05/22/18

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

Gorilla trekking is one of the exceptional activities you will enjoy in only three countries in the whole World-Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the adventure has continuously been the main reason for tourists visiting the African continent. However, due to the crime and civil unrest resulting from rebel activities that contribute to death of Park rangers and kidnapping of tourists in Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo, most gorilla tours are made to Uganda and Rwanda but due to high cost of gorilla permits ($1500) for the latter, priority is now directed to the former where permits only cost $600 per person.

Uganda gorilla tours lead tourists to the dense jungles of Mgahinga Gorillas and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, all in the south-western part of the country. In most cases, tourists ask about the advantages and disadvantages of tracking gorillas from Uganda when booking and therefore, provided are the merits of choosing Uganda as your next gorilla trekking destination;

Two wonderful national parks to track mountain gorillas

Unlike other countries with only one National Park with mountain gorillas, Uganda has two places where you can track the Giant Apes. Therefore, you can either track these primates from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, hence you can make a choice between the two places.

Opportunity of enjoying the Gorilla Habituation Experience

Besides Uganda, there is no other place in the World to enjoy the Gorilla Habituation Experience. Unlike gorilla trekking where tourists are allowed only one hour to spend with a gorilla family, tourists on the Gorilla Habituation Experience get the chance to spend up to four hours with a gorilla family still undergoing habituation (to make them used to the presence of humans). With your permit (at $1500), you will get the chance to visit one of the two gorilla families found in Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors of Bwindi National Park.

Highest population of mountain gorillas

With over 480 mountain gorillas out of the recorded 880 Mountains Gorillas, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks undeniably offer shelter to more than half of the World’s population of the Giant Apes. So far, there are 15 habituated gorilla families to be tracked-14 in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga, hence making Uganda the best destination of encountering these extraordinary primates in their natural habitats. The most interesting thing about Bwindi is that the gorilla families are distributed across four sectors-Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo which is not the case with other Parks.

View of Bwindi National Park

More habituated gorilla families

Besides offering high population of mountain gorillas, Uganda has the highest number of habituated gorilla families-15 groups, hence over 100 permits are sold per day, contrary to 10 habituated families (80 gorilla permits available per day) for Rwanda. Having more gorilla permits makes it easy for tourists who make last minute bookings to also get the chance to meet these adorable creatures in their natural habitats.

Affordable cost of gorilla permits

Gorilla permits in Uganda cost only $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and only Shs 250,000 for East African Community residents yet in Rwanda permits cost $1500 per person for all categories of tourists, hence making Uganda a cheaper gorilla trekking destination. This allows tourists to save a lot of money for other expenses and activities.

Easier access from Kigali (Rwanda)

Most intending gorilla trekkers forsake Uganda because of the long distance it takes to drive from Kampala/Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National parks but did you know that for only four hours, you can be able to drive to the two National Parks? This is possible by connecting from Kigali city, thus making it possible to go on a one-day gorilla tour in Uganda as it is for Rwanda. For instance, if you leave Kigali at 4:3oam, you can reach Bwindi and Mgahinga by 7:00am to track one of the country’s remarkable gorilla families, and return to Kigali the same day.

However, there are also several disadvantages of choosing to track mountain gorillas from Uganda and these include;

Difficulty in tracking

If you have ever tracked mountain gorillas from both Uganda and Rwanda, then you are aware that it is more difficult within the former than it is within the latter because the gorillas in Bwindi (especially Rushaga an Nkuringo sectors) inhabit areas of higher elevations. Also, the mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National park are found within the bamboo forests which is not the case with those in Bwindi that inhabit the areas with dense undergrowth.

Longer distances and high costs of transport for accessing the National Parks

Besides the long distance of connecting from Entebbe/Kampala to Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park (8-10 hours), it is generally more expensive than it is when connecting fr0m Kigali International Airport to Kigali City which is only 2 hours away. Even the domestic flights to air-strips-Kihihi and Kisoro (Uganda) are generally expensive.

Much as gorilla trekking is conducted within three countries-Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, there are a number of advantages in tracking from Uganda including the fact that there are more gorilla families, low cost of gorilla permits and higher population of gorillas but there are also challenges that include the longer distance to connect from Entebbe / Kampala to Bwindi as well as difficulty in tracking.

