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GORILLA TRACKING

Rwanda or Uganda?

General considerations

  • Uganda is a larger country with a wider range of activities to combine with gorilla encounters. In seven days it is possible to combine chimpanzee tracking in Kibale, a safari in Queen Victoria National Park, and gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
  • Accommodation in Bwindi in Uganda is cheaper than accommodation in Volocanoes NP in Rwanda.
  • Gorillas permits are cheaper in Uganda ($600 high season, $450 low season) than Rwanda ($750).
  • The terrain is generally easier and more open in Rwanda.
  • If a day driving (through some very picturesque landscapes) doesn't bother you, Uganda is the cheaper option.

Getting to the gorillas

The difference between Uganda and Rwanda is that in Uganda, for those on a tight schedule, it is best to fly by light aircraft to the gorilla tracking area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park as it is otherwise a long day's drive. If you do choose to be driven to save money, the return journey is normally broken up with a short safari and a night or two at Lake Mburo National Park. Also, due to flight schedules, you need to come in the night before because flights to Bwindi take off very early due to the strong winds there. That said, most people will overnight in Kigali before starting a Rwanda trip too. 

In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is two to three hours from Kigali by road. Despite being at a higher altitude than the gorilla tracking in Uganda, the ground is more open, making walking and tracking easier. One gorilla tracking permit is now $750 in Rwanda, however. In Uganda they are still "only" $600. This gives you the opportunity to participate in one day's tracking. Once you get to the gorillas, you get one hour with them. Permits are limited in numbers, so early booking is much advised. 

The gorillas

Uganda gorilla groups

Bwindi is home to over half of the world's 700 remaining mountain gorillas and is also thought to be one of the most biodiverse forests in Africa.There are eleven habituated gorilla groups in Uganda and some tend to be found near to the park entrance. The groups  range in size from 10 to 23 individuals, each with one or two silverbacks.

The terrain in Bwindi means that you sometimes start your trek at the top of the hills, descend on foot into the valley to see the gorillas, and then climb up the slopes at the end of the day, which can be more arduous, but the rangers take the level of fitness (or not) of clients into consideration when decided who goes to which family. Access ranges from half a day trekking through steep, dens forest without any paths, to sometimes finding them aroudn the briefing area. 

Rwanda gorilla groups

Rwanda is home to approximately one-third of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.There are currently seven gorilla families which can be tracked in Volcanoes National Park.There are currently seven main groups that can be tracked in Rwanda; the Susa, Sabinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Kwitonda and Group Thirteen.

The groups vary in number from around 9 to 39 individuals and all currently have at least one silverback male. Of the seven groups, there are a couple that tend to be found on the saddle between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga which is around a two hour walk from the park entrance.

Whilst it is not possible to book a permit for a specific group, your chances of having a shorter walk are higher than in Uganda. Nothing is guaranteed though and you may find yourself tracking a group such as the Susa, first studied by Diane Fossey and often found on the slopes of Mount Visoke, a five hour hike away.

 

Susa group

Size: 28 members, including 3 Silverbacks

The group originally studied by Dian Fossey, this group split in 2008 and formed a  newgroup called Kalisimbi. The group is well known for having young twins: Byishimo (meaning ‘happiness’)and Impano (‘gift’).

The drive from the starting point at Kinigi takes approximately one hour.Clients should be prepared for a severe hike, particularly as this group sometimes migrates to higher altitudes making them harder to track.

Sabyinyo group

Size: 12 members, including1 Silverback (the largest of all the Silverbacks in the park). This group resides in the gentle slopes between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga.

 Amahoro (‘Peace’) Group

Size: 18 members, including 3 Silverbacks

This is a gentle and tranquil group,usually found on the slopes of Mount Visoke. Trackers are faced with quite a steep climb to reach this group and the difficulty rating is intermediate.

Agashya (‘Special’) Group

Size: 26 members, including 1 Silverback

This was the first habituated group in the park, which has grown from an initial 13 members! Its name has since been changed to the Agashya Group. These gorillas can be found in the same area as the Sabyinyo group, although they sometimes move deeper into the mountain.

Umubano (‘Live Together’) Group

Size: 12 members, including 1 Silverback.

This group was formed by members of the Amahoro family after one of the males (Charles) broke off in order to lead his own group. Their territory overlaps with that of the Amahoro Group.

Kwitonda Group

Size: 21members, including 3 Silverbacks.

This family is named after the dominant Silverback of the group and means ‘humble one’. The group inhabits the lower slopes of Mt Muhabura and is also one of the more difficult families to track.

Hirwa Group

Size: 16 members, including 1 Silverback.

This is still arelatively new group which was formed from two different families, Group13 and Sabyinyo. The group can usually to be found in the foothills of Mount Sabyinyo on the Gahinga side.

 

Rwanda gorilla trips

Accommodation:

·    Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (up-market)

·    Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (mid-range)

·    Gorillas Hotel (lower mid-range)

·    Kinigi Guest House (budget)

All of these are located close to the start of the gorilla tracking trailhead.

Itineraries

Permits are granted for a maximum of eight people per group per day.

DAY 1  ARRIVAL KIGALI - VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Arrival in Kigali. City tour, visit of the Genocide Memorial Centre and local markets. Lunch in Kigali. Tranfser to Volcanoes National Park

Overnight at MOUNTAIN GORILLA VIEW LODGE / GORILLAS HOTEL / KINIGI GUEST HOUSE

DAY 2 VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Gorilla tracking in the morning. Lunch at the lodge. In the afternoon visit of the local markets in Ruhengiri and the Ibi'wacu Cultural Village.

