Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How tough is the Rwanda gorilla trek? Which is the hardest/ easiest, best gorilla group to track

Which is the toughest mountain gorilla group to track in Rwanda, which gorilla group is the most popular to track, easiest gorilla family to track, how many hours does the gorilla tracking take in Rwanda? Susa, Kwitonda, Sabinyo, Umahoro?

Which is the toughest mountain gorilla group to track in Rwanda, which gorilla group is the most popular to track, easiest gorilla family to track, how many hours does the gorilla tracking take in Rwanda? Susa, Kwitonda, Sabinyo, Umahoro?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about gorilla tracking in Rwanda. And it is also perhaps the most difficult to answer. So many variables are involved, and if they all conspire against you, you could be in for a genuinely exhausting outing (indeed on rare occasions, the guides have had to carry tourists down). On the other hand, if everything falls your favour, the excursion will be little more demanding than the proverbial stroll in the park.

The trek to see the gorillas has two distinct phases. The first is the hike from the closest car park to the forest and national park boundary, which usually takes 30-60 minutes depending on the speed of the party and the group they are visiting. The second is trek into the forest in search of the gorillas, which will usually have been located by the advance trackers by the time reach the forest edge.

The first part of the trek is predictable, and it is usually quite flat and undemanding unless you are going to the Susa (Susa-A), which involves a longer and steeper ascent. The second part is more difficult to predict, as it will depend on the exact location of the gorillas on the day, and on the steepness of the terrain en route. Other factors in determining how tough it will be include the density of the vegetation (bending, crawling through the jungle can be tiring especially if you have to dodge vicious nettles) and whether it has rained recently, in which case everything will be muddier and quite slippery underfoot.

At risk of stating the obvious, age and fitness levels are key factors in how difficult the hike will feel. Susa Group aside, moderately fit people under the age of 40 seldom feel any significant strain, but a high proportion of trackers are in their 50s or 60s, in which case the hike might be something tougher. As one trekker has previously commented in the Bradt Guide (Rwanda): ‘We think you underestimate how strenuous the gorilla trip is. We are both 61 but fit and well, bicycle to work each day , and still we had to take regular breaks due to problems with breathing’. That said, while many older travellers do find the track quite demanding, it is very unusual that they are so daunted as to turn back.

An important factor in how difficult the hike will be is which group you are allocated. As a rule, the hike to the Susa Group is the most demanding (but also most rewarding, with more than 40 gorillas on show), while the Sabinyo Group is the most reliably straightforward to reach. The hikes to Kwitonda, Hirwa and Group Thirteen are also usually quite undemanding, whereas the hikes to Amahoro Umubano Groups tend to be more difficult, but not as tough as the Susa Group.

Unfortunately, these things aren’t set in stone, and any group might be unusually demanding (or easy) to reach on a bad day. Furthermore, nobody can guarantee which group you will be allocated in advance. However the guides at Kinigi do make a conscious attempt to match individuals to the most suitable group, especially if they are asked to. Generally the party for the Susa (Susa-A) consists of the lean-looking under-30s, while the opposite holds true for Sabinyo party.

Two further factors are uneven underfoot conditions and high altitude. Most visitors to Africa live in towns and cities where roads and sidewalks are paved, and parks are serviced by neatly footpaths, so they are unused to walking on the more irregular and seasonally slippery surfaces typical of the ascent paths and forest floor. It will help enormously in this regard to wear strong waterproof shoes or hiking boots with a good tread and solid ankle support. Furthermore, if you think you might struggle in these conditions, there is a lot to be said for avoiding the rainy seasons, in particular March-May, when conditions can be dauntingly muddy.

