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Where to go Gorilla Trekking - Is it Rwanda or Uganda

The most challenging part in the world of travel today, is decision making where the question of where or which tourist destination to choose for gorilla trekking. It is a desire of every tourist in the globe to spend on an attraction (tourism product) that provides value for their money and the magical experience in their entire lives. In order to achieve the latter, tourists can meet their long time dreams from a handful of the world’s star attraction available; the rare endangered mountain gorillas that are fewer than 720 individuals in the world and they can only be found in three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Uganda and Rwanda have higher population of the rare endangered mountain gorillas due to the peaceful and undisturbed habitats, unlike their counterpart in the Congo forest where insecurity has driven away the gorillas to Uganda and Rwanda. Mountain gorillas are among the two great African Apes listed as endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book hence effort is put to protect these goldmine species that are available for today’s satisfaction and future generation.

In Uganda, the half of the population of the mountain gorillas are inhabited in Bwindi Impenetrable Conservation Area (BICA) while a larger portion also remain in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Tourists are therefore presented with two choices to undertake a trip for gorilla tracking that is either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) or in the Volcanoes National Park.
However, other clients may prefer to visit both parks to make their judgment especially on the quality of experience provided and the value for their money for the product they paid for.
Below is comparison between the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Volcanoes National Park. The comparison is based on the distance and accessibility of the National Park, tourist pre-tracking experience, the price of gorilla permits, the accommodation facilities around the park, gorilla experience and the people around the two national parks.

Distance and accessibility of the two national parks

Tourists can access the Volcanoes National Park easily and quickly due to the small size of the country (Rwanda) that takes tourists only 3 hour drive from the airport to the park, whereas Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda takes a period of approximate 9 to 10 hour drive due to long distance of about 530 to 600 square kilometers from the capital city Kampala (Tourism Uganda directory, 2014/2015). The park can be accessed by tourists both on road and air. Traveling on road, one can reach the park from several directions that include through Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya)-Kihihi-Buhoma, which provide a chance to clients to stopovers and search for the famous tree climbing lions as they relax from the trees, Kampala-Kabale-Kanungu-Buhoma a 5-6 hour journey among others.

Travelers can also fly from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield to modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro town, Hihihi and Ishasha airstrip in Kanungu district then they move to the park. These avenues are put in place to help reduce on the time spent on the road to ease the park access by tourists. The ticket costs $260 with aero link Uganda.

Pre-tracking experience

The pre-tracking experience in Rwanda is limited in that tourists spend only three hours to drive up to the Volcanoes National Park. This is very convenient especially for tourists who need to spend shorter time in East Africa. There are great chances that tourists can trek the gorillas in the same day of their arrival;

Whereas Uganda the pearl of Africa, the tourists can get a great deal of pre-tracking experience mostly because Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the great hills of Kabale, south western part of Uganda. Tourists travel for several kilometers approximately 550-600 which means there are also higher chances for tourists to interface with diversity of tourist attractions in the en-route as they travel across various well-endowed national parks. This depends on the route the tourist can take. The tourist will have a chance to view large troops of baboons as they play on the ground and other primates as they juggle in the branches of trees at in the capital of great primates, Kibale Conservation Area (KCA), photo taking at the Equator, in Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area (QECA) and in Lake Mburo game viewing in variety of wildlife species. This experience is one of the best for tourists interested in long holiday vacation and game viewing. Experience the pearl of Africa!

The price of gorilla permits

Tourists are required to purchase gorilla permits to enable them track the mountain gorillas. In this case, Uganda offers a relatively affordable gorilla permits as compared to her counterpart Rwanda. In Uganda, a permit costs $600 and in Rwanda it costs $750. Budget tourists are able to track gorillas in Uganda and save the $150 for other expenses. However, in Rwanda tourists attain additional service from entertainment by the local performances as they enjoy their cup of tea unlike their counterpart Uganda where an additional cost may be required the tourist to pay for the same service and mostly done in the evening.

Accommodation facilities around the parks

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has many accommodation facilities. These include Cloud lodges, Gorilla forest camp, Mahogany springs, Buhoma lodge, Bwindi volcano lodge among others and all offer luxury services to the tourist. It provides a variety for the tourists to easily choose the accommodation facility of their choice.
The land of a thousand hills (Rwanda) also provides good accommodation facilities for example, Sabyinyo silverback lodge, Virunga lodge, Gorilla Mountain View but most tourists prefer staying in Virunga lodges.

Gorilla tracking experience

In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a home to half of the world’s rare mountain gorillas, whose encounter and consequent eye contact into the pensive brown eyes of these majestic giants is the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter in the whole of Africa.

The warmth of experience in this park is supported by habituated groups for both tourism and research purposes respectively. Before there were about 9-10 groups of mountain gorilla families but currently there are twelve habituated gorilla groups. Tourists can only visit eleven of the habituated group because one was left for research. More groups mean more gorilla permits availability for the satisfaction of the clients.

However, these gorilla groups maybe a little far away from the park, tracking through the impenetrable forest and hilly topography may be difficult and tourists who cannot carry their luggage for long are advised to hire porters. Tourists have chance to interface with gorilla groups that are social and they can easily take their photos as they pose in the thick vegetation. The thick forest vegetation however sometimes makes it hard to take photographs especially of the gorillas that are not yet habituated; they tend to shy away from human presence.

There are four gorilla sectors to enable tourists enjoy the foremost tourist attraction and the world’s most remarkable wildlife encounters that is to say Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Only eight permits per group per day be that one lucky one!

Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills has ten gorilla groups that can be tracked. The higher elevation of 2500 meters and above gives higher chances to interface with the gorillas in Rwanda and have high fun to take photographs in this destination while Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has got an elevation of 1000-2000 meters. Be among the millions to interface this wildlife as the vegetation here gives tourists a clear view to take photos of gorillas in their natural environment.

The people around the two national parks

Uganda is a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of 50 plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handcraft. To explore this diversity, the Batwa pygmies as well as the Bakiga are among enlisted groups and they live around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Batwa culture is unique in its kind and it acts as tourist’s attraction in the Batwa community. After engaging in the gorilla tracking in the park, tourists can also engage in variety of activities in the community especially the Batwa trail, community walks, forest walks; get entertained by traditional dances and performances. The sweetest moments of the Batwa trail is when a tourist is trapped in the pitch dark cave, then sweet voices in harmony sizzle from nowhere before the torches are switched and theater stage has cast of children and women dressed on leaves strangulate their vocal chords in praise of the gods, the beautiful girls or past on ancestor. A tourist visiting the park should not miss the authentic experience as the guides dramatize their forest life and experience their unique life style.
Whereas our counter parts in Rwanda, may not offer the same fascinating experience to tourists as the Batwa community in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In Conclusion, both Uganda and Rwanda are a pride of Africa’s exotic mountain gorilla tours and home for the most forethought destination to visit by tourist for thrill of experience in their life-time. Travelers should not miss this fantastic life experience and be among a million to grab this warmth as each destination can offer different experience for the clients due to different terrain in the two national parks. The choice depends on the traveler’s income, time and desire to visit many attractions. Both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Volcanoes National Park are amazing and unique in their own kind as travelers can attain different satisfaction levels on their experiences and value for their money for product enjoyed. Tourists are allowed to make their own comparison between the two parks by visiting both so as to attain a fair judgment on the destination. This means tourists can travel from Uganda to Rwanda or Rwanda to Uganda since they are near each other. This can be possible as long as travelers possess proper documents. Experience East Africa now for the ultimate gorilla experience only in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or the Volcanoes National park!