Gorillas give the most breath-taking and unforgettable experience for trekkers. It is important for trekkers to know where and how to go for Gorilla trekking and the requirements before you head for your trekking destination.
Mountain Gorillas are in Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. In Uganda the national parks are; Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park. DR Congo has Virunga National park whereas Rwanda has Volcanoes National park. The Gorilla trekking differs from country to country and it is important that you get this information on Rwanda, Uganda and Congo.
The question asked frequently is which place is best to do Gorilla trekking and you will find your answer from this article;
Gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda happens in Bwindi impenetrable National park and to a small extent in the Mountains of Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Mgahinga is part of Virunga and Volcanoes national parks. Uganda has 2 sections with a total of 18 gorilla families, of which Bwindi national park has 17 groups.
The Bwindi gorilla groups namely; Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Mgahinga national park gorilla family has the Nyakagezi group surrounded by the Virunga volcanoes, Mt Gahinga, Mt Muhavura and Mt Sabinyo.
Bwindi national park is located quite a long distance from Entebbe/Kampala. It takes approximately 10 hours’ drive from Entebbe/Kampala to Bwindi national park. One can also schedule a flight to the park which takes approximately 40 minutes or flying into Kigali and drive 4 hours to the park.
Uganda has approximately 400 or more gorillas half of the world’s gorilla population.
Uganda has 17 gorilla groups 15 in Bwindi and 2 in Mgahinga National park. A Gorilla permit costs $700 per day making it more affordable than Rwanda. Cost of the permit is a determinant in decision making for Gorilla trekkers.
Apart from enjoying trekking the gorillas, one can also enjoy Gorilla habituation. This usually takes 4 hours unlike the hours spent while trekking. This experience costs $1500 per person.
Apart from visiting the Gorillas, Uganda has other national parks you can combine with gorilla trekking; these include chimpanzees, mountain hiking and other wildlife animals.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
In Rwanda, mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park situated 113 kilometers from Kigali International airport (approximately 2-3 hours). It is located north-western of the country at the Uganda and DR Congo boarder.
One advantage with this national park is that it’s near the city compared to Bwindi national park of Uganda. Rwanda makes it the easiest gorilla trekking option for travelers.
The park has approximately 150 gorillas divided into about 10 groups and other wildlife animals.
Dian Fossey founded the gorilla conservation in Rwanda. Before she was killed, she was forced to cross by the civil war to Congo and hence the reason why the oldest gorilla groups are found in DRC.
Rwanda increased the gorilla permit to $1500 which is twice the Ugandan fee and thrice DRC cost. Despite it being the most expensive, Rwanda still remains the best option for travellers who have little travel time.
Rwanda’s high tourism strategy has a promising increasing income for the local man who lives around Volcanoes national park. The volcano safari experience is one of the most expensive in Rwanda. Besides the gorilla permit, the lodges are costly with lesser lodge options. Spending two nights in one of the lodges near Volcanoes national park can cost one about $10,000 in that short period of time. These lodges come with a high end standard experiences despite the
Gorilla trekking in D.R. Congo.
Gorilla trekking in Congo happens in Virunga national park known for being the oldest park in Africa. Congo has raised the number of mountain gorillas from 75 to 300 individuals or more. Gorilla trekking in Congo is cheaper than Uganda and Rwanda. A gorilla trekking permit in DR Congo costs only $400 for foreigners and $150 for the local man.
Congo unlike Rwanda and Uganda is known for conserving lowland gorillas. These gorillas are smaller in size compared to the mountain gorillas, their faces are narrow and have a softer fur.
The Virunga Park has outstanding features such as active volcanoes Nyiragongo which recently erupted in 2021 and Nyamuragira. These can be hiked in one day and it’s a great experience for tourist.
The park was closed before but by 2014 the number of tourists has increased. Apart from trekking gorillas in Virunga national park one cam also experience chimpanzee trekking.
When one is deciding on the best destination for gorilla trekking they should look at different factors such as permits, driving time, airports, accommodation options, safety and other activities to do and many others.
Comparing between these 3 gorilla trekking options, the cheapest gorilla safari is;
When one is determining to go with a cost saving option, DR Congo is your destination. This is because it is easy to access Virunga national park from Kigali. It is a 3 hours’ drive across to Goma Congo.
From this safari one can watch habituated chimpanzees, climb mountain Nyiragongo among others after the gorilla experience.
Another affordable option is trekking in Uganda.
A permit costs $700 per person and accommodation ranges from budget, mid-range and luxurious. The challenge comes in where one has to drive for almost 9 hours from the airport to the park. Here one can opt to use air flight from Kampala to Bwindi to reduce on the driving hours. To avoid inconveniences one should book earlier for gorilla permits.
The beauty of trekking In Uganda is that there are other activities to be enjoyed. Uganda has 10 national parks compared to Rwanda that has 4, meaning there is much to do in Uganda. These include pygmy cultural visits, game drives in one of the most visited park Queen Elizabeth which is known for its amazing wildlife and climbing lions, Lake Bunyonyi among other destinations while going or coming back from either Bwindi national park or Mgahinga national park.
A luxury traveler has Rwanda as the best gorilla destination. As mentioned above, Rwanda has the most luxurious lodges around Volcano national park. It is characterized by high end experiences. Leave alone the fact that it has the most expensive permits, Rwanda has the most organized and safe place to do mountain gorilla trekking.
Apart from gorilla trekking one can also visit Dian Fossey’s place of rest, volcano climbing, visit twin lakes, city tours, local communities, the amazing art galleries, golden monkeys and the genocide sights.
Alternatively, as an additional experience after the gorilla trek, you can either visit the Dian Fossey’s grave and museum, the local communities, climb volcanoes in that region, visit Lake Kivu, or also watch golden monkeys.