Don’t underestimate the tiring effect of altitude. The trekking takes place at elevations of 2.500-3,000m above sea level, not high enough for altitude sickness to be a concern but sufficient to knock the breath out of anybody – no matter how fit – who has just flown in from a low altitude. For this reason, visitors who are spending a while in Rwanda might think seriously about leaving their gorilla tracking until they’ve been in the country a week or so, and are better acclimatised. Most of Rwanda lies above 1,500m, and much of the country is higher – a couple of days at Nyungwe, which lies above 2,000m, would be good preparation for the Virungas. Likewise if you are coming from elsewhere in Africa, try to plan your itinerary so that you spend your pre-Rwanda days at medium to high altitude: for example, were you flying in from Kenya, a few days in Nairobi (2,300m) or even the Maasai Mara (1,600m) would be far better preparation than time at the coast.

Guides will generally offer you a walking stick at the start of the hike, and, even if you normally shun such props, it is worth taking up the offer to help support you on those slippery mountain paths. If you have luggage, hire a porter too. Once on the trail, take it easy, and don’t be afraid to ask to stop for a few minutes whenever you feel tired. Drink plenty of water and carry some quick calories – biscuits and chocolate can both be bought at supermarkets in Ruhengeri. The good news is that most people who track gorillas find the hike to be far less demanding than they expect, and 99% of cases, whatever exhaustion you might feel on the way up will vanish with the adrenalin charge that follows the first sighting of the silverback gorilla!

Rwanda Gorilla Trek Tours

Monday, January 16, 2017

Comparing Gorilla Trekking Tours In 2017 : Uganda Vs Rwanda – Compare prices, tracking experience, hardness, etc

Comparison of 2017 Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Uganda – Which is the best place to do a gorilla trek – Uganda or Rwanda? Which is more viable or cheaper: Bwindi or Volcanoes National Park, Which is more easy to access, Is tracking Rwanda better than Uganda?

rwanda mountain gorillas

The exhilaration attached to the first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla is difficult to describe. Yet in the same sense, that magical one hour spent with the gorillas does not come cheaply considering that a permit goes for US$750 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda – but it is unusual to find someone who regretted the financial outlay.

Mountain gorillas live in families similar to those of humans. Although the current mountain gorilla population is about 848, gorilla tracking can only be done on the habituated mountain gorilla families. 10 of the habituated families live in Rwanda’s Volcanoes NP, another 14 habituated mountain gorilla families live in Uganda (13 in Bwindi Impenetrable NP, 1 in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) and 1 in D.R.Congo’s Virunga NP.

A maximum of 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day.

All else being equal, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest because its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easier.

Uganda has discounted all gorilla permits to $450 for April, May, Nov 2016 and chimps trek to $100

The major challenge with tracking gorillas in Rwanda is certainly the price of the gorilla permit at US$750 compared to Uganda’s US$600 per permit. However, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is impossible for Uganda. Volcanoes National Park is located 116 km from Kigali and can be driven in just 2 hours. On the other hand, Bwindi is located 500 km from Kampala/ Entebbe Airport and a drive can take 8 hours plus. In that sense, you will spend at least 3 days for your gorilla trek tour – one travelling to Bwindi, another doing the gorilla trek, and the other driving back to Kampala/Entebbe. If a tour operator is making you a tour package, they shall definitely have to consider this cost and include it in your tour cost.

With the on coming of daily scheduled flights to Bwindi, operators now can have 3 days flying packages to Bwindi.

In real practice though, the one-day gorilla trek tour is not recommended because of the pressure it exerts on the trekker. For those limited on time, we would suggest the 2-days gorillas package.

Tree climbing lions often sighted in Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth NP on your way to track the mountain gorillas in Bwindi safari
Tree climbing lions often sighted in Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth NP on your way to track the mountain gorillas in Bwindi safari

However, the long drive to Bwindi is quite enchanting with great sceneries all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park ( for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with abundant wildlife), terraced mountains with flowing rivers, and a lot of rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.

You will certainly need spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it’s for Rwanda although this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla permit.

Besides, some sections of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are not so comfortable to drive on yet in the case of Rwanda, you drive on smooth tarmac at least up to the Volcanoes National Park head office. Not to mention though, the roads leading from Volcanoes park office to the gorilla trek trail-heads can only be accessed with a raised 4x4 vehicle.

