Gorilla trekking is a unique experience that creates memories that will not be forgotten easily. Uganda and Rwanda are the leading countries for a life changing gorilla trekking safari. Gorilla trekking is conducted from Volcanoes National Park for Rwanda and Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National park for Uganda. There are about 880 mountain gorillas remaining in the world and 400 of them are in Bwindi National Park while the rest (about 480) live in the Virunga Complex (Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, DRC’s Virunga National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park).
All these destinations are beautiful and good for gorilla trekking safaris, unrivalled wildlife experiences in Africa. However, tourists who have never visited any of the two countries or have visited only one of the two countries are often left contemplating on which of the two countries provides a more memorable gorilla trekking safari? There is no specific answer to that question, reason being that the answer varies from one person to another and every country offers unique gorilla trekking experience that differs from the other. But we shall not leave the question hanging; there are some differences that exist between gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda. These are based on the cost of gorilla permits, ease of access to the National Parks, difference in tracking conditions or the difficulty of hiking, cost of lodging facilities, Other activates tourists can engage in on top of gorilla trekking and the number of habituated gorilla groups tourists can visit. This write up will provide you with the differences of gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda but the end of the day the choice of which country to choose from lies in your hand.
The comparison of gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda has been based on;
Number of gorilla groups that that be tracked.
There are 12 habituated gorilla groups that can be tracked from Uganda where 11 of them can be tracked from Bwindi National Park and only one (the Nyakagyezi group) can be tracked from Mgahinga National Park. Volcanoes National Park on the other hand is a home to only 10 habituated gorilla groups that can be visited for your remarkable gorilla trekking Safaris.
Cost of gorilla permits
In terms of cost of gorilla permits, Uganda is the winner because a gorilla permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and Shs 250,000 for the East African Residents. The best news about this, is that Uganda also offers discounts on gorilla permits during the low seasons (April, May and November) where foreign residents pay $450, foreign residents pay $400 per person and East African Citizens pay Shs 150,000 per person. Rwanda on the other hand charges an exorbitant price of $1500 per person for all tourists (foreign residents, foreign non residents and Rwandan Citizens alike) at all seasons. This price only caters for the luxury tourists neglecting the budget tourists. Even the Rwandans are left out hence discouraging domestic tourism. This $1500 for a Rwandan permit can do a lot of things in Uganda. First of all instead of paying $1500 to watch mountain gorillas for one hour, why not pay the same amount to stay with the gorillas for whole four hours? Alternatively, that $1500 for gorilla permit in Rwanda can book an entire 3 day gorilla trekking safari in Uganda in low season-by the way even in the high season. If I was asked where I would go for my gorilla trekking safari based on this comparison, my answer would definitely be Uganda.
Tracking conditions/difficulty in hiking.
Tracking the mountain gorillas is generally difficult across all the National parks, but some people will tell you that the experience of gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a bit easier than trekking in Bwindi Fotrest National park. This is a total myth. Gorilla tracking is about luck, where you may expect it to be easier for you during tracking but it turns out to be the opposite. Just track the gorillas expecting a tough hike than expecting an easier one then you end up disappointed.
Ease of access
Volcanoes National Park is located just 2-3 hours away from Kigali Airport/City. If you are in a hurry and would like to track these mountain gorillas and go back home immediately, then I recommend you do it from Rwanda. A 1 day gorilla trekking safari in Uganda is totally impossible. You will need minimum of 3 days for gorilla trekking in Uganda, hence someone in a hurry cannot be able to track gorillas from this country. If the cost of gorilla permit is not a problem, then I greatly recommend Rwanda for your next gorilla trekking Safari. Why would you spend an entire day travelling to a Park yet you can drive from the Airport to a Park for only two hours, track and even go back home. Not only that, there are better road conditions from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park than it is from Kampala to Bwindi national park. The winner here is Rwanda.
Local communities around the National Parks
It is a common phenomenon for local communities to surround protected areas. So Volcanoes, Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks are not exceptional. The interesting difference is that with Bwindi and Mgahinga there are more fascinating communities with interesting activities, for example who wouldn’t want to participate in the Batwa trail? When you visit Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks, you will get the opportunity to visit the Batwa and they will take you through their lives in the forest, you will visit Ngarama Cave where their former King used to live and experience as they make fire from sticks among other interesting activities.
Besides gorilla tracking, several tourist activities exist at the disposal of tourists in Uganda than they are for tourists in Rwanda.
In conclusion, the choice of what country for gorilla trekking depends on the desires of the individual tourists but certain perimeters like cost of gorilla permit, ease of access to the National Parks, and the tracking conditions are considered by tourists in their desire to choose where to track gorillas from.