We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

Boston
4 posts
Save Topic
Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

We are planning a trip to East Africa to see the mountain gorillas and wondered which of the two parks (Bwindi or Parc National des Volcans) is preferable and whether it is worth going to both. Any thoughts.

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,001 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

The short answer is if you can, do both! It is a different experience in both places.

I would suggest that Rwanda can, on occasion, be less tough if the Gorilla Group you are allocated is closer. Bwindi is not named Impenetrable on a whim!

I have done both, twice, and on both occasions was surprised by the conditions in each country.

You do need to be fitter for Bwindi.

Also there are anatomical differences in the two species and it is interesting to see this.

Be advised that permits are US$500 each and you do need to book well ahead as access is restricted.

Finally. Do do it. It is the most awesome wildlife experience you will ever have!

Albuquerque, New...
Level Contributor
57 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

I have also done both - Uganda seven times and Rwanda only once.

Keeping in mind that this is all subjective, I must say that I do have a preference for Uganda and did not feel the need to return to Rwanda.

A helpful answer to your question would really depend on what is important to you in terms of seeing the mountain gorillas.

If you are traveling to the region only for the purpose of seeing the mountain gorillas, it is certainly an easier trip to visit Parc National des Volcans as it is about a three hour drive from Kigali. On the other hand, Bwindi is about a ten hour drive or a charter flight from Entebbe. If you are planning to see other things in addition, both countries have other parks on offer.

As Mfuwe said, the experience between Uganda and Rwanda is quite different.

Just to add to what was already said, I personally felt that the gorilla group I visited in Rwanda (it was the Sabyinyo group) was over habituated. I don't think there was a single person in my group who was not physically touched by the gorillas. It didn't appear to me that the park rangers in Rwanda were as stringent about following the rules (which are in place for the protection of both the gorillas and humans) as they are in Uganda.

Naturally, this led to great photographic opportunities - however, I found myself feeling as if the interests and the needs of tourists were being put in front of those of the mountain gorillas.

And it wasn't just the gorillas coming to us. The silverback of the Sabyinyo group in Rwanda is the largest and oldest of all the silverbacks there. He weighs 485 pounds. There was a man in our group who felt it necessary to get within just a few feet of the silverback to get his photos. No one said a word to him for at least five minutes - and the rangers were watching, so it wasn't as if they didn't happen to notice. I can't even begin to imagine anything like this being allowed to happen in Uganda. What if something had gone awry and that man had been injured? I would somehow think that the gorillas would be the ones to pay.

In Uganda, the park rangers really do go out of their way to clear the vegetation between you and the gorillas so that you have the best photographic opportunities possible, yet do stick to the rules with regards to distance between humans and gorillas.

I'll get off of my soapbox now...

If you have any other more specific questions that we can answer with regards to any differences between the two experiences, please let us know!

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,001 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

Yes, they are different experiences and both worth doing. I assume your trip is for Safari as opposed to just gorillas and fly home? Best way for both, is to drive to Bwindi from Kampala stay ate least wo nights, one either side of the trek. Then drive to Kisoro, 3 hours or so and cross the Rwandan border. From there it is a good tar road and you will be at the Parc gates in an hour. Again this precludes and immediate trek, which will have started, so a night stop and then trek in the morning. IN theory you could then drive back over the border but I would not. I would stay another night.

I had Sabinyo Group on my 1st trip,(2003) good old Gukonda and his mischevious infants. His No 2, was lying in the trail and we had all to step over him but he just kept chewing his Celery. I am sure the guards would not do this if it was not safe although I do agree the 5 metre rule was not observed. Head Scout, Francois, had an amazing rapport and just panga'd the undergrowth right up to the apes to give a perfect photo.

When I took Mrs M back in 2004 it was tougher, and we got Amahoro Group with a supposedly tetchy Silver back. He was a Pussy cat and his passport photo hangs in my study as I write.

Go for them both if you have the time.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
32 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

I agree with the other responses -- if you have the opportunity to visit both, you should. The terrain is different, and the gorillas look very different. Since there are fewer habituated groups in Bwindi, there are fewer tourists, if that is an attraction to you. Also, the two treks we did in Bwindi were physically far more demanding than the ones we did in Rwanda -- but we were rewarded with an unbelievable photographic opportunity on our final trek in Bwindi, so the tough hike was worth it.

We visisted the Amahoro and Hirwa groups in Rwanda, and the Nkuringo and Habinyanja groups in Bwindi, all in January 2007. You can see pictures of each group that we took at www.pbase.com/cwillis/gorillas. You can see how different the Bwindi gorillas look as compared to the ones from Rwanda!

The other thing I would say is regardless of which park you visit, do as many gorilla treks as you can. Each experience is different based on the mood of the gorillas on a particular day, and it can be dramatically different from day to day even with the same group. So the more treks you do, the more different experiences you will have.

Good luck planning your trip.

Chris

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,001 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

<You can see how different the Bwindi gorillas look as compared to the ones from Rwanda!>

Latest scientific thinking is that Bwindi residents are not strictly Mountain Gorillas (G.berengei) at all but more closely related to the Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla graueri) further west. They certainly look different and this makes it even more important that both populations be protected.

How did the Amahoro Silver back behave in 2007?

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
32 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

The Amahoro silverback, Ubumwe, was calm and aloof during our visit. He did nothing to interact with us at all -- just sat there for the most part. The only member of the group that tried to interact with the people was a black-backed male, Gahinga, who approached us to try to touch one of the tourists, but the ranger moved in to prevent that from happening.

Chris

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,001 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

No change in him then.

2004 a young male did his best to jump on my wife's knee but was snatched by Umbubwe. He made it on the fifth go before the scout could flick him off. I do not know who was the most surprised!

Truly a memorable moment.

Nice to know they are all well. Must go back again.

blochparty! Get those permits.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
32 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

You know, the young male who was so eager to get to your wife in 2004 may well have been Gahinga. He was still just a black-back in 2007 and the guides told us that he had been interacting with tourists like that for years.

Chris

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,001 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

Thanks,

that was my hunch. I got some great shots of him eyeing up my Mrs before making his move. Missed 'the' moment as my jaw dropped over the lens. it happened so quick.

Florida
Level Contributor
3,917 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Rwanda vs. Uganda for gorilla tracking?

All these treks all you guys make go on make me envious! I have to ask how you afford to go so frequently when it costs $500 per person per day, not including anything else (i.e. airfare, lodging, food, etc).

I am truly asking. Am I missing something?