Comparison of The Gorilla Trekking Experience

Of course you can get this in Uganda in evenings (at a fee) from the various traditional cultural groups that are near the park. However, the drive from Kampala to Bwindi is a very fabulous one traversing at least another national park (either Kibale or Queen Elizabeth National Park famous for tree climbing lions and many other big mammals, or Lake Mburo National Park) and not to miss- the Equator. In a way, even before you arrive Bwindi you have had a bit of the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as is fondly known. To many, driving along paved eucalyptus avenues to the gorillas in not the best deal. Indeed many to purchase tour packages combining both Rwanda and Uganda, first doing Gorillas in Rwanda and then crossing to Uganda to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park for the BIG 5 safaris and chimpanzee tracking among other tours.

Lets compare the tour costs in general.Because of the long drive one endures from Kampala to Bwindi, the general cost is increased (even when you travel by public buses). It even increases more because you have to travel 2 days (to and from Bwindi). However, the increased cost is countered by the low cost gorilla permit of US$600 ($450 in April and May, November 2017). A low budget 3 days gorilla trek tour in Uganda goes for about $1250 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) for one person on tour. The two days Rwanda gorilla trek costs about $1220 ( with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) and a three days Rwanda gorilla tracking tour costs is about $1280 (with gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport) . Costs samples got from Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris website effective Jan 2017.

Other things in addition to the actual gorilla tracking

Lastly, if you are not travelling just to see the mountain gorilla, and you want to include other activities in your visit, Rwanda may not be the best choice. Many tourists have continually had to cross to Uganda after their Rwanda gorilla trek to tour other reserves like Queen Elizabeth National Parks so endowed with abundant wildlife one cannot see in Rwanda. This is why probably folks continue enduring the long drives to Bwindi yet there is an easy way out.

At the end of the day – the ultimate jury are those who are looking as to which country to visit in order to track Gorillas – it is not Rwanda, not Uganda, not the Democratic Republic of Congo but where their pockets and hearts choose. If you precisely want the mountain gorillas and nothing else, go for a one-day gorilla trek but if you are a one who wants it and all of it, go for the long drive – you won’t regret…

Have you been on a gorilla trek in Rwanda or Uganda? What was your experience? What have you had about tracking gorillas in Rwanda Vs Uganda? Let me hear you views.

from the Rwanda/Uganda border post in Chanika .

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How To Book Gorilla tracking & Trek Permits in Uganda and Rwanda
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Uganda Cuts Gorilla Trek Permit Prices to $450
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Bwindi Mountain gorilla with baby gorilla - Ugana

Trekking mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi (Ruhija Sector)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Uganda 2017 April May & Nov. Gorilla Trek Permit Prices Reduced to $450 (special promotion)

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has cut all gorilla tracking permits prices in Bwindi for the month of April and May 2017. For promotional gorilla tracking tour packages please visit  and remember to ask for this discount to be passed on to you when booking your gorilla tour for April/May and November 2017.

The discounted prices apply to Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla tracking permits for April, May and November 2017.
Prices for gorilla trek permits go as per the following tourist types:

Foreign Non-residents = $450

Foreign Residents to $350

Ugandans - 100000 UGX

Industry observers have see this move as an intention by to draw more tourists to the gorillas in the low season months to Uganda, more especially the Ugandans.

However, Rwanda has maintained the gorilla tracking permit price at $750 and there seems to be no hope of reviewing this price in the near future in consideration of the low tourist seasons. We have in the passed documented comparisons in gorilla trekking experiences and costs in Rwanda Vs Uganda.

Mountain gorillas are only found in DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda and the total number for this critically endangered species is estimated at 780. Almost half of these are believed to be in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the rest leaving in the Virungas (Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Congo’s Virunga National Park).

Because of the insecurity in parts of DR Congo, it is only safe to track mountain gorillas either in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mgahinga’s gorillas are quite unreliable as they keep crossing borders, which makes tracking them uncertain. The experience offered by the three parks is broadly similar, so the biggest factor now determining where you go is either the cost or availability of the gorilla permit.

Only 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day. In Uganda, 12 families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP, nine of which are available for tracking and one is dedicated to research thus making the total permits available per day 96 gorilla families. Rwanda can only take 80 persons per day.

