Gorilla Trekking Uganda Vs Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda Versus Gorilla Trekking In Uganda

What is gorilla trekking?

The term ‘gorilla trekking’ refers to an activity of moving into the jungles of rain forests on the quest to find a species of gorillas. Gorilla trekking often involves walking long or short distances by a visitor while searching for a particular habituated gorilla family. It is an activity which could last from about 30 minutes to several walking hours depending on the movement of a gorilla group in the Jungle, it also depends on your level of fitness and how fast you can hike. Once a gorilla family of interest is sighted, visitors are then allowed a maximum of one-hour ultimate gorilla experience in the midst of the giant apes.

An overview of gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is purely a life-changing adventure rewarding visitors with a close encounter to the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Before the trek, a cup of tea or coffee is served to visitors at the park headquarters (Visitors’ information centre) Along with it is a traditional performance which gives guests a good start for their exciting day’s adventure before being briefed by a ranger on how to behave while on the trek. Later on, groups of eight individuals are led through the tracking trails on an adventure to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Each hiking group is assigned a ranger and two armed guards, accompanied by porters to ensure the guest’s safety from jungle animals such as Elephants. The hiking experience in the search for the mountain gorillas in the Jungle is so interesting and unpredictable since gorillas are free to loam about in their natural habit hence rewarding trekkers with long or short treks depending on the movement of a gorilla family one is meant to track. Once the gorilla family of interest is spotted, visitors enjoy one hour with the gentle apes while they incredibly admire how graceful and peaceful these gentle giants are.

An overview of gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla Family in Volcanoes National Park – Rwanda

The memorable gorilla trekking experience in Uganda begins 8:30 am with guests being briefed about what is expected of them during the tracking experience. Later, visitors grouped into groups of eight where each group is assigned a park ranger. Thereafter, the groups embark on the journey to the tracking trails on a quest to find the rare mountain gorilla species. Gorilla trekking in Uganda (Bwindi National Park) is more strenuous compared to Rwanda and time-taken ranges between 1 – 7 hours depending on the movement of a gorilla family a visitor has planned to track. Once the gorilla family is sighted, visitors are the then allowed a one-hour unforgettable moment with a gorilla group after which they head back to the park.

Differences between Rwanda’s gorilla trekking and Uganda’s gorilla trekking

For quite some time, visitors have wondered whether there exists a difference if a guest chooses tracking gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda. Therefore in this article, I try to draw the difference between gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda as well as what the two countries share in common in terms of gorilla trekking adventures. Here some of the differences between Rwanda’s gorilla trekking and Uganda’s gorilla trekking;

  • Gorilla trekking destinations

Uganda has only two destinations which offer visitors an out of the ordinary gorilla trekking experience. These are mainly Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park located in the southwestern part of Uganda. Rwanda, on the other hand, has only one gorilla trekking destination- Volcanoes national park situated northeast of Rwanda. With reference from the above information, Uganda has more gorilla trekking destinations compared to Rwanda.

  • Cost of Gorilla trekking permits

Rwanda charges a fee of 1500 USD for a visitor interested in tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. This fee includes park entry charges, guiding and a certificate for accomplishing the trek. In Uganda, a gorilla permit costs 700 USD. Looking at the two gorilla permit charges, Rwanda offers quite an expensive gorilla trekking safaris compared to Uganda.

  • Habituated Gorilla families

Rwanda has a total of twelve habituated gorilla families currently that are available for gorilla trekking. These include Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza and Susa although one (Hirwa gorilla group) has been a resident in Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda for the past few years.

Gorilla Trekers in Bwindi Forest – Uganda

This is different from Uganda which has a total of 19 habituated gorilla families currently all available for gorilla trekking experiences. These include Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Nkuringo, Mishaya, Kahungye, Bweza, Busingye, Nsongi, Bikyingi, Rwigi, Katwe, Mucunguzi, Bushaho, Mukiza, Kyaguriro for research and Nyakagyezi in Mgahinga gorilla park. Therefore, Uganda has more mountain gorilla groups available for trekking compared to Rwanda.

  • Road distance to gorilla trekking locations

In Uganda, travelling to Bwindi impenetrable national park from Kampala is usually about 450-490km approximately 8 – 10 hours drive by road depending to which gorilla sector you are heading to. Similarly, road distance from Kigali Capital of Rwanda to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is about 170km approximately 4 hours drive. On the other hand, Mgahinga gorilla is 495km from Kampala approximately 10hours drive by road. From Kigali city of Rwanda to Mgahinga gorilla national park is about 131 km approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.

