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.
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.