Comparing Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi, Virunga and Volcanoes National Park : Trekking the beautiful and endangered mountain gorillas is one of the most exciting safari activities you will ever be introduced to but as Mother Nature designed, these Giant Apes only live in three African countries (Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity, preferring the dense rainforests and mountainous slopes with their popular Natural habitats being Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo). With mountain gorillas in these three beautiful places, tourists are sometimes spoilt for choice and confused on what destination to choose. Therefore, here is the comparison on gorilla trekking within Bwindi, Virunga, and Volcanoes National Park;
Of the three gorilla trekking destinations, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has the highest number of mountain gorillas totalling to about 450 individuals living in four sectors/regions thus almost half the World’s population of these Giant Apes. When it comes to Habituated Gorilla Families, this Park still offers the highest number of gorilla families totalling to about 21 that are fully habituated and therefore open for trekking. For this case, about 168 gorilla permits are available here for each day.
Volcanoes national park has the second-highest number of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, totalling about 300 individuals. As of 2022, over 12 gorilla families have been habituated for trekking all year round. With only 8 visitors that are allowed to visit a habituated gorilla group each day, 96 gorilla permits are issued every day and booking has to be done several months before the intended trekking date.
With only about 200 mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, it has the lowest number of mountain gorillas (of the three mentioned destinations). This also means that the number of gorilla families is lowest (about 8 that are fully habituated) and 64 gorilla permits are available each day.
Gorilla Permits for Virunga National Park are so far the cheapest and are valued at only $400 per person for the foreign non-residents while East African residents and Congo Citizens pay $200 and $20 respectively. These permits are issued by Institut Congolais la Conservation de la Nature although travelers can boom through trusted Tour.
The Bwindi Gorilla Permits are valued according to the tourist category whereby Foreign non-residents, foreign residents, and East African residents pay $700, $600, and Shs. 250,000 respectively. Just like for Congo, permits can be booked via a tour Operator, although the Official issuer is Uganda Wildlife Authority.
For Volcanoes National Park Gorilla Permits, they cost $1500 per person thus making them the costliest and are issued by Rwanda Development Board.
How to access the Gorilla National Parks?
The short distance (116 kilometres/2.5-3 hours’ drive) from the Capital to Volcanoes National Park-home to the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda sometimes makes it the best option for achieving your dream of meeting face to face with one of the World’s most adorable creatures. This Park is in the northwest of the country and is accessible via smooth and tarred road making it the best place for visitors that have less time yet are interested in trekking mountain gorillas.
Virunga National Park is only about 35 kilometres from Goma Town, which would make it the easiest and fastest way to there to the gorilla trekking destination but most gorilla treks to this Park start from Kigali City thus about 3-4 hours’ drive away.
Bwindi National Park is the farthest from its Capital City and starting point for most gorilla treks. It is about 8-9 hours by road from Kampala City and this makes it the least option for travellers who are limited by time or those interested in 1-2 days’ gorilla trips.
Other activities to do
- If you choose Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it means you have a lot more activities to enjoy besides gorilla trekking and these are the Gorilla Habituation Experience, mountain biking, guide forest walks/hiking, Batwa Cultural experiences, bird watching, to mention but a few.
- For Volcanoes National Park, other tourist activities to enjoy by gorilla trekkers are Dian Fossey Gravesite hike, birding, volcano climbing, golden monkey tracking, guided walks, and sometimes visits to the Twin Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo as well as a visit to Musanze Caves.
- Gorilla trekkers to Virunga National Park can also undertake tours around Rumangabo Headquarters, visit the Bamboo project, Nature walks, and Bird watching.
In conclusion, Mountain Gorilla Trekking is a riveting wildlife experience enjoyed in Uganda Safari, Rwanda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, and your choice of destination depends on personal interest and comparison of the activity in Bwindi, Virunga, and Volcanoes National Parks.