About 1004 mountain gorillas are in the world according to the concluded mountain gorillas census in the virunga massif. Mountain gorillas are listed as the critically endangered species on the IUCN Red list only found in the tropical rain forests which includes Bwindi forest national park, Mgahinga national park in the foot hills of Virunga ranges, volcanoes national park in Rwanda and virunga national park in Congo. Following their extinction due to poaching, habitant loss, civil wars many conservationist came up to their survival like Dian Fossey who studied and lived with them for 18 years in the volcanoes until she brought them to the plight of international recognition. It is noted by the time of her death she had done a great work and the mountain gorillas had increased in number to about 250 mountain gorillas in the volcanoes national park.
In Uganda, gorilla tourism and conservation began in 1993 with one habituated gorilla family in Buhoma after evicting the Batwa in 1991 who lived in the forest for years with the mountain gorillas causing habitat loss and transmitting diseases to the apes.
Thanks to the conservation efforts the mountain gorillas are registering an increase in number and expanding their kingdom, several mountain gorillas are habituated and can be explored in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
In Uganda you will find mountain gorillas in Bwindi Forest which is a home to over 400 mountain gorillas with 16 habituated gorilla families. The first gorilla family to be habituated in Bwindi was Mubare in Buhoma and so far several have been habituated including Kyaguliro, Kahungye, Bweza, Rushegura, Mishaya, Busigye, Nkuringo, Oruzongo, Bitukura, Bikingi, Bushaho and the recent added habituated gorilla families Christmas and Katwe. The dense tropical forest is not only home to mountain gorillas but other wild life species like red tailed monkeys, forest elephants and bird species.
Mgahinga is yet another gorilla destination in Uganda with one habituated gorilla family, Nyakagezi spanning in the foot hills of Virunga ranges.
Volcanoes national park in Rwanda is reported to have more than 200 mountain gorillas. There are ten habituated gorilla families open for tracking. While virunga national park has 6 habituated gorilla families but due to civil and political unrest in Congo the gorilla tourism is on and off.
Cost of gorilla permits
Gorilla permits in Uganda are at 600 and 1500 dollars for gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation respectively, only 96 permits are issued per day per gorilla family, therefore permits need to be booked in advance not to miss out on this expedition.
In Rwanda a gorilla Permit is relatively priced at 1500 dollar and only 80 permits are issued per day, whereas Congo a gorilla permit is at 400 dollars.
How to get there
In Uganda, the travel time from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi takes approximately 9 to 10 hours by car however there are also charter flights available and will take about 1.5 hours
By contrast you can arrive in Kigali about 2 to 3 hrs drive to Bwindi or Mgahinga and explore the mountain gorillas. This proves to be the shortest route and an alternative to cut on the long distance journey.
In Rwanda the airport is within the city and about 2 hrs drive form the airport to volcanoes national park.
In Congo, the only alternative is to arrive in Kigali and transfer to Congo through Goma border.
The experience of exploring the three magical kingdoms is definitely not the same from price of gorilla permits, distance.
In Uganda , the rain forest has steep slopes, thick vegetation that you to go through the running water falls in such of the mountain gorillas makes it tough to hike where as in Rwanda due to the rainforest vegetation being thinner allows easier viewing and hiking however you require physical fitness.
Gorilla trekking is a magical encounter and should be highly thought of when a planning a safari, the feeling of finally meeting them in their natural environment runs to the tears of joy forgetting the hustle of hiking through slippery forest.