Gorilla trekking: Uganda, Rwanda, or DR Congo?
Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo host the only populations of mountain gorillas in the world. For most travelers, however, the decision of which country to choose for a gorilla trek can be perplexing.
Uganda features the highest count of mountain gorillas with the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park containing a minimum of 400 gorillas out of the 880 that are known to be left in the world. While Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to the extreme southwest of Uganda is part of the Virunga massif, shared by Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and DR Congo’s Virunga National Park – jointly home to 480 mountain gorillas.
Here are some of the important aspects to consider when choosing between the three destinations:
Gorilla trek permit cost
♦ Rwanda $1500;
♦ DR Congo $400;
♦ Ugandan $600, although discounted gorilla permits are sometimes available in the months of April, May and November – for only $450.
♦ The Rwanda gorilla destination of Volcanoes National Park is the easiest to access of all the gorilla parks as it is only a two-hour drive from the capital city of Kigali;
♦ In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be accessed from Kampala/Entebbe (there are daily flights from Entebbe, but driving will take about 8-10 hours). It can also be reached via Kigali about 4-hour drive;
♦ And the DR Congo’s Virunga National Park is about around a four to five-hour drive from Kigali.
Experience and preference
♦ What you want out of your gorilla trek can influence your decision of where to go. For the adventure lover, Uganda is the best choice as Bwindi features a very rugged landscape with steep hills and narrow valleys, all covered by dense Afromontane forest which makes the gorilla trekking even more of an adventure;
♦ In addition, the treks in Uganda are usually longer compared to Rwanda and DR Congo, so you do receive value for money.
♦ The dense forests of Bwindi can make taking photos difficult as the gorillas are usually found in the depths of the forest where there is little sunlight filtering through the jungle canopy;
♦ This is in contrast to the short vegetation of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park where the gorillas can easily be seen out in the open.
♦ Uganda takes the lead for the widest range of accommodation options, and mainly caters for those looking for budget to mid-range lodging;
♦ However, look to Rwanda when considering high-range, luxury accommodation options.