Thursday, February 19, 2015

Comparing Gorilla Trekking Tours In 2015 : Uganda Vs Rwanda – Compare prices, tracking experience, hardness,etc

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Comparison of 2015 Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Uganda – Which is the best place to do a gorilla trek – Uganda or Rwanda? Which is more viable or cheaper: Bwindi or Volcanoes National Park, Which is more easy to access, Is tracking Rwanda better than Uganda?
Call it gorilla trekking or tracking or whatever, but it’s one of those really thrilling, lifetime experiences you should take time for before you leave planet earth. 
The exhilaration attached to the first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla is difficult to describe. Yet in the same sense, that magical one hour spent with the gorillas does not come cheaply considering that a permit goes for US$750 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda – but it is unusual to find someone who regretted the financial outlay.
Only 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day. In Uganda, ten families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP, and so can host 80 persons tacking the mountain gorillas on any day.  
Rwanda can also take 80 persons per day. All else being equal, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest because its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easier.

The major challenge with tracking gorillas in Rwanda is certainly the price of the gorilla permit at US$750 compared to Uganda’s US$600 per permit. However, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is impossible for Uganda. Volcanoes National Park is located 116 km from Kigali and can be driven in just 2 hours. On the other hand, Bwindi is located 500 km from Kampala/ Entebbe Airport and a drive can take 8 hours plus. In that sense, you will spend at least 3 days for your gorilla trek tour – one travelling to Bwindi, another doing the gorilla trek, and the other driving back to Kampala/Entebbe. If a tour operator is making you a tour package, they shall definitely have to consider this cost and include it in your tour cost.
However, the long drive to Bwindi is quite enchanting with great sceneries all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park ( for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with abundant wildlife), terraced mountains with flowing rivers, and a lot of rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.
Some tourists have also opted for flying over from Entebbe to towns near to Bwindi (Kihihi and Kisoro) to track the gorillas. A round flight ticket costs $250 with AeroLink Uganda. In that case you will need to arrange your transfer from the airstrip to Bwindi, and back as well. (Talk to our preferred agents for assistance to organise this please).
You will certainly need spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it’s for Rwanda although this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla permit.
Besides, some sections of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are not so comfortable to drive on yet in the case of Rwanda, you drive on smooth tarmac at least up to the Volcanoes National Park head office. Not to mention though, the roads leading from Volcanoes park office to the gorilla trek trail-heads can only be accessed with a raised 4x4 vehicle.
Comparison of The Gorilla Trekking ExperienceA tree climbing lion perched in a fig in Queen Elizabeth Natonal Park along the way to Bwindi
Rwanda-SACOLA-traditional-dancers-perfom-before-gorilla-trackingIn general, the experience can only be different due to the way a particular gorilla family behaves in front of the trackers, how long and tough one has to track before reaching the gorillas and the way the park staff conduct the exercise. Personally, I found the Rwanda gorilla tracking package more charming that the Ugandan one on the tracking day. Should we say that this’ because of the gorilla permit price difference? Anyways, on your gorilla tracking day in Rwanda, you will definitely get more than that. At about 7:00 AM, tea/ coffee dispensers with cups are laid for visitors going for the trek. You are free to take as much as you wish. As visitors are enjoying the tea/ coffee, they are entertained by the lively traditional dance troupe (SACOLA Traditional Dancers) who bring on a wholesome Rwanda traditional cultural experience all visitors enjoy.

Of course you can get this in Uganda in evenings (at a fee) from the various traditional cultural groups that are near the park. However, the drive from Kampala to Bwindi is a very fabulous one traversing at least another national park (either Kibale or Queen Elizabeth National Park famous for tree climbing lions and many other big mammals, or Lake Mburo National Park) and not to miss- the Equator. In a way, even before you arrive Bwindi you have had a bit of the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as is fondly known. To many, driving along paved eucalyptus avenues to the gorillas in not the best deal. Indeed many to purchase tour packages combining both Rwanda and Uganda, first doing Gorillas in Rwanda and then crossing to Uganda to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park for the BIG 5 safaris and chimpanzee tracking among other tours.
Lets compare the tour costs in general.
Because of the long drive one endures from Kampala to Bwindi, the general cost is increased (even when you travel by public buses). It even increases more because you have to travel 2 days (to and from Bwindi). However, the increased cost is countered by the low cost gorilla permit of US$600 ($350 in April and May, November 2015). A low budget 3 days gorilla trek tour in Uganda goes for about $1250 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport). The two days Rwanda gorilla trek costs about $1220 ( with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) and a three days Rwanda gorilla tracking tour costs is about $1280 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) . Costs samples got from Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris website effective Jan 2015.
Other things in addition to the actual gorilla tracking
Lastly, if you are not travelling just to see the mountain gorilla, and you want to include other activities in your visit, Rwanda may not be the best choice. Many tourists have continually had to cross to Uganda after their Rwanda gorilla trek to tour other reserves like Queen Elizabeth National Parks so endowed with abundant wildlife one cannot see in Rwanda. This is why probably folks continue enduring the long drives to Bwindi yet there is an easy way out.
At the end of the day – the ultimate jury are those who are looking as to which country to visit in order to track Gorillas – it is not Rwanda, not Uganda, not the Democratic Republic of Congo but where their pockets and hearts choose. If you precisely want the mountain gorillas and nothing else, go for a one-day gorilla trek but if you are a one who wants it and all of it, go for the long drive – you won’t regret…

Have you been on a gorilla trek in Rwanda or Uganda? What was your experience? What have you had about tracking gorillas in Rwanda Vs Uganda? Let me hear you views.
from the Rwanda/Uganda border post in Chanika .

