Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda: Similarities & Differences
About Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda:
Gorilla Trekking is conducted in Volcanoes National Park which is situated in northern part of Rwanda known as Ruhengeri. The Park is reached after 2hrs drive from Kigali Airport or Kigali city. You can reach Ruhengeri town by public transport or private vehicle however, 4-wheel drive cars are recommended because the area is mountainous. Volcanoes National Park is named after the chain of dormant volcanoes making up the Virunga Massif: Karisimbi – the highest at 4,507m, Bisoke with its verdant crater lake, Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura.
About Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda:
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is dominated by tropical rain forest. It’s situated in western Uganda and reachable after 8-9 hours drive from Entebbe International Airport or Kampala city.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is thought to have one of the richest faunal communities in East Africa, including more than 350 bird species and more than 200 butterfly species along side different primates but above all mountain Gorillas. The last gorilla census of 2018 shows that BINP hosts almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. This Park is estimated to protect over 459 individual gorillas.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda:
It’s the smallest National Park in Uganda but treasured for hosting travelers looking to gorilla watching safaris in the Ugandan part of the Virunga. MGNP is part of Virunga crescent together with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo. MGNP is famous for its mountainous relief amidst Virunga Volcanoes like Mt Muhabura (4,127 m), Mt Gahinga (3,474 m) from which the park derives its name, and Mt Sabyinyo (3,645 m). It lies in Bufumbira county, Nyarusiza and Muramba sub-counties and adjacent to the three parishes of Gisozi, Rukongi and Gitenderi.
Similarities between Uganda and Rwanda Gorilla trekking:
Uganda and Rwanda start gorilla trekking with briefing at 7:30am and thereafter, groups of trekkers walk to meet gorillas in their natural habitat. During briefing, guests are equipped with DOS and DON’Ts while with gorillas.
Trekkers are grouped into a maximum of eight people to visit each gorilla family. For more information, each group is headed by ranger guides whose work id to guide, feed information and provide security to the visitors.
A maximum of one hour is given to watch gorillas in their natural environment. Once you meet gorillas, Uganda and Rwanda gives you only one hour to take photos, films and watch the gentle giants as they perform their routine activities.
Trekkers meet only habituated gorilla families which are calm and familiarized to be tracked. For a gorilla family to be trekked, it first under go a 2-3year habituation process which is spear headed by wildlife experts and primatologists among others.
You need a gorilla permit to be allowed to meet Gorillas. Advance purchase of Rwanda and Uganda Gorilla permit is recommended because the permits are on high demand.
Differences between Rwanda and Uganda Gorilla Trekking:
The cost of Rwanda Gorilla permit goes to US$1500 while that of Uganda cost US$700. For that case, Rwanda offers the most expensive gorilla trek on record.
Uganda conducts gorilla trekking in two gorilla parks namely; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. For that case, Uganda offers two options for tourists to choose where to trek gorillas from.
Uganda protects more than 18 habituated gorilla families in two parks while Rwanda offers 10 habituated gorilla families. That means that Uganda offers more gorilla permits per day, all year round.
Uganda offers both Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation for tourists. Rwanda only offers gorilla trekking however, the cost of Uganda gorilla habituation goes up to US$1500 (stay four hours with gorillas) which is equivalent to the cost of Rwanda gorilla trekking (1hr stay with gorillas).
Rwanda offers gorilla trekking from Kinigi park headquarters while Uganda is by far offers four gorilla trekking centres namely: Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo.
It’s a shorter distance from Kigali city to Volcanoes National Park (2hrs drive) verses 8-9hrs drive from Kampala city to Bwindi Impenetrable national Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Rwanda Gorilla Park is situated in northern direction while Uganda gorilla parks are in western Uganda.
Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda is more mountainous that Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The writer of this article is therefore cautioning all travelers opting to trek Gorilla in Rwanda to acquire high level of fitness before the actual tracking date.
Rwanda has ten habituated gorilla groups while Uganda has more than 18 habituated gorilla families. Rwanda gorilla families include Karisimbi Gorilla Family (Susa-B), Sabyinyo Gorilla Family, Amahoro Gorilla Family, Umubano Gorilla Family, Agasha Gorilla Family (Group 13), Kwitonda Gorilla Family, Hirwa Gorilla Family (Hirwa in the local dialect means “lucky one”) and Bwenge Gorilla Family.
Habituated gorilla families in Uganda include; Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Nkuringo, Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Bweza, Busingye, Nyakagezi, Kyaguriro among others.