04/23/18

5 Tips to Plan a Gorilla Trip By Independently

How To Plan A Gorilla Trip By Yourself / Independently

Rwanda and Uganda are one of the three countries in the while World to undertake gorilla safaris (the other is Democratic Republic of Congo) but if you ever make up your mind to undertake the trip from this remarkable country, make sure to plan by yourself / independently because it is cheaper than doing it through the tour operator because most of them charge a commission. Therefore if you plan for Uganda safaris and tours by yourself, you will save a lot of money and yet it is very cumbersome and involves a lot of legwork.

Gorilla trekking within Rwanda is more expensive than it is within the other mentioned countries because permits cost $1500 per person while in Uganda it is $600 yet in the Democratic Republic of Congo it costs $400 but if you plan the safari by yourself, there are high chances that you will save more money if you plan or book for it independently.

Nonetheless, booking a gorilla safari by yourself depends on the period of time you will be spending within the gorilla destination in that if you have less time (1-3 days), you are advised to use the services of tour operators while if you are spending more days (6-10) days, it is advisable to plan or book for it by yourself. Therefore, the following are the important tips to allow you plan for the gorilla trekking safari in Uganda or Rwanda independently;

Do some Research (Gather enough Information) on the price of gorilla permits and pay in advance

The first step of undertaking a gorilla safari is by first inquiring on the availability of gorilla permits because this is your ticket to participating in this activity. This information can be accessed from the website of Rwanda Development Board, sending an email to reservation@rwandatourism.com or calling the reservation office on +252 57 65 14. For Uganda permits, information is available at Uganda Wildlife Authority (info@ugandawildlife.org, Telephone: +256 414 355000 and +256 312 355000). After being sure that permits are available for the date you wished to track the gorillas, book by paying 30% and this should be done at least 6 months in advance due to the high demand for the activity. Permits currently cost $1500 per person in Rwanda and US$600 per person in Uganda, paid in Bank or by cash and can be obtained from the RDB / UWA Head offices. The balance for gorilla permits is paid 3 months to the tracking date.

Get convenient transport means to the Gorilla detonations

In Rwanda, there are usually several local bus companies with comfortable buses leaving Kigali City for Ruhengeri and there is particularly a bus station in Nyabugogo where tickets can be booked charging from 2000 to 3000 francs per person and the journey takes at least 2 hours. Because the buses just stop at Ruhengeri, you will need to get private transport means (300 to 500 francs) especially special hire vehicles to Kinigi Park Headquarters lasting 20 to 30 minutes.

In Uganda, there are many bus companies from Kampala to Kisoro where you can easily connect to Mgahinga national park and Southern Bwindi National park. The journey is approximately 10 hours and charges between 25.000 and 35.000 Uganda Shillings. From the bus station, you can connect to your pre-booked hotel or to the gorilla park by private car hire.

Booking for a place of Stay

Intending gorilla trekkers are always advised to book for accommodation within or near the Park Headquarters and not very far away from the gorilla trekking starting point. Just like the gorilla permits, tourists are advised to deposit for the room in advance to avoid disappointment, then complete on the day of checking in. There are many gorilla safari Lodges within all gorilla parks in Rwanda and Uganda. In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, Kinigi Guest Guest House is highly recommended because it is opposite the park Headquarters, less than 5 minutes walk to the headquarters.

Pack the right items

Any tourist planning to track the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks needs to be prepared for life in the jungles-extreme coldness, dense vegetation and slippery/muddy ground during the rainy season. Therefore, make sure you don’t leave out the long sleeved shirts, long trousers, rain jacket, snacks, bottled water, waterproof hiking boots, hut, non-flash camera, binoculars, cotton socks, heavy sweater, gardening gloves and a backpack among others.

Self drive Rental and Camping

If you are a family, a group of friends or a couple planning a gorilla trip independently, you can save a lot of money when you rent a car without driver and drive your own adventure. Here, you share the cost of transport, fuel and accommodation. In other words, its cheaper to travel in group than sole. Please note, it must be a 4×4 car, and these are available from US$40 per day, for instance, Toyota Rav4, Land cruiser, Mini-vans, Prado, Suzuki Escudo, Honda CRV and many others.

