Uganda and Rwanda feature the three only destinations where mountain gorilla trekking is conducted in the whole world. In Uganda, gorilla trekking is only conducted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park while in Rwanda it is carried out in the Volcanoes National Park. The two are considerably the best areas when it comes to mountain gorilla safaris in Africa. The other destination is the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, both destinations require a strong 4×4 car with some experience of off-road driving. If you make your own arrangements to the gorillas, you are advised to hire a 4×4 car with driver in Kampala or Kigali for a safe and successfully gorilla safari. Note that, this must be a 4×4 Car such as Land cruiser Prado, Rav4, Nissan safari, Nissan Patrol and others.
A face to face encounter with these apes in the wild is such a magical experience that you can find anywhere in the world, not even in the zoo except only in the thick tropical rain forests of Africa. Whereas gorilla trekking has been described as a lifetime experience, most tourists still wonder or do not know which destination to visit for their safaris. Others ask is gorilla trekking in Uganda better than Rwanda. Depending on what your interests are but you can visit one or even both as each destination comes with unique encounters beyond mountain gorillas. With this, below are some of the factors that can guide you while selecting which destination you want to visit for mountain gorilla trekking.
Considering the cost of gorilla permits, both Uganda and Rwanda a permit is a must to have for this lifetime experience. However, the difference comes on the cost of a permit. In Uganda, gorilla permits are sold at $600 per person for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East Africans. While in Rwanda permits are issued out at $1500 per tourist. But the visitor experiences thereafter are equally exhilarating. A permit at hand allows you to track one habituated gorilla family.
Uganda is known to offer refuge to the largest number of mountain gorillas compared to the rest of destinations. About 480 individuals thrive within Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. These also feature over 16 habituated gorilla groups that have been set for visitor experiences and in Rwanda there only ten groups that have been set for gorilla trekking. More gorilla families mean more permits for visitors. Uganda today issues about 128 permits for visitors to track mountain gorillas compared to 80 in Rwanda.
Another difference can also arise especially when it comes to the general gorilla safari plan. For Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is situated about 125 kilometers away from Kigali city centre and this makes it one of the most accessible gorilla destinations by road. Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are located far away from Kampala city centre at approximately 527 and 519 kilometers respectively requiring about 9 to 10 hours’ drive.
However, the distances have been reduced by use of direct flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip where visitors can easily connect to the park or their choice. This also means that you need at least 3 days to have a gorilla safari in Uganda and yet Rwanda Volcanoes National Park can be visited within one or two days. The long distant drives to Bwindi or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park come with spectacular scenery especially at the Equator area at Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park which also come with stunning wildlife species, magnificent terraced mountains with Rivers and much of remoteness.
And this may not be in Rwanda if you are starting your safari from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. A stopover at Queen Elizabeth National Park for instance allows you to explore its big game which includes the African lions and not to forget the rare tree climbing lions, African elephants, Buffaloes and Leopards as well as several wildlife species that will come your while on wildlife viewing or boat cruise along the Kazinga channel. While a stopover at Lake Mburo National Park comes with views of Rothschild giraffes, topis, buffaloes, impalas, Burchell’s zebras, warthogs, Defassa waterbucks, leopards and many more or alternatively visit Igongo cultural centre for cultural museum which comes with collective tribes of southwestern Uganda, traditional restaurant, cultural village and stunning gardens and many more. And after gorilla trekking, visitors usually complete their safaris at Lake Bunyonyi which features as the second deepest Lake in Africa with all 29 distinct islands that are confined in it. The Lake offers spectacular views of the area as well as distinct birdlife.
Mountain gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda begin with morning briefing from park official who takes visitors through how they are supposed to behave while in the forest with gorillas. The difference comes where the morning briefing in Volcanoes National Park is accompanied with a cup of coffee or entertainment from local dances and performances by local people. For Uganda, you have to go for cultural encounter as a different activity to visit the Batwa community. Batwa encounters are exceptionally dramatic experiences one should go for while on gorilla safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or Mgahinga National Park.
In conclusion, mountain gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda is exceptionally the most thrilling experiences that come once in lifetime. While on safari, you can visit one or both and destination to help you make your own comparison in terms of experiences.