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The best locations for one of the world’s most unique experiences
This rare opportunity to go gorilla trekking allows travellers to have one of the most profound wildlife encounters – coming face to face with some of Africa’s most critically endangered species.
In recent years, gorilla trekking has quickly become one the most sought after experiences. Due to deforestation and hunting, populations once in the thousands have quickly declined to about 900. Spread thin throughout two remote sanctuaries, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the efforts to increase the safety and wellbeing of the gorillas has been at the forefront of both Rwanda and Uganda’s conservation efforts. In addition to their rarity within the continent of Africa, they are even more unique in the fact that these mountain gorillas can only survive in the wild, making it impossible to have any encounters including those in zoos.
In an effort to better protect these mammals, Governments in Rwanda and Uganda have imposed strict permit allotments in order to prevent hunting and promote conservation. Although both countries offer opportunities to gorilla trek, they vary in overall cost, experience, and conservation efforts. What makes the most sense for travellers, depends on what your priorities are.
# of Permits Available PER DAY: 150
Cost Per Permit: $700 (including all park entrance fees, gorilla watching for an hour, advanced traclers and ranger fees)
Uganda has two National Parks for gorilla trekking – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Despite having two options, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the most popular in Uganda due to the fact that it occupies 17/18 gorilla families.
After two decades of political instability in Uganda during the 1970s and 1980s, Uganda’s National Parks were hunting grounds for gorillas. Their meat was used for food, traditional medicines, and was even a key player in the BushMeat Trade. Fortunately, in 1986 the National Movement Army took over power and quickly sought to change the fate of Uganda’s instability, rapidly bringing peace and making change efforts to help the rapidly declining gorillas. In 1993, gorilla trekking officially opened in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and with it, came the habituation of gorilla families.
About the Trekking Itself:
Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the most difficult part of the trek in Uganda. In order to reach it, travellers require a flight from Entebbe as well as a two hour drive in rough conditions to get to their lodge near the National Park.
A typical morning trek starts around 5 or 6 AM. After eating breakfast at your lodge, you will leave with a packed lunch for a day. The trek itself can be difficult at times depending on where the gorillas are during that day. Furthermore, it can be short, with only a couple of hours required to find them, or it could be more extensive and require more physical exertion. Once you find your family of gorillas, you will spend about an hour with them and have an opportunity to observe how they act with one another, and even with you. After spending time with them, you will head back to your hotel for your overnight stay! In comparison to Rwanda, Uganda’s treks are noted for being more difficult and requiring much more effort in being able to reach the gorilla families.
# of Permits Available PER DAY: 80
Cost Per Permit: $1500 (including all park entrance fees, gorilla watching for an hour, advanced traclers and ranger fees)
Rwanda has one area to gorilla trek – Volcanoes National Park. Within the park, there are 20 families, 10 of which are used for research purposes while the other 10 are for gorilla trekking.
Sparked largely by the studies and efforts of American Zoologist, Dian Fossey, the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Park Development created news laws that governed hunting in the National Parks. Gorillas were heavily poached prior to her efforts and raised concern all over the world. The flow of visitors to Volcanoes National Park created jobs that eventually employed the same locals who were killing the mountain gorillas to instead protect them. It is one of Rwanda’s most popular tourist activities.
About the Trekking Itself:
Unlike Uganda, Volcanoes National Park is only a three-hour drive from Kigali on well-maintained roads. Similar to Uganda, a typical morning trek starts around 5 or 6 AM. After eating breakfast at your lodge, you will leave with a packed lunch for a day. The trek itself can be difficult at times depending on where the gorillas are during that day. Furthermore, it can be short, with only a couple of hours required to find them, or it could be more extensive and require more physical exertion. Once you find your family of gorillas, you will spend about an hour with them and have an opportunity to observe how they act with one another, and even with you. After spending time with them, you will head back to your hotel for your overnight stay! In comparison to Uganda, Rwanda’s treks are noted for being much easier to navigate and requiring less extensive physical exertion.
So, what’s the verdict?
There is no bad option on which country is better for gorilla trekking as both have their pros and cons. However, depending on your priorities, one country can be better than the other. See our recommendations below based on your goal!
The More Budget Friendly Option – Uganda
Due to the Rwanda permits being twice as expensive, Uganda is definitely a less expensive option for gorilla trekking, even when adding in transfers, hotels, lodges, and more!
The Ease of Experience- Rwanda
Rwanda’s ease of getting to the various lodges and National Parks contribute to it being known as the “Premium” gorilla trekking experience. The ease of travel is significantly better and the lodges are known for being a bit more higher end.
The Conservation Efforts- Both!
Both permits allocate the same percentage towards Conservation efforts in protecting the gorillas! At the end of the day, both destinations present the opportunity to come face-to-face with one of the world’s most beautiful creatures.
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Established in 2019, Roane Travel Design is a family-owned company in Excelsior, Minnesota. As lifelong travel enthusiasts, we strive to share our passion for adventure with the rest of the world. Let us design an unforgettable experience for you.