The mountain gorilla is a highly
endangered primate with an estimated population of 720
individuals left in the world today and spending an
hour with a family of habituated gorillas is an experience
that everyone should do at some point in their lives.
They are the largest of all the primates and the rarest
of all three subspecies.
Predominantly ground dwelling, mountain gorillas prefer
open canopy forests that allow light to reach the forest
floor; their diet consists of bamboo, roots, stems,
leaves and vines. They live in family groups of about
9 individuals, led by the older, stronger and more experienced
silverbacks that can weigh up to 220 kg.
They have a limited home range making them easier to
track and habituate for tourism and research possibilities.
Only present in moist tropical or subtropical forests
in the Virunga Mountains along the borders of south
west Uganda, north west Rwanda and eastern DRC. Their
habitat is under constant threat from logging and civil
unrest in DRC and poaching is also still a threat.
At World Primate Safaris, we specialize in safaris
to track these remarkable animals in their natural habitat
and we get asked all the time, "where is the best place
to track and see the mountain gorilla?" This is always
a tricky question to answer as it always comes down
to each itinerary and client that we deal with, but
there are a couple of things that make the differences.
Once described as "the Pearl of Africa" by Winston
Churchill, Uganda is fast returning to its former glory
as one of the principle destinations of East Africa.
In contrast to Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda is a rich
fertile country which can offer both the savannah plains
of Queen Elizabeth National Park as well as the Impenetrable
Forest of Bwindi. Where else in the world can you experience
tracking the endangered mountain gorilla through the
mountain forests and the same day (if you're quick!)
be on the plains in scorching heat searching for the
elusive tree climbing lions...
The variety of Uganda is astonishing when compared
to the savannah countries of east Africa; not only does
one have access to the majority of the savannah game
that you would see in the Serengeti or the Mara but
you also have over a thousand species of bird, 2 national
parks where you can track the mountain gorilla, a variety
of habitats where you can track chimpanzees and a wide
variety of forests, lakes and mountains.
Tracking gorillas in the famous Bwindi Impenetrable
Forest National Park is a challenge in itself, with
the gorillas living in a mountainous area covered in
a thick, and as the name suggests, impenetrable forest.
Tracking can take anything from a couple of hours up
to 8 hours depending on the group and where they have
decided to move to during the day. Often they are in
the thick forest and so photography is quite difficult
in the low light.
With a maximum of 8 people per group (same in Rwanda),
there are times when you have to scramble to get to
the front, but the guide will always ensure that everybody
gets a chance.
Rwanda offers some of the most breathtaking scenery
in Africa whether it be the dramatic Virunga volcanoes
bordering Uganda and DRC or the forest of Nyungwe, one
of the largest montane forests in Central Africa, home
to chimpanzees and large groups of Colobus monkeys.
Since the genocide of 1994 Rwanda has progressed enormously,
and with approximately half of the world's mountain
gorillas accessible through the Parc National des Volcans,
Rwanda's tourism is booming.
Tracking gorillas in Rwanda is a highlight of the country,
but as far as other main attractions goes it is quite
limited. Tracking of the gorillas takes place on the
slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, sometimes with amazing
views of the peaks towering above you and can take anything
from 2 - 4 hours depending on the group and where they
have moved to, but the vegetation is generally more
open than in Uganda which makes walking easier.
Once you find the group you only have one hour to spend
with them, which is the same as it is in Uganda, but
because the vegetation is more open you can see them
better and photography is a lot easier.
From the above comparisons you can see that each destination
offers something slightly different, but in short whether
you track them in Uganda or Rwanda you will not be disappointed.
If you are limited to time them Rwanda is the best
option for you, but if you have the time and are interested
in seeing gorillas, chimpanzees, plains game and some
incredible scenery then you should consider Uganda.
The beauty of both Uganda and Rwanda is they can combine
very easily giving you the chance to track the gorillas
in both countries which gives you the chance to make
your own mind up......................