Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa

Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa : Mountain gorillas only live in East and central Africa in countries of Uganda, Rwanda in East Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa and can therefore only be visited in the parks that straddle the three countries, namely the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although there are other subspecies of gorillas in Africa that inhabit across other countries of Africa in Central, East and Western Africa, mountain gorillas are the most fascinating and interesting subspecies because they are the most endangered species of gorillas in the whole world.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Mountain gorillas in Uganda live in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park both located in far south western part of Uganda close to Rwanda and Congo borders. While Mgahinga national park is part of the Virunga Massif together with the Virunga national park of Congo and Volcanoes national park of Rwanda, there is only one habituated gorilla family there, the remaining are all in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Uganda is recorded to have 400 mountain gorillas which covers half of the remaining endangered mountain gorillas in the world split into 37 groups, 36 of these mountain gorillas are located in Bwindi forest, 16 of which are habituated to humans and welcoming daily visits as part of the tourism efforts. Bwindi impenetrable national park is the most adventurous place to see the mountain gorillas. Time taken trekking gorillas in Bwindi forest is unpredictable given the nature of the jungle and location of the gorillas as most of them tend to go far up on the mountains. Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda are far more affordable than in Rwanda at US $600 per person per day. Since comparing gorilla trekking between Rwanda and Uganda, the cost of the permit is the main decision factor for most visitors, Uganda tends to be the chosen destination for many. However, the gorillas are farther and harder to reach in Uganda than in Rwanda.

Unlike gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Cong, Uganda gorilla trekking is done in the 4 sectors of Bwindi forest including Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija sectors. To access Bwindi Impenetrable forest from Kampala capital city of Uganda is quite a long drive taking about 8 to 9 hours’ drive. However, this long drive can be broken down with en-route stopovers to other national parks like Lake Mburo national park and Queen Elizabeth national park. The closed which is Queen Elizabeth national park is about 4-5 hours’ drive via Ishasha sector – home of the tree climbing lions. Gorilla trekking in Uganda accommodates all kinds of tourists with accommodations ranging from budget, mid-range, luxury to high-end lodges.

Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa
Gorilla trekking in uganda

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda  

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda live in the Volcanoes National Park which is located in about 3 hours’ drive from Kigali city, the capital of Rwanda to the northwest part of the country bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Volcanoes national park hosts about 150 habituated mountain gorillas divided into 12 groups and several wild ones. Volcanoes national park issues about 96 gorilla trekking permits every day to visitors and each group contains only 8 people to visit the mountain gorillas per day.

An American zoologist – Dian Fossey’s work started here in Rwanda after the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo forced her to move across the border into Rwanda and so the oldest habituated gorillas are here. Dian Fossey was however killed for her desire for conservation of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda during her stay on the of the Virunga mountains of Karisoke. However, since her death, Rwanda has greatly improved and supported the conservation of the mountain gorillas thus increasing the mountains each year and also holds an annual naming ceremony of the newly born mountain gorillas in an event called “Kwita Izina”.

Rwanda has classified herself as a high end tourist destination in Africa and in that regards doubled her cost for gorilla trekking permits which are now twice the cost in Uganda and almost four times the cost in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda’s gorilla permits cost US$1,500 per person. Rwanda’s high end tourism strategy is attracting the most exclusive resorts and lodges, promising higher income to the local communities on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park where the mountain gorillas live. This also means that a gorilla safari in Rwanda is one of the most expensive travel experiences there is with two nights at the most premium gorilla lodges such as Bistate Lodge, Only and Only Volcanoes Hotel, Sabinyo Lodge, Virunga Lodge and so many other high-end lodges.

Despite being a destination with the highest gorilla trekking costs, Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is the easiest gorilla trekking destination of the 3 countries with several gates to the park from the farmland that surrounds it and all the facilities and infrastructure to make it a pleasant and sustainable experience. Volcanoes national park’s terrains are more open compared to Bwindi impenetrable national park. Rwanda is safe, peaceful and clean and with good governing policies. Things always work how they are supposed to and they are very well organized, running smoothly like clockwork. The prices are higher but they come with higher overall standards to thrill Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa.

Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Gorilla trekking in the Democratic of Republic of Congo takes place in Virunga national park bordering Uganda and Rwanda.  Gorilla trekking in Congo is the cheapest experience whereby a gorilla permits costs US $400 however due to the constant insecurities of Virunga, the park is the least visited. In 2018, the park was closed for some good time due to the kidnapping of two British tourists and their driver whom eventually was killed. Later the same year, about 6 park staff members were also killed. There is always an outbreak of Ebola disease in the Congo community near the Virunga mountains. The security situation in Congo has been unstable and dangerous for years since the country descended into civil war and unrest, particularly on the eastern side and around Goma where the gorillas and the Virunga National Park area. In 2021, the effect of the Mount Nyiragongo eruption also affected gorilla trekking as fewer tourists now travel to Congo although gorilla trekking is still open for visitors.

However, the UNESCO listed Virunga Massif for decades as a peaceful country until 1990 when the civil war closed the park until 2014. Local armed groups still operate in the eastern part of Congo and around the Virunga making gorilla conservation efforts far tougher than in Uganda and Rwanda because of the unpredictability of the safety situation and the difficulties in protecting the gorillas who are threatened by trophy hunters in search of bush meat. Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is therefore cheaper, but also exponentially more dangerous than in Uganda or Rwanda where safety is not a concern.

Despite all the challenges, the Virunga national park is the gem of Africa and has many unique features making it a fascinating tourism destination. The park has the highest biodiversity in the world and is the oldest one in Africa, having been inaugurated by King Albert I of Belgium in 1925. It also boasts one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Nyamulagira, which has erupted dozens of times since 1800s, last in 2011. The other amazing volcano, Nyiragongo, last erupted fatally in 2002, covering one third of Goma in ashes and lava. Nyiragongo can be climbed today and you can see the boiling lava, the smoking cone and the largest lava lake in the world. Despite the fighting, the safety situation and the difficulties in conservation, the committed efforts of the park rangers and the team has managed to increase the number of gorillas from 75 to over 300. Tourism numbers have also picked up and the park has welcomed 17,000 visitors since it reopened therefore try Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa.

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