Gorilla trekking is one of the activities done in Africa offering a lifetime experience. Not in many countries that this activity can be offered. The rare endangered mountain gorillas can only be trekked from Congo and Uganda, and even in Rwanda. Gorilla trekking in all the countries is almost similar though there are other things that can make it different. The following is a comparison between gorilla trekking safaris in Congo & Uganda, and it will be on you the trekker to choose on where to go.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda;
Uganda is found in the Eastern parts of Africa and it is one of the only three countries that protect the rare endangered mountain gorillas. Unlike in other gorilla trekking countries where the trekking is done in one park, the trekking of mountain gorillas in Uganda is done in two different national parks which include; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park, all found in the western parts of the country. However, Bwindi is the best Park in Uganda for gorilla trekking and it holds the largest number of mountain gorillas in all the parks that protect these primates.
Bwindi comprises of four sectors each with different gorilla families and these are; Buhoma sector, Rushaga sector, Ruhija sector and Nkuringo. Interestingly, Buhoma is the first sector where gorilla tourism was first done when Mubare gorilla family (Bwindi national park’s oldest family) was habituated in 1992 just a year after the establishment of Bwindi forest into a national park. The sector as of current it comprises of four habituated gorilla families which are open to trekkers. Besides Mubare, the other three families are; Habinyanja family, Rushegura family, and Katwe family. The sector is located in the northern parts of the park. Besides gorilla trekking, there are many other activities that tourists to Buhoma will enjoy such as; birding, community visits to Bakiga and Batwa communities, hiking trails which include Munyaga trail, waterfall trail, Rushura trail, River Ivi trail, and Muzabajiro loop trail, to mention but a few.
In the southern part of the park is Rushaga sector which comprises of 8 habituated gorilla families, namely; Nshongi, Bweza, Busingye, Mishaya, Mukyunguzi, and Kahungye plus Bushaho and Bikyinji. Other activities done in Rushaga also include; bird watching, Batwa cultural visits, and forest walks among others. Rushaga is also a home to Lake Mutanda thus an opportunity for travelers to have boat cruise at the lake. Ruhija sector is situated in the eastern section of the park and it is home to Mukisa gorilla family, Oruzogo gorilla family, Kyaguriro family, and Bitukura gorilla family. Ruhija also offers the most strenuous and adventurous hiking trail to Rwamunyonyi peak thus being a best sector for hikers. Nkuringo sector is also found in the southern parts of Bwindi, and it is a home to Nkuringo gorilla family and Christmas gorilla family though at times, Bushaho gorilla family crosses from Rushaga.
Gorilla trekkers can decide to trek the gorillas in any of the Park’s four sectors and enjoy the life changing encounter with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. The Park has a total of 18 habituated gorilla families trekked from its four sectors. The other 19th gorilla family that Uganda has is found in Mgahinga National Park, which is called Nyakagezi gorilla family and it is the only gorilla family in Mgahinga.
Gorilla lovers who will want to go for gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga should consult the best local tour agencies to organize a better gorilla safari. Such agencies include; Nature Adventure Africa Safari Limited, and Eco Tours Uganda among others. The agencies will provide you with the suitable vehicle of your own choice. Some of the vehicles offered by the above tour agencies include; Land Cruisers, Rav4, Safari Vans, Costar buses, Super Customs, Extended Land Cruisers, and others. Your tour agency will do most of your bookings including; hotel reservation, purchasing you the gorilla permit, hiring you your desired safari vehicle, and airport pickup during your arrival, among others.
A gorilla permit in Uganda costs US$ 600, however Uganda also provides an opportunity to the gorilla trekkers to go for the process of gorilla habituation which lasts for 4 hours and thus the habituation permit costs US$ 1500 for those who may wish to go for the activity. For the sake of gorilla trekking, trekkers are allowed to spend only one hour with the gorillas unlike in gorilla habituation where trekkers will spend 4 hours with the primates.
Gorilla trekking in Congo;
Democratic Republic of Congo is located in the central parts of Africa (Central Africa). Congo gorilla trekking is the cheapest and most affordable of all the three gorilla trekking countries (Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda). A Congo gorilla permit costs US$ 400 which is a cheaper price to that of Uganda which costs US$ 600 and for Rwanda which is purchased at US$ 1500. Mountain gorillas in Congo are trekked from Virunga National Park and the Park consists of 8 habituated gorilla families, namely; Kabirizi, Bageni, Mapuwa, Nyakamwe, Lulengo, Munyaga, Bageni, and Humba. Gorillas in Virunga Park are tracked from its sector known as; Bukima Patrol Post.
In all the gorilla trekking national parks, the trekking is done in groups of 8 individuals per trekking group and trekkers are strictly given one hour that they should spend with the gorillas. Though you will spend only one hour with the gorillas, I assure you that the experience achieved from that one hour is of a lifetime. Viewing the gorillas, trekkers are advised to keep a certain distance of at least 7 meters away from the primates. This is due to the protection of the gorillas because these primates can catch some human diseases such as; flu and cough if at all the trekkers are infected and come close to them (Mountain gorillas).
However, Congo also comprises of the eastern low-land gorillas which exist in Kahuzi-Biega national park, hence offering an opportunity to the gorilla lovers to experience them too. Mountain gorillas and eastern low-land gorillas have different impressive behaviors and Congo is the best country to experience the behaviors of both gorillas and at an affordable price. Low-land gorilla permit in Congo also costs US$ 400.