Overnight at MOUNTAIN GORILLA VIEW LODGE / GORILLAS HOTEL / KINIGI GUEST HOUSE

DAY 3  VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK - KIGALI

Gorilla tracking in the morning (optional) or walking or golden monkey tracking in the park. Lunch at the lodge. Transfer back to Kigali.

Overnight at KIGALI SERENA (SUPERIOR ROOM) / HOTEL GORILLAS / HOTEL GORILLAS

DAY 4  KIGALI - DEPARTURE

After breakfast transfer to the airport.

A trip of a day longer is also possible in which case day 4 is the same as day 3, and day 5 is the Kigali and departure day.

A summary of costs (lowest price first) in US Dollars, minimum 2 people, is below. Most people will only take one permit. Whilst it is impossible to guarantee an encounter, if you do the tracking, you will see the gorillas. Three nights is generally enough, though if you want two encounters, stay another night,

Connections to Tanzania:

Rwandair flies betwen Dar es Salaam and Kigali and Kenya Airways fly from Dar, Arusha, and Zanzibar to Kigali via Nairobi.

 

Uganda Gorilla trips

Drive-in option

4 DAYS
 
Day 1 Kampala - Bwindi National Park (9-10 hours)
Very early in the morning we leave Kampala for a long journey towards the western part of Uganda. It is a full day drive but via a scenic route. On our way we will pass the Equator where you may take a photo or shop for a souvenir. Have lunch in the calm town of Mbarara and proceed through the verdant countryside. You will pass traditional homesteads and have
panoramic views of the surroundings. Dinner and overnight at Travellers Rest. (L-D) Upgrade: Gorilla Safari Lodge (mid-range) or Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (top end).
 
Day 2 Gorilla Tracking
The highlight of your safari: a meeting with the gentle giants of Bwindi! Especially hikers will love the tracking in the beautiful ecosystem of the park. It is difficult to foresee how many hours you will hike, it may take two to eight hours. Expect to walk a long distance in steep and muddy conditions, sometimes with rain overhead, before you encounter any gorillas. But it will definitely be worthwhile as you observe them closely while they eat, play and rest. A unique and unforgettable experience! For conservation purposes, time spent with the gorillas is limited to one hour. The ranger guide always briefs you on how to behave with these giant apes. Dinner and overnight at Travellers Rest. (B-L-D)  Upgrade:Gorilla Safari Lodge (mid-range) or Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (top end).
 
 
Day 3 Bwindi - Lake Mburo National Park (5 hours)
After breakfast we depart the impenetrable forest of Bwindi and head to Lake Mburo National Park. As we enter the park it is likely that you will spot some wildlife. After checking in you will go on a boat ride on the lake and enjoy the rich bird life and the many hippos that are cooling off. Dinner and overnight at Mburo Safari Lodge. (B-L-D) Upgrade:Mantana Tented Camp (mid-range) or Mihingo Lodge (luxury).
 
Day 4 Lake Mburo National Park - Kampala (4-5 hours)
Early start of the day as we will go for a nature walk guided by a ranger. Lake Mburo is the only national park where you can experience a safari on foot. Return the lodge for breakfast and with a game drive on our way out we depart the protected area and drive back to Kampala. (B-L)
 
Price based on two sharing with one permit each:
  • Entry level: $1690 
  • Mid-range:  $2100
  • Top end:     $2750
 
Price based on one person single occupancy with one permit:
  • Entry level: $1825
  • Mid-range:  $2390
  • Top end:     $3475

Fly in and out option

Day 1 Arrival

Arrival at Entebbe Airport where you will be welcomed and transferred to your accommodation
in Entebbe. Overnight at The Boma (B&B) a welcoming guesthouse situated on the outskirts of Entebbe and only 5 minutes from Entebbe Airport. It is a tastefully restored colonial homestead consisting of comfortable bedrooms. Each room is decorated with African themes and has its own private bathroom. A diners’ bar is set in a landscaped garden with lake views. The main house includes a private dining veranda and living room for overnight guests.
 
Day 2 Entebbe – Bwindi National Park
Early in the morning drop off at Entebbe International Airport for a domestic flight to Western Uganda. Your plane is scheduled to depart at 08.30 hr and expected arrival time is 10.30 hr at Kihihi Airstrip. From here you will be transferred by road (1 hour) to the home of the endangered mountain gorillas.
Check in at the lodge and enjoy a delicious lunch. In the afternoon you will have the opportunity to relax and prepare yourself for the next day. Or go for a (guided) forest walk for a first introduction to Uganda’s unique flora and fauna. Dinner and overnight at Mahogany Springs. (B-L-D)
 
 
Mahogany Springs is the newest lodge in Bwindi National Park. Located at a 2 minutes drive from the headquarters, it offers 7 luxury bandas with 2 double beds, en-suite bathroom and a private terrace with panoramic views of the forest and surrounding land. The main building includes a craft shop, large bar area, relaxing lounge area with fireplace, restaurant and a large veranda.
 
Upgrade option: Gorilla Forest Camp
Gorilla Forest Camp is a luxury tented camp in the rain forest, perched on the side of a mountain in Bwindi National Park. It has eight spacious tents with two queen-size beds, private bathroom with a bathtub and g rain forest. The bar and dining cottage overlooks the forest and has a raised natural platform for open air dining.
 
Day 3 Gorilla tracking
The highlight of your safari: a meeting with the gentle giants of Bwindi! Expect to walk a long distance in steep and muddy conditions, sometimes with rain overhead, before you encounter any gorillas. But it will definitely be worthwhile as you observe them closely while they eat, play and rest. A unique and unforgettable experience! Dinner and overnight at Mahogany Springs. (B-L-D)
Day 4 Bwindi National Park – Entebbe
Fly back to Entebbe. Scheduled flights depart at 10.55 and 14.05, arriving in Entebbe at 11.55 and 15.55 respectively
 
 
 
 
 

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