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Gorilla trekking Uganda vs rwanda

First of all, Gorilla Trekking is on every traveler’s bucket list for things to do in East Africa. According to current estimates, there are approximately 880 mountain gorillas remaining in the wild.

Additionally, the Mountain gorillas live in family groups in the Virunga Mountains which straddle Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.  Visitors wishing to track these beautiful animals can do so in either Uganda or Rwanda. 

Whether you are doing gorilla trekking rwanda or gorilla trekking uganda, both destinations offer an excellent opportunity to see the gorillas with track success rates of almost 98%.  If you are wondering which country to choose, here are some facts to help you;

Gorilla trekking permit pricing

Until June 2017, permit prices were broadly similar: $750 per gorilla tracking in Rwanda and $600 per track in Uganda. However, in June 2017, the Rwanda Development Board decided to raise their gorilla trekking permit price to $1,500 per track.

This was on the basis of funding conservation and supporting people living in gorilla areas.  The Uganda Wildlife Authority has most recently responded increasing gorilla trekking permits to $700 per gorilla treck as of 1st July 2020.

However, it does significantly affect the cost, particularly when two gorilla trekking permits are recommended for most clients to make the best of their holiday.

Gorilla trekking Similarities:

Both Rwanda and Uganda offer a variety of family groups to track.

Although it’s not possible to request a specific group to track, park rangers will try to take into consideration the likely length and degree of difficulty of the hike when allocating trackers to the various family groups.

In both countries, groups meet at the park headquarters for a briefing at around 7.30 am.  From here, trackers are driven to the appropriate trail head for the start of the track.

Maximum group size is eight people.

Generally the gorillas are fairly sedentary, moving around 1 km a day.  This means the initial part of the track is based on the previous days’ movements and is often fairly predictable.

The gorilla family’s movements will be noted by advance trackers in order to make the track as direct as possible.

Both countries offer a good selection of top, mid and budget accommodations.

Rwanda Gorilla trekking specifics:

First, Tracking is in Volcanoes National Park which is an easy three hour drive from the international airport in the capital Kigali. If you are short of time, this is probably the better destination.

gorilla trekking in Rwanda

There are currently ten habituated family groups here, ranging in size from around nine to 30 individuals.

Second, Tracking times are generally shorter in Rwanda as most of the habituated groups are within 30 minutes to two hours of the trail head.

Thirdly, there is less gorilla trekking difficulty because the terrain is a little bit more open and not quite as steep as that found in the gorilla habitat in Uganda. The vegetation in Rwanda tends to be thinner and less difficult to walk through which makes the walking slightly easier than in Uganda. 

The exception is the Susa group whose range is higher and deeper into the mountains (though this group is arguably the most rewarding to visit with over 30 individuals).

Tracking altitude is around 2,500 to 3,000 meters.

Further more, Volcanoes National Park is where Dian Fossey – widely credited with saving gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the international community – carried out her research.

It’s possible to visit her grave and the Karisoke Centre she established in 1967.

Other activities in Rwanda

Finally, Other activities possible in Rwanda include; tracking golden monkeys, nature walks, climbing volcanoes, mountain biking, birding in Nyungwe Forest, meeting the In Tore people, visits to the Iby’Iwacu cultural village, walking in the Buhanga Sacred Forest, and visiting the Musanze Caves.  Time permitting, the genocide memorial in Kigali is well worth a visit.

gorilla trekking in uganda
Gorilla in Bwindi

Uganda specifics:

First, It’s possible to track mountain gorillas in two areas in Uganda; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park.

Second, There are 11 habituated families in Bwindi (as well as three semi-habituated groups) and just one in Mgahinga which is the Uganda section of the Virunga Mountain range.

Thirdly, Bwindi is around six to eight hours’ drive (or a shorter light aircraft flight) from the capital Kampala and tracking takes place from four different locations.  Buhoma in the northwest has access to the most groups (and top end visitor accommodation).  It is also the easiest to reach from Kampala. 

Fourth, Nkuringo to the southwest also has good choice accommodation and a large group comprising 19 individuals to track.   The Ruhija area has one family and the Rushaga offers two habituated groups.

The lush rainforest vegetation in Bwindi is denser than the bamboo forests in Rwanda which can make walking difficult at certain times of the year.

Tracking in Bwindi is at an altitude of around 1,400 to 2,000 meters, so slightly lower than in Rwanda.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three groups of habituated gorillas, as well as habituated golden monkeys and spectacular volcanic scenery.

The gorillas here tend to move between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo so tracking is less certain than in other areas.

Finally, Uganda offers more great wildlife viewing so is arguably a more complete safari destination.

Other activities in Uganda

Other activities in Uganda include; birding and wildlife viewing in Bwindi, Ishasha, Kyambura, Kibale, Murchison Falls, Semliki and Lake Mburo.  

Additionally, It’s possible to arrange cultural visits to the indigenous pygmy tribes, guided forest walks, volcano climbing, and dugout canoe trips on Lake Mutanda.

In conclusion, Gorilla trekking is an amazing experience and we have done the most we can to compare Rwanda and Uganda for you. However both countries will offer you a gorilla trekking safe experience. Feel free to leave a comment on what you think below.