Where to trek wild gorillas in Africa
For many visitors to East Africa, a gorilla visit is the single largest expenditure they make in the region. It is worth putting some thought into where to visit these incredible creatures, not only to have the best experience possible but for security as well. For most it comes down to a choice between Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and volcanoes national park in Rwanda as the Mgahinga gorillas are not always in Uganda and Djomba in democratic republic of Congo has been closed for years due to insecurity in the country which doesn’t favor safe gorilla tracking activity. Rwanda and Uganda offers the best sighting areas, Uganda has about 14 gorilla groups and Rwanda has about 10 gorilla groups habituated and ready for tracking and in each group only 8 members are allowed to track.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Nark
Bwindi National Park is found in the south western part of Uganda covering an area of about 331 square kilometers. it’s a drive of about 8-10 hours from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. It neighbors Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border and the Virunga National park. The Park is most known for its endangered mountain gorillas as it’s a home to almost a half of the world’s population about 440 individuals live in this park out of an estimated 880 gorillas that live world wide. This is according to 2011 gorilla census report.
This is a dense forest with steep slopes, so trekking to the gorillas can be quite hard work, due to it’s being dense, visibility is also some how tough, and a fast film or push-processing is necessary for good photographic results. Bwindi is a tropical rainforest and as such it rains at different times but nearly everyday so its advised to carry rain gears such as jackets, other tracking gears that are recommended include strong shoes/boots, long sleeved shirts or blouses, gloves, tracking sticks these can be provided at the park headquarters, packed lunch and bottled water, as you may spend half or full day in the wild searching for these biggest creatures on earth. A reasonable degree of fitness is called for since tracking involve passing through muddy and thick forest.
Today there are 14 habituated gorilla groups available in Bwindi national park including Mubale Gorilla Group also called the M Group, Habinyanja Gorilla Group, The Rushegura Gorilla Group, The Oruzogo Gorilla Group, Bitukura Gorilla Group, Nshongi Gorilla Group, Mishaya Gorilla Group, Busingye Gorilla Group, Bweza Gorilla Group, Nkuringo Gorilla Group, kyaguriro gorilla group, Kahungye gorilla group, Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families among others. In each group, only 8 members is allowed to track per day. Each group is accompanied by arranger guide and some times porters if requested to help carry clients, bags and sometimes packed food in case the a visitor gets tired during the tracking. Ranger guides are also responsible for directing visitors to where the gorillas are and during the tracking, they give informative talk not only on gorillas but also to all forest dwellers you meet on way during tracking. About 112 permits are issued per day which means that 112 visitors a day can track mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park. A gorilla permit costs US$600 including park entry fee. However, sometimes there are low season rates of US$350 per gorilla permit in months of April, May and November.
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park, also known as Parc National Des Volcans is a perfect destination to see gorillas in the wild misty bambou jungles of Africa. The park is conveniently located about 90 minutes drive in the north of Kigali, the Capital city of Rwanda. Currently, Volcanoes National Park inhabits ten habituated gorilla families for tourism, these include Hirwa, Ugenda, Umubano, Karisimbi, Ntambara, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, group 13 and Susa among others. Rwanda receives more visitors than Uganda mainly because of the vigorous marketing strategies of Rwandan government, and the fact that the driving distance to the gorilla park is very short, just 90 minutes drive, compared to Uganda where one drives for over 8 hour’s from Kampala. However, great hikers enjoy combing gorilla trekking in Rwanda with Uganda, thus enjoying more than one gorilla trek and compare the gorilla trekking experience in both destinations. Apart from gorilla trekking, the park offers other activities such as golden monkey tracking, community tours, cultural village excursions, mount Bisoke and Karisimbi hiking, Dian Fossey Tomb tour and Musanze caves tour among others.
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park
This is another Uganda gorilla national park, it’s is located in the far south- western corner of the country it covers just 34sqkm; it takes part of the virunga volcanoes, which span the boarder of Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo. It covers just 34 sq km. However, gorillas to this park are not guaranteed as gorillas tend to migrate to the Virunga national park or Rwanda in search of different adventures although ever since they returned back in the park in 2012 they have stayed a while. However it’s advised to confirm with your Travel Agent to know which side of the boarder the gorillas are on before you go a head to book your safari to this park. There is only one gorilla group in Mgahinga national park known as Nyakagezi Gorilla Group. Gorilla tracking permits are also at a cost of US$600 and served on first come first served basis and there issued at the Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters in Kampala Uganda’s capital and it’s largest city. Other tourist activities in Mgahinga National Park include golden monkey tracking at US$50 per person, the Batwa trail where to spend time with the Batwa people (Pygmies) and learn about their history, culture and ways of life, Mount Gahinga hiking, bird watching and caves exploration.