It’s common knowledge that gorilla trekking takes place in two national parks in Uganda. These include Bwindi impenetrable national Park and Mgahinga National Park. The other places that provide this opportunity for gorilla tracking include; Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga of DRC. Before you decide to book a gorilla safari in Uganda, you need to convince yourself that you have made the right decision on where to trek these gorillas. It’s for this particular reason that we are comparing gorilla trekking in both Mgahinga and Bwindi.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a UNESCO world Heritage site that is located in south western Uganda in the districts of Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale. It’s a home to over 400 individuals of the rare mountain gorillas. This number has put Bwindi forest on world map as the only park having half of the gorillas in the whole world.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the other hand is situated on the extreme south western side of Uganda in the districts of Kisoro. The park is part of the three parks that are situated in the Virunga ranges that separate or join three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. As compared to Bwindi, Maghinga has very few mountain gorilla families compared to Bwindi forest. This has in turn put it on a disadvantage when it comes to gorilla trekking experience.
Bwindi forest has got over 11 habituated gorilla families in total as compared to only 1 habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park. Please you have to note that in case you decide to track in Mgahinga, then gorilla group will be Nyakagezi but in case you chose Bwindi, you will have variety of gorilla groups to choose from, then you may choose to trek in the north (Buhoma) and families available for you in the north are Mubare (the oldest and first family to be habituated in Bwindi) Habinyanja as well as Rushegura, you can trek gorillas in the east popularly known as Ruhija side and you will have a chance to either visit Kyaguriro, Oruzongo or Bitukura families. If you choose the southern part then get assured that you will visit Nkuringo or Rushaga to trek families such as Nkuringo or Busingye, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza respectively.
The Gorilla Trekking Experience
Bwindi forest is the only place where mountain gorillas stay with chimpanzees in the whole world as such there are slight chances to see chimpanzees while on a gorilla trekking expedition in the forest. The forest is also rich in terms of birds and twenty five species that are endemics making it better than Mgahinga if one is a birder. Mgahinga National Park is the only national park in Uganda where mountain gorillas’ co exists with golden monkeys. This is a place where you can trek both golden monkeys and the mountain gorillas.
While in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you can enjoy nature walks through the forest. The most prominent trails are the Munyaga Trail, the Waterfall Trail, Nkuringo – Buhoma Walk etc. These walks are interesting and rewarding to visits.
While in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there are three volcanoes that offer a great hiking experience; Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabinyo. These volcanoes offer hikers a great experience.
Both Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can be accessed by road or Air. You can access Mgahinga using the Aero link services for the flights scheduled to Kisoro Airs strip. The flight is about an hour or so from where you can then transfer by road to your accommodation facility. The Kisoro Air strip serves both Mgahinga and the southern part of Bwindi forest.
And on the other side, the north and southern part of Bwindi forest can be accessed by air through Kihihi Air strip followed by road transfers to the lodges. In case driving from Kampala, you can pass through Mbarara, Kabale to Kisoro and then to Mgahinga national Park. This is the same route to Bwindi forest. This is the same route used by those tracking in the southern side of Bwindi Impenetrable National park as well. Should you be trekking gorillas in the north and east of Bwindi, then you can branch off from Ntungamo then to Kagaba to Rukungiri, Kihihi and then to Butogota and then Buhoma.
For Ruhija, you can pass through Kabale as well. In case you don’t mind, you can branch off from Mbarara and follow the Kasese road and then turn to the left before Katuguru and follow the Ishasha sector road that will take you to kihihi and then to Buhoma as above. You can as well use a private car or public means but the problem is that with public transport, there is a problem with time management as well as the transfers to and from the bus parks. We therefore recommend that you avoid public transport means.
Where to Stay
Bwindi forest provides many accommodation options in all sides of the forest. You will also find budget, mid-range and luxury lodges and then you can decide accordingly. Within Mgahinga, there few options to choose from as the only up market lodge is the Gahinga lodge only. The other options are located in Kisoro town. Bwindi forest is closer to other national parks where you can combine and have a memorable experience. Queen Elizabeth is 2 hours’ drive from north of Bwindi and the tourists can connect these two national parks for game drives in search for the tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector or the boat cruise on Kazinga channel. For primate lovers, you can as well trek chimps in Kyambura gorge or drive further to Kibale National park a place that has been described as the best to trek habituated chimpanzees in the whole world.