Coming face to face with the gentle giants that live in the mist-shrouded forests of Rwanda and Uganda is one of life’s most amazing experiences. There are less than 1000 mountain gorillas remaining on Earth, and these can only be found in DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Hiking through the misty jungle in search of these endangered creatures is what travellers have dubbed mountain gorilla trekking. Observing these beautiful and endangered creatures is a truly privileged experience. After a long hike deep into the forest, with armed trackers and guides, and observing these shy primates feed, play, and interact in their natural habitat is absolutely unforgettable.
The Experience of Gorilla Trekking
Only 80 people a day are permitted into the gorilla’s fragile habitats each year with strict guidelines and careful conditions after paying a hefty sum for a gorilla tracking permit. Though the trek to reach gorilla habitats can be a long one – the hike can take several hours along uneven terrain and through dense foliage, but the reward, however, is well worth the effort.
Though humans are under the strict rule to keep a few meters away from the gorillas, the gorillas are able to approach human visitors which can bring a rare and exhilarating experience. Silverback gorillas (male patriarchs) can weigh up to 500 pounds and reach a height of six feet tall. Trekkers are only allowed to spend one hour with these spectacular creatures that are the closest animals out there to us Homo sapiens but for a more exhilarating experience, ask Hitch a Hike Adventure consultant to hook you up with a gorilla habituation experience.
Gorilla Tracking in Uganda vs Rwanda
Both Uganda and Rwanda offer amazing gorilla trekking experience. Each has its own features and benefits, though the type of mountain gorillas spotted in each country are the literary the same.
Safari lodges at the trail-heads offer top-notch accommodation for gorilla trekkers in both locations but choosing between Uganda and Rwanda can be a tough one, so take a look at this short comparison to help you make a great choice.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
This tiny 26,338 square kilometre (10,170 sq mi) East African country is top heaven for luxury gorilla trekking with only a single gorilla tour destination, Volcanoes National Park. This park is the easiest of all places to view habituated mountain gorillas and you can also find their troops of rare golden monkeys.
Visitors can do a trek in one day in Rwanda as the Volcanoes National Park can be reached via a two-hour drive from Kigali. Generally speaking, trekking in Rwanda is easier (the chances of having a shorter walk are higher than in Uganda), but this is never a guarantee of spotting gorillas. Gorillas are sighted by over 90% of visitors, many of whom will get within metres of a family.
Rwanda Gorilla Permit Cost
A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs a hefty USD$1500 and this can be very rare to get especially in high season. So Make sure you have your permit months before your scheduled Rwanda tour.
Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in two Parks, Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the oldest and richest ecosystems in Africa that is home to over half of the world’s 1000 remaining mountain gorillas, 120 mammals, 345 birds, and 200 butterfly species – so memorable wildlife sightings are assured.
Mountain gorillas viewing success rates are over 97% here, you’re more assured to meet these mighty human cousins. Because the trek may involve climbing steep terrain, travellers are required to be in the good physical condition and above 15 years of age.
Mgahinga National Park shares gorillas with Rwanda and Congo and is the best place to book a gorilla habituation experience.
Getting to the gorilla homes in Uganda from the international airport can take at least 8 hours by road, quite a distance. You can choose to take a local flight from Ebb to Kihihi airstrip or take the long 8-hour drive and enjoy Switzerland like scenery. If you take a drive, make sure you book a 3 Day gorilla tour to get ample time to relax on the journey.
The best part about trekking in Uganda is that you can add a savannah wildlife safari on to your trip. Uganda has a fabulous array of wildlife game viewing activities that can seemingly compare to neighbouring Kenya.
Cost of Gorilla Permit in Uganda
A gorilla permit in Uganda costs USD$600 but will increase to $750 in 2020.