Which National Park to Choose for Mountain Gorilla Tracking?

Article from the series: Frequently Asked Questions about Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo

As we usually receive this question in the context of choosing between two Ugandan national parks, we shall begin here.

Where to Track Gorillas in Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is by far the most known gorilla destination in the country, and the default choice for almost all tour companies. It’s a big rainforest with four gates that serve as a potential starting point for your gorilla tracking (our members should click here for a more detailed explanation, with a map and an accompanying video).

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is often ignored simply because it has only one habituated gorilla group, Nyakagezi, and that means that only eight people can track per day. Some people also still believe that it is an unreliable gorilla tracking destination — quite undeservedly so as Nyakagezi gorillas have been fully present for many years. These days silverback Mark seems to have no good reason anymore to take his harem away. And even if he decided to do so, you would automatically get a replacement permit for Bwindi.

While the gorillas of Bwindi are often observed in thick bush, the gorillas of Mgahinga are more commonly found in the open, helping your photography ambitions. If you are a budget traveller, you will further appreciate the fact that Mgahinga is close to Kisoro Town and that means access to a wider variety of affordable accommodation, and an opportunity to do most of the journey by bus (you will only need a special hire taxi or a passenger motorcycle for the last 45 minutes).

True, the forest of Bwindi is impressive, but the many vegetation zones of Mgahinga provide quite a beautiful alternative. The park covers the Ugandan side of three dormant volcanoes and comes with fabulous hiking opportunities.

In short, if you can get gorilla tracking permits for Mgahinga, this is a no-brainer!

Mountain Gorilla National Parks of Rwanda and DR Congo

The three volcanoes we mentioned above are part of the Virungas, totalling eight peaks altogether. Volcanoes National Park is the name of the Rwandan section, and the Congolese part is called Virunga National Park.

Volcanoes National Park is where the monied tourists go. It’s super convenient, lying at the end of a two-hour tarmac trip from Rwanda’s capital Kigali. If you don’t mind the fees (see our membership section for pricing details for all countries) there really is no big reason to go anywhere else.

Virunga National Park is at the other extreme of the price spectrum. DR Congo is always the cheapest gorilla tracking destination, and it has to be to attract visitors despite its sporadic security issues. Rest assured, however, that you will not be taken to see gorillas if the park authorities don’t consider it 100% safe.

photo by Marcus Westberg