahungye.
- Nkuringo Region – Nkuringo Group
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits on higher altitudes between 2,227m and 4,127m. It is home to the habituated Nyakagezi gorilla group who are a nomadic group known to cross the border into Rwanda and the Congo.
Highlights of Uganda:
- The Uganda gorilla permits cost USD $700 (July 2020) by UWA. Low season gorilla permits were indefinitely suspended.
- There are special resident and foreign resident rates.
- 20% of the permit revenue goes to community development.
- Bwindi hosts more than 400 of the 1063 endangered mountain gorillas.
- There are many more wildlife, birdlife and exciting activities offered in Uganda
- There are more groups (12) habituated in Uganda and more groups are coming up.
- Permits are readily available.
- Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks are easily accessible when you fly in through Kigali, only 3 hours drive, the same as driving to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Alternatively, you can book a scheduled chattered local flight from Entebbe to Kisoro (an hour outside Bwindi) for about $300 return flight.
- You can combine gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking when in Mgahinga.
- There are variety of breathtaking accommodation facilities near or around the park catering for budget, middle and luxury class.
- You can enjoy gorilla habituation for the up to 4 hours at only $1500.
- There is beautiful scenery to enjoy including lakes, plateau, mountains.
- Communication is easier with English commonly spoken.
- Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National park are all recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Lowlights of Uganda:
- Driving distance from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is about 9 hours, which is relatively long for new Africa safari travel entrants. However, there are local chartered flights to Bwindi from Entebbe (for about $300 per person, return) or one can land at Kigali Airport and drive 3 hours crossing the border into Uganda.
- Bwindi is remote and some roads are not accessible. You may also find traffic lights in towns that don’t work.
- There is no gorilla baby naming ceremony.
- The vegetation is dense and may be challenging getting clearer photos in Bwindi.
- Local flights tend to be expensive.
- There is no Ugandan Day designated for cleaning the streets and country.
- There is no elaborate park office but have many park offices and starting points that confuses some people.
- There is no add-on services like refreshments and cultural dance offered at the park offices.
Mond Safaris Recommends these Uganda Gorilla Safaris
Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda
Rwanda Gorilla trekking is done in Volcanoes National Park which is only 3 hours drive from Kigali International Airport. There are 10 habituated groups that can be visited, limited to only 8 people per day. Your Rwanda Gorilla permit buys you 1 hour with the gorillas. The gorilla groups include; Susa group, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Umubano, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Amahoro, Bwenge, Agasha (13 group) and the Kwitonda
Highlights of Rwanda:
- The driving distance of 3 hours from the airport is shorter than Uganda’s 9 hours.
- The vegetation is not dense and one can get clearer photographs.
- The roads are good and easily accessible and in good condition.
- There is golden monkey trekking offered.
- They have baby naming ceremonies once a year.
- It is very clean with everyone participating in the Umuganda day.
- They have one elaborate park office.
- You can hike the volcanoes.
- There are 10 habituated groups.
- They offer add-ons with welcoming refreshments and cultural dance.
Lowlights of Rwanda:
- Permits are expensive at $1500 compared to Uganda’s $700.
- There are no special rates for residents, all are required to pay $1500.
- There is not much to offer, Rwanda has only one savanna (Akagera NP).
- There are few accommodation facilities and the ones available in the parks are quite expensive catering only for the luxury class.
- Only 10% of the permit revenue is given to community development.
- Communication is a challenge with many locals speaking French and Kinyarwanda.
- The permits are limited to only 80 permits a day in the 10 groups.
- They do not offer gorilla habituation experience like in Uganda.
- The elevation involves hiking the volcano making trekking difficult.
Gorillas in The Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is also possible to find mountain gorillas within the DR Congo at Virunga National Park. Although the gorilla permits are only $400, the area is unstable due to the political, military and rebel activities. There is a probable threat to the lives of visitors and travel advisories strongly do not recommend traveling there. In most cases, your Travel Insurance becomes void.
What makes mountain gorillas endangered?
The main threat to mountain gorillas are human encroachment, poacher and diseases. However tourism authorities have sensitized the community, reserved the forest even evicting Batwa pigmy’s from the forest and regulate and prevent spread of diseases. They have conservation measures thus regulate the number of visitors around the fragile natural habitat of gorilla group to only 8 people.
What to pack for gorilla trekking
It is essential to pack sturdy hiking boots for hiking the steep and muddy trails. Gloves to protect your hands when you grab branches and vines. Rain jacket or poncho in case it rains. Plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Energy snacks to keep you going during the tough trekking. Long pants and shirts to prevent any bug bites.
Here’s a comprehensively written blog on What to pack for a safari holiday that I think will engage you.
Gorilla Trekking Safety & Precaution
Mountain gorillas are, in essence, gentle giants. They show very little aggression toward each other and their overall vibe is extremely peaceful. There is always potential for danger when you are close to wildlife, but these risks can be limited greatly by exercising caution and safety measures.
- Keep a safe distance from primates.
- Do not visit gorillas when you are ill or with an infectious disease.
- Human waste must be buried 30cm deep.
- Do not use flash photography.
- Back way slowly if the animal approaches you.
- In the forest, the path or trail does not belong to you. Never block the animals path.
- If a gorilla charges follow the guides example -crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass.
- Don’t make any quick movements.
The frequently poached gorillas in DR Congo made them move to the Uganda or Rwanda sides of national parks in the Virunga Mountains giving Uganda an upper hand for trekking.
Experiencing these amazing creatures and getting to the gorillas takes more effort, more time and more expense than a traditional African safari. However, you will enjoy value for your money.
Remember it is the experience that matters. Choose the destination that fits your travel goals, budget, and comfort zone.
For more information about Gorillas, visit Mond safaris website;