Do you know where mountain gorillas live in the world? Gorilla tracking is the world’s most sought after experience. Tracking mountain gorillas comes with various questions which in turn have and still causing a bit of confusion among travelers about where to go track gorillas. Uganda and Rwanda are two popularly known countries in the world for gorilla trekking, the other is Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is still down in terms of gorilla experience given the fact that the country is still recovering from insecurities. Mountain gorillas are listed in IUCN red book list as critically endangered species in the world which count less than 900 today and only distributed between the three countries in the whole world. Uganda is incredibly one of the blessed countries in the world with over 480 mountain gorillas out of the 900 that are popularly known in the world while 490 of those that are inhabited within the Virunga complex are all protected in Rwanda. The Virunga complex is composed of only 3 protected areas that offered refuge to eight famous world volcanoes and these include the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in DRC.
Comparing gorilla tracking experiences between Uganda and Rwanda is important as it guides you in your decision making but they equally offer the same experience. However, to assist you take the best choice; below is a comparison between these two countries.
While gorilla tracking is remarkable experience, attaining it also involves sacrifice. Tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda means visitors must travel up to Bwindi Forest National park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which are the only two protected areas where visitors to Uganda can see gorillas. These parks are located in extreme Southwestern Uganda approximately 600 kilometers which is about 9 to 10 hours’ drive from Kampala City. This means that for visitors who intend to track mountain gorillas in Uganda must arrange a three or four day safari to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest unlike the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda which is just a 2 to 3 hour drive from Kigali International Airport. Visitors to Rwanda in most cases can track mountain gorilla in the park immediately they land into Kigali the same day and even return.
Despite Bwindi’s distance, getting into the misty valleys of Southwestern Uganda comes with tremendous experiences along the way. Visitors have a wide array of choices to enjoy various activities especially on stop over from Queen Elizabeth National Park to explore Uganda’s big 5, and most importantly tracking the rare tree climbing lions at Ishasha sector or take a boat cruise that gets visitors to Uganda’s tremendous water species like hippos and several bird species. As you plan to enjoy the incredible biodiversity at Queen Elizabeth National Park, never leave out taking photos at Equator centre as well as do chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park and then proceed to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for your real adventure in the jungle. In general Uganda offers opportunity to visitors to explore the attractions from other national parks. As visitors proceed down to Bwindi they also get a glimpse at spectacular series of Lake Bunyonyi the famously known Switzerland of Africa.
Unlike in Rwanda where there are limited things to get visitors with pre-tracking activities and visitors usually take a direct trip to trek mountain gorillas. However, a gorilla trek in the Volcanoes National Park begins with a traditional dance troupe performance for trackers and yet in Uganda, visitors pay a different price for cultural experiences in Batwa community. However, visitors have opportunity to watch a film concerning mountain gorilla conservation and this normally during an early morning briefing.
While gorilla tracking is a shared adventure in all the three countries, visitors to Uganda have another tremendous gorilla adventure that is only offered in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and this is nothing other than Gorilla Habituation Experience. Visitors traveling for this experience enjoy all the day habituating gorillas with the researchers and a total of 4 hours is given to visitors to have a face to face interaction with mountain gorillas unlike gorilla tracking which has only one magical hour for visitors to view gorillas in the wild.
Many travelers have argued that Uganda’s terrain is rough and in Rwanda that is a bit smooth and yet it is not the case. A gorilla safari in Uganda and Rwanda is both rough and smooth. The difference comes in depending on the location of habituated gorilla group that a particular group can be assigned to track in the course of the day which determines whether the trek is rough or tough. Gorilla groups that are situated in the North of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest provide very little challenging treks for visitors and yet those that are situated in Nkuringo and Rushaga areas provide offer the most challenging hikes. In the Volcanoes National Park, there are gorilla groups that provide little strenuous hikes to track gorillas while groups such as Susa visitors can spend the whole day trekking.
There is nothing as exciting as taking clear photos in a good position in a gorilla home. Many travelers have also argued that the thick undergrowth in both protected areas. Some parts of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park truly are dense making photo taking a bit challenging for visitors. But what is important is to position yourself well and you will have the best with these primates as they can be in an open area. Volcanoes National Park isn’t much far from Bwindi except that the path to the mountain gorillas has less undergrowth making photo taking a bit easier.
The differences in the cost of gorilla permits:
A gorilla permit is a must to have for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda. For Uganda, gorilla permits are purchased at $600 per visitor for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents. These prices apply for the peak season in Uganda and during the low season in the month of April, May and November discounted permits are provided at $450 for foreign non residents, $400 for foreign residents and shs.150000 for East African residents unlike Rwanda where gorilla permits cost $1500 for all visitors. The cost of a Rwanda gorilla permit which is $1500 is a full 3 days gorilla tour in Uganda.
In conclusion, gorilla tracking is a breathtaking experience which means visitors should be fit enough to hike through the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Visitors can visit either Uganda or Rwanda for gorilla trekking and even both but the fact remains that experiences are equally the same however; you can combine your safari for both countries and have your own judgment.