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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda?

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Gorilla trekking Uganda vs Rwanda

One of the most common questions we receive here at Wildlife Trails, is which is the best country for gorilla trekking; Uganda or Rwanda? Our personal thoughts below are based on multiple gorilla safaris to Uganda and Rwanda and feedback from our clients returning from Gorilla Trekking holidays since 2005. We want to make it clear that these are very ‘general’ comparisons of the gorilla trekking experience in Uganda and Rwanda. There are now so many different gorilla families available to trek in both Uganda and Rwanda, that each trek is different and you must have a certain flexibility in both mind and body. When we hear questions like, ‘we want to trek the closest family’ or ‘we want to trek the family with 4 babies’; we quickly rebuff such requests and tell clients they are only buying a gorilla permit which gives them an option to spend one day with a gorilla family. YOU CANNOT GUARANTEE which gorilla family that will be, or the distance you will walk. Any gorilla trekking company who claims you can is being insincere and should be avoided.

Gorilla trekking Uganda vs Rwanda – which is the easiest to trek?

Again, we want to be clear that our personal advice is based on our own experiences and is general, not specific, advice on the difference between the two countries. If we first look at gorilla trekking in Uganda and the world famous Bwindi impenetrable forest national park; which is by far the most popular location for a gorilla safari in Uganda. A key difference between gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is the fact that the majority of gorilla treks at Bwindi Forest start with a steep 1 hour climb on often slippy, vegetated slopes. This can really take a lot out of your legs, although there is significant help available from the porters and the gorilla trekking group will walk at the pace of the slowest walker. I am afraid if you are fit and keen you may feel frustrated at the pace of the trek, but they will not allow the group to separate. Alternatively, if you are tired and struggling with the climb, be reassured that the main guides and porters will do their best to help you through the trek. We don’t agree with clients being carried to see the gorilla families in Uganda or Rwanda – but it has and does happen occasionally.

When we first went gorilla trekking in Rwanda back in 2005, we were lucky enough to trek the Sabinyo family; which at that time was the largest gorilla family available to trek in either Uganda or Rwanda. Having trekked in Bwindi impenetrable forest just a couple of day earlier, we were very keen to observe the difference in the type of trekking we would be doing and the type of habitat we would find the gorilla families in. In Rwanda, after visiting the Park Headquarters and being assigned your gorilla family to trek, it is not unusual to get into your vehicle and drive to the start of the nearest trail head. Often the walking starting in what looks like agricultural land or terraced fields and the gradient is no way as steep as the climb out of Buhoma at Bwindi Forest. In addition, you don’t have those vegetated slopes, which not only test your stamina, but also your hip/leg flexibility as you often slide back due to lack of grip. Whereas if you can imagine a field terrace climb in Nepal or SE Asia, the first part of the walk is gentler on the legs and therefore you are likely to get less tired.

Another observation about gorilla trekking in Rwanda is that it is not uncommon to find the gorilla families in secondary forest; even in local villagers plantations some times. This can make quite a difference for photography and video footage (we discuss that later in this blog) but also it will generally be less humid for the gorilla trek itself and the 1 hour that you spend with the family. Of course, this is equatorial Africa so we expect some heat and humidity, but that is often a little less in Rwanda compared to Uganda.

Gorilla trekking Uganda vs Rwanda – which is the best for photography?

Following on from our earlier comments about the gorilla families in Rwanda being located in secondary forest. This type of forest is less impressive from a size and diversity of plant species, when compared to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. However, that lack of grandeur and density of tree, can actually improve your chances of better photography and video footage. All photographers will know that a dense tree canopy can make wildlife photography challenging and even with the gorilla families foraging on the ground, that is still the case. However perhaps the biggest challenge in very dense primary forest, is to see the Gorilla families as an ‘ensemble’ and enjoy the many beautiful interactions that happen between them; in particular, how the playful juvenile gorillas play fight and occasionally mock charge tourist.

To summarise, in an ideal world and with unlimited budget many of us would enjoy gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda, but we hope people on a more limited budget, can use this blog to help them make an informed decision on the best place for them to go gorilla trekking. Click here for more detailed information on our custom gorilla safaris in Uganda or here for our gorilla trekking Rwanda holidays. You can also contact us at [email protected] so we can start to design a tailor-made gorilla safari just for you.

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