Let’s start Comparing Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda Safari or Gorilla trekking Uganda Vs Rwanda Safaris. Compare gorilla tour experiences in the two gorilla safari destination in East Africa. Mountain gorillas are one of the two subspecies of eastern gorillas that is listed on IUCN red list estimated to a population of 1063 individuals. Uganda is a home to half of this world’s gorilla population with the rest living in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla trekking Safaris in Uganda takes you deep into the rainforest jungle of Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park to follow the group of habituated gorillas. With almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas residing in Uganda’s Bwindi forest, in Rwanda mountain gorillas are found in Volcanoes national park. Gorilla trekking Uganda and Rwanda provides you opportunity to observe daily interactions of mountain gorillas in their wild habitats. Therefore one can choose to take a gorilla trek in either Uganda or Rwanda or can do both depending on some factors such as;
The cost of Gorilla permits, When comparing gorilla trekking in Uganda permit costs USD 700, Rwanda gorilla permit costs USD 1500 making Uganda gorilla Safari cheaper than Rwanda tour. This cost comparison is basically for non-resident visitors. Therefore visitors on a budget safari will find it easier to choose Uganda gorilla trek and for tourists who plan to take a luxury gorilla safari, Rwanda gorilla trekking permit can be a choice for them.
The cost of 2 gorilla permits in Uganda are equal to one gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda yet you get one hour on each permit with the gorillas in both countries. Therefore 2 gorilla trekking permits in Uganda means you have opportunity to trek gorillas twice on the cost of 1 single gorilla permit in Rwanda. In Rwanda residents have to pay too much to see gorillas unlike Uganda that offers cheap permit to residents. See rates as per 2021 – 2022 UWA tariff. Foreign non-resident pays $700, Foreign residents pay $600 and residents plus East African residents pay $70 or UGX: 250,000/=
Photographing Rwanda gorillas in Bamboo
The terrain of the parks, gorilla trekking requires physical fitness as it involves hiking up and down the hills in search of gorillas, therefore it is somehow easier to trek gorillas in Rwanda as it’s not so hilly and thick than in Bwindi forest in Uganda which requires you to be physically fit to trek through the thick forest in search of gorillas.
The number of gorilla families Uganda has 22 gorilla families with 21 in Bwindi and 1 family in Mgahinga whereas Rwanda has 10 gorilla families. Each family is visited by 8 people per day, meaning 176 people track in Uganda per day and 80 people track in Rwanda giving a high chance to get a gorilla permit in Uganda than in Rwanda. Uganda also has many habituated gorillas of which one spends 4 hours participating in the gorilla habituation experience. The permit for Gorilla habituation experience in Uganda costs USD 1500 and specifically is done in the southern sector of Bwindi forest which is called Rushaga.
Ease of access (time and travel); Rwanda’s volcanoes national park is a 3-hour drive from Kigali, the capital city on a well-maintained tarmac road. Therefore making it easy to access the park from the Airport, whereas in Uganda to access Bwindi Impenetrable forest it requires a 9 -10 hour drive from the main entry at Entebbe airport, giving you time to discover more along the way. But one can charter a flight to Bwindi forest at an added cost. Bwindi can also be accessed from Kigali with a minimum of 4-5 hour drive, so someone with tight program needs at least a 2 day safari in Rwanda and 3 day tour in Uganda to track the gorillas on short trip.
Other activities done alongside gorilla trekking: Both countries offer other adventure tour activities other than gorilla trekking which you can add on your trip. But Rwanda offers a limited range of tour activities like chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest, golden monkey trekking and birding. On the other hand, Uganda has numerous activities that one can combine with Gorilla trekking to make an adventurous safari. For instance taking a waterfall nature walk in Bwindi Impenetrable national park after the gorilla trek is an amazing experience. Take a Safari to Queen Elizabeth national park where you will find tree climbing lions, Elephants, Leopards, buffaloes and the the most popular Uganda Kobs. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park to meet the delightful apes that are so close to human being than any other creature. visiting Murchison falls national park with its most powerful waterfalls in the world, white water rafting on River Nile, Boat cruise at Kazinga channel and Lake Mburo, cultural visits to the Batwa and many more that Uganda can offer.
Accommodation and lodging; Uganda has many accommodation options in the 4 sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and NKuringo giving all kinds of people different choices. The best gorillas safari lodges include; Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp, Buhoma lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi gorilla lodge and Clouds mountain Gorilla lodge. Each of the 4 sectors of Bwindi forest offer all forms of accommodation ranging from budget to luxury. In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park there are limited lodges of which they are usually filled to capacity and very expensive. But you can access places to spend a night in both countries depending on your budget.
Comparing gorilla trekking Photography and Views; In Volcanoes national park mostly the vegetation is bamboo with short grass giving you a bit clear views of the gorillas and good pictures especially if no rain because in rain it again becomes foggy to the extent that you can’t see gorillas clearly and see a person next to you easily. Bwindi being an Impenetrable forest it means the vegetation is so thick making it a bit difficult to have good views through the vines and better photography in some sectors. However, great photos can also be taken depending on the location of the gorillas and the quality of your camera.
Gorilla Trekking and viewing in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Allocations of the mountain gorilla family; In Uganda permits are allocated and sold on the basis of first come first serve without considering physical fitness of Visitors, therefore one must be able to track any family allocated to them in any of the 4 sectors of the park. Gorilla families in Rwanda are allocated depending on age, physical fitness and personal interests of the tourist. In order to get easy to trek gorilla family in Uganda for example for weak, elderly and less physically fit people, you need to inform your tour driver/ guide the night before the trekking day to request for you an easy to track group.
Community development; Uganda gives 20% of the gorilla permit revenue to community development and Rwanda gives only 10% of the gorilla tracking permit revenue to community development.
Ease of communication, Communication in Uganda is easier with English language commonly spoken every where in the country, but in Rwanda many locals speak Kinyarwanda and French with less English making it hard to communicate if you are not with your guide.
With all the above said, the choice still lies in your hands with each country having its good and bad side, both countries are safe for travels. Though Uganda is still considered the best destination for mountain gorilla trekking comparing it with other parks in the world. Therefore, choose a destination that best suits your budget and travel goals.