Comparing gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Uganda and Rwanda are gifted with counts of the critically endangered mountain gorillas in their respective parks of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks for Uganda and Volcanoes National Park for Rwanda presenting an ideal ground for gorilla trekking safaris and tours in Uganda and Rwanda.
Apparently considered the best safari activity on the continental lands of Africa, undertaking gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda is a life time adventure that will stick with you for years of your life. Encountering the maiden Apes thriving in the lush of their habitats after traversing hilly forested landscapes is a wonder that cannot be listed as ordinary.
However, as they are two destinations, any traveler interested in taking a gorilla safari has to choose between the two and then travel to one though others have at times resolved to have the a double trekking experience in the two countries. Comparing the gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda covers a range of aspects.
One of the aspects is the price of a gorilla trekking permit. Uganda offers a gorilla permit at $600 while Rwanda offers a gorilla permit at $750 thus creating a gap of $150. Additionally to note is that Uganda also offers discounted gorilla permits during the low season months of April, May and November to $350 something that is not in Rwanda. Additionally to note on the gorilla permit price is that Rwanda has not yet had a single price for the citizens of the East Africa Community Citizens something that Uganda has achieved and the citizens of the partner states pay the same fee like the Ugandans pay which is 250,000/= in the high season and if the discount is extended especially in the low season, the permits are put at 150, 000/= enabling the Uganda gorilla safari undertakers from East Africa to have a magical experience with the gorillas at a low cost.
The second aspect is transportation and travel distance. It can be noted that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is at a good distance from Kampala about 527km while Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 519km from Kampala. These journeys take not less than 10 hours whereas the Volcanoes National Park in the destination Rwanda is 116km from Kigali a journey that cannot exceed 3 hours holding other factors constant. However, despite the long distance, Uganda presents a scenic country side and a range of features that offer impressive en route stops that make the long day transfer rewarding contributing to the memories of gorilla safari in Uganda. Ranging from the Equator site at Kayabwe where the world’s main latitude crosses the country to the traditional range lands of Ankole where Lake Mburo National Park is located with myriad wildlife like Rothschild Giraffes, the Topis, the Cape Buffaloes, the Impala, the Burchell’s Zebra, the warthogs, the Deffasa Waterbucks, the leopards, the Bushbuck along with aquatics in Lake Mburo like the Nile Crocodiles the second largest in all the world’s reptiles and the gigantic Hippos not forgetting the close to water birds like African fin foot and the African Fish eagle, Uganda is a myriad of wonders. There is also Igongo Cultural Center that features a cultural museum with collections of all the tribes of south western Uganda, a traditional restaurant, cultural village and lush gardens, the Mbarara town which is the largest in the sub region and eventually the magical Kigezi Highlands after which you arrive in Bwindi. It is a whole day of transfer but a day tour of itself. In Rwanda, one can be mesmerized by the hills and the settlement which are short-lived as he / she soon arrives in Volcanoes. Regarding the roads, Uganda features smooth tarmac to the nearby towns that are close to the park and the travelers would drive through challenging sections on their last connecting roads to the park negotiating through rolling hills which is an experience of its own but Rwanda offers a smooth transfer throughout making accessibility easier for those on gorilla safaris in Rwanda.
The third aspect is the gorilla trekking experience itself. Uganda features a mountainous terrain in the gorilla habitats that is Bwindi and Mgahinga. In Bwindi, the forest is thick with dense undergrowth, tall trees with canopy and is perched on rugged terrain which at times makes it challenging and ideal for the adventurous travelers. The gorillas can be seen in the two destinations but at times in Bwindi, the duration tends to be extended as the trekkers hike the slopes up and down in search of the mighty apes enjoying the bird sounds and sights since Bwindi is Africa’s number one birding site and enjoying lush flora which gives more value for money compared to Volcanoes Rwanda where at times the trekkers have been able to come to sight with gorillas in 30 minutes of their trek. Though generally the gorilla trekking duration is not predicted in any of the two countries, experience shows that it is likely to be shorter in Rwanda than in Uganda. Additionally, the gorilla viewing experience at times varies. The Volcanoes feature short vegetation and the gorillas are clearly seen and the opportunities for photo taking are more clear whereas Bwindi has a dense jungle and the trekkers are at times hindered by the climbers, tree buttresses and the short flora from gaining clear views of the gorillas but it is fascinating to follow them in the jungle maneuver with the thick vegetation and keep with them as they forage.
The last aspect is what else to see after the gorillas. Most of the travelers have more days for their holiday which would remain underutilized if they track gorillas alone. Therefore the question of what else to see after gorillas carries weight when looking for which destination to track gorillas from. It can be noted that Uganda features more to see after gorillas compared to Rwanda. Uganda is endowed with rich wildlife in her extensive savannah habitats of Queen Elizabeth, the Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls, Toro Semliki and Kidepo Valley National Park including the big five along with other classic game. The country features a range of water bodies including lakes like Bunyonyi the second deepest in Africa with 29 Islands which offers a magical evening relaxation after the gorillas, the Kazinga Channel joining Lakes George and Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park offering magical boat cruises, the historical River Nile which is the longest in the world which also features the magical Murchison Falls which is the powerful water fall on global scale and the Lake Victoria which is the largest in Africa and the second largest with fresh water in the world. Uganda also features the legendary Rwenzori Mountains which is the third highest in Africa rising to 5,109m above sea level with snow on its top along with the Elgon Mountain which is the fourth highest in the East of Africa rising to 4321m with the largest volcanic mountain caldera 42km2 and the largest Volcanic base 4,000km2. Though Rwanda still has what to offer, it would be a bit limited to genocide, Dain Fossey site, the climb to the any of the Volcanoes with the highest taking 2 days, relaxation on Lake Kivu, wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park and canopy walk in Nyungwe. Because of this, most of the travelers that track gorillas in Rwanda have always crossed to Uganda for magical wildlife viewing. The two countries offer chimpanzee trekking in Kibale for Uganda and Nyungwe for Rwanda and the golden Monkey Tracking in Mgahinga for Uganda and Volcanoes for Rwanda.
The issue of accommodation is no longer an issue since the gorilla parks now feature comprehensive accommodation units suiting travelers of all categories whether on gorilla safaris in Uganda or Rwanda.