However, in Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is about 106 km from Kigali close to 2 hours drive on a smooth road from Kigali- Rwanda’s capital. Therefore, it is undeniably true that Rwanda’s gorilla trekking destination is nearer and easily accessible in terms of road distance compared to gorilla trekking destinations in Uganda which may require long hours of driving.

  • After gorilla trekking activities

Visitors to the pearl of Africa (Uganda) get to enjoy a variety of activities after gorilla trekking. These include white water rafting, game drive in different savannah parks such as Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley, birding, boat cruise, hot air balloon trips, cultural tours, chimpanzee trekking, golden monkey tracking, Elgon and Rwenzori mountain climbing, nature walks and so much more.

Visitors to Rwanda on another hand enjoy a few after gorilla trekking activities such as golden monkey trekking, birding, Kigali Genocide memorial museum, canopy walks, chimpanzee trekking and cultural encounters at Ibyiwacu cultural centre. This is different from Uganda where a visitor has a variety of after trekking activities to enjoy. Thus in case, a visitor is interested in exploring more attractions than mountain gorillas, Uganda would be an ideal destination to enjoy this.

According to Mr Philimone, the managing Director of 4×4 Tanzania, he receives many tourists interested in seeing lots of Africa’s wildlife in Tanzania, after which they fly to Rwanda purposely for gorilla tracking experience.

Most importantly, visitors to Rwanda enjoy a traditional performance before gorilla trekking which gives them a good start for their exciting day’s adventure. This is usually during breakfast where they enjoy a cup of coffee along with local music, dance and drama before being briefed by a ranger on how to behave while trekking gorillas. This is different in Uganda where traditional performances are enjoyed often during evening hours around borne fires after trekking usually at an incurred cost. However of recent, only in Ruhija sector, some traditional performances take place at the park headquarters before the actual hike.

Similarities between Rwanda and Uganda’s gorilla trekking

Although gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda has several differences, some features remain similar about the two countries in regard to their trekking adventures. Here are some of those similarities between Rwanda’s and Uganda’s gorilla trekking;

  • Time for an ultimate gorilla experience

Both Rwanda and Uganda reward visitors with a one-hour ultimate experience with the gorillas. This is usually after finding a gorilla group of interest where visitors can observe the gentle apes, take lifetime photographs, learn about their behaviour and head back to the park after this.

  • Gorilla trekking time

Both Rwanda and Uganda gorilla trekking time lasts from 30 minutes to four hours or more depending on the movement of the mountain gorilla group one is tracking. Whether short or long trekking time both countries offer a remarkable gorilla adventure.

  • Recommended age for trekking

In both countries, visitors must be 15 years and above for them to be allowed to go gorilla trekking. This restriction is meant to prevent the spread of diseases especially chickenpox and mumps from gorillas to humans and vice versa. Similarly, persons below the age of 15 are considered unfit to take on the difficulties that may arise during gorilla trekking.

  • Briefing of visitors

In both countries, visitors are first briefed before they embark on the quest to trek gorillas. The activity is mandatory for every visitor who plans to trek gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. Briefing in both countries is done in the morning hours before embarking on the trek. It is often a caution-guided session given to visitors in preparation of how to behave themselves along the trekking trails and in the midst of the gorillas.

  • Number of Visitors

In both Rwanda and Uganda, only a maximum of eight visitors allowed to trek a gorilla group in a day. This number restricted to only visitors who are free to have around one-to-two porters each to help a guest around with carrying the luggage and whatever one would need during trekking.

  • Distance from the Gorillas

Visitors to both Rwanda and Uganda are advised to always stay 7 meters away from the gorillas while in the midst of the mountain gorillas. This is done to protect mountain gorillas from catching human diseases.

  • Gorilla trekking season

Both Uganda and Rwanda are all year round gorilla trekking destinations. However, the best time to trek mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda is during the dry seasons. This would be during the months of June to August and December to February. This is because during the fore mentioned months, the tracking trails are not very slippery and the gorillas are easy to spot, unlike the rainy season where gorillas tend to take shelter in the forests and are quite hard to spot.

