If you are thinking about combining an East African adventure with thrilling primate viewing in the wild, than you should look no further than the Virunga Mountains. Shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, the imposing and special mountain gorillas are spread across those mountains. For entry into the mountain ranges, you will have to go through either Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park, or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park: which has over half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.
Which Country Should I Visit?
Since you have to hike to see the gorillas in the wild, you should consider the intensity level of each country. Most experts say Rwanda gorilla trekking can be easier than the other two countries because you can spot the gorilla family after 1-2 hours of hiking. On the other hand, the altitude is higher so endurance is key.
In Uganda, Mgahinga National Park has only one habituated gorilla family that visitors can see – the Nyakagezi group. It makes more sense to do Uganda gorilla trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which has around 17 habituated gorilla families. The hike could be more challenging due to the tropical climate: consider an ascent with potential of mud, rain and no trails.
Virunga National Park in the Congo is Africa’s oldest national park, and gorilla trekking in the Congo could be impacted by safety concerns by tourists. The on and off instability of the Eastern Congo could be a factor, but if you decide to gorilla trek here, you should pair it with a visit to Mt. Nyiragongo – an active volcano with the world’s largest lava lake.
Park Entry Fees
Luxury gorilla trekking mainly takes place in Rwanda due to the highest gorilla permit, which is $1,500. High end tourists usually choose the Rwanda park because of the good infrastructure in the roads and consistent safety. Uganda’s permit is $600, which raises to $700 in July 2020. The fee for the Congo is only $400, but experts advise to stay in Gisenyi on the Rwandan side of the border and only crossover to the Congo for the gorilla trekking experience. Taking all of these fees into consideration, it is advisable to sign up with a tour operator to arrange the gorilla trekking safari.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Go Gorilla Trekking?
Booking your travel to East Africa should be easy because gorilla trekking in Africa is a year-round adventure. However, you can consider the high and low seasons and how that can impact the viewing with or without crowds. December to mid-March and June- mid-September are the dry seasons in the destinations which makes it peak tourist seasons. The rainy seasons are October-November and April-May, which means the safari costs can drop. Don’t be scared by the potential of rain as walking sticks and other hiking assistance will be given by the tour operators. Also, the low season means that there will be fewer tourists to impede your proximity to the primates.