Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?





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  1. #1
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    Default Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    We are planning a self-drive trip through East Africa and will pass through both Rwanda and Uganda in August 2021. A highlight of the journey will be a one day trip trekking gorilla. I am hoping that some East African “boffins” will be able to assist in making the planning easier. From what I have established the price in Uganda is far more reasonable than Rwanda. Please can I be advised;

    What are current costs in the 2 countries? From what I have seen Rwanda $1,500 each and Uganda $600 each, Uganda price may be out of date? I appreciate prices may change by the time we go.
    Assuming we do the trekking in Uganda which option is better, Bwindi or Mgahinga?
    Does one have to physically go to Kigali or Kampala to do the bookings? Kigali would be easy as we go through Kigali en route to Vocanoes NP but going to Kampala before visiting either Ugandan site would be a logistical nightmare.

    Thanks in advance, John
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Here is the link to the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s website for their tariffs. The cost for gorilla tracking is USD700 per person. https://www.ugandawildlife.org/phoca...020-2022-O.pdf

    Definitely, try for one of the habituated groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The gorilla group in Mgahinga roam between the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. I don’t think the Uganda Wildlife Authority actually sell permits in advance for gorilla tracking in Mgahinga as it cannot be certain that the gorilla group will be in Uganda.

    The HQ of Bwindi NP is at Buhoma and most habituated gorilla families are within a reasonable distance from Buhoma. The other start point for gorilla tracking is at Ruhija. If you get a permit for one of the groups starting at Ruhija then it is worth staying near Ruhija. If you get a permit for the Nkuringo (or a name like that, can’t remember at the moment) group, then they are on the south side of Bwindi.

    As for booking a permit, contact the UWA or get a travel agent in Kampala to get the permit for you, you pay by international transfer, and get them to send/email the vouchers. I can give you contacts of a travel agent in Kampala.

    We have only ever collected permits in Kampala, but you won’t want to detour all the way up there. Others on this forum must have collected them in Bwindi. I know there is the chance that some people might have pre-booked permits and then not been able to take them up. There is always the faint chance that turning up at the HQ at Buhoma and being able to get a permit - totally above board. That is a chance you may or may not be willing to take...

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Thanks WW, you are an absolute fountain of knowledge. One more question, do you ever sleep?
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    John I am going to provide a counter argument to perhaps consider Rwanda for your first attempt at a mountain gorilla hike despite being US$1600 pp. That is what we decided despite choking on the price difference of US$900 less in Uganda. The price difference was about half in 2015, until Rwanda had an increase. Let's put the price to one side for now. We researched the Rwanda/Uganda gorilla hike very thoroughly including speaking to many overlanders/"experts" on the ground as we proceeded. We decided on Rwanda for the following reasons:
    • We were traveling in the same direction south to north and thus would also reach Rwanda first. We wanted to keep the later Uganda option in reserve should the visit at Volcanos NP fail or flop. Seeing the gorillas was a top priority for us and we wanted to equip ourselves with every option.
    • The gorilla hikes in Rwanda are more professionally run compared to those in Rwanda according to those in the know, however you will find there is a lot of personal bias.
    • The terrain at Volcanos NP in Rwanda is usually far easier. The undergrowth is less thick and the gorillas are often in the easily traversed bamboo forest. Most of the 8 treks each day at Volcanos are quite a bit shorter, on average an hour or two to reach the gorilla family, longer, perhaps more strenuous and perhaps more interesting treks can be chosen, usually for the young.
    • The climbs up/down the slopes of the mountains are usually a lot less steep in Rwanda.
    • The organization and the guides are strongly reputed to be more professional at Volcanos NP than is the case at Bwindi.
    • The success rate of actually spending time with a gorilla family at Volcanos is reputed to be higher than at Bwindi. Volcanos has/had 10 habituated family of which 8 are visited by groups of 8 humans on a daily basis and they have been habituated for the longest.
    • Volcanos NP is the exact spot where infamous Dianne Fossey had her gorilla research station and that can be visited.
    • If you arrive at the gorilla conservation center (as per my blog) you can make fairly solid arrangements to ensure that you are allocated a gorilla hike the next day commensurate with your age and physical capabilities. It is extremely rare for a gorilla hike to return unsuccessful in Rwanda, but is reported in Uganda, we thought more often.
    • My blog sets out in detail how to book for Rwanda and the organizational aspect thereof.
    • I must state though, when I first saw the outrageous Rwanda gorilla price increases, my initial reaction was to rather advise Uganda, but costs are a decision for yourself.


