Gorillas in Rwanda & Uganda

Comparison between Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Rwanda

Which is the best place to do a gorilla trek? Rwanda or Uganda,

Which is more viable or cheaper? Bwindi or Volcanoes National Park,

Which is easier to access? Is tracking Rwanda better than Uganda?

Mountain gorilla trekking or tracking is one of those really thrilling, lifetime experiences you should take time for before you leave planet earth.

The exhilaration attached to the first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla is difficult to describe. Yet in the same sense, that magical one hour spent with the gorillas does not come cheaply considering that a permit goes for US$750 in Rwanda and $500 in Uganda – but it is unusual to find someone who regretted the financial outlay.

Only 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family or group per day for conservation purposes. In Uganda, ten families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, nine of which are available for tracking and one is dedicated to research thus making the total permits available per day 77 gorilla families.

Rwanda can only take 56 persons per day. All else being equal, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest because its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easier.

The major challenge with Rwanda gorilla trekking is certainly the price of the gorilla permit at US$750 compared to Uganda’s US$500 per permit. However, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is impossible for Uganda. Parc National Des Volcans Park is located 116 km from the city-Kigali and can be driven in just 2 hours. On the other hand, Bwindi is located 500 kilometres from Kampala/ Entebbe Airport and a drive can take 8 hours plus. In that sense, you will spend at least 3 days for your budget or luxury gorilla trekking safari – one travelling to Bwindi, another doing the gorilla trek, and the other driving back to Kampala/Entebbe. If a safari operator is making you a tour package, they shall definitely have to consider this cost and include it in your safari cost.

However, the long drive to Bwindi is quite enchanting with great sceneries all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park (for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with abundant wildlife), terraced mountains with flowing rivers, and a lot of rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Parc National Des Volcans.

You will certainly need spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it is for Rwanda although this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla permit.

Besides, some sections of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are not so comfortable to drive on yet in the case of Rwanda; you drive on smooth tarmac at least up to the Volcanoes National Park head office. Not to mention though, the roads leading from Volcanoes park office to the gorilla trek trail-heads can only be accessed with a raised 4×4 vehicle.

Comparison of the Gorilla Tracking Experience, A tree climbing lion perched in a fig in Queen Elizabeth National Park along the way to Bwindi impenetrable National Park

In general, the experience can only be different due to the way a particular gorilla family behaves in front of the trackers, how long and tough one has to track before reaching the gorillas and the way the park staff conduct the exercise. Personally, I found the Rwanda gorilla tracking package more charming than Ugandan one on the tracking day. Should we say that this’ because of the gorilla permit price difference? Anyways, on your gorilla tracking day in Rwanda, you will definitely get more than that. At about 7:00 AM, tea/ coffee dispensers with cups are laid for visitors going for the trek. You are free to take as much as you wish. As visitors are enjoying the tea/ coffee, they are entertained by the lively traditional dance troupe (SACOLA Traditional Dancers) who bring on a wholesome Rwanda traditional cultural experience all visitors enjoy.

Of course you can get this in Uganda in evenings (at a fee) from the various traditional cultural groups that are near the park. However, the drive from Kampala to Bwindi is a very fabulous one traversing at least another national park (either Kibale or Queen Elizabeth National Park famously known for tree climbing lions and many other big mammals, or Lake Mburo National Park) and not to miss- the Equator. On the way, even before you arrive Bwindi you have had a bit of the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as is fondly known. To many, driving along paved eucalyptus avenues to the gorillas in not the best deal. Indeed many to purchase tour packages combining both Rwanda and Uganda, first doing Gorillas in Rwanda and then crossing to Uganda to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park for the BIG 5 tour and chimpanzee trekking among other safaris.
Comparison between the gorilla safari costs in Rwanda and Uganda:

Because of the long drive one endures from Kampala to Bwindi, the general cost is increased (even when you travel by public buses). It even increases more because you have to travel 2 days (to and from Bwindi). However, the increased cost is compensated by the low cost gorilla permit of USD 500. A one-day gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda for 1 person can cost as low as $1160 including transport and a gorilla permit while a low budget 3 days gorilla trek safari in Uganda goes for about $1250 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport). The two days Rwanda gorilla trek costs about $1220 ( with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) and a 3 days Rwanda gorilla trekking tour costs is about $1280 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) . Costs samples got from Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris website effective 2012/2013.
Other activities supplementing gorilla tracking

If you are not traveling just to see the mountain gorilla, and you want to include other activities in your visit, Rwanda may not be the best choice. Many tourists have continually had to cross to Uganda after their Rwanda gorilla trek to tour other reserves like Queen Elizabeth National Parks so endowed with abundant wildlife one cannot see in Rwanda. This is why probably folks continue enduring the long drives to Bwindi yet there is an easy way out.

In conclusion however, if you are planning to go on a budget or luxury gorilla safari in Rwanda or Uganda, consider your interests, finance, journey and number of day you need to spend on the safari. N/B, it is not Rwanda, not Uganda, not the Democratic Republic of Congo but where your pocket and heart choose. If you precisely want the mountain gorillas and nothing else, go for a one-day gorilla tracking, but if you are a kind of person in need of reloaded safaris- go for the long drive – you won’t regret.

You can book affordable and memorable gorilla tours in Rwanda and Uganda gorilla safaris with prominent tour companies such as Gorilla Expeditions Ltd, African Jungle Adventures Ltd and Sunwing Uganda Holidays among others.