Gorilla Trekking Rwanda Vs Uganda – Comparing Gorilla Safaris in both African Countries

When comparing gorilla trekking Rwanda vs Uganda, there are some factors to consider such as the cost of gorilla permits in either countries, distance from airport to Gorilla parks, other safari activities besides gorilla trekking and the overall security of the whole nation.

An encounter with the massive mountain gorillas in the African jungles is without doubt a mesmerizing experience and lifetime opportunity. But what still leaves many travelers debating is Rwanda and Uganda which is the best place to go gorilla trekking? Mountain gorillas live nowhere else on earth except only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda Vs Uganda

Where to find mountain Gorillas – Rwanda Vs Uganda

There are only 3 countries to visit to see mountain gorillas that is Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. In Rwanda, mountain gorillas live in only one place- Volcanoes National Park in the Northwest. Compared to Rwanda and Congo, visitors on Uganda safari have gorilla trekking options; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the Southwest.

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda Vs UgandaVolcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park make part of the extensive Virunga Region/Virunga Conservation Area. Volcanoes National Park was gazetted as a National Park in 1925 which makes it one of Africa’s oldest parks and sits on a small surface area of 160sq.kms.

Though Volcanoes National Park was gazetted purposely to shelter mountain gorillas, today the park is a home countless wildlife including other primates such as the strikingly stunning golden monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, the colobus monkeys & baboons.

Other wildlife of interest for viewing on Rwanda safaris in Volcanoes National Park include black fronted duikers, buffaloes, forest elephants, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, bush bucks; 200 bird species including the Rwenzori Batis, long crested eagles, paradise flycatchers, grey throated tit, red faced woodland warblers, Handsome francolins, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Archer’s ground robin.

Uganda’s Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks straddles in the Southwest and they host an estimate of about half of 1063 mountain gorillas that still live on earth. About 459 mountain gorillas are estimated to live in Bwindi National Park whose primary establishment in 1991 was to protect these rare apes that still remain endangered.

Bwindi extends to cover land area of 331sq.kms and comprised of a dense and misty forest- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Bwindi and Mgahinga have five (5) regions set for gorilla trekking – 4 are in Bwindi including Ruhija, Rushaga, Buhoma & Nkuringo sectors and one in Mgahinga that is Ntebeko.

Access to gorilla safari parks – Rwanda Vs Uganda

The main entry point into Rwanda for tourists on Rwanda gorilla safaris is Kigali International Airport. Kigali Airport to Volcanoes National Park where actual gorilla trekking takes place is about 2 to 3 hours’ drive in mechanically fit 4×4 safari vehicle though this may depend on driver’s speed.

Tourists can also make best use of Uganda-Rwanda route from Kisoro via Chanika and Kabale via Katuna border to Volcanoes NP, about 3-5 hours’ drive. Considering Volcanoes National Park location from city center, it is possible to book a 1, 2 days Rwanda gorilla tour or 3 days gorilla safari in Rwanda.

Access to Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park & Mgahinga National Park is possible using two options; by road or by air. To most Uganda safari visitors on plan to visit either parks- Bwindi or Mgahinga, the main entry point to the pearl of Africa is Entebbe International Airport (EBB).

Travelers can begin their Uganda gorilla trips from Entebbe or Kampala to either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga, driving for 8-10 hours- these varies depending on the routes. This is about 576kms starting from Entebbe and 530kms from Entebbe.

The distances to cover to Bwindi- from Kampala through Mbarara-Kabale route 472kms, Fort Portal 254kms, Kabale to Kisoro route about 84kms, Kibale through Hima to Katunguru route 236kms, Queen Elizabeth NP through Kihihi route 154kms. Mgahinga NP through Kabale-Kisoro route 95kms.

To Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, starting from Kampala about 9 hours’ drive/495kms through Ntugamo-Katunguru route. Or about 11 hours from Kampala through Mbarara-Bushenyi to Kisoro about 639kms.

From Bwindi NP approximately 5 hours’ drive taking you on Kabale-Kisoro route and 200kms if you are driving on Kisoro-Bunagana route. By road, Bwindi NP and Mgahinga are accessible using a rental car or any of the various buses that operate on the Western & Southwestern routes.

By air: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park & Mgahinga NP are easier to reach by flight setting from Entebbe Airport (EBB) to Kihihi Airstrip (Kabale). Kihihi Airstrip is closer to Bwindi making it easier to reach the 4 regions to start your gorilla trekking adventure and Mgahinga National Park easier to reach from Kisoro Airstrip.

