Gorilla Tourism is described as a life changing experience. Mountain gorillas are listed as the world’s most critically endangered apes by IUCN. Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo are the only countries in the entire world where these charismatic wild creatures are protected. There are lesser than 900 individuals that still live in the wild today, all of which distributed within the very few remaining tropical rain forests in Africa.
Gorilla tourism in Uganda
Uganda offers visitors two options to track the critically endangered primates in the wild. Gorilla tourism in Uganda occur only in the thick tropical rain forest of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The two protected areas are found in the misty valleys of Kabale, Southwestern part of the country which is about 9-10 hour drive from Kampala. Gorilla trekking is only done in habituated groups whereby there are 11 habituated families that have been set for tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and only one is found in Mgahinga National Park. Bwindi has four tracking areas and they include Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo sector. Each of the tracking sectors features gorilla groups.
Buhoma area is one of the busiest sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park both in terms of tourist activities and accommodation facilities. The habituated gorilla families for tourists to trek include the Mubare aka Mubale gorilla family also known as the M. Group, Habinyanja (H. group) and Rushegura also known as the R. Group.
Ruhija sector is still a developing area especially in terms of accommodation but it also features three gorilla families for tourists to trek while on safari to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The habituated gorilla groups to track in this area include the Oruzogo, Kyaguriro and Bitukura gorilla family.
Rushaga sector features as the exceptional gorilla trekking area in Bwindi. It is in Rushaga that gorilla habituation experience takes place. For gorilla trekking safaris, the habituated groups include Nshongi gorilla family, Bweza, Busingye, Kahungye and Mishaya gorilla family.
Nkuringo sector of Bwindi has only Nkuringo gorilla group for visitors to track and in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park there is Nyakagezi gorilla family. Gorilla trekking safaris and tours in Uganda is relatively cheaper, the trekking permits are sold at $600 per person for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000. This mainly applies in the peak season especially in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During these months, the demand for gorilla permits is high and visitors are encouraged to book for their permits early enough.
During the low season Uganda Wildlife Authority offers opportunity to other visitors who may not be in position to track gorillas during the peak to also achieve their dreams in Uganda. In April, May and November, permits in Uganda are obtainable at $450 for foreign non residents, $400 for foreign residents and shs.150000 for East African residents. For visitors who may need to extend their stay in Bwindi, there is Gorilla Habituation Experience where you will spend all the four hours with the apes in the wild. For this adventure, the permits cost $1500 foreign non residents, $1000 for foreign residents and shs.750000 for East Africa residents.
Volcanoes National Park is the best tourist destination for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Located in Northwestern Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is accessible about 2 and half to three hour drive from Kigali International Airport to the park. There are ten habituated gorilla groups in Volcanoes national Park set for gorilla tourism. They include Sabyinyo, Ugenda, Umubano, Hirwa, Susa A and Karisimbi (Susa B), Bwenge, Kwitonda, Amahoro and Agashya (Group 13). A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda cost $1500 per person and applies to all visitors.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, gorilla trekking is best done in the Virunga National Park Eastern part of the country. It features eight habituated gorilla groups for visitors to track and they include Munyanga, Humba, Kabirizi, Mapuwa, Rugendo, Lulengo, Bageni and Nyakamwe gorilla group. Gorilla trekking permits in DR Congo cost $400 per person. Besides, there is also Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park. The Virunga National Park is normally reached from Rwanda and visitors can spend about 4 to 5 hours drive. However, note that DR Congo is still recovering from political unrest.
In conclusion, gorilla tourism is best done in Uganda Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. A trek to see the endangered mountain gorillas is a life time experience Gorilla trekking is a strenuous experience that requires you to be physically well to hike through the thick forest of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes National Park and the Virunga National Park.