  • Gorilla trekking rules and regulations

Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is governed by a numbers of rules which all visitors ought to abide by. These are usually divided into three sections; before trekking, during trekking and after trekking. The rules in both countries come along with high penalties in case a guest violates them, thus compliance is always encouraged.

  • Number of times a gorilla group can be visited daily

In Rwanda and Uganda, a gorilla group can trek once a day. This is often one set of visitors per gorilla family daily. This is done to minimize behaviour changes of the mountain gorillas as well as to ensure that other habituated mountain gorilla groups are visited.

  • Packing list for gorilla trekking

Both Rwanda and Uganda require guest to be very well prepared for the trekking adventure in order to have an amazing gorilla safari. The packing list in both countries often involves necessary items to ensure a visitor enjoys a great trekking experience. Here is a list containing some of the vital items that visitors need to carry for gorilla trekking in both countries; hiking boots, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, a rain jacket, a backpack, a hat, sunglasses, insect repellant, camera and many others.

In conclusion, the question of whether its Uganda or Rwanda’s gorilla trekking on chooses lies on which form of gorilla safari adventure a visitor is interested in. One needs not to forget that both countries are undoubtedly amazing mountain gorilla destinations which reward guests with exceptional gorilla trekking safaris.

Comparing Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

gorilla-trekking-adventureGorilla trekking activities in Uganda and Rwanda are carried out in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Volcanoes National Park respectively. Only 8 people can visit a given gorilla group for every day. In Uganda, so far 19 gorilla groups have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and so can have 152 persons tracking mountain gorillas on any day.

Rwanda can likewise take 80 persons for every day. All else being equivalent, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest since its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are regularly found in bamboo than the thick forest which makes photographing easier.

The main challenge with gorilla trekking in Rwanda is positively the cost of the gorilla tracking permits at US$1500 contrasted with Uganda’s US$700 for every gorilla permit. In any case, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is difficult for Uganda.

Volcanoes National Park is found 116km from Kigali and can be driven in only 2 hours. Then again, Bwindi Forest National Park is located 500km from Kampala / Entebbe International Airport and a drive can take over 8-10hours. In that sense, you will spend no less than 3 days for your gorilla trek in Uganda; Day 1 for travelling to Bwindi, day 2 for gorilla trek and Day 3 for driving back to Kampala or Entebbe Airport. In the event that a tour operator is making you a safari package, they ought most likely need to consider this expense and incorporate it in your tour cost.

Nonetheless, the long drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is very charming with extraordinary views all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park (for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with plenteous wildlife), terraced mountains with streaming rivers, and a lot if rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.

Some voyagers have likewise decided on flying over from Entebbe airport to Kihihi and Kisoro airstrips on the edges of Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks. It is only 45 to 60 minutes of flight. A round trip ticket costs about US$250 with Aero Link Uganda. In that case, you will need to organize your transfer from the airstrip to your booked accommodation in Bwindi Forest National Park, and back also. (Talk with our preferred agents for support to arrange this please).

You will absolutely need to spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it’s for Rwanda despite the fact that this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla trekking permit.

Besides, some areas of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest 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.  Also, however, the road heading from Volcanoes National Park office to the gorilla trekking start points must be accessed with a raised 4×4 vehicle, preferably Land Cruiser, Land Rover, Nissan Safari or Patrol and Rav4.

Step by Step: How to Book Gorilla Permits

How To Book A Gorilla Permit

A gorilla permit is an essential tool every visitor should have and it is what lets you visit a habituated gorilla family in Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Booking a gorilla permit is one important step in planning a gorilla safari in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.

Mountain gorillas exist in only the three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo) and gorilla permits can be booked through a credible tour company/agency and for this case, simply get in touch with reservation team to assist you secure your gorilla permit while you sit back home. Alternatively, gorilla permits can be booked directly through a respective conservation agencies depending on the country you plan to visit for gorilla safari.

Congo Mountain Gorillas

Gorillas in DR Congo

Respective gorilla destinations issue out gorilla permits to tourists who are above 15 years and each permit lets you visit only one habituated family with only an hour of a magical encounter. In Uganda, gorilla permits can be booked through our reservation team. We are a credible tour company in Uganda offering authentic gorilla trekking experiences and our team is available 24/7 to ensure you make your dream come true. Procedure of booking a gorilla permit in Uganda through a tour operator/company or Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)-an organ in charge conservation and management of wildlife in and outside protected areas in Uganda.

