While the number of mountain gorillas has grown steadily to over 1000, they’re still an endangered species. Rwanda and Uganda are home to these incredible animals and two of our colleagues had the privilege of seeing them in the wild last year.
Sandra, our general manager, went gorilla trekking in Rwanda while Rhynhardt, explored Uganda. We chat to them about their adventures and compare the experience of a gorilla trek in Rwanda versus Uganda.
Read our handy Gorilla Trekking PDF for a side by side comparison.
What was your first impression of the country?
Rhynardt (Uganda): The people are friendly – and welcoming others is an important part of Ugandan culture. Uganda has beautiful scenery and interesting terrain with parks like the Kidepo Valley that are home to the striped aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and kudu in the grasslands of the savannah; and of course, the gorillas of the misty Bwindi plains.
There are also many vibrant markets like the Nakasero and Owino markets in Kampala offering fresh produce and clothing. But the infrastructure needs development, and the hotels and lodges should invest in hospitality training.
Sandra (Rwanda): Fantastic! It’s such a clean country – there simply is no litter anywhere. Both the cities and the rural areas are spotless. By law, everybody goes into their community once a month to pick up any litter. Plastic bags have been banned, and there are many re-forestation programmes in the country.
The Rwandan people are friendly, welcoming and warm. They’re still mourning the horrific genocide in 1994. A visit to the Genocide Museum in Kigali is extremely emotional but, in my opinion, extremely important to understand the country. This is a proud nation – and so they should be.
Which lodges would you recommend for gorilla trekking?
Rhynardt (Uganda): I would recommend Ndali Lodge when visiting the chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale Forest. The lodge is located close to the forest making it the ideal option when booking a chimp trekking tour, not to mention the stunning views of the Rwenzori Mountains.
If you’re going gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Forest, the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is a prime choice as their private tents are situated in the heart of the Bwindi Forest.
Sandra, Rwanda: I would recommend you stay at one of the two luxury lodges run by Wilderness Safaris in Rwanda, Magashi Lodge and Bisate Lodge. Bisate Lodge is just amazing and possibly one of the most unusual, beautiful and unique lodges that I’ve ever stayed at!
Rate your gorilla trekking experience…
Rhynardt, Uganda: From talking to other people, I found out that gorilla trekking in Uganda is more strenuous but the permits are half the price compared to Rwanda! The dry season in Uganda seems to be the best time to visit so plan your trip between December and March, or June and September.
Sandra, Rwanda: The gorilla trekking permits are US$ 1,500 in Rwanda, so it’s double the price of Uganda! I only did the gorilla trek in Rwanda so I can’t really compare the experiences but the trekking is easy in the Virunga Mountains. You don’t walk far to find the gorillas. It’s extremely well organised and very professional.
Is Uganda or Rwanda a standalone destination?
Rhynardt (Uganda): I would not sell Uganda as a stand-alone destination just yet. The main attraction is the trek to see the endangered Beringei Mountain Gorillas of the Bwindi Forest, but clients can also enjoy bird-watching tours and river safaris. I’d recommend combining Uganda with a safari in Kenya and Tanzania; and if you have the time, add a beach destination in Zanzibar.
Sandra (Rwanda): Rwanda can definitely be sold as a destination. The country is developed for tourism: you can do a full circuit that includes a Big Game safari, a golden monkey or gorilla trek, and a luxury boat stay. That said, it’s still going to take some time for Rwanda to establish itself fully as a destination for a 7 to 10-day vacation. At the moment, it’s very easy to add it as an extension to a safari experience in Kenya or Tanzania.