There is currently estimated less than 800 mountain gorillas in the world and these are found in the Virunga mountain ranges shared by Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, with half of the gorillas living in Bwindi impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
The gorillas are the most amazing primates in the world with large body mass and share 98% genes with humans making them the closest cousins to the humans. The gorillas do most of the things humans do including having sex for pleasure.
The mountain gorillas feed on leaves, roots, stems, fruits, ants, flowers, snails and grubs. The food is available throughout the year in these mountains as it hardly gets dry due to the rains in those highlands.
The mountain gorillas in these three countries have been habituated for human tracking so they do not pose danger to human beings. However, due to constant instabilities in DR Congo, gorilla safaris are more populary done in Rwanda and Uganda in Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi impenetrable National park respectively. The other park in Uganda where gorillas are tracked in Uganda is Mgahinga National park.
In both destinations, gorilla tracking rules and regulations are the same and the major aim is conserving these endangered species of the gorillas. Tracking involves paying for the gorilla permit to the respective authorities and then you will be accompanied with trained ranger guides into the jungle to track the gorillas. One hour is allowed to stay with the gorillas in both destinations and human contact with the gorillas is avoided to prevent any contamination of the gorillas with human diseases.
With the general information about the gorilla tracking, there is some differences between the gorilla tracking in the two countries which range from cost, location, logistics, distance, terrain.
We provide the differences here below;
Rwanda Gorilla tracking Highlights
Volcanoes National Park, which is Rwanda’s home for the Mountain Gorillas has ten habituated gorilla groups and are all in the same location with the same briefing point. This makes it easier to secure same gorilla permit and see the gorillas without specifying which location of the park you want to see the gorillas from.
Being the most tourist attraction Rwanda has, a gorilla safari in Rwanda is so organized with experienced guides, porters, briefing point which has other entertainments. All effort has been put in this section of the tourist attraction making it more fun and amazing.
The travel time from Kigali capital where the international airport is to Volcanoes National park where gorilla tracking takes place is just 2.5 hours drive on a smooth and paved road all the way from Kigali to the park headquarters. This makes it very accessible and comfortable visiting the park in a short time.
In terms of gorilla encounter, it is easier to see gorillas in Rwanda due to the vegetation cover which is not thick and this aids in better photography and gorilla watching. This is a great opportunity for photographers to have clear shots of the gorillas in their natural wild.
Concerning the general terrain of park, Volcanoes National Park is less steep compared to the other gorilla parks with some gorilla families located far and others near which offers opportunity for different kinds of people with different fitness level to be allocated the gorilla groups of their capability. For less fit trackers, they are allocated the less strenuous gorilla groups to enable them track with ease. The gorilla groups are classified in terms of low, medium and high level.
However, despite the better side of Rwanda’s gorilla tracking, it has some lows and some of these are as below;
For someone who wish to see more than the gorillas, there is less attractions to offer in Rwanda If you need to have a traditional African safari experience. Rwanda has only one wildlife safari park Akagera National Park which does not have cats. The other park Nyungwe National park which has chimpanzees and Colobus Monkeys have less to offer.
It is very costly in Rwanda due to the cost of the gorilla permit and the accommodations which makes it very expensive to spend much yet in a few days. However, Africa Tours Adventure design packages that are tailor made to suite the budget of traveler without feeling the price.
For someone who love adventure, gorilla tracking in Rwanda offers less challenge which reduces the excitement and one misses the true experience of Africa. The roads are paved; the terrain is less challenging making it very easy to see the gorillas without any major challenge. This is not always favored by the people who like taking on challenges.
On the other hand, Uganda as another gorilla tracking destination has positives and some are highlighted below;
Uganda has more gorilla families with 12 gorilla groups habituated for gorilla tracking. Almost hal of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Besides gorilla tracking, there is gorilla habituation experience where trackers spend four hours with the gorillas against one hour spend with the gorillas while on gorilla tracking.
It is cheaper visit gorillas in Uganda in terms of gorilla tracking permit fees and accommodations around the Bwindi area. The gorilla permit in Uganda costs USD600 and in low season months of April, May and November, the permits are discounted to USD450 per permit.
Tracking gorillas in Uganda is more adventurous for trackers who like taking up challenge as the tracking involves strenuous hiking and penetration through the lush vegetation. This gives value for the effort put in preparing to come for a gorilla tracking adventure.
For someone who want to see more than the gorillas, Uganda as a destination offers more to see in terms of other attractions which includes the African Big Five, mountains, chimpanzees, cultural tours among others. Bwindi National Park itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, in their words, a “conservation frontline as an isolated forest of outstanding biological richness.”
However, just like there is strong point for Uganda gorilla tracking, there is some lows which include the following;
Bwindi impenetrable national park is not easily accessible due to poor road infrastructure and distance from the major airports. It is ten hours drive from Entebbe airport , the only international airport in Uganda and it is five hours drive from Kigali to Bwindi impenetrable national park in case one chose to arrive through Kigali-Rwanda.
The forest as it is called impenetrable is not just a name! The forest is covered by thick forest and the terrain is a bit challenging. This makes gorilla tracking a bit strenuous and for less adventurous trackers, it is a disadvantage. This also gives bad environment for photography as the gorillas keep in the shrubs making it difficult for clear shots.
Bwindi impenetrable Forest national park is made up of three sectors; Buhoma sector, Ruhija sector, Rushaga sector with each sector having own gorilla groups. This makes it difficult in choosing which sector to visit when one is buying the gorilla tracking permit.
Many people always ask a question of whether to visit Rwanda or Uganda, but this article helps to give insights on the two parks and one can easily take a decision on where to enjoy the memorable gorilla tracking from.
Visit Africa Tours Adventure for a tailor made gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. This is competent local travel agent based in Rwanda and Uganda