It is estimated that there are only 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. More than half of these reside in the East African countries of Uganda and Rwanda. A small number are also found in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park.

Gorilla trekking is a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, requiring good physical fitness and stamina. The trek encompasses visiting some of the most beautiful volcanoes particularly the Virunga Mountains, which cover three countries – Uganda (at Mgahinga), Rwanda and Congo. Visitors also get a chance to do some unique bird watching and visit other wildlife including some of the rare and endangered species such as the golden monkeys and Angolan Colobus monkeys.

While visiting the gorillas in Bwindi you will most probably track the gorillas up and down in a series of hills. Some clients will prefer the more challenging trekking in the rain forest of Bwindi. They don’t want to miss the rich experience of a rain forest. Others will prefer the less strenuous experience of the Rwanda gorillas. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need a good physical condition in Rwanda! It’s certainly necessary for both gorilla experiences! We have noted that altitude may cause difficulties to some visitors and during dry season (June-September) gorillas tend to climb higher.

Gorilla trekking is undertaken in small groups with a maximum of eight persons with a guide and assistant. After a pre-trek briefing, your guide will encourage you to use all of your senses like smell, hearing, vision to track these endangered primates. Visitors should be in generally fit physical condition to undertake this kind of trekking. A visit to your family doctor is advisable prior to booking the trek.

For conservation purposes the time spent with the gorillas is limited to one hour. Daily visits have an impact on gorilla activity patterns, and are a source of animal stress – there is therefore strong justification for the one-hour rule. This is adequate time for photography and observing these great primates in their natural habitat.

Gorilla trekking is a unique, thrilling and fulfilling experience – it is a journey leading one to appreciate the hidden treasures of this world, and appreciate the effect of commercialism and global warming on the habitats that remain as home to these “gentle giants”. If there is one wildlife experience that one needs to undertake in one’s lifetime – this has got to be it! In return you will be rewarded with a certificate from the National Park – a souvenir of your adventure!

One of the most frequent questions we get is: Which is the best place to see the mountain Gorillas? Rwanda or Uganda?

Our response is based on the personal situation and motivation of clients – what in particular are visitors keen to see? Are they limited by budget or time constraints? If not then we suggest clients get to experience gorillas in both of these countries. After all the gorillas in Uganda (Bwindi) are very different to the gorillas in Rwanda (Kinigi) and their habitats are totally different. So these are two very different gorilla tracking experiences.

The habitat in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda) is a dense rain forest (a UNESCO world heritage site) while in Kinigi, Parc National des Volcans (Rwanda) the habitat of the gorillas is part of the Virunga, the famous chain of volcanoes located in Congo, Rwanda and also Uganda (Mgahinga National Park).

Bwindi and the forests on the slopes of The Virunga volcanoes have been separated by a broad strip of cultivation for several hundred years. The gorilla population in Bwindi and the Virunga has not been able to travel between the two areas. Some experts tend even to separate them in two subspecies of mountain gorillas.

Gorilla trekking is unpredictable and it is difficult to foresee how many hours you will hike. In Bwindi ( Uganda) the hiking time are generally much challenging. The terrain is usually more difficult in the rain forest and hiking times are longer because when looking for food, Bwindi gorillas tend to travel longer distances per day. In Rwanda the gorilla trekking is usually easier and not as challenging, except for the challenging Sussa group who are located at the Karisimbi volcano. For those looking shorter gorilla trekking experiences, we would generally recommend taking a gorilla safari to Rwanda – the PNV is a short distance from Kigali. Bwindi is further from the nearest city, Kampala, taking a day to get to the base camp/lodge.

Although their genetic material is identical gorilla, they differ when it comes to external characteristics and way of life. The gorillas in Rwanda live at a higher altitude and have longer fur. The shape of the nose and the facial folds are also different. When looking for food, Bwindi gorillas tend to travel longer distances per day.

Photographers will also notice the difficulties of taking pictures in a rain forest because there is less natural light penetrating the dense vegetation than in the more open habitat of the Virunga. You will need good equipment and a high-speed film.

The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes, along the northern border of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda. The mountain range is a branch of the Albertine Rift, a part of The Great Rift Valley. They are located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu.

The mountain range consists of eight major volcanoes. Six of them are dormant, and two are active: Mt Nyiragongo and Mt Nyamuragira both in the Congo. Mt Karisimbi is the highest volcano and the oldest mountain is Mt Sabinyo.

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