Well known as the extra ordinary wildlife experience in the whole world, mountain gorilla trekking is only done in three countries worldwide. It is the most thrilling experience as travelers set eyes on their closest relatives in the wilderness, it feels magical but it is real, that every traveler would like to feel it. The 900 mountain gorillas in the whole world are split in only four national parks, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park together with Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, volcanoes national park in Rwanda and the virunga national park in the democratic republic of Congo.
Each one of the three countries offer a unique gorilla trekking experience to travelers, however, travelers who have been in both countries have made comparisons on which destination is best to trek. They compare basing on accessibility, availability, and the costs among others as explained below:
The mountain gorilla permit in Uganda is sold at 600usd in the peak season and 450usd in the low season. On the other hand, Rwanda gorilla permit is sold at 750usd in the peak season and 500 in the low season. This means that Uganda’s permit is quite cheaper as compared to Rwanda.
However, the low costs of the mountain gorilla permits in Uganda are made expensive with the long distance traveled. It takes the whole day to travel form Kampala to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, which requires two days to trek. On the other hand, volcanoes national park is only two hours drive from Kigali and therefore travelers can trek on the day of arrival saving them transport and time.
Uganda has the highest population of the mountain gorillas in the whole world. There are 13 habituated mountain gorilla families in Uganda 12 found in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park split in the four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo where as 1 the 13th is found in Mgahinga gorilla national park. This means that there are 104 gorilla permits available for trekking in Uganda. On the other hand, Rwanda has 10 habituated mountain gorilla families; there are 80 permits available per day.
All the countries allow a maximum of eight people to interact with one mountain gorilla family per day. The increased number of gorilla permits in Uganda has attracted many travelers to the country since they are sure that even last time bookers can access the permits.
The pre trekking experience in Uganda is quite wonderful. Travelers pass via other tourism sites including the equator, lake Mburo national park, and Igongo cultural center as they head for gorilla trekking. Travelers therefore have much to see on their way to Bwindi, which makes the final experience amazing. On the other hand, the short distance covered from Kigali town to the volcanoes national park limits the chances of travelers to see other attractions. It takes only two-hours driving from Kigali to volcanoes national park and there is no much to see on the way to the mountain gorillas.
When visiting Bwindi to trek Uganda gorillas, travelers hike through the dense tropical rain forest with much undergrowth and thorny bushes. The slippery ground due to limited light penetration is expected in Bwindi and the impenetrable vegetation makes photographing quite difficult. Volcanoes national park is made up of bamboo vegetation, which is lighter, compared to Bwindi.
However despite the comparisons, mountain gorilla trekking in both countries require advance booking for the permit and the payment of the booking fee of 30% of the total costs. A permit in both countries allows a traveler to interact with the gorilla family for an hour. The advance booking is purposed to ease the timely allocation of the gorilla families to the travelers made, the tracking experience in both countries require advance booking for the permits for easy allocation of the gorilla families to travelers.
A distance of seven meters must be kept between the gorillas and the travelers. In addition, travelers with sicknesses such as cough and flue are not allowed to trek in both countries. This is to prevent the spread of human wild life diseases especially the air borne.
There are various hotel and lodging facilities in both countries offering food and sleeping services to the travelers. The services offered range from luxury to low budget travelers hence serving the interests of both travelers.
In conclusion therefore, the choice of the mountain gorilla trekking destination depends on the travelers’ interests. Each destination is unique and the experience too. Travelers would if possible therefore travel to both countries for the phenomenal and ultimate experience.