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 900 mountain gorillas remaining on earth, and Rwanda and Uganda are home to some of the world’s last and most precious gorilla families. Observing these beautiful and endangered creatures is a truly privileged experience. After a long trek deep into the forest, observing these shy primates feed, play, and interact in their natural habitat is absolutely unforgettable.
Only 80 people a day are permitted into the gorilla’s fragile habitats each year, and under careful conditions. 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 – the reward, however, is well worth the effort. Though humans must keep a few metres away from the gorillas, the gorillas are able to approach human visitors which can bring a rare and exhilarating experience. Silverback gorillas can weigh up to 500 pounds and reach a height of six feet tall. Trekkers are able to spend one hour with these spectacular creatures that are the closest animals out there to us Homo sapiens.
Both Uganda and Rwanda offer amazing gorilla treks. Each has its own features and benefits, though the type of mountain gorillas spotted in each country are the same. Local lodges offer top-notch accommodation for gorilla trekkers in both locations. Choosing between Uganda and Rwanda can be a tough choice, so we’ve put together some helpful information about each country to help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
For such a tiny country, Rwanda punches above its weight class when it comes to wildlife spotting. Volcanoes National Park is home to several families of mountain gorillas as well as a troop of rare golden monkeys that are habituated to human visitors. 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 has more than twice the number of habituated mountain gorilla groups than Uganda, and so permits are generally more easily available.
A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs USD$750.
Before or after your gorilla adventure, embark on a fascinating city tour of Kigali which has emerged from its troubled past to become one of Africa’s most attractive capital cities.
Gorilla trekkers visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the richest ecosystems in East Africa. Bwindi’s ancient forests support over 120 mammal, 345 bird, and 200 butterfly species – so memorable wildlife sightings are assured. Mountain gorillas viewing success rates are over 90% here. Because the trek may involve climbing steep terrain, travellers are required to be in good physical condition. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an eight hour drive from Kampala, so it can take at least three days to do a trek in Uganda.
A gorilla permit in Uganda costs USD$600
Uganda is a great option if you want to experience other activities besides gorilla trekking. The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is home to 48 orphaned chimps rescued from throughout Uganda. Day and overnight visitors can observe and interact with these fascinating great apes on the shores of beautiful Lake Victoria. Visitors to Uganda can also spend a day with the Batwa people and learn their fascinating way of life. They are indigenous pygmy people that live in the rainforest near Bwindi.
The Best of Both Worlds
Can’t decide between Rwanda or Uganda? Combine the best of both on Goway’s 6-Day Gorillas Galore excursion. You’ll touch down in Entebbe, Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria, and visit the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary or Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, before trekking through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to meet the park’s gorilla residents. Travel overland into Rwanda for an unforgettable gorilla trek in picturesque Virunga Mountains before spending a day exploring picturesque Kigali’s museums and restaurants.