When choosing where to for gorilla trekking, one must travel to Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo the only countries sheltering the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. The choice of which country to go to for a gorilla safari depend on the traveler with a reminder that gorilla trekking experience in each country is unique and memorable in its own kind. Some travelers have visited all the countries to compare the trekking experiences as well as enjoying the uniqueness that each country offers. Gorilla trekking is with no doubt the best wildlife experience done only in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park, Volcanoes national park and Virunga national park in the whole world. Comparisons between gorilla safaris in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo regard the cost of gorilla permits, gorilla families, ease of accessibility, difficult in trekking and the pre trekking experience among others. Below are the detailed comparisons about gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla permits prices
Regarding the cost of gorilla permit, each country has a different cost of the permit. Rwanda is known as a luxury gorilla destination selling the most expensive gorilla permits at a cost of 1500usd for a single gorilla pass. Rwanda’s gorilla permit was doubled with immediate effect in May 2017 from 750usd to 1500usd, which was a step for Rwanda. The second to Rwanda is Uganda where a gorilla permits costs 600usd, which is relatively cheaper while Democratic Republic of Congo offers relatively cheap costs at 450usd for a single gorilla permit. Gorilla habituation experience, which is only done in Uganda, costs 1500usd-allowing travelers to spend four hours with mountain gorillas in the jungle. Each traveler must have a valid gorilla permit on the day of trekking as a pass to see and interact with mountain gorillas for ah hour. Travelers are also reminded to book at least four months prior to the trekking date and pay a booking fee to secure the permits and avoid any disappointment at the last hour. Booking can be done through any trusted tour operator or directly with any responsible government bodies i.e Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda Development Board and the management of Virunga national park.
Out of 29 gorilla families that have been habituated for trekking and these are shared among Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda shelters 13 gorilla families 12 of which live in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and 1 Nyakagyezi family in Mgahinga gorilla national park both in south western Uganda. Rwanda’s volcanoes national park is a home to 10 gorilla families while Virunga national park in DRC has 6 families available for trekking. The presence of many gorilla families in Uganda guarantee travelers availability of gorilla permits even those who book in the last hour. Uganda issues out roughly 104-gorilla permits everyday, Rwanda sells 80 permits while DRC issues out 60-gorilla permits everyday. Most travelers have therefore selected Uganda as their gorilla trekking destination due to the availability of many gorilla permits even for last time travelers unlike Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo with limited gorilla permits especially in the peak season.
Ease of accessibility
For short time travelers, Rwanda is appropriate for trekking since travelers can do gorilla trekking upon their arrival. Volcanoes national park is roughly 2 -3 hours drive from Kigali international airport hence the most accessible gorilla national park compared to Bwindi, Mgahinga and Virunga national parks. On the other hand, gorilla national parks in Uganda (Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla national parks) are roughly 9-10 hours drive from international airport. This indicates that unless the traveler is coming from Rwanda, they cannot trek mountain gorillas in Uganda in one day. It takes a whole day of driving from Entebbe/Kampala to Kabale and Kisoro in southwestern Uganda where mountain gorillas live. Also, Rwanda’s direct flights from the United Kingdom and other west African countries is an added advantage unlike Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo which have no direct flights from traveler’s countries of origin.
Not only do travelers compare distances and permit prices but also the pre trekking experience. The whole of driving before meeting gorillas in Uganda is an added advantage for travelers enabling them to have several stopovers along the way where they see a lot of things. While driving to Bwindi, travelers always stop at the Uganda Equator for snaps, Igongo Cultural center where they are introduced to Ankole culture as well as enjoying the beautiful sceneries of Kigezi rolling hills. On the other hand, the short distance from Kigali to Volcanoes national park limits travelers of what to see apart from mountain gorillas. as a result, most travelers who have ample time have always opted for Uganda so as to enjoy other beauties before in addition to mountain gorillas, which make the experience more enjoyable.
Ease and difficulty of trekking
Despite an hour of interaction, which applies in all gorilla destinations, the ease and difficulty in hiking in each country differ from the other. For those who have done it before, mountain gorillas in Uganda surely come from far than you may expect compared to Rwanda. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park a center for gorilla tours in Uganda is located on high altitudes between 1,190 meters to 2,607 meters above the sea level which make it quite difficult especially for the aged and the unfit. Besides the altitude, Bwindi is an impenetrable forest with much undergrowth and slippery grounds, which slide in the early mornings and after rains. Unlike, Bwindi, Volcanoes national park comprise of bamboo forests which allow light penetration hence easy to hike through the same as Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. is not Gorilla trekking in Uganda is therefore for adventurous travelers unlike in Rwanda were gorillas live in low altitudes. Also, Bwindi is an impenetrable forest with thick forest and much under growth, which make it hard to walk through. On the other hand, Volcanoes comprise of bamboo vegetation, which allow light penetration and hence allowing travelers to walk through.
History and progress
Looking at the past and present times of all gorilla destinations, Rwanda is surely worth visiting. Mots travelers choose to visit Rwanda to witness appreciate and enjoy the progress the country has achieved after the horrific genocide that claimed over 100,000 innocent lives within 100 days. After that, the government of Rwanda and all citizens, picked the ashes, reconciled communities, and restored peace and vowed a “never again” on which they have built to become the leading tourism destination in Africa. Besides mountain gorillas, some travelers have therefore opted to visit Rwanda to celebrate the success Rwanda has achieved overtime compared to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Conclusively therefore, book a gorilla safari to Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo, have a closer look at the mountain gorillas and enjoy a life changing experience in the world.