My bucket list of countries high on my list to still visit is dwindling in number – this shorlist focuses on either memorable experiences or unique natural outdoor natural attractions. Long on my list has been a visit to parts of eastern Africa to see the gorillas in the wild. My interest was rekindled after talking to a good friend of mine who is on a mission to see every country in the world. He recently returned from parts of eastern Africa where he spoke very highly of his experiences trekking in the jungles to see gorillas.
I remember when I first saw African animals including elephants and lions in the wild for the first time – its a sense of excitement, adrenaline and satisfaction. I imagine being able to sit quietly watching these amazing animals in their habitat would be a similar feeling but perhaps even more intense as one is not shielded by the cozy confines of a safari vehicle.
There are only three countries where the gorillas still live in the wild and where one can take gorilla safaris, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They live in the following national parks: Uganda’s Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
These are rare animals indeed, I have read there are only some 900 estimated gorillas left in the wild today.
Visiting each of these countries has both its advantages and disadvantages. In planning my trip here are a few notes about each of these countries:
More then half the gorillas live in Uganda, it can take a bit longer logistically to reach the gorillas from the airport in Kampala but the permit fees are cheaper then in Rwanda. And there are two national parks where one can spot the gorillas.
When I travel I always seek out natural attractions and Uganda has quite a few other attractions in addition to the gorillas. Second on my list would be a visit to Uganda’s largest National Park, Murchison Falls. Right on the edge of Lake Albert, the Victoria Nile River cascades through a narrow gorge. And if I’m already on a gorilla safari in Uganda, I would also take a side trip to Kibale Forest National Park to see the Chimpanzees.
Perhaps the most popular country for visiting gorillas, Rwanda was on the forefront of their preservation and logistically for those on very short schedules, a visit here perhaps makes the most sense.
The distance of visiting the gorillas is a fairly short trip from the airport in Kigali – as a result, people often just come for the day. However the permit fees are much higher then in Rwanda.
Democratic Republic of Congo
My friend saw the gorillas in this country – and despite all the information I was able to find online to the contrary, was able to get a visa on arrival at the border. While the DRC has the cheapest cost of permits to see the gorillas, travel distances are also long over bad roads and of the three countries, the DRC has the fewest number of gorillas. From other research, perhaps avoid rainy season as the roads are even more challenging.
My friend indicated the trekking was also fairly strenuous. I’ve read about safety concerns from travelers visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo – my friend indicated on his trip, safety issues were not a problem.
While I would probably visit all three countries during a trip to this part of Africa and might even schedule in a visit to nearby Burundi, in summary, after weighing all the options – Uganda seems like it would be the best fit. I don’t mind the extra time needed to reach the national parks, the pricing is better then Rwanda, the country is significantly larger and it seems like there are more outdoor attractions to visit. For more details about Gorilla trekking visit Gorilla Trek, Africa.
Have you been to Uganda and taken a trek to see the gorillas? Let us know, your comments about your experiences below will help me and others plan their trips to this part of Africa 🙂