Gorilla tracking is one of the highly sought after activities when visiting East Africa. Thousands of people a year hike jungles to get a glimpse of these rare giants that are only found in East Africa. All the world’s gorillas are found in only three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Few have the means or time to visit all the three countries and therefore you have to choose which country to visit. We hope to make the decision easier.
The Volcanoes Park borders Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Both these parks home to two hundred eighteen (218) gorillas. The gorillas are in families with up to eighteen (18) individuals per family. It is important to note that these gorillas freely roam across the border with Uganda and the exact number of gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda is not known until the day of the tracking. The park has spotters who early in the morning will track the gorillas and report back to the park headquarters so that the guides who move with the tourists can know where to find the gorillas easily. This however doesn’t mean that the hike in the mountain will be any easier or will be shorter as it will take time to reach the gorillas even if they have been spotted.
Virunga Volcanoes National Park of Congo strides Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park. Virunga is the only place in the world where you will find both lowland and mountain gorillas and the only place with lowland gorillas. Virunga (Congo) and Mgahinga (Uganda) national parks have a combined two hundred eighty mountain gorillas. Not far away is the Nyiragongo lava crater which is a tourist hotspot. Tourists hike the active volcano and can camp at the top, just a few meters from the boiling lava. However, Congo is a huge country, the distance from Kinshasa, the capital where the main airport is located, to Virunga national park is an astonishing 3281km which takes over 60 hours to cover by road. It’s for this reason most of the visitors to Virunga use the airport in Kigali, Rwanda and then cross by road to Uganda and then on to Virunga which is at the border all of which take about 5 hours. However, the country is not favorable for tourists as it has frequent outbreaks of armed conflicts and epidemics like Ebola.
Rwanda is a small beautiful country in East Africa. The small size makes it a tourist haven. Within hours of landing you can be in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; home to the gorillas. For the business traveler without a lot of time this can be the place to go. One short on time needs only two days one being for arrival and the other to track the gorillas and leave on a late night flight. Being a small country one can also visit Lake Kivu which is on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. At Lake Kivu you can do a variety of beach games like Skis, swimming, surfing, and visiting the beautiful islands of the lake. Visitors should do a city tour if they have time. When you go gorilla tracking in Rwanda expect to enjoy freshly made coffee and live cultural entertainment before you set off in search of the gorillas. The negative with Rwanda is the price of tracking gorillas. The government recently doubled the fees for the gorilla permit to USD ($) 1400 per person.
Uganda has two national parks with gorilla tracking activities. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park bordering Rwanda and Mgahinga National Park bordering Congo. Both these are in South West Uganda an average 9 hours drive from the capital. The total population of mountain gorillas in the country is short of five hundred (500) gorillas. The Mgahinga National Park in addition to gorilla tracking has tracking of golden monkeys; a rare species of monkeys, volcano hiking as well as cultural experience of the Batwa. The Batwa are a tribe of indigenous people who lived in the forests of the national park. They can be found in Bwindi National Park too. Lake Bunyonyi also borders Bwindi National Park and the lake gets its name from the numerous birds it harbors. The lake is a birder’s paradise. Uganda is the place to go if you are looking for an affordable gorilla tour.