COMPARING GORILLA TREKKING: UGANDA VERSUS RWANDA
Comparing gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is one of the important aspect when planning your gorilla tour in Africa. Both Uganda and Rwanda are considered best destinations for mountain gorilla tracking but there’s a lot to know in order to make the best choice between the two Uganda, Rwanda gorilla trekking so as to enjoy the experience.
Important points to consider include; Cost of gorilla trekking permit, your strength to hike up and down the mountain, Accommodation preference, length of the tour, other activities to be done alongside gorilla trekking for those who have many vacation days and ease of access. Therefore choose according to your budget before you make final choice to avoid challenges when you are already on your trip.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park. Bwindi Impenetrable forest alone hosts about 400 mountain gorillas which is a half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. The rest of the population reside in the dense forested Virunga mountains of Rwanda in Volcanoes national park, Mgahinga in Uganda and Virunga National park of DR Congo. These are the only three places in the whole world that host mountain gorilla. (Gorilla beringei beringei)
For travelers interested in mountain gorilla trekking activity, the best choice should be done between Uganda and Rwanda where safety situations are good, If you are looking at cheapest gorilla permit, DR Congo’s Virunga national park will be the best option. Choice depend on the following factors;
Gorilla permit costs; Comparing gorilla trekking tours: Uganda versus Rwanda – Uganda Gorilla permit costs USD 700 while Rwanda gorilla permit cost USD 1500 as of 2020-22 tariff. This Makes Uganda gorilla trekking permits cheaper and affordable for the travelers whose budget is small. Visitors who are more interested to undertake a luxury gorilla safari, Rwanda gorilla trekking permit can be the best option. The cost of 2 gorilla trekking permits for Uganda are equal to one gorilla permit in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, yet you both enjoy viewing for one hour with the gorillas in both countries. Rwanda gorilla permit rate does not favor residents unlike Uganda that offers special and good resident rates as per 2020 – 2022 tariff. Foreign non-resident pays $700, Foreign residents pay $600 and residents plus East African residents pay $70 or UGX: 250,000/=
Terrain of the gorilla parks, Gorilla trekking, the activity requires physical fitness as it will involve hiking up and down the mountains in search of the gorillas, its therefore somehow easier to trek gorillas in Rwanda as the park is not so steep and thick like in Bwindi forest of Uganda which is impenetrable and requires you to be strong and fit to go through the thick forest with vines in search of gorillas.
Availability of many gorilla families; In Uganda there are about 22 gorilla families with 21 in Bwindi and 1 family living in mount Mgahinga whereas Volcanoes national park of Rwanda has 10 gorilla families. Each gorilla family in both countries is visited by 8 people per day, meaning 176 people track gorillas in Uganda per day and 80 people go trekking in Rwanda. This gives you a high chance to get a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda rather than in Rwanda. Uganda also has a gorilla family set aside of which one spends 4 hours participating in the gorilla habituation process with rangers and researchers at cost of USD 1500 for one permit.
Travel distance (time and travel) Volcanoes national park in Rwanda can be accessed in 3 hours drive from Kigali International airport on well-maintained tarmac roads which makes it easy to access the park. Bwindi Impenetrable forest in Uganda is a 9 to 10-hours drive from Entebbe international airport, this is long journey but it rewards you opportunity to discover many things and enjoy more of the country by passing different villages. For someone to reach Bwindi so fast, one can charter a flight to the park at an added cost, alternatively access Bwindi through Kigali by taking a 4-5 hour drive to Bwindi. So someone with tight program needs at least a two-day safari in Rwanda and three-days for a Uganda gorilla tour to visit the gorillas on short trip.
Other activities you can engage in alongside gorilla tracking; Both countries have other activities that one can do besides gorilla trekking which can be added on a gorilla trip but Rwanda has a limited range of activities to offer than Uganda. In Rwanda you can go for chimpanzee tracking, golden monkey tracking and birding while in Uganda there’s numerous activities that one can combine to a Gorilla trekking tour, making a long safari. For instance you can take a waterfall nature walk in Buhoma sector after the trek, visiting Queen Elizabeth national park for game drive safari to search for tree climbing lions, Chimp tracking in Kibale forest, Game viewing in Murchison falls park, White water rafting on River Nile in Jinja, Kazinga channel boat trip, and Lake Mburo boat tour, cultural experience to Batwa community and many more
Level of Accommodation and lodges, When comparing gorilla trekking between Uganda and Rwanda, we also look at accommodation in each country. In Uganda there are many options for accommodation for all four sectors of the Bwindi Park, Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. This gives you all choices luxury mid-range and budget. The Bwindi Safari lodges include; Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp, Buhoma lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge. In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park the lodges available are most expensive and more luxury. At a limited range are few budget and mid-range of which are usually filled to capacity. But one can access lodge to spend a night in both countries depending on your budget.
Better Photography and Viewing, In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park most vegetation is bamboo with short grass which allows you to view gorillas and get very clear pictures especially if there is no rain because rain can make it foggy and unclear to see gorillas. In Bwindi, you do your trekking in Impenetrable forest, meaning the vegetation is thick and difficult to have good view through the vines. A good camera is recommended in order to get perfect photos.
Comparing gorilla trekking and allocation of gorilla families in both countries Uganda and Rwanda are done favoring aged people but in Rwanda’s volcanoes they consider more of next program and destination to where you go after the trek. In Uganda you will need to inform your driver the night before to ask for easy gorilla family to trek when allocation begins on the trekking day.
Community levy, Uganda gives 20% of the permit revenue to community development and Rwanda gives only 10% of the permit revenue to community development.
Ease of interaction and communication, Communicating in Uganda is easier with the English language commonly spoken in every part of the country. In Rwanda many locals speak Kinyarwanda and French with less English making it hard to interact and communicate with local people if you don’t know any of those languages.
Bearing in mind all the above given comparisons, the choice still lies in your hands, each country has its good and bad side, both countries are safe for travels. Though Uganda’s jungle Bwindi impenetrable forest remains the best destination for mountain gorilla tracking in the world. Therefore, you stand to choose a destination that matches your budget and travel interests.