To claim you cut off the gorilla tour price please send an email to or visit the website  ( and ask for reduction in gorilla tour price to reflect this discount.

See you on trek!

Related articles:
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How To Book Gorilla tracking & Trek Permits in Uganda and Rwanda

Mountain Gorillas Aside, Why Does Earth need Bwindi so badly?

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Who needs yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to Rwanda, Who is exempted from the Immunisation certificate?

While Rwanda is Yellow Fever free, following the current active outbreak of Yellow Fever in
Yellow fever vaccination certificate advice to Rwanda
Angola and the documenting of imported cases in some countries, the Rwandan Ministry of Health is implementing measures to prevent the import of Yellow Fever cases and therefore protect the health of residents and visitors.
The following instructions are delivered to inform public and travelers:
1. To enter in Rwanda, a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is not required for travelers (Residents/ Non-Residents) coming from Yellow Fever non-endemic countries and without an active transmission outbreak of Yellow Fever.
2. To enter in Rwanda, a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is mandatory for travelers (Residents/ Non-Residents) coming from Yellow Fever endemic countries1 and countries2 with active Yellow Fever transmission outbreaks.
3. All residents travelling to Yellow Fever endemic countries1 should be vaccinated at least 10 days before travelling.
4. For travelers (Resident/ Non-Resident) coming from an active Yellow Fever transmission outbreak country2 or travelers who have recently visited (within 24 days) an active Yellow Fever transmission outbreak country2 the following instructions will be applied:
 Yellow Fever endemic countries1: Angola, Argentina, Benin, Bolivia Plurinational, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Venezuela.                                                             
 Active Yellow Fever transmission outbreak country2: Angola
If you would like to get a waiver of the vaccination certificate and enter Rwanda, there are generally two ways to get and present an exemption. The first is to go to a registered provider of the Yellow Fever vaccine and have them write the exemption on the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) card (Yellow Card). The other way is to have your physician write the exemption on practice letterhead. The following link to the UK Health Service contains a further link to a template for such a letter of medical exemption.
Click here for Official Letter

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Ezaruku Draku Franklin (URN) 

An adult bull elephant was Monday morning discovered dead in Mweya Peninsula of Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

Uganda Wildlife Authority Public Relations Manager Jossy Muhangi says that the carcass of the 35-year-old elephant was found lying near a ground transformer with cables attached to a nearby electric pole.

Muhangi adds that the wire mesh fence surrounding the transformer, a few meters from the Visitor Information Centre, was smashed by the jumbo, trying to force his way through the enclosure. The body was discovered by rangers on patrol.

He says UWA management called Umeme, the power service providers, who temporarily switched off the power to allow the recovery of tusks from the carcass. Veterinary experts are conducting a postmortem.

This is the third case of reported fatal electrocution in less than four years following two other cases involving elephants in Katunguru and Fig tree areas of Rubirizi district.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Uganda Launches e-Visa application

All those who have guests, friends or relatives visiting Uganda, kindly advise them to apply for the Visas online. Soon they will be no issuance at the point of entry.
It is not yet however known if Uganda will continue for the time being with a  parallel process of Visa on arrival as has been the case all along and clarification is sought on this crucial issue.

If your visa or permit application is approved, it establishes that you are eligible for the approved visa or permit, but does not establish that your application is definitely approved.
Upon arrival to Uganda (at the selected point of entry) or to the Immigration Office Headquarters, you will be inspected by an Immigration Officer who may determine if your application is finally approved. All information provided by you, or on your behalf by a designated third party, must be true and correct. A visa or permit application approval may be revoked at any time and for any reason, such as new information influencing eligibility. You may be subject to administrative or criminal penalties if you knowingly and willfully make a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation in an electronic visa or permit application submitted by you or on your behalf.

