Coming through Kigali to access gorillas in Uganda is common for many travellers. Firstly, Uganda has more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, and it offers a great range of travel options for different pricing. Secondly, the international airport is quite a distance from the gorilla parks.
Additionally, Rwanda has positioned itself as a high-end destination; therefore, gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali makes a lot of sense for many travellers.
Those are just the off-hand reasons someone should see Uganda’s gorilla using the Kigali route. Let’s take an in-depth look into the question.
Uganda’s available permits are more than double Rwanda’s, which means that travellers have a higher chance of making permit reservations in Uganda. Gorilla trekking is a very regulated activity, with only a limited number of trekking permits issued daily. Each gorilla family is limited to eight visitors in a single group per day.
If you leave the decision to where you’ll see gorillas, the availability of permits will most probably make it for you, and Uganda will beat Rwanda hands down.
In addition to the permits’ availability, the permits’ cost is a significant reason why travellers chose gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali. Uganda is a significantly cheaper destination with $700 for a permit and offers a broader range of accommodations options, from mid-budget to luxury. Rwanda’s gorilla permit is more than double Uganda’s at $1500, and accommodation is restricted to luxury offerings.
Rwanda is attracting guests who can afford the permits and thus afford the more expensive accommodation. Many who can’t afford the high price of accommodation drive north to Bwindi forest, which offers a great range of cheaper options.
The accommodation availability correlates with the number of permits, which means that most times, you’ll not find where to stay if you’re booking a room within 60 days of your travel date. You have to book a couple of months for Rwanda before travel, which is barely the case for Uganda.
Unlike Rwanda, gorilla trekking accommodation in Uganda is concentrated around five trailheads located on the four sides of the park. Visitors are spoilt for choice between budget, mid-range and luxury options.
Gorilla trekking is always at the top of the bucket list for travellers to Africa, and both countries offer unequalled experiences with the mountain apes. However, gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali is preferable for the more cost-conscious who are looking for a greater jungle challenge and diversity beyond gorillas.
The gorillas in Uganda cover large territories, and daily tracking time can vary significantly from 30 minutes up to eight or nine hours. The vegetation is very thick (Bwindi ‘Impenetrable’ National Park), which drowns visitors in immersive jungle experiences not widely common to travellers.
Another outstanding choice for gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali is that Uganda offers the Habituation Experience of spending more hours with wild gorillas. The experience is exclusive to Uganda and allows visitors to trek with researchers and rangers on their daily habituation routines. And what’s more exciting is that the habituation permit costs as much as the regular half-day permit in Rwanda.
In addition to gorilla trekking, Uganda has an excellent chimp-trekking program in Kibale, Kyambura and Budongo, well-positioned on the famous safari circuit. Uganda is better for combining the gorilla experience with wildlife viewing and chimpanzee trekking.
If it has been decided that you will be gorilla trekking in Uganda, then you have to weigh in on your transport to Bwindi. Bwindi and Mgahinga, the two gorilla parks in Uganda, are located in the extreme southeast corner, near the border with Rwanda.
The drive from Entebbe International Airport takes about 10 hours compared to the drive from Kigali, which takes about 5 hours, including the border crossing.
Although there are domestic flights between Entebbe and Bwindi, many choose driving to avoid additional travel costs and enjoy going through beautiful countryside with stunning landscapes.
Day 1: Arrive in Kigali, and stay for a night.
Day 2: Drive from Kigali and cross the border to Bwindi
Day 3: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Day 4: Drive back to Kigali for your exit flight.
Alternatively (if you have the time)
Day 5: Big-game drive and boat safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Day 6: Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale
Day 7: Drive to Entebbe for your flight back home
The gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali trip is a great safari to explore Uganda’s famous safari circuit while avoiding long-driving transfer stress and without breaking the bank.
You can fly into Kigali and spend a night, giving you ample time to explore Rwanda’s explosive culture before heading northwest to the border. Border crossing is pretty navigable with a valid passport, yellow fever & Covid-19 vaccination cards, and 50 USD for visa processing. A transfer vehicle will cost you about USD 100 to $250 per day with fuel and a driver, who will be your trip manager or guide.
When you finally reach Bwindi, you’ll spend a night preparing for an early morning wake up to join the 7:30-am gorilla trekking excursion. Usually, the trailhead from where you begin the trekking is located near the visitor centre, and other times, your driver has to drive you some distance to the starting point.
After seeing the gorillas, you can drive back to Kigali and work out your exit if you still have the energy and time. Otherwise, explore the Bwindi region, visit the native Batwa forest people, engage in a couple of other activities and spend another night in Bwindi.
On the fourth day, you can drive back to Kigali or join Uganda’s western safari circuit to watch savannah animals and other rainforest primates. Driving up north from Bwindi, through Queen Elizabeth National Park, where tree-climbing lions, buffalo and elephant herds roam, you can spend a night.
The fifth day can take you on an early game drive on the park’s endowed tracks to see lions, leopards, antelopes, hyenas, and several other savannah animals. In the Afternoon, you can join the boat trip on the Kazinga Channel among thousands of hippos, crocodiles, elephants and hundreds of riparian birds flocking the channel’s banks. After your boat launch, continue to the contingent Kibale National Park on a 3-hour drive and spend a night.
On the sixth, join the early morning chimpanzee trekking excursion in Kibale and meet the playful chimpanzee troops, another immersive jungle experience that can comfortably match gorilla trekking. In Kibale, you’ll spend an hour (or whole day) with the chimps, explore the area or check out and spend the night in Entebbe, ready for your exit flight.
Gorilla trekking occurs all year round, with an excellent record for sightings; the rain only keeps some tourists away. Therefore, the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali is totally up to you.
Often, the choice it is more to do with permit availability. Like we said earlier, permits can sell out over six months in advance in peak months.
The dry season months, more comfortable for trekking, is mid-December to early February and June to September. However, don’t be entirely discouraged by the rains of November and March-May, as you will have the forest trails to yourself, the guides and the gorillas.
If costs are a considerable concern, gorilla trekking in Uganda via Kigali might be the answer to your planning issues. Kisoro Tours can help you plan this unforgettable encounter with Rwanda or Uganda gorillas.
We will take care of your transport transfers from and back to Kigali, help you through the border crossing, process your gorilla permits and book you in favourable accommodation near the trekking centre. We take care of all the ground handling so that you only prepare for your experience meeting the mountain gorillas.
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free quote.