    The same advice for the chimpanzees, rather first do them at Jane Goodall's research place, Gombe Streams NP in Tanzania. If that experience flops in any way, take up one of the many Ugandan opportunities later, possibly in Kibale Forest NP.
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2020/10/23 at 08:05 AM. Reason: corrected the US$ cost Rwanda to 1600
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Your post does make a lot of sense as we have special circumstances. Without wanting to bore you Linda suffers from Parkinson's and her gait is awkward, to compound this she did something to her foot on the beach at Struisbaai in February and she has been in severe pain for 8 months struggling to walk more than 500 metres. After 12 visits to doctors, xrays, ultrasounds, bone scans, CT scans and MRIs we are no nearer a solution than at the start. If this is not resolved our entire trip will be in jeopardy. We saw Linda's neurologist today and he was confident that a solution will be found, it is NOT Parkinson's related. However even if the foot pain is resolved the Parkinson's gait is still problematic and for many of the reasons you have put forward we may well look at Rwanda rather than Uganda as first choice.
    Last edited by Tedx2; 2020/10/23 at 02:10 PM.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    John, not that anyone would in any way choose to go that route, but there is a provision for hired porters to carry the disabled up and down the mountain in Rwanda (and I think Uganda) for gorilla viewing. Extreme but an option.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    I cannot offer a comparison, but was lucky enough to go see the Gorillas in Rwanda FOUR times early in the 2000's. Back then it was USD 500 per visit. It was magnificent!

    Always well organized, small groups of max 8 visitors and they were very strict about keeping distance, however often the primates felt otherwise and would approach us and even make contact; - of course you could not retreat, you just sit still in a submissive posture.

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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    We have only been gorilla trekking in Uganda, but I have friends that have done so in Rwanda. From my experience, the Ugandan organisation was very professional and the guides and porters were very keen to help those less able. There are 18 habituated groups in Bwindi.

    However, I too have heard that the walk/climb in Rwanda is less strenuous than some of the treks in Uganda. As Stan says, the vegetation is less thick for the most part. In Uganda, the less able would be assigned to the group that is nearest that day. But if you do opt for Uganda, ensure that you tell the booking agent of your wifeÂ’s condition and that they book one of the easier sectors (which I understand is Buhoma).

    There is no doubt that the hills in Bwindi are steep and slippery and this is an important factor for you and your wife. The trek could be an hour or so or 8 hours. The porters and guides are so keen to help that they can, indeed, carry a person up and down the mountains.

    Bearing in mind your wifeÂ’s unfortunate condition, it might be wise to take doctor StanÂ’s advice and go for the easier, less steep option of the Rwandan volcanoes rather than the Ugandan mountains. Wherever you chose, you will have the same amazing wildlife experience.

    Below is some information copied and pasted.


    Here is a list of the sectors in Bwindi, Uganda taken from the UWA website.
    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) is best known for its Mountain Gorilla populations and gorilla tracking.

    There are 4 locations for tracking gorillas in BINP these are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. The 4 locations have a total of about 18 families as of December 2018. Tracking permits need to be bought prior to tracking by booking directly with the reservations office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Headquarters or through a reputable tour agent. Permits can be paid for up to two years in advance.
    Only 8 visitors are allowed to view the gorillas for one hour per day, participants must be aged 15 or over. and they will be accompanied by UWA guides while with the Gorillas.
    Tracking the gorillas can last from a few hours to a whole day, depending on how far the group has moved since it was observed nesting up the previous evening. (UWA website)



    And here is a list, I presume accurate, of the families and sectors.

    Northern Bwindi

    Buhoma Sector Groups


    • Mubare: 5 members with 1 Silverback
    • Rughegura: 15 members with 1 silverback
    • Habinyanja: 15 members with 1 silverback
    • Katwe: 8 members with 1 silverback



    Ruhija Sector Groups



    • Bitukura: 11 members with 2 Silverbacks
    • Oruzogo: 17 members with 3 silverbacks
    • Mukiza: 13 members with 1 silverback
    • Kyaguriro: 8 members with 1 silverback


    • Southern Bwindi
    • Rushaga Sector Groups

      • Nshongi: 7 members with 1 silverback
      • Mishaya: 8 members with 1 silverback
      • Kahungye: 22 members with 3 silverbacks
      • Bweza: 10 members with 3 silverbacks
      • Busingye: 12 members with 1 silverback
      • Bikyingi: 10 members with 1 silverback
      • Mcunguzi: 8members with 1 silverback
      • Kutu: 7 members with 2 silverbacks

    • Nkuringo Sector Groups

      • Nkuringo: 14 members with 2 silverbacks
      • Bushaho: 11 members with 1 silverback
      • Christmas: 6 members with 1 silverback

    • Nyakagezi Sector Groups

      • Nyakagezi; 10 members with 3 silverbacks







    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2020/10/23 at 03:53 PM.

