Seeing the majestic mountain gorillas in the wild is one of the most inspiring and magical experiences one can ever have in their life. Though is not always an easy task to prepare a gorilla safari to Africa or find out useful and correct information regarding the choice of country to visit for this mesmerizing adventure, it is nevertheless necessary to carefully scrutinize and compare the gorilla trekking experiences in Uganda vs. Rwanda.
Mountain gorillas are known to dwell only in Africa’s Virunga massif, a region that spans across three countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And therefore gorilla treks can only be done within national parks that encompassed with in this diverse region, namely Bwindi national park, Mgahinga National park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in D.R. Congo.
Other parts of the continent, majorly Western and Central Africa are prime habitats for other subspecies of gorillas, like eastern and western lowland gorillas.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done majorly in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and on a smaller scale in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
While Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is within a larger Virunga conservation area together with the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo, Bwindi national park is outside of the Virunga massif.
Uganda has over 500 mountain gorillas split into 37 social groups, 36 of them in Bwindi and only 15 are fully habituated to human presence and can be tracked on a daily basis, while Mgahinga gorilla national park has only one group, the Nyakagezi family.
One advantage that Uganda has over other gorilla destination like Rwanda is diversity; other than mountain gorillas, Uganda has everything that a nature lover and adventure enthusiast longs to see and experience in the world. Ranging from meandering rivers and shimmering lakes to the climbing lions of Ishasha, chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, profusion of wildlife in Murchison Falls National Nark and the rugged mountains.
In addition to that, gorilla permits in Uganda are way more affordable than in Rwanda at only $600 per person per day. Since the cost of a gorilla permit is the main deciding factor for most travelers when choosing the best destination for their gorilla trip, Uganda always emerges the most preferred over Rwanda that has its permit on 1500$ per person.
Although Uganda’s infrastructure is not as developed as Rwanda’s, the country still offers absolute benefits when it comes to authentic gorilla experiences. A definite advantage of Uganda is that it is outstandingly a cheaper destination at $600 for a permit and offers a variety of lodging options, from budget, midrange to luxury.
However, a gorilla trek in Uganda tends to be more hectic and challenging than it is in Rwanda. More often in Bwindi it rains at times even in dry season, and so road conditions may worsen, become slippery, and almost impassable.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Volcanoes National park is the prime home of the mighty mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The park is located in the Northern Province, in the remote village of Kinigi, only 3 hour’s drive from Kigali – Rwanda’s capital.
The park is within the larger Virunga conservation area and plays host to approximately 150 habituated mountain gorillas. These are split into 12 distinct families and several wild gorillas still roaming the forest. This number presents chances of up to 96 visitors to trek the park on a daily basis searching for these mighty animals.
Rwanda’s recent decision to increase the cost of gorilla trekking permits from 750$ to 1500$ has rendered it the most expensive gorilla destination in the region ahead of Uganda and D.R. Congo. Rwanda argues however this increment is aimed at attracting high end tourists and ensuring low impact tourism.
On the other hand, Rwanda’s terrain is generally considered to be flatter and easy to penetrate, which is not a case with Uganda, and therefore making gorilla trekking easier. Just like Uganda, Rwanda’s diversity is her key benefit. The Volcanoes National Park with its other rare primates, the golden monkeys adds another iconic experience to complement gorilla trekking tours.
For magnificent encounters to see both mountains and golden monkeys, travelers find this park the best spot. Another advantage for Rwanda than her counterpart Uganda, is the fact that meetings and incentives travelers find it easier and possible to combine it with gorilla trekking tours, thanks to the discounted offers in place and great infrastructure to connect different destinations in the country.
Rwanda has lately become Africa’s most popular destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE), as ranked by the International Congress and Convention Association. Despite the fact that mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda reside in the same Virunga conservation area and Bwindi impenetrable forest, your packing list for a gorilla trek will slightly differ depending on the particular national park or country to track gorillas from.
All in all, spending just an hour with these majestic mountain gorillas in either Rwanda or Uganda is doubtlessly a bucket-list experience for many travelers and one of the most inspiring wildlife encounters one can ever find in Africa. Other than the cost of gorilla trekking permits and total gorilla population (Uganda has over 50% of the world’s population of mountain gorillas), there is ideally only a slight difference between these two magnificent gorilla trekking destinations.
Other than the permit costs and other little concerns with accessibility and terrain, you will have memorable encounters whether you do gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda.