Mountain gorillas live in a small area near the shared borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo in east-central Africa. Ujuzi offers mountain gorilla trekking at:
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Western Rift Valley, Uganda
- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Virunga Mountains, Uganda
- Volcanoes National Park, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda
Each park merits an article of its own and has much to offer in addition to mountain gorilla trekking. Here, we offer the briefest overview.
A mountain gorilla eats from a vine.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The largest of the three parks at about 124 square miles, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is home to about 45% of the world’s mountain gorilla population. Scientists believe the Bwindi Forest mountain gorillas may be a subspecies, Gorilla beringei bwindi, that is different from the mountain gorillas of Mgahinga and Rwanda.
As of this writing, Bwindi boasts 13 habituated gorilla families. Bwindi offers traditional mountain gorilla trekking, which allows visitors to spend one hour observing a mountain gorilla family group. It also offers habituation experiences. These allow travelers to accompany a team of naturalists on a visit to a mountain gorilla group that is in the process of being habituated. Once you reach your family, you will spend a full four hours observing them.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is about a ten-hour drive from Kampala, and nearby airstrips can also be accessed by chartered plane from Entebbe.
Mountains enshrouded in mist, Volcanoes National Park. Photo credit: Derek Keats
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is about half the size of Bwindi, but home to almost as many habituated gorilla families—12 families in early 2020. Of the mountain gorilla parks, it is the easiest to get to, since it is relatively close to an international airport. This makes it a top choice for travelers who have enjoyed a safari elsewhere in Africa and want to add a few days searching for mountain gorillas.
Multiple park entrances mean the hike to find mountain gorillas is typically shorter than in Uganda. However, Rwanda gorilla trekking permits cost more than double Ugandan gorilla trekking permits.
Agricultural fields border Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Photograph by Jason Houston for USAID Diversity & Forestry
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is the smallest of the three parks. It is about 13 square miles and has one habituated family group, the Nyakagezi family. Because of this, Mgahinga Park attracts fewer tourists. Travelers looking for more privacy and a real escape from the world will appreciate this aspect of Mgahinga.
Another perk of the park’s small size is that the family group here is generally easier to track. In years past, there were some issues with the Nyakagezi family crossing the border into Rwanda or DRC, but lately, it has preferred to stay close to home.