Located in south western Uganda and covering an area of 331 square kilometers while situated on the edge of the Western Rift Valley, the park occupies the highest part of the Kigezi Highlands.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lies along the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 30 kilometers by road northwest of Kabale town and 35 kilometers north of Kisoro town. The park is a home to approximately 480 endangered mountain gorillas, which constitutes approximately half of the world’s population. The park facilitates gorilla tourism which has become the favorite tourism asset for Uganda, birding safaris for birders, cultural safaris and wildlife.
How to get there
It is approximately 9-10 hours’ drive from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Kisoro Airstrip and 3 hours’ drive from Kigali Airport.
Seeing mountain gorillas in the jungle is an incredible experience and a focus for most travelers to Africa. With the high cost of gorilla tours to Rwanda, Uganda is now a priority for thousands of travelers from all over the world to experience this face-to-face encounter with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. Uganda gorilla tours take you deep into the tropical rain forests of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national park in southwestern Uganda. The pearl of Africa is blessed to be of the three countries which shelter the world’s mountain gorillas together with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo sheltering the surviving population of these critically endangered species together with Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In the reservation process of any gorilla safari to either Bwindi or Uganda, travelers often ask the advantages of gorilla trekking in Rwanda and the challenges they are likely to face. These are very good questions, which provide travelers with extensive knowledge regarding the pros and cons of gorilla safaris to Uganda.
Advantages of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Highest population of Mountain Gorillas:
Uganda is blessed to be a home of the highest population of the world’s remaining, mountain gorillas. Over 480 mountain gorillas reside in the tropical rain forests of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national parks which make Uganda a best place to see these gentle giants. These gorillas have been habituated into 13 gorilla families 12 of which live in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga gorilla national park. More so, Gorilla groups in Bwindi are scattered in the four sectors of the park, which are Buhoma in the North, Ruhija in the East, Nkuringo and Rushaga in the South. Travelers are free to choose which section to visit depending on the gorilla family they are interested in and the lodge they’ve booked. Buhoma is easily accessed From Kabale, while Rushaga in the southern part is easily accessible from kisoro district.
Availability of Gorilla families:
With a high number of gorilla families, travelers are assured of gorilla permits availability. Each gorilla family is visited by a group of eight people hence a total of 104-gorilla permits issued out every day. The availability of gorilla permits at all times is an added advantage for short time travelers especially those who make last minute bookings giving them a chance to take part in this life changing experience. Gorilla permit booking can be done through any trusted tour operator offering gorilla tour packages to Bwindi and Mgahinga or directly through the Uganda Wildlife Authority a government body responsible for tourism activities and wildlife conservation in Uganda.
Easily accessible from Rwanda:
It only takes 3-4 hours’ drive from Kigali international part in Rwanda to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park a home for Uganda’s mountain gorillas. Travelers can therefore easily connect from Rwanda to Uganda and enjoy gorilla trekking, which has solved the problem of long distances from Kampala to Bwindi. Those who have limited time can do a 1-day gorilla trek in Uganda through Kigali by setting off from Kigali at 3:30am and drive for 4 hours to reach Bwindi at 7:00am and attend a pre-trekking briefing concerning the trekking rules and regulations. The nearness of Bwindi to Kigali international airport has saved travelers from a whole day driving from Entebbe to Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla national parks in south western Uganda.
Presence of Two Gorilla national parks:
Unlike Rwanda and Congo, Uganda has two gorilla national parks, which makes it an exceptional gorilla destination. Travelers have a choice to trek gorillas in either Bwindi impenetrable forest national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park rewarding them with amazing experiences.
Low cost Gorilla permits:
A gorilla permit in Uganda costs USD 600 for foreign non-residents, USD 500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for east Africa residents. The cost of trekking in Uganda is therefore relatively cheaper compared to USD 1500 in Rwanda paid by all travelers irrespective of one’s nationality. Travelers to Uganda therefore have chances of saving some money which they can use for other extra activities that they can add on to gorilla trekking rewarding them with a memorable experience.
Besides gorilla trekking, Uganda offers you the memorable gorilla habituation experience. Here wild gorillas are trained and tamed to get used with people around before they are claimed ready for trekking. Currently. Habituation experience is a half-day interaction with gorillas, which provide travelers with extensive knowledge about gorillas and their human like characters. Only four travelers are allowed to take part in habituation experience per group therefore 8 permits available per day. Travelers are accompanied by Park rangers, conservationists and researchers who make a group big and more lively. All travelers must have valid gorilla habituation permits.
Variety of affordable accommodation:
Travelers to Bwindi/ Mgahinga are assured of comfortable, well-varnished and safe accommodation facilities at affordable prices. A variety of luxury, midrange and budget lodges and camps have been established in these parks to serve travelers with quality food and sleeping services. Among the popular accommodation facilities in Bwindi include Mahogany springs lodge, Bwindi forest lodge, Buhoma lodge, Bwindi jungle lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi gorilla lodge, Bwindi backpackers lodge, Gorilla forest camp, Gorilla safari lodge, Bakiga lodge, Chameleon hill lodge, Clouds mount gorilla lodge, Ruhija gorilla safari lodge and Gorilla mist camp among others. Travellers choose which accommodation they want based on their budget and sector they are trekking in. All these lodges/camps provide comfortable, safe and high quality services delivered by professional, kind and knowledgeable staff all the time.
Ease of communication:
The fact that most travelers speak English, Uganda is the best place for gorilla trekkers. Uganda’s service providers such as park rangers, hotel, managers and driver guides speak fluent English unlike Rwandese. Easy communication between clients and service provider make a safari more enjoyable making it more amazing.
Besides gorillas, Uganda is blessed with a variety of attractions such as beautiful sceneries, wild animals, birds, water bodies and diverse culture. Travelers have a chance to do any other activity such as chimpanzee trekking, bird watching, white water rafting and cultural visits which complement gorilla tours in Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Short comings of Gorilla trekking in Uganda
High costs of transport:
Unlike in Rwanda, Connecting from Entebbe international airport to Bwindi or Mgahinga is surely a long drive roughly 10 hours drive on the main road. This makes it hard for travelers especially those with limited time. Also, the hilly-forested Bwindi is quite difficult especially in the rainy season when all bumpy roads, become muddy and slippery sometimes-requiring travelers to first come out of the vehicle before it continues to move. Also, in country flight such as from kajansi to kihihi airstrip are very expensive which make the tour more expensive.
Difficulty in trekking:
Mountain gorillas in Bwindi live in areas of high altitude, which make hiking strenuous before travelers get to the gorillas. Also, Bwindi is an impenetrable forest with dense undergrowth; thorny bushes and shrubs which make it difficult to walk through. The canopy donot allow light penetration keeping grounds wet and slippery and also make photography a struggle.
In a nut shell, Uganda is the best gorilla trekking destination you should visit, book a gorilla safari to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park, meet face to face with these gentle giants in the jungle and enjoy a memorable experience in the pearl of Africa.