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  14. #9
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Thank for that most useful post WW, decisions, decisions, decisions. We will only know how Linda is next year and make a call at that point in time.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    John, it may sound unkind and perhaps you are too much of a gentleman to mention it to Linda, but it would not be the end of the world if circumstances force you to do the gorilla hike without her, if circumstances dictate.

    As you say, keep your options open.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    I can’t help you with a choice John, but I am incredibly jealous. Right near the top of my bucket list.

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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    We planned to go both in Rwanda and Uganda. We ended up going only in Rwanda, based on a lot of information and opinion. Key reasons, as noted by others - we understood that access in Rwanda is less strenuous (if you want more challenge then you can a group taking one of the less accessible routes). Certainly we found the trail well within our capability (and my knees are no longer what they were...). The chances of seeing gorillas, according to a number of sources, are higher in Rwanda.

    We found the organisation excellent, the guides excellent, and the trackers excellent (I think I've made the point). We hired porters at the trailhead - it's a good income for them, and they turned out to be a fount of knowledge on the region, local life and culture, and did help on some more difficult bits of trail.

    We arranged tickets in Rubavu the day before (Innocent at Greenhills Ecotours), and he had the tickets delivered from Kigali overnight. We also spent the following day visiting Golden Monkeys, which was a great day.

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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    John, it may sound unkind and perhaps you are too much of a gentleman to mention it to Linda, but it would not be the end of the world if circumstances force you to do the gorilla hike without her, if circumstances dictate.

    As you say, keep your options open.
    I value my manhood too much to even begin to suggest this course of action!!!
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Quote Originally Posted by RobH View Post
    I can’t help you with a choice John, but I am incredibly jealous. Right near the top of my bucket list.
    Incredibly Rob, this all started with a thread on this forum entitled something like "If money was no barrier I would ..........." Linda and I chatted and we put in three words "gorillas and migration", Stan saw our response and challenged us to proceed, once were we hooked into the idea we reached the point where we are now, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi. The planning is soooo much fun.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    I believe very few here (if any at all) have experienced mountain gorilla trekking in both Rwanda and Uganda. And I don't remember anyone in these forums has ever described an unsuccessful trek. Given that, I believe that you will exclusively get favorable votes for a country where members actually did visit the gorillas. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

    We've only been gorilla trekking in Uganda, so I can't comment on Rwanda. But in any case, I can only say that I can hardly imagine, how this activity could be conducted better and more professionally than it was in our case. Everything worked as an oiled machine, without any more improvisation (due to the fact that gorillas are unpredictable in their movements) as it was absolutely necessary. We did it in Ruhija section, which is higher and more hilly than the more popular Buhome section. We aimed for the less strenuous option, but unfortunately, the Buhoma permits were sold out for our date more than a half year in advance. So we had to settle with what was available. And I must say, we were very lucky with our choice. Our Ruhija trek was surprisingly easy, much easier than we were prepared for. We were assigned (mainly based on our age, I'd guess, as we didn't specifically ask to be assigned to trek any habituated group) to the party, which was supposed to search for the easiest reachable group that day. And indeed it was. I think it lasted less than 45 minutes from the start of our trek until we actually get to them. To get to them was actually descend all the way, quite steep in places, but nohing extreme. And guides and porters always set their pace based on the slowest participant, always eager to help those that needed the help. After the whole hour with the gorillas (we have found them in a relatively steep slope, so that hour wasn't exectly the rest time for us either!), we climbed back up to the road the same way we came down. As this was an ascent, it lasted a bit longer - about an hour, I'd say. There were less fit members than us in our group, but we have all managed to make it without any particular problems. All in all, I believe the fisical effort required for gorila trekking is always luck of the draw, no matter where you want to do it. But it is worth every dollar and every atom of your stength - it simply is one of those rare unique experiences that stay with you forever.

    In your case, If price difference is not the decesive factor, I would agree with what others have suggested: go for it in the country which you will visit first. In your case, this will probably be Rwanda. This will enable you the second chance in another country, if anything goes wrong the first time.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Thanks for that very detailed analysis Ortelius. As I said to WW decisions, decisions, decisions. Much will depend upon Linda's well being with her foot as we move forward.
    Last edited by Tedx2; 2020/10/24 at 11:42 AM.
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    Default Re: Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

    Whilst we still haven't decided upon Uganda or Rwanda due to Linda's foot we did receive some good news from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) earlier today. You may recall that if we do decide upon Bwindi in Uganda rather than Volcanoes in Rwanda we had a potential problem in that we would not be passing through the UWA offices in Kampala and that might cause problems in collecting permits for the gorilla trekking. I emailed UWA explaining the potential problem and they in turn emailed me back explaining that it would not be necessary to visit their offices. They would provide bank details, I would be able to transfer funds and they would email me the necessary invoices to present at Buhoma for our trekking. This information will hopefully be of value to others interested in visiting the gorillas in Uganda.
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