Gorilla Permits in Rwanda Vs Uganda

A Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi
A Mountain Gorilla in Uganda

Trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda requires everyone to have purchased valid gorilla permits. This should be done early prior actual date of visiting either countries for gorilla trekking.

In Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) issues out Bwindi & Mgahinga gorilla permits at USD700 (Foreign nonresidents), USD600 (Foreign residents) and Citizens are issued permits at UGX250,000.

Booking Uganda gorilla permits can be done via reservation team at Hail Tours Uganda or you can do it directly via UWA reservation team. In Rwanda, permits can be purchased at USD1500 as of 2021/2022.

Uganda alone has over 168 gorilla permits ready for booking daily translating into 21 gorilla families that have been habituated and open for trekking; Rwanda has 104 permits representing 13 families and considering a fact that each gorilla group is trekked by 8 visitors.

Gorilla Groups in Rwanda Vs Uganda

All Rwanda and Uganda gorilla trekking safaris are conducted only in already habituated gorilla families or groups.

In Rwanda, Volcanoes NP hosts up to 13 families of mountain gorillas including Sabyinyo group, Hirwa, Kwitonda, Susa A, Agashya/13 Group, Pablo, Susa B/Karisimbi, Bwenge, Umubano gorilla group families, Amahoro, Ugenda.

Uganda’s habituated families exist in the five sectors and they total up to 21 including Mubare, Nkuringo gorilla family, Christmas, Katwe, Kutu, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye, Kyaguriro, Bushaho, Mucunguzi, Mukiza, Oruzongo, Nyakagezi (found in Mgahinga), Habinyanja, Rushegura, Bweza, Bikingi and others.

Gorilla Safari Lodges in Rwanda Vs Uganda?

All gorilla safari destinations in Rwanda and Uganda have their accommodation choices ranging from budget to luxury. However, Uganda’s Bwindi & Mgahinga National Parks have numerous gorilla safari lodges compared to Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda.

In addition, considering the cost, Uganda gorilla safari lodges are believed to cost slightly lower than most of the accommodation in Rwanda as it has positioned itself as a luxury gorilla safari destination.

The top accommodation options in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park include Bisate Lodge, Five Volcanoes Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Gorilla’s Nest, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge and more.

In Uganda, the gorilla safari lodges to book include Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp and others.

What else to do on Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Vs Uganda?

Rwanda and Uganda all have a lot to offer other than gorilla trekking. Uganda alone is a magical destination with 10 National Park, many forest reserves, 12 wildlife reserves, 1080 bird species and a lot more- all these can be explored while on gorilla safari in Uganda.

In Uganda, there are many tourist sites/parks to visit before getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for actual gorilla trekking experiences.

The top destinations to visit on the Western circuit before reaching Bwindi/Mgahinga include Lake Mburo National Park perfect for game viewing and interestingly, the only park in Uganda to enjoy view of wildlife while on a horseback riding, Queen Elizabeth National Park the only place to see the tree climbing lions, Kibale National Park for chimpanzee tracking/chimpanzee habituation experience, Equator crossing at Kayabwe to mention but a few.

Uganda also stands out of its gorilla trekking destination counterparts due to fact that it is the only place to visit to take on mountain gorilla habituation experience. Gorilla habituation in Uganda is only done while in Bwindi National Park and particularly at Rushaga sector.

In Rwanda, there are 4 parks and other than Volcanoes National Park the country’s only gorilla safari destination, the 3 additional parks to incorporate on your holiday include Nyungwe Forest National Park for chimpanzee tracking & canopy walk, Akagera National Park for a big five game viewing or enjoy good sight of primates at Gishwati-Mukura National Park, a newly established park in Rwanda.

Is Rwanda or Uganda safe for gorilla trekking?

For long, Rwanda and Uganda have enjoyed peace and stability compared to most African states or other nations in the world. There are strict security measures/Gorilla trekking rules/guidelines in place to ensure all gorilla destinations are safe and secure for visitors and also gorillas.

The different government agencies and park rangers also work together to ensure that tourists destinations are safe. In addition, all treks are done in gorilla families already familiar to human presence.

Some of the safety measures every visitor must observe on gorilla tour include keeping a 8-10m distance, no smoking/eating/drinking near gorillas, staying calm when gorillas charge, keep within the trekking group and others. These and other gorilla trekking rules are briefed to visitors before setting off to look for habituated families.