Bwindi or Mgahinga? Where Best to Go on Gorilla Safari

Gorilla Population Rise In The Virunga Massif

Basing on the most recent mountain gorilla census in the Virunga massif, the authorities of the Republic of Uganda, Republic of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo released results showing a rise in the number of the gorillas to over 1004 apes in their national parks.

We can all agree that much appreciation goes to the intensive conservation efforts by respective governments through wildlife authorities, game rangers, local people, gorilla doctors and other stakeholders that have directly and indirectly contributed to the great achievement of protecting mountain gorillas. It is simply an indicator of successful conservation.

Gorilla trekking is a thrilling experience that allows travelers to have really up close encounters with the gentle giants of the forest in their natural habitats. The Virunga conservation area is shared by three African countries, which include Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi National Park

A group of 60 people from Uganda, Rwanda and D. R. Congo carried out gorilla counting for three months, moving through the Virunga volcanoes every day to check out the different gorilla families. The team gathered several samples of hair and dung for easy identification of individual gorillas.

The major factors behind the conservation success story are the strict conservation strategies and policies, regulated tourism and daily veterinary and protection services. These have ensured the well being of the endangered mountain gorillas without conflicting interests with those of the environment and the local community.

Also the intensive law enforcement against poaching and forest encroachments, resettlement of the former forest inhabitants, the Batwa pygmies and the extensive collaboration with the community as well as the trans-boundary relationships which have equally contributed to the conservation success and an increment in gorilla numbers.

The increased number of gorillas is expected to boost gorilla safaris in Uganda, Rwanda and D. R. Congo. Whether it’s your fifth time or first, if you have not done gorilla trekking, you have not yet experienced the real Africa. It gives travelers thrills of meeting up with the elusive forest giants and watching them play from one tree branch to another. Nothing is as memorable as directly looking into the red eyes of a silverback in the forest, watching over his troop.

Even if this is what everyone has been waiting for, it should be remembered that the gentle giants still remain critically endangered and threatened by poachers, human activities, loss of habitat plus other factors that have constantly kept the gorilla numbers low.

For sustainable gorilla tourism, there is a need to maintain the increment. And this can only be done through revising all the strategies done to prevent any harm to the gorillas. All stake holders are called upon in this campaign to raise the number of great apes in the jungle.

Gorilla tours in Uganda, Rwanda and D. R. Congo are one of the best wildlife encounters in the whole world. Several tour operators are available to offer unique gorilla tour packages in Uganda, Rwanda and D. R. Congo. Gorilla permits in Uganda are at 600 USD, 1500 USD in Rwanda and 400 USD in D.R. Congo.

Undoubtedly, gorilla trips in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo are an essential tool in promoting gorilla conservation as the money from the permits is used to pay the veterinary doctors, rangers, the gorilla monitoring team, and other required payments and improvements.

So, if it’s a trip to Africa, it should be a gorilla trekking safari and also be part of the conservation team, indirectly pushing the campaign.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Vs Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in two national parks, Bwindi impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga gorilla national parks. And the other destinations that allow travelers to trek gorillas are Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore it is better to know which park you’re going to trek from before you book a gorilla tour in Uganda.

Bwindi impenetrable national park is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites located in south western Uganda in three districts; Rubanda, Kanungu, and Kisoro. This park hosts half of the mountain gorilla population in the world.

Mgahinga gorilla national park is found in the extreme corner of Uganda in the south western direction in Kisoro districts. The park is one of the three parks found in the Virunga ranges which join the three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga gorilla national park has very few mountain gorilla groups compared to Bwindi impenetrable forest. Mgahinga gives travelers limited options of gorilla families to trek hence putting it on a disadvantage when it comes to gorilla trekking experience.

Bwindi accommodates over 12 habituated gorilla groups while Mgahinga only protects one gorilla group. Therefore, travelers that visit Mgahinga national park only get a chance to trek the Nyakagezi family since it is the only gorilla group habituated in this park.

But travelers that visit Bwindi impenetrable forest find multiple options to choose from. The park has 4 sectors (Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhija) and each sector protects more than 2 habituated gorilla families totaling to 14.

Another advantage for Bwindi impenetrable National park, it is the only place in the world where mountain gorillas stay with the chimpanzees making it so adventurous to trek gorillas here.

This park is also wealthy in terms of birds and some of the bird species found in Bwindi are endemic making it a better alternative than Mgahinga for bird lovers.

On the other hand, Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only park in Uganda where gorillas co-exist with golden monkeys, hence giving visitors a chance to trek the gorillas and golden monkeys in the same place.

When it comes to accommodation, Bwindi impenetrable forest has a variety of accommodation options on all sides of the park and they range from Budget, mid-range, and luxury. Mgahinga gorilla national park however has limited accommodation options.

Both parks are accessed by road and air transport. Travelers can travel to Mgahinga either by road or air. Fly Uganda and Aerolink have flights to Kisoro airstrip. If the travelers are to use air transport, they spend only an hour from Entebbe / Kajjansi, then use the road transport from the airstrip to their accommodation facility.

Kisoro airstrip serves both parks, Mgahinga as well as the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable forest and the northern and eastern parts of Bwindi are served by Kihihi airstrip in Kanungu district.

By road, the parks can be accessed via one route from Kampala and it takes 12 hours to drive to both parks. But the journey rewards travelers with beautiful scenery.

Other national parks are close to the northern side of Bwindi impenetrable forest making it easy to combine gorilla trekking and other activities like wildlife tours, chimpanzee trekking hence giving travelers a chance to have varied experiences.

The journey from Queen Elizabeth national park to the north of Bwindi is a 2-hour drive. Travelers can connect these 2 parks for a game drive in search of the climbing lions in the Ishasha sector or a boat trip on the Kazinga channel that has the highest concentration of hippos in the world. It is also possible to combine chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura gorge or Kalinzu forest in the outskirts of Queen Elizabeth national park with a gorilla tour in Bwindi.

Even though both national parks have mountain gorillas, they all have different and unique experiences to offer to every visitor on a Uganda safari. If it is possible, make it a must to visit both parks and enjoy Uganda’s untouched wilderness.