Gorilla trekking in Uganda from Rwanda : Mountain Gorilla trekking in Uganda is the most sought after tourism activity by tourists, travellers and wildlife scholars. Mountain Gorilla trekking in Uganda started in the 1990s after habituation of the first mountain gorilla family – Mubare in Bwindi National Park.
Since then Bwindi National Park has received and is still receiving numerous tourists coming to engage in this amazing experience of trekking gorillas on the terrains of Bwindi’s rain forest. Bwindi National Park’s rain forest is a natural habitat for over 600 mountain gorillas living in more than 30 families but as of 2019 only 19 families are habituated for trekking activities.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is also done in Mgahinga national Park, that is part of the Virunga Massif making it a perfect habitat for these endangered mountain gorillas. This park has one habituated gorilla family that is available gorilla trekking activities.
Tourists that engage in mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda, travel almost 8 to 9 hours by road from Kampala’s capital to south western Uganda in Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park for the experience or they take a 2 hour flight from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airstrip and then travel by road for about 2 hours to Bwindi National park and 1 hour to Mgahinga National Park.
However since these parks – Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park are in south western Uganda, the parks are close to Rwanda. Rwanda borders Uganda in the south west. This being so gives travellers an opportunity to avoid the 8 or 9 hour journey to the parks from Kampala.
Travellers can connect to either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park from Kigali city in Rwanda. The journey from Kigali to Bwindi National Park is 4 to 5 hours and the one from Kigali to Mgahinga National Park is 3 hours.
Compared to the journey from Uganda’s capital Kampala to the parks, the Kigali alternative is really shorter.
How does this work?
When you are connecting to Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park from Kigali city, you will need to be in Kigali which means plan to have flights to Kigali.
Since the journey from Kigali to either park is short, you can set off from Kigali either in the morning or afternoon, either way you will reach either of the parks before dark.
After you set off from Kigali you will travel for about an hour and a half to the Rwanda – Uganda border, the Gatuna- Katuna border, at the border you will acquire a Ugandan Visa, go through security checks and then proceed to Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park.
If you left Kigali in the morning you will arrive at either park in the late midmorning or the early afternoon, if you left Kigali in the mid-morning you will reach either park in the late afternoon and if you left Kigali in the afternoon you will reach either park in the early evening. For all these options you will reach either park before dark.
When you arrive at either park, it will be late for you to trek that very day, so you will check into your accommodation. You have time in the evening and you can choose to either have a nature walk or a community encounter, depending on your preference or even just stay at your accommodation chilling.
You will have dinner at your accommodation and rest for the night.
You will get up pretty early the next day, get ready and be at the trekking offices by 7:45am for a trekking briefing, after the briefing that’s when you will enter the forest for the trekking experience. The experience may take up to 7 or 8 hours or less depending on the gorilla family you are trekking.
After the trekking you will return to your accommodation, have a meal and you can choose to spend a night at the accommodation or you can return to Kigali for an overnight stay in Kigali. Whatever you choose is doable, if you choose to head to Kigali immediately after trekking, you will arrive in Kigali in the late evening and the guide will drop you at a location of your preference.
It’s important to note that when you cross the border to Uganda, your Rwanda visa expires so on your return to Rwanda you will have to acquire a Rwanda visa afresh.
The biggest advantage of using the Kigali route to get to either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks is that you spend lesser time on the road, which is good for you not to get so fatigued but also if you want to have other activities during your safari you are able to do them because you won’t be spending a lot of time on the road. Also since you go through Rwanda, if you wish to, you can have a chance to tour Rwanda too.
This route will be very good for you if you are doing a Rwanda tour and topping it up with gorilla trekking in Uganda.
On your gorilla trekking tour, guidelines and rules for the mountain gorilla trekking experience are normally communicated at the start of the trek by the authority at the trekking offices, Gorilla trekking in Uganda from Rwanda . Trekking activities in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park normally start at 7:30am with briefing at the trekking offices.
After the briefing you then enter the forest with a trekking ranger you leads you and the rest of the members of the group on this activity. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National park and Mgahinga National park is done by persons 15 years and above and in a group of 8; these persons are expected to be fit enough to take on this activity and not suffering from any communicable disease that can be passed on to the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda cost 600 USD currently but starting July 2020 they will cost USD 700. The permits can be acquired online through the Uganda Wildlife Authority website or through a tour operator who can acquire the permits on your behalf. Each permit is valid for the day of trekking, not transferable and not reusable.
On any gorilla trekking it’s good to remember that conserving the gorillas is priority so if anything happens that endangers the gorillas, you ranger may make decisions to cut the trekking experience short for the safety of the gorillas.
That said, all gorilla trekking tips are beyond memorable and you should be excited to go for one.