All gorilla tours to Uganda take you deep to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park in south western Uganda. In some cases, travelers have been confused what makes the two parks different yet they all shelter mountain gorillas. A clear understanding of each national park, its features and distinctiveness is very essential for every travel before he/she confirms his or her Uganda safari. Each destination is unique in its own way and is worth visiting. Those who had a chance to visit the two parks on separate occasions have made comparisons between the two but it would be better if each traveler visited each park for him/herself to have a taste of each destination. Below are some unique features about Bwindi impenetrable forest park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park
Highest population of mountain gorillas
This impenetrable forest is a home to roughly 440 mountain gorillas, which makes half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Gorillas in Bwindi are habituated in 17 gorilla families, which open for traveler’s everyday. Also, mountain gorillas in Bwindi are scattered in four sectors/ regions (Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga & Nkuringo) in the north, east and south of Bwindi respectively. A high number of mountain gorilla families guarantee travelers a chance to access gorilla permits unlike in other gorilla parks. Everyday, Bwindi has 96 gorilla permits reach family visited by eight people hence 8 permits per gorilla group.
Gorilla habituation experience
Besides gorilla trekking, Bwindi forest is also a Centre for the gorilla habituation experience. It’s only in Bwindi where wild mountain gorilla families go through training for 2-3 years to make them used with human presence before they are open to travelers for trekking. Gorilla habituation is an exceptional activity, which allow travelers to spend extended time (4 hours) with mountain gorillas. This training is conducted by a team of conservationist, gorilla doctors and joined by four travelers. Apparently, two families (Bushaho and Bikyingi) are undergoing training and will be open for trekking soon. Habituation permits cost 1500usd each which is quite expensive, but the experience is worth the penny. This means that 8 habituation permits are issued out everyday since only two families are being habituated.
Apart from mountain gorillas, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is also a home to a variety of primates. These include chimpanzees and forest elephants, which can be encountered in the forest. However, chimpanzees in Bwindi forest are not habituated hence travelers warned to be careful before they walk anyhow in the forest. Primates are best encountered during forest walks and travelers are assured of their safety guarded by armed rangers.
Variety of accommodation facilities
Travelers to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park have a wide range of accommodation facilities to choose from. The lodges are scattered in the four sectors and the choice of a lodge is determined by the sector a traveler chooses to trek gorillas from. Fortunately, accommodation in Bwindi is luxury, midrange and budget all offering quality food and sleeping services to travelers at affordable rates. Also, most lodges are located near the trekking starting point, which give travelers enough time to rest. Examples of lodges in Bwindi include Bwindi jungle lodge, mahogany springs Buhoma lodge, gorilla safari lodge, Bakiga lodge, clouds lodge, gorilla forest camp, engage lodge, Nkuringo gorilla camp, Buhoma community bandas, Gorilla mist camp, Silverback lodge, Trackers haven lodge and Chameleon hill lodge among others.
However, travelers to Bwindi must be aware of:
Bwindi is an impenetrable forest standing at 11,60m – 2,607m above the sea level. The forest is located on the mountainous terrain and gorillas sometimes hike to areas of higher elevations, which make hiking there so difficult. Some times, traveler’s experience several hours of hiking through thick thorny bushes to reach the gorillas. Also, forest grounds in Bwindi are most times slippery and muddy grounds despite the season. Hiking to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi is therefore not for the faint hearted but rather for the physically fit and highly committed.
The fact that Bwindi has a big number of mountain gorillas, large crowds of travelers is expected in the jungle. Also, the popularity of Bwindi forest makes it a first choice for most travelers which cause shortage of gorilla, permits for the last time travelers. Also, lodges get full especially in the high season hence causing shortage of accommodations on top of being expensive.
Mgahinga gorilla national park
Less strenuous and less crowds
Unlike in Bwindi, gorilla hiking in Mgahinga gorilla national park is less strenuous hence the best spot for the physically unfit and elderly. Also, Mgahinga is less crowded with visitor’s compared to its sister forest Bwindi. Only eight travelers visit Bwindi to trek one gorilla family (Nyakagyezi) available.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking complements gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Mgahinga is the only center for golden monkey trekking in Uganda, which gives travelers a chance to interact with these famous playful and adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The other destination of golden monkeys if Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and these are the only two destinations in Africa were travelers can see golden monkeys. Interestingly golden monkeys are trekked at $100, which is relatively cheap compared, to $600 for trekking mountain gorillas.
Batwa cultural trail
Besides wildlife, a gorilla safari to Mgahinga gorilla national park gives travelers a chance to take part in the Batwa cultural trail. Its here that Batwa pygmies who demonstrate their traditional forest activities like hunting, fruit gathering, collecting honey and picking medicinal herbs. Also, Batwa pygmies lead travelers to Ngarama cave in which they used to perform their rituals and offer sacrifices. Also, traditional dances and poems by Batwa are sited which help reward travelers with extensive understanding about the Batwa.
Virunga volcano climbing
The park is a home to three extinct Virunga volcanoes giving travelers a chance for mountain climbing. The volcanoes are Mt Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabinyo. Interestingly, each volcano can be hiked to the summit in one day and the peak reward travelers with spectacular views of the other volcanoes in Rwanda and Congo as well as other attractions in the park and local communities.
However travelers to Mgahinga are reminded that the park has one gorilla family hence only 8 gorilla permits available everyday. Also, travelers have limited choice of accommodation facilities in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
In general, both Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park have unique features to make your Uganda gorilla safari a lifetime experience. Book a Uganda safari to south western Uganda for gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, forest walks and other experiences all rewarding you with memorable experiences.