Best way to Enjoy Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda
Many people consider spending time with mountain gorillas in the wild in Africa as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s one of the most moving wildlife encounters you can have. Unlike with lions or elephants, you can feel a real connection with gorillas because they are some of our closest relatives. Both Uganda, known as the Pearl of Africa, and Rwanda, also called the land of a thousand hills, offer unforgettable primate experiences. The Best way to enjoy gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda will require proper planning and preparation.
Here is what to do to have the best gorilla trekking experience in Uganda and Rwanda – Best way to enjoy gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that requires careful planning and preparation. To make the most of your adventure, it is important to follow a step-by-step guide that will help you prepare for the trek.
DOUBLE MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING- UGANDA AND RWANDA GORILLA SAFARI
The first step is to choose the right time to go gorilla trekking. Although it can be done throughout the year, the dry season from June to September and from December to February is considered the best time. During the dry season, the trails are less muddy, making trekking easier, and the weather is generally pleasant.
The second step is to obtain the required permits. Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda requires a gorilla permit, which must be obtained in advance. In Uganda, Permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), while in Rwanda, they are issued by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). These permits need to be booked several months in advance, as they are limited in number. You should also be prepared to pay a fee for the permit, which varies depending on the country and the type of traveler.
The third step is to select a suitable park. Uganda is home to two national parks where gorilla trekking takes place. These include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Rwanda gorilla trekking however takes place at Volcanoes National Park, which is the only gorilla trekking park in the country.
The fourth step is to prepare yourself physically for the trek. Gorilla trekking can be physically demanding, as it involves hiking through dense forests and steep terrains. Engage in regular physical exercises, such as walking, hiking, and cardiovascular workouts, to ensure you are in good shape for the trek. You should also be prepared to carry a daypack with essentials like water, snacks, and a camera.
The fifth step is to dress appropriately for the trek. Wear comfortable and lightweight clothing, preferably in neutral colors. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are recommended to protect against insects and thorny vegetation. Remember to pack a rain jacket, sturdy hiking boots, and a hat for sun protection. It is also advisable to bring gloves and a walking stick to help you navigate the terrain.
The sixth step is to follow trekking guidelines. Once you start the trek, it is crucial to follow the guidelines provided by your guide and the park authorities. Maintain a safe distance from the gorillas (7 meters or more) to minimize the risk of disease transmission, and never attempt to touch or feed them. You should also avoid making loud noises or sudden movements that might make them agitated.
The seventh step is to be patient. Locating the gorillas can sometimes be time-consuming and challenging. The trek can vary in duration from a few hours to a full day, depending on the location of the gorilla family. Patience is essential, as the experience of encountering these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is worth the effort.
The eight step is to respect wildlife and the environment. Ensure that you minimize your impact on the gorillas and their environment. Do not litter, avoid making loud noises, and follow all instructions given by your guide to ensure their conservation and protection. You should also avoid smoking and wearing strong perfumes or deodorants that might irritate the gorillas.
The ninth and final step is to capture memories responsibly. While photography is allowed during gorilla trekking, be mindful of flash photography, as it can scare or disturb the gorillas. Respect their space and use cameras with silent mode or turn off the camera sounds. It is also important to remember that the gorillas are wild animals and should be treated with respect and care.
Other necessary information to help you while planning your gorilla tour
How do get to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park?
Rwanda is a smaller country than Uganda, but it has an excellent road network. The journey from the capital city of Kigali to Volcanoes National Park, where the gorillas live, is an easy two to three-hour drive on paved roads.
When you arrive at Kigali Airport, you can take a private helicopter for a scenic 30-minute flight over picturesque landscapes. This way, you’ll be able to land directly at your property.
Getting to Bwindi
Uganda has some challenges when it comes to roads, and the distances are quite long. It takes roughly 9-10 hours to travel by car from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. However, you can opt for a 2-hour scheduled charter flight from Entebbe to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrips, which are located about an hour from Bwindi.
Another option to consider is to fly into Kigali Airport and drive across the Rwanda/Uganda border, which can reduce your drive time. Depending on where you stay in Bwindi, it can take between 4-6 hours. Please note that this option requires a $100 East Africa visa.
When it comes to the cost of gorilla trekking permits, there is a very clear difference between the two countries. Uganda charges $700 per person, whereas Rwanda charges $1,500 USD per person. The revenue generated from these permits goes towards maintaining the park and conserving wildlife, with about 10% of the funds being allocated towards projects that benefit the local communities.
Which country offers more permits?
Both Rwanda and Uganda only allow a maximum of 8 people per gorilla trekking group, and each group is allowed to spend only one hour with the gorilla family per day.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is home to 10 mountain gorilla groups and issues 80 permits for gorilla trekking per day.
Uganda has more than half of the world’s 700 mountain gorillas, making it the country with the highest number of mountain gorillas. Bwindi National Park has 152 permits for 19 gorilla groups, while Mgahinga National Park has 8 permits for one gorilla group. For those who are more adventurous, the Nkuringo group located in the southern part of Bwindi is among the most physically challenging treks but also one of the most rewarding, with a group of 19 members.