Please indicate you have read and understand the information provided above.
The process would work as follows:
1) Anyone arriving from 01st June 2016 who require Visas must have applied online and on completion and submitting the application intending travelers are to receive a bar coded email notification.
2) On arrival at any border post, airport or land borders, that email must be presented and the bar code will be scanned into the immigration system. A Visa sticker will then be printed, including a scanned in picture and will be inserted into the passport on payment of the respective Visa fee.
3) For any Visa extensions, again the process is due to be completed on line though it is thought that anyone in Kampala may apply in person at the Immigration Headquarters at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
4) These applications will be for regular single entry Visa, the common East African Tourist Visa (covering besides Uganda also Kenya and Rwanda), multiple entry Visa and Business Visa.
5) Access to the application platform can be found at
In a related development will applications for special passes and work permits also from 01st of June onwards be done online.
Relevant statements from the Ministry of Tourism, the Uganda Tourism Board and the Ugandan private sector are expected to be issued in due course further explaining the modalities of these transactions.

Try it and let us know how it works.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Who Needs and How to Apply for Rwanda Visa– Tourist Visa Entry Requirements, East Africa Tourist visa application

If you are a foreiegner visiting Rwanda, you should submit your visa application to the Rwandese embassy or diplomatic mission near you for processing.
Where this mission isn't available, you can request for a visa acceptance letter online which you will present on arrival to get your visa upon payment of the visa fee  - $30.

Citizens of the East Africa Community can get a renewable 6 months' visitor's pass upon arrival for no fee.
Nationals of all African countries traveling to or transiting through Rwanda can   obtain a entry visa upon arrival without necessarily making prior application and pay for a visa ($30) where applicable.

In view of the existing bilateral agreements, citizens of the following countries can visit Rwanda without a Visa for a period of 90 days: Hong Kong, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Phillipines, Mauritius and Singapore.

Nationals of Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America will be issued with entry visa valid for a period up to 30 days and pay for a visa ($30) upon arrival without prior application. 
Nationals of the countries mentioned above not exempted from visa may also choose to get visa at Rwanda Diplomatic Missions (except the UN Mission in New York) or online.

Use the following link to apply for visa online:Click here
Try to do it 72 hours before and record your tracking number. A return ticket is mandatory for all those jetting into Rwanda. It is advisable to check with the nearest Rwandese consulate or visit: for more information.
When I say you MUST fill the form, I really mean it, many visitors are actually kicked out of the border for not doing it!

To qualify for the East Africa Tourist visa, you must be a foreigner who wants to visit simultaneously the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda for tourism.
The holder of the East Africa Tourist Visa shall enter from the country that issued the visa and move within the two other countries without applying for another visa or paying another visa fee.
The holder shall also be allowed to move out of the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda; and return without having to pay for another visa. This will only be applicable in the period of 90 days.
Applications for this visa shall be lodged at any of the diplomatic representation of the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda, at the Immigration Offices of the respective countries or online where applicable click here to apply online in Rwanda.

*      One clear colored passport size photo with white background, recently taken without glasses, caps and scurf; (the photo should be attached to the application form by use of glue stick. Stapling and clipping the photo to the application form is not advisable).
*      A complete filled application form click here to download application form

*      An application letter addressed to the issuing authority of the concerned country 

Transit single entry visas for up to 2 days are given at a cost of $30 at the same cost as the single entry tourist visa which is available for up to 90 days.
You will make the payment at the point where you enter the country. It is very important to remember that you need a confirmation letter (or a hotel confirmation, Tour operator invitation/ tour confirmation letter, copy of gorilla permit) to get a Rwanda visa and therefore you need to contact your contact in Rwanda or consulate in your country to get this document.

Please note that if you are planning to apply for resident/business or missionary multiple entry visas upon entry to Rwanda you will need to obtain police clearance from your home country. We advise you to obtain police clearance before travelling as this may often take longer than expected.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Rwanda. Your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. However, it is always sensible to have a short period of extra validity on your passport in case of any unforeseen delays to your departure. You do not have to wait until your old passport expires to apply to renew it. Any time left on your old passport when you apply will be added to your new passport, up to a maximum of nine months. 

However, Yellow fever vaccination certificates are in theory compulsory for entry or exit, but in reality are rarely requested.