Comparing Gorilla Trekking Uganda vs Rwanda vs Congo (Updated 2024)

Comparing Gorilla Trekking Uganda vs Rwanda vs Congo. One of the most singular, memorable, and life-altering travel experiences is tracking the endangered mountain gorilla through the strange intimacy of the rainforest, filled with the calls of colorful birds and the chattering of the rare golden monkey. The best places to go gorilla trekking are in Rwanda, Uganda, and the D.R. Congo. To prevent the spread of human disease, each gorilla group is limited to eight visitors each day, and visitors are required to keep a distance of 7m (approximately 22 ft) from the animals. Tracking can take anything from one to 10 hours and demands a reasonable level of fitness, as it involves climbing steep, frequently muddy slopes through thick jungle vegetation.

In this review, I compare different aspects of gorilla trekking Rwanda vs Uganda vs Congo:

Gorilla trekking ( Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Uganda)

Different Aspects of Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda vs Uganda vs Congo

Where are the mountain gorillas

The woods of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are home to approximately a thousand mountain gorillas today. More than half of this population is located in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda; the other half is spread across three neighboring national parks in the Virunga Mountains in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park. Lowland gorillas, which can be found in the swamps and forests of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, are the most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies but should not be mistaken with mountain gorillas.


Although both Uganda and Rwanda have relatively low crime and corruption rates, Rwanda is definitely better governed. In fact, behind Botswana, Rwanda is the safest country in all of Africa. However, the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a different story, as the country has been plagued by civil conflict and, more recently, Ebola for decades. Although the Virungas National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in the world, all governments have issued cautions against visiting the area due to the presence of armed organizations. After two British tourists, their driver, and their guide were kidnapped in May 2018 and later released, authorities decided to cancel gorilla trekking in the Congo’s Virunga National Park. In the month leading up to the kidnapping, six other park members were murdered, showing that this was not a unique incident. Gorilla tracking has restarted in the Congo, but it is still many times riskier than in Uganda or Rwanda.

Cost of a Gorilla Trekking Permit

The price (and availability) of the permit, which grants you one hour with the mountain gorillas, is the decisive factor between gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. Rwanda has just quadrupled the price of a gorilla trekking permit, making it twice as expensive as a permit in Uganda and almost four times as expensive as a permit in Congo. This is part of the country’s effort to attract high-end, low-impact tourists.

  • In Uganda, you’ll need a $700 per person gorilla permit to enter Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. For $1500 USD, visitors to Uganda can spend four hours in the company of the gorillas during the Gorilla Habituation experience, which gives them a rare glimpse into the process of acclimating wild gorillas to the presence of humans.
  • The cost of a gorilla permit in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is fifteen hundred dollars. In 2017, this was raised from $1500 USD. But there’s room for negotiation on prices:
    There is a 30% discount on gorilla permits for tourists who visit Nyungwe and Akagera National Parks for at least three days between November and May.
    Visitors who extend their time in Rwanda before or beyond the conference dates in order to see the gorillas are eligible for a 15% discount.
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a gorilla permit cost $400 USD per person. The cost of a gorilla permit in Congo dropped to $200 USD per person during the low season (March, May, October, and November) last year. Congo is home to both mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park and lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park; permits to see either type of gorilla cost $400 per person.

Availability of Gorilla Trekking Permits

There are 12 habituated gorilla groups in Rwanda, and each day 96 permits are issued. Each day, Uganda buys 96 gorilla permits, 88 for 11 gorilla groups in Bwindi National Park and 8 for one gorilla group in Mgahinga National Park. Permits to Rwanda and Uganda sell out months in advance during the peak travel times of June through October and mid-December through February. Permits are easier to come by during the off season, when fewer people visit due to the wet climate. Because of safety concerns, permits can be purchased easily, even on short notice, for one of the park’s eight habituated gorilla groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park.

How to Get there & Accessibility

The gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable or Mgahinga National Park are a good ten hours’ drive from Uganda’s primary entry point, Entebbe international airport. For a higher price, you can charter a plane, but if you want to chase gorillas on foot, you’ll need three days (including one night in the area before and one night in the area after your walk). You may include a visit to the mountain gorillas of Uganda on a larger trip that also takes in the chimpanzees of Kibale National Park and the big game of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park.

Volcanoes National Park, where gorilla tracking is possible in Rwanda, can be reached in under three hours by car from Kigali International Airport. The path from Volcanoes National Park to the capital city of Kigali is well-maintained and paved. Although gorilla trekking can be done as a day trip from Kigali, most visitors find that a two-day safari (with an overnight stay at Volcanoes National Park) is more rewarding. I recommend extending your stay in Rwanda so you may undertake chimpanzee or golden monkey tracking in Nyungwe National Park, see Kigali, and pay your respects at the Genodice Memorial Center, in addition to tracking big game in Akagera National Park.

Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Gisenyi is the main crossing point between Rwanda and Congo, entering the country through Goma. It is around three hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The headquarters of Virunga National Park are roughly an hour’s drive from the park’s boundary. Gisenyi’s border crossings are open until 10 p.m., although they can be closed for security reasons at any time.

Hike to the Gorillas

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the best place to go gorilla trekking in my opinion. Uganda’s gorilla trekking is more demanding in terms of stamina and fitness than the Virungas region’s. There are no pathways to speak of in the Bwindi bush, and the slopes can be much steeper than a set of stairs. However, for the vast majority of viewers, this only adds to the spectacle.

Gorilla trekking is less strenuous because it takes place on the slope of a volcano in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Rwanda, you’ll join a squad based on your level of athleticism. Therefore, those who are elderly or have mobility concerns may want to consider Rwanda instead of Uganda.

The length of your hike can range from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on how far away the gorilla group is that you’re trying to find.

Viewing & Photography

Ultimately, most tourists hope to get some truly memorable images of their time with the gorillas. The gorilla group you visit and their exact location (in the open versus in the jungle) will both affect how well your photographs turn out. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park gets its moniker from the dense jungle that surrounds it, making for difficult photography conditions. Climbing up the slope of a volcