The precise location of the African mountain gorillas living in the Virunga Volcanoes area shifts as the great apes move between the forests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of the very knowledgeable safari companies in the region regularly select the area for gorilla trekking safari in view of the given location of the gorilla population at the season of the trip. Accordingly, you usually find yourself trekking gorillas in either Rwanda or Uganda, the two more popular destinations.
The drawback of picking Rwanda is that the gorilla permit costs more – USD750 as opposed to USD600 in Uganda. As far as costs, similar safaris in Uganda and Rwanda are a bit competitively priced, so you can get a good deal in either nation. That said, you can probably enjoy an amazing safari deal in Uganda. The upside of Rwanda gorilla trekking is that it’s quite and easy, given the proximity of the Kigali International Airport to Volcanoes National Park (116 km).
Uganda – cheaper permits, more to see & do
The most important advantage of trekking gorillas in Uganda is that it is cheaper as far as gorilla permits and you can combine gorilla trekking with different highlights like wildlife watching. A gorilla trekking safari can include spending an hour with mountain gorillas in the forest, visiting the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi near Bwindi Forest, game watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park and chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park.
Driving Distances & Getting to the Gorillas
The long distance to and from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Entebbe International Airport (simply outside Kampala) add to you’re traveling expenses on the Uganda side. The drive is further in Uganda, yet it is scenic and offers insight into rural Africa. The short drive in Rwanda is on the other hand not scenic or interesting. If the long drive is an issue, then you can fly from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi Forest, arriving in the adjacent towns of Kihihi and Kisoro. There are some affordable flights around, with AeroLink Uganda.
Getting to the Gorillas
In Uganda mountain gorillas have a tendency of living deep in the forest in groups of about 10 and 20 individuals, with at least one silverback (alpha male) and in Rwanda gorilla groups range between 9 and 39 gorillas including at least one silverback. The trekking itself is generally more difficult in Bwindi Forest (Uganda) given that the gorillas are more tucked away and after the trekking you often have to ascend steep slopes out of the forests. In Rwanda some of the gorilla groups / families are often near to the national park entrance, requiring a shorter trek. You can’t however request for which gorilla groups you need to see and the location of the mountain gorillas does move further into the forests.