Additionally, some car rental agencies rent out  cars with a full camping gear, thus saving money on accommodations. A full camping gear is from US$5 per day and it includes a water proof tent (some times roof top tent), sleeping bags, mattress, camper table, chairs, kitchen ware, crockery, cooler box, storage box, jerrycan, lam and torch.

With the tips above, it is very possible to plan for a gorilla trip by yourself with enough information and booking for permits in advance, getting convenient transport means to from the airport to the gorilla parks, booking for a place of Stay and Packing the right items.

10/21/14

Gorilla Valley Lodge Rates, Bwindi Forest in Uganda

Gorilla Valley Lodge- Bwindi Gorilla forest-Uganda

gorilla-valley-campGorilla Valley Lodge is strategically located in the Southern edge of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park on a hill near Rushaga, close to Rushaga Uganda Wildlife station. This is one of the Lodges with excellent services provided to all visitors.

The Lodge has 12 excellent rooms with spacious private bathrooms, Toilets, Dining/Waiting area beautifully situated in lowland evergreen Forest allowing breathtaking views of the African Eden, rich with wildlife and at a close distance the majestic Virunga Volcanoes.

Every room has been lovingly furnished with twin beds and decorated in a modern retro style to suit the eco system. Bwindi impenetrable National park holds the country’s tourism sector by hosting the chief tourist attraction of Uganda- Mountain Gorillas. To that note therefore, there is no doubt, Gorilla Valley accommodates a large number of visitors.

Gorilla Valley Lodge is a slice of wilderness paradise far from the madding crowd; a place of renewal and reconnection with the natural world. And trust, one could never get closer to Bwindi! While at the Lodge, lucky visitors can be visited by the gentle giants of the forest- Gorillas and can be seen at your veranda while seated in your chair taking tea.

On the highest part of the hill is the location of the main building with restaurant and bar. From here the view is amazing! In our lounge you can relax by the fire but you can also make yourself comfortable on the veranda. In the restaurant we offer the best of two worlds: an international buffet prepared by the professional Ugandan chef.

beds-gorilla-valleyActivities while at Gorilla Valley lodge include, Gorilla trekking, Nature walks to water falls, birding in forest, cultural exploration in the Batwa community, Biking through Bwindi community, chilling off and Gorilla Habituations.

Proposed Itinerary for 3 day Uganda gorilla safari with 2 nights at Gorilla Valley Camp/lodge

Day One: Transfer to Bwindi National Park

Breakfast at your hotel around Kampala or Entebbe, leave by 8:00AM to western Uganda with a stop over at the Equator for photographs, en-route lunch in Mbarara Town, dinner and overnight stay at Gorilla Valley Lodge in southern Bwindi National Park

Day Two: Mountain Gorilla Tracking Adventure

Heavy breakfast followed by briefing from the park headquarters about mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park, the trek is quite strenuous and takes between 2-7 hours in the forest. This will depend on how the gorillas move in their natural habitat as they search for food. The evening can be for community walk or forest walk, or drive to Lake Bunyonyi.

Day Three: Departure

Breakfast and drive back to Kampala / Entebbe Airport (8 to 10 hours drive). Or we can cross the boarder to Kigali International Airport in Rwanda, this is only 3 to 4 hours drive. This marks the end of your safari.

gorilla-valllye-lodgeCost of the 3 day gorilla safari with 2 nights at Gorilla Valley Camp

This will cost 1095 US Dollars, based on 2 persons and it includes a gorilla permit per person (600 US dollars each), private transport from Kampala and back, en-route meals and bottled mineral water for refreshment, 2 night accommodation at Gorilla Valley Lodge with meals, services of a professional English speaking driver / tour guide. Excluded are flights, accommodation in Kampala and other personal expenses like tips for staff. If you are on tight budget, you can choose not to book a guided trip and take a self drive safari to Bwindi forest to see the gorillas. In this case, you can rent a 4×4 car in Kampala cheaply from tour operators on Kampala from US$40 per day (Toyota Rav 4) and US$70 per day Toyota Prado. For more information about escorted and self drive safaris, send an email to info@cheapgorillasafaris.com.