Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Vs Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga

Compare Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Vs Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga. If there is one adventure that every traveler ought to do while in Uganda, it is the Uganda gorilla trekking experience. Whether it is in the 321-square-kilometer Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or the 34-square-kilometer Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it is worth doing.

Mountain Gorillas are one of the largest primate species found in East and Central Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo), known for being the jungle’s majestic clowns, and to most primate lovers, they are an animal you can only dream of encountering. Of the three countries where gorilla trekking tours are done, Uganda is the only place with two outstanding destinations where visitors can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of watching them go about their daily routines.

Did you know that Bwindi and Mgahinga have half of the gorillas in the world?

Uganda alone is home to half the World’s Mountain gorillas living in two National Park, both of which are found in the southwestern part of Uganda. Sprawling 321 square kilometers, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. This Park is home to over 120 mammal species (the highest number so far in Uganda), over 350 bird species, about 220 butterfly species, and several reptile and Amphibian species.

At 34 square kilometers, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest in the country. This Park is not just a mountain gorilla stronghold but also a haven for the endangered golden monkeys. Being part of the Virunga Conservation Area, this Park protects the slopes and peaks of 3 dormant Volcanoes- Sabyinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura.

But where exactly can primate lovers go gorilla trekking in Uganda? This article provides comprehensive information on gorilla trekking in Bwindi vs. in Mgahinga. This information is based on the size of the Protected Areas, the number of mountain gorillas, and habituated families, other activities to do on top of gorilla trekking, accessibility of the parks from other destinations.

Number of mountain gorillas and habituated Gorilla Families

One clear difference between Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi and in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the number of mountain gorillas. For instance, Bwindi has over 45% of the whole World’s mountain gorillas. This makes it the destination with the highest number of these Giant Apes. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the other hand has about 5% of the World’s mountain gorillas.

Similarly, there are more habituated gorilla families in Bwindi than there are in Mgahinga. In total, over 40 gorilla families are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and over 20 of them have been habituated for gorilla trekking. Currently, only one gorilla family (named Nyakagyezi) is open for gorilla tours in Mgahinga.

Gorilla Trekking is done in sectors or regions

It can’t go without saying that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is divided into four sectors/regions- Nkuringo and Rushaga on the southern side of the Park, Ruhija on the Eastern side of Bwindi, and Buhoma on the Northern side of the Protected Area. Each of these sectors has gorilla families, hence the accommodation you choose should be based within any of the sectors for better connectivity. Contact your travel expert for better planning of your long-awaited gorilla safari, for memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.

The 34-square-kilometer Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is just one large area with one habituated gorilla family available for trekking.

However, when it comes to the possibility of spotting the Giant Apes, both National Parks provide a 95% chance of encountering them. There was a time when the possibility of seeing mountain gorillas in Mgahinga was just at 80% because the only gorilla family was always on the move across the borders. It often crossed over to neighboring Rwanda and at times the Democratic Republic of Congo, but has in recent years settled in Uganda just increasing chances of seeing it. However, we never know when the gorilla family decides to resume its cross-border exploration.

Opportunity for undertaking the Gorilla Habituation Experience

You can’t compare gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga without mentioning the fact that the former is the only place (not just in Uganda) in the whole World where the incredible Gorilla habituation experience is offered. This special adventure is offered in only one sector of Bwindi (Rushaga) where one semi-habituated gorilla family is open for trekking.

How different is the Gorilla Habituation Experience from standard gorilla trekking adventures? Well, the habituation Experience is when visitors get the chance to visit semi-habituated gorilla families. During this adventure, a small group (4 trekkers) has up to four hours of viewing and photography. This experience is different from standard gorilla treks where a group of 8 visitors is allowed to spend only one hour with a fully-habituated gorilla family. Therefore, if you ever desire to undertake the more rewarding Gorilla Habituation Experience, then Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the answer.

Other activities to do besides Gorilla Trekking

Both Bwindi and Mgahinga have other outstanding activities to do besides gorilla trekking adventures. These Parks offer guided forest walks, the Batwa community walks/ tours, and bird watching (both are home to numerous Albertine Rift endemics), but two activities make Mgahinga Gorilla National Park stand out.

Gorillas and Golden Monkeys 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only place in Uganda where visitors can combine gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking. This Park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area (which also comprises Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are between 2000 and 4000 golden monkeys in the whole World, and like gorillas, these golden-brown primates also live in groups (or troops). Several troops have been fully habituated for tracking, as well as semi-habituated ones for the Habituation Experience. Therefore, if you are interested in combining gorillas and golden monkeys during your Uganda safari, then consider visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Steeper Slopes 

Also, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to the Ugandan side of the Virunga massif and protects the higher peaks and slopes of three Volcanoes. The three Virunga Volcanoes here are Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Sabyinyo, which can be conquered during your visit to Uganda’s smallest National Park. This is another interesting thing that makes Mgahinga different from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. On the contrary, there are no mountain climbing adventures in Bwindi, hence impossible for visitors to combine gorilla treks and volcano climbing tours.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t climb the Volcanoes during your gorilla trekking safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This can be possible by visiting the southern sectors of Bwindi (Nkuringo and Rushaga) which are about 2 hours away from Mgahinga. You can therefore trek mountain gorillas from Bwindi and then transfer to Mgahinga for your volcano climbing adventure.

Connectivity to other National Parks

As earlier mentioned, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is divided into four sectors/regions, and its Northern sector (Buhoma) is close to Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Ishasha sector. These two sectors (Buhoma in Bwindi and Ishasha in Queen) are just 2-3 hours away from each other. This makes it possible to combine gorilla trekking with wildlife safaris.

On the other hand, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is over 5-6 hours away from Queen Elizabeth National Park. Therefore, while it is possible to combine the two safari destinations, it will require longer hours of driving. Contact us if you still need assistance

Conclusion

Conclusively, Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks are incredible gorilla trekking destinations in Uganda, but several factors make them different from each other. Bwindi has many habituated gorilla families compared to Mgahinga with only one and is the only place where the Gorilla Habituation Experience is offered. Mgahinga is also the only place where visitors can combine gorilla treks with golden monkey tracking and Volcano climbing.

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