  • Contact our reservation team or at reservation team at UWA.
  • We shall cross check to find out availability of dates you intend to go trek mountain gorillas.
  • After, we shall get back to you as soon as possible.
  • You will be required to submit your details.
  • A deposit of 30 percent will be required for you to make and the rest can be cleared within 91 days to actual gorilla trek.
  • Payments can effected through account details provided to you by us or the tour operator you choose to deal with or reservation team at the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Once you make payment or deposit, the tour operator secure or book for you the permit.

To book a gorilla permit through tour operator is easier than booking direct with UWA given the tedious process. 80 percent of all the gorilla permits are given to only members of Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) and this means, booking with UWA leaves you with only 20 percent.

How much are gorilla permits?

Between now and 30th June, Uganda issues out gorilla permits at $600 per person-for foreign non-residents, $500-for foreign residents and 250.000 Uganda Shillings for East African residents.

However, effective 1st July, 2020 each gorilla permit in Uganda will be obtained at $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents and 250.000 Uganda shillings for the East African citizens. Obtaining a gorilla permit in Uganda lets you visit gorillas in Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In Rwanda, gorilla permits are issued out at $1500 per person. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is conducted only in Volcanoes National Park which is set in the Northern Province. To secure your gorilla permit in Rwanda, you can still get in touch with a credible ground tour operator or do so through a reservation team at Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

In the DRC, each gorilla permit is obtainable at $450 per person. Visitors on Congo gorilla safari can go gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park and permits can be booked through a registered tour operator or reserve it through the park authorities. Besides mountain gorilla trekking, DR Congo is known for Eastern lowland gorilla trekking which is conducted in Kahuzi Biega National Park.

When to book a gorilla permit

To book a gorilla permit in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, you are advised to do so at least 3 to 4 months before the actual tracking date. Usually, other visitors do book permits even a year before the embarking on the actual trip. Please note, gorilla permits are scarce in the months of June, July, August, September and December, January, February. This is because the demand for gorilla permits increases during the peak season.

Choosing the most suitable places to stay for your Gorilla safari

In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four sectors where gorilla tracking takes place. There sectors are;

  • Buhoma
  • Ruhija
  • Nkuringo
  • Rushaga

Each of these sectors has different habituated gorilla groups, and each sector has different accommodation options, ranging from basic / budget lodges and campsites to mid-range and luxury lodges.

Gorilla Close Up Lodge

Gorilla Close Up Lodge

Before choosing any accommodation unit, make sure that, that lodge or camp site is located in the sector where your gorilla permit was booked. All sectors are distant from one another, therefore, staying in one sector and tracking gorillas in another sector can ruin your gorilla trekking experience! For example, if you book accommodation in Buhoma sector, with gorilla permit for Ruhija sector, you will be required to wake up early and drive for 90 minutes in the Jungle for your trek. Things become worse if your accommodation is in Buhoma sector and gorilla permits for for Rushaga or Nkuringo sectors, to be honest, you can not make it in time because the journey takes more than 3 hours.

In conclusion, for any plans to visit Uganda, Rwanda or DR Congo for mountain gorilla safaris, please make sure you reserve your gorilla permit early to avoid the last minute disappointments, and be careful while booking your accommodation unit.

Tips On How To Set Up A Campsite?

Are you planning to travel to Uganda for camping adventures and you do not know how to set up your campsite? Whereas most campers may take setting up a campsite as very challenging, the latter may not be true if you are keen enough. Camping is entirely celebrating the outdoors, spending time at close range with nature. However, to come up with a perfect home away from the usual, you have to plan for it adequately and the tips provided below can be of great value to you.

  • Choose a perfect site

If you are thinking of undertaking a self drive and camping safari in Uganda, first look out for gently sloping land and bear in mind about water drainage. Getting a leveled area makes it simpler for you to prepare food and set up a tent on flat ground and at end of it all; you will enjoy comfortable night stay. You may also prefer areas with some trees for you to have a shade and the trees can act best as wind breakers, however, you have to be keen on the falling branches and ensure that your tent is set at a distance. Also consider the direction of sun rise while setting up a camp for you to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun rise while in the jungle and do not forget to bear in mind the wind effects

  • Established campsites

Selecting the best camping site at already established campground is simpler as you can just pull your trailer up to any of the designated campsites. You can also opt for walk in sites within the easy walking distances of the campsite road or parking lot. Regardless of any site that you will opt for, the site should be gently sloping for you to set up a shelter and fire ring. Most of the already set up campground feature amenities such as picnic tables, restrooms and at times water pumps within reach from the campsite.

