There is an estimation of over 850 mountain gorillas remaining on the planet in East and central Africa in Bwindi Impenetrable forest situated in Southwestern Uganda and the Virunga massif that stretches from Northwestern Rwanda in volcanoes national park, Southwestern Uganda covering Mgahinga gorilla national park and eastern DR Congo in Virunga national park. Though some of these rare apes are wild, a number of families/groups have been habituated, are accustomed to human’s presence and can therefore be tracked by tourists.
Over the years, there has been a high growth and demand in gorilla tourism and this has been seen in the numbers of tourist inflows for gorilla trips in Rwanda, Uganda & DRC have taken a lead over DRC due to long time insecurities there. One would however wonder which of the above is the best destination to track gorillas. Lets look at the two major gorilla destinations (Rwanda and Uganda) so that we solve this travel puzzle
Rwanda; Volcanoes National park
The park is situated in northwestern Rwanda just about 3 to 4 hours drive from Kigali Rwanda’s Capital city. It has about 10 habituated gorilla groups/families and it has been the most visited gorilla national park in East Africa.
Volcanoes national park is most famous and preferred because of the ease to accessibility from Kigali on a tarmac and very good road which makes it convenient for travelers with even just a day to take part in a gorilla tour with a pick up from Kigali at 4:30 am. If you are not in a rush and would love to explore more around the national park, then a gorilla tour ranging from 2 days and more is ideal. One can spend a night in one of the well maintained safari lodges and hotels near the national park and be transferred to the park headquarters for a briefing with a pick up from the hotel at around 7:00 pm since most of these accommodation facilities are about 10 to 30 minutes a way from the national park headquarters briefing point.
Gorilla permits have to be booked in advance because there are a few slots for a day’s trek most especially in the peak season from June to September. Even though its not possible to book a gorilla permit for a specific gorilla group, there are chances of tracking a group basing on your physical capability and this can be determined at the park headquarters though you have to make those in charge aware of your situation.
Volcanoes National park has been the leading gorilla tracking destination not until in May when the Rwanda Development Board declared a 100 per cent increase in the cost of the gorilla permit from $750 to $1500 per person irrespective of one’s nationality status be it an Rwandan Citizen, east African citizens and Residents who have over the years enjoyed discounted rates because of their nationality and Residency status. The board explained the drastic increase as a move to enhance gorilla conservation and also increase revenue sharing with the local community around the national park though this has not been warmly welcomed at all by a number of tourists who had great interest in visiting the country.
In a nutshell, Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park is the best destination for gorilla tracking for those with little time and with the capability of paying a gorilla permit at $1500.
Uganda; Bwindi Impenetrable national park & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable national park has the highest mountain gorilla population with 14 habituated gorilla families/groups that are open to tourists’ visitation. The park is in southwestern Uganda and can be accessed through Entebbe International airport (9 to 10 hours’ drive) and through Kigali Rwanda’s Capital City (4 to 5 Hours’ drive). Mgahinga gorilla national park is also situated in southwestern Uganda and has one habituated gorilla group
The parks offer an excellent experience just like in Rwanda though with thick vegetation compared to Volcanoes National park. Some writers usually write about how hard it’s to go for gorilla tracking in Uganda, which is totally untrue. The fact that Bwindi has the highest gorilla population even makes it the ultimate gorilla destination. There are gorilla families/groups that can be got to after short times of trek while there are those that are a little strenuous therefore one can be allocated a gorilla group according on his/her capability
The price of gorilla permits in Uganda has made the two gorilla parks even more famous because its much more affordable than volcanoes national park. Unlike in Volcanoes national park, gorilla permits in Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks go for $600 per person in the peak season from December to March and from June to October and at $450 in April, May & November. What makes Uganda a more excellent destination are other national parks and destinations that complement gorilla tracking staring from one of the deepest lakes on the continent – lake Bunyonyi a top honey moon destination with magical islands and a number of birds, Queen Elizabeth national park a home to a variety of wildlife species with the highest Hippo population, Kibale forest national park the primates capital of the world where one can encounter chimpanzees as well as other birds, Murchison falls national park with the greatest waterfalls plus a variety of savannah wildlife species not forgetting the unique Kidepo valley national park with one of the rare wildlife species.
The Perl of Africa is a perfect destination to choose for a Uganda safari as its offers quite a diversity of adventure experience offers travellers and affordable jungle gorilla adventure and also one of the most wholesome experience of wildlife and cultural encounters creating remarkable safaris.