Gorilla Trekking RWANDA / UGANDA / CONGO
Before I write anything about my experiences of trekking for Gorillas; let me share this interesting fact with you, there are less than 800 Mountain Gorillas living in the world today.
I feel very special to have been Gorilla Trekking, twice in my life.
While ago I went to Rwanda. Previously I had travelled to Uganda and did an extensive safari along with a Gorilla Trek; the 8 night safari took me to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria and Chambara Gorge for chimps in the wild.
Lucky me - I can now sit back and compare both Rwanda and Uganda for which is best for Gorilla Trekking.
There are two types of Gorillas; mountain and lowland gorillas. It is the mountain gorilla that I have seen in Rwanda and Uganda. It is the lowland gorilla that lives in the Republic of Congo. One day I will get there...
When you go trekking for Gorillas you have to purchase a Gorilla Permit. They are pricey. It was definitely the most expensive day trip I have ever done (but also the most rewarding). A gorilla permit in Rwanda is USD1500 compared to USD600 in Uganda. The permit allows you 1 hour of precious viewing time with the gorillas.
The permit numbers are limited. In Rwanda the group size is a maximum of 8 people, with only 80 permits sold each day worldwide.
There are 10 habituated troops of Gorillas in Rwanda and 8 in Uganda. To be honest the gorillas move freely between the two countries and it is practically guaranteed that you will see the Gorillas.
Money from the permit price goes back into conservation of the Gorillas and into the infrastructure to support tourism. Both Rwanda and Uganda offer a professional experience with excellent trackers, guides and porters.
Lots of people ask me ‘which country is easier trekking’– the answer is that really they are both about the same. Rwanda provides easy access to the mountains (Volcanoes National Park) with the trekking point only 3.5 hours drive from Kigali airport. In Uganda, the drive is at least 8 hours to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Depending on your flight times, in Rwanda you can visit the Gorillas and depart within 3 days, whereas Uganda requires a longer visit providing the opportunity to see more including the chimpanzees.
The Gorilla trek itself can involve up to 4 hours of trekking to locate the gorillas. In both Uganda and Rwanda it’s a big day and the treks vary quite a bit depending on where the Gorillas slept the previous night and which particular group of gorillas you are trekking to see. It is a good idea to employ a porter to carry your bag, water bottle and lend a hand when it is slippery. I would say that in general the trek in Rwanda was slightly easier than Uganda. In Uganda I trekked for the full 4 hours before we found the gorillas. In both countries the treks start with flat easy walking through villages and farmland; really scenic with children running out to say hi. The high altitude (approx. 8000 feet above sea level) is something to consider, although it’s not high enough to really worry about I did feel the difference in my breathing.
In terms of accommodation, each country offers great places to stay.
In Rwanda, I loved Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge as a luxury option. It was a wonderful location with great views, spacious rooms, quaint restaurant and excellent service. Virunga Lodge is also lovely however it is located further away from the park gate, requiring an extra hours drive. Gorilla Mountain Lodge has enormous rooms, is basic and a good 3 star. Le Bamboo is fine too as a budget option.
In Uganda, two excellent luxury options are Buhoma Lodge and Gorilla Forest Camp. Both are located inside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with great views over the mountains. When the mist rolled in, all I could think was – this really is ‘gorillas in the mist’! There are also some mobile camps and cheaper accommodation options available.
I guarantee your Gorilla Trek will be a moving and life-changing experience. Give me a call to talk about Gorilla trekking in Africa.
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