  • Tent and food set up

Tents play a big role and it can be used beyond sleeping. They can be used as areas for storing unpacked equipment and help in offering shelter especially with bad weather conditions. Preparing food around the fire is ideally the most captivating experience of a lifetime but keep this in mind. Always prepare your food downwind, after you are done, all the extra food should be kept at least 200 feet from the camp, stored in a bear bag and hung about 10 to 20 feet up in a tree. The bags are usually designed to hang food out of reach of wildlife.

  • Disposal set up

The bathroom area should be set up no less than 200 feet off the camp. Ensure that you spare an area for trash as this will help you when cleaning the area at the end of your vacation.

  • Campfire set up

While setting up a camp fire, be aware of wind direction and protection. Keep a 15 foot radius clear of wood to prevent unintentional fires. After you have successfully established your campsite, you can now freely relax and chill in your camp.

  • Besides the carrying the tent, make sure that you have a tarp shelter

This can serve another significant purpose while you are on camping safari and a well strung tarp makes adequate room for your camp and you will have comfortable camping experience. Tarp shelter can serve as the central gathering area, the kitchen, the front porch, garage, shade or lounge.

From the discussion above, setting up a campsite can be simpler as it comes with experience. The entire process involves learning something new about what works best for you every time you make up your campsite. Camping safaris are the most exceptional experiences that offer you a chance to interact closely with nature. By paying maximum attention and setting up the best camp site will reward you and the rest of campers with amazing experiences of lifetime.

Rwanda For Your Next Vacation

Many people around the world do not know much about Rwanda due to the fact it is a young nation and not that politically prolific. But let’s try to make the world know Rwanda. Rwanda is a small country located in the east African region bordered by Uganda in the North, Tanzania in the East, Burundi in the South and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a country that lies near the equator and this makes it a tropical country that receives rain and sunshine throughout the year.

When you turn to the touristic part of Rwanda, it is like any other African country in terms of the experience it offers to its visitors which is sand, sun and wildlife. The experience is always different in Rwanda as it has different unique wildlife that cannot be seen anywhere else. The millions of tourists that explore Rwanda have had a lifetime experience and many have returned to Rwanda for more encounters of the amazing wildlife, climate and its hospitable people.

Rwanda is the place to be for every eco tourist due to the fact that it has the most sought after animals in Africa the mountain gorillas that are inhabit in the north east of the country at volcanoes national park situated within the Virunga ranges. Rwanda has a third of these world’s huge primates and it is best place to watch the mountain gorillas in their natural setting. Mountain gorillas are very intelligent animals that have 98.8% DNA similar to mankind and this implies that they have lots of traits similar to mankind. The most intriguing of the traits are the social characters of relating among each other and the ability to use tools like sticks to gather food and also to build shelter. Coming close to the mountain gorillas is an exhilarating moment and it is the closest mankind can get to nature.

Away from the gorillas, Rwanda also has other wildlife to enjoy on a vacation. Rwanda is a home to 13 different species of other common primates namely the chimpanzees, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus, blue monkeys and the grey cheeked mangabey to mention but a few. These are found in Nyungwe forest national park in the southwest of the country. Amongst the common primates chimpanzees take the top notch of excitement. Chimpanzees are also apes like mankind and are the closest relatives of mankind. These are arguably the most intelligent animals in the world next to humans. When a visitor meets the chimpanzees in the wild, he/she can never fail to get mesmerized as these small apes have lots of interesting social displays like the ability to use tools like stones and tree branches to gather food.

In addition to the above Rwanda also possesses the common big animals that is the elephants, zebras, buffalos, giraffes, lions and antelopes and these can be viewed on game drive round Akagera national park located in the southeast. These common animals have interesting to watch in their natural setting as they move and run around the savannah plains looking for survival. These animals are photogenic and every traveler would like to have a photo of these beautiful wild animals.

Rwanda also has other attraction to watch on the vacation like the architectural marvels in the city of Kigali and also its culture by encountering different cultural communities and centers. Rwanda is a country where wildlife grinds with traditional culture and any traveler interested in wildlife and authentic African traditional culture, Rwanda is the place to be on your vacation.