Volcanoes National Park is more of bamboo vegetation than Bwindi. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is dominated by tropical rain forest which is characterized by tall trees, ever green vegetation, less undergrowth and canopies.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, covering 32,092 ha, is one of the largest areas in East Africa which still has Afromontane lowland forest extending to well within the montane forest belt. Volcanoes National Park covers 160 km2 (62 sq mi) of rainforest and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes. For that case, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is larger than Volcanoes National Park.
In conclusion, Uganda and Rwanda offers the best mountain gorilla trekking exercise however, your budget will determine were to trek from.Read More
Mistakes to Avoid on Uganda and Rwanda Safaris
Everyone traveling to Uganda or Rwanda wishes to have the best and unforgettable safari experience. Safety, security, comfort and peace of mind are the things most tourists wish for. Therefore, if that is also your wish, then these are the mistakes you should avoid during Uganda and Rwanda safaris.
Avoid moving alone at night
Moving alone in lonely places is risky because of the high rate of theft and robbery in Urban places especially Kampala city. It is therefore advisable to move with someone, preferable a local of the country although it is better and safer to move during daytime during safaris.
Similarly, avoid some nightclubs
Most nightclubs within Kampala are not safe because it is in such places that most tourists are robbed, murdered and get involved in fights. Not only that, never leave your drinks unattended to because you may be dragged and robbed in the process. If you must enjoy the nightlife in these countries, avoid flashing money and valuables, do not use the ATM machines within Bars, don’t leave your mobile phone on the table and avoid “buying” prostitutes because they look beautiful but are “sometimes” either infected with HIV/AIDS or are thieves themselves and make sure top move with a friend (a local who understands the local languages)
Avoid motorcycle taxis or boda-boda transportation
Boda-boda motorcycles are one of the main reasons for the increasing accident cases within Uganda or Rwanda. This means of transport is undeniably faster and efficient but can also be the reason for you losing your valuables and life because some of the riders and robbers. While on safari in Uganda, it is important to use only safe bodas.
Make sure not to fall sick in Rwanda and Uganda
Try not to fall sick during Uganda and Rwanda safaris. It sounds weird and you are possibly wondering how you can control it but try to prevent some common things than suffering the effects of curing the sickness. Some of the ways to avoid falling sick include immunizing against yellow fever, carry malaria medications, avoid street foods, don’t drink tap water and you will be good to go. Nonetheless, the good news is that most travelers don’t fall sick during Uganda or Rwanda safaris.
Avoid eating street foods
Avoid eating street foods because most of them are contaminated/unhygienic hence increase chances of diarrhea or stomach upset. Therefore you are advised to avoid consuming muchomo (roasted meat), Rolex (chapatti and omelet) and other street snacks. If at all you crave for such food, you can always buy them from restaurants and you will be saving your stomach from diseases.
Do not swim in rivers and Lakes
Swimming in most Uganda or Rwanda Lakes and Rivers increases chances of contracting Bilharzia and encountering wild animals such as Hippos and Nile Crocodiles. However, other Lakes such as Lake Kivu in Rwanda, Uganda’s Lake Bunyonyi and Mutanda are relatively safe for swimming. To be more comfortable, tourists are advised to always swim in the Swimming pools found within most Safari Lodges.
Additionally, you should avoid crossing the road without caution because as earlier mentioned, most road users don’t obey the traffic rules.
Avoid drinking tap water
Do not use tap water or use cubes, locally made juice with un-boiled water because its increases chances of typhoid. Tourists are therefore advised to use bottled (preferable Rwenzori water in Uganda and Inyange water of Rwanda) or thoroughly boiled water even for brushing your teeth. The good news is that most Hotels offer complimentary water bottles in the rooms.
Do not leave your valuable and cash in the open within the Hotel room
Money, passports and expensive gadgets have to be put in a safe and not suitcase or bags because sometimes even the Hotel/Lodge employees can steal your valuables. Actually, most accommodation facilities will warn you about this.
Do not go on self-drive safaris
If you are a first time visitor to Uganda or Rwanda, avoid going on self-drive safaris because you might not be familiar with the traffic laws of the countries, or may not know the roads because for the case of Uganda, some roads or streets are not labeled. Another reason it is risky to go on self drive safaris is because of the high rate of accidents due to many inexperienced drivers who ignore traffic laws, vehicles of poor mechanical conditions and dilapidated roads. Therefore, you are advised to hire a car with a driver being provided so that you enjoy your safari in comfort.Read More