Related articles:
My mountain gorilla tracking experience in Bwindi's Oruzogo gorilla family
How To Book Gorilla tracking & Trek Permits in Uganda and Rwanda
Affordable Private Road Transfers to Bwindi
Uganda Cuts Gorilla Trek Permit Prices to $350
Mountain Gorillas Aside, Why Does Earth need Bwindi so badly?

Mountain Gorilla Trekking Tour Packages in Rwanda and Uganda
3 days Uganda Gorilla tour
4 days Rwanda Gorilla Tour -
2 days Gorilla tracking Rwanda with tour price
3 day Gorilla tracking Rwanda with tour price
5 days Gorillas trek Rwanda and Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda
5 days Rwanda, Uganda Gorillas
6 days gorilla tracking, wildlife safari
14 days Uganda Rwanda Safari
7 days Uganda Gorilla Safaris
9 days Gorillas, primates wildlife
8 days Uganda Gorilla Game safari
7 days Gorillas, chimpanzee, wildlife -



  1. The difference between the two is how they are organised - in Uganda you are allocated a group with your permit and this may be difficult to change. Our guide sorted out a change for us (to get us onto a group that didn't involve a drive to the start point) but this was only possible because of the off-peak season. So allocation of group has nothing to do with fitness. In Rwanda groups are allocated on arrival - your guide will enter into a bit of negotiation and get you on the group to suit you depending of course on everyone elses requirements. Saying that though it does depend on the gorillas - in rwanda we went for a group that was a bit further away usually as we fancied a bit of a walk but in the course of the morning the gorillas had made their way from the top of the mountain to the bottom - so much for stretching the legs!

    1. Things have changes in Uganda since October. You only get to choose the group you track on the tracking day. Although you can determine which sector of the park you will visit, the gorilla families are now allocated on the tracking day when you present your permit and passport to the office. You will be free to choose your preferred gorilla family at that moment.
      But over time I am coming to agree that apart from some groups in Uganda like Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mubare, the tracking in Rwanda is smoother for more groups than in Uganda.

  2. I have to say that Rwandan Gorillas are generally the easier to get to. That is rule of thumb and some families, Susa etc., are quite some distance away but others are not. Of course they move around so nothing is certain. that is how it should be.

    Ugandan trekks are generally tougher but again part of Buhoma village normal footpaths are regularly closed off as the Gorillas are sitting there actually in the Village or even in one of the Lodges. So it hard to be certain one way or the other. The guides will normally try to allocate people according to their abilities.

    Some years back I took Mrs M to see the Gorillas and due to her 'status' we opted for the 'easier' Rwandan trek for her while I did both. In Uganda I was out and back in time for lunch and guess what the Rwandan Amahoro Group were way up the Mountain.

    1. I guess it also often depends on the gorilla family you choose or are allocated to track. And we have to agree too that the gorillas are in their own home range and one day can be nearer that the other day. Although some groups are sure to be located far like the Susa Group in Rwanda, Oruzogo Group in Bwindi's Ruhija Sector.

  3. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is easier than the trek in Bwindi however, the time taken to trek depends on the movement of gorillas . Our trek in Uganda was shorter than the trek we did in Rwanda - Gorillas treks are unpredictable so it is better you choose at random where to do the gorilla trekking because the chances of seeing gorillas in both national parks are 85% . I leave the 15% to the weather conditions and uncertainties that may arise but it is on rare occasions that people have not seen gorillas on their treks.

    1. I largely can't stop agreeing with you. But I also agree that there may not be clear-cut standards? Some tourists look for a tougher hike in Bwindi and end up not getting it. Others look for a gentle hike in Rwanda and end up hiking for 3 hours +

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  4. Hi Ivan,
    Thank you for your review on Gorilla trekking I found it most helpful and interesting.
    I was wondering, I am chasing an honest oppinion on the safety of gorilla trekking in Rwanda. I am scheduled to visit for 3 days in September. With all the current media reports back home I am a little unerved about my visit. I am staying one night in Kigali and 3 nights in Ruhengeri. No one I know is able to give me a definitive answer and it would be great to get your opinion on safety for foreign visitors if you dont mind.I am quite worried.

    1. Hi, yes there's fighting in the neighboring Congo but there's not any effect of this in Rwanda. In fact when there you won't realise there's fighting in Congo unless somebody tells you so. The locals are not even bothered at all and everyone is going on with their business. Please go ahead with your tour without any worries.

    2. We just came back, we visited the Mgahinga National Park, just over the border from Ruanda, and flew in and out via Kigali. We noticed no problems at all with respect to the fighting in the Congo, although crossing the border between Ruanda and Uganda was a royal pain!!! Three hours each time! Hopefully that was just because we crossed just a few days after they changed the process...

  5. Hi, yes there's fighting in the neighboring Congo but there's not any effect of this in Rwanda. In fact when there you won't realise there's fighting in Congo unless somebody tells you so. The locals are not even bothered at all and everyone is going on with their business. Please go ahead with your tour without any worries.

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  8. From this blog we can know the competition in Uganda and Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking.

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  10. how about using GPRS to track the Gorillas? can this help to reduce on the uncertainity of not seing them?

    1. The first group of trackers (the advance team) normally have GPRS equipment. This team will go very early in the morning before the usual tracking guests and will let the other team know when/where they find the gorillas. Using GPRS with the gorillas themselves may however face a lot of resistance from conservation guys here. And also, how would the gorillas react to human visitors when they realize the humans have employed this new thing on their bodies? Obviously they become more vigilant, certainly more aggressive behaviour is going to be displayed when humans show up next. And then there would be no more gorilla tracking in Bwindi, or it would at least become very risky to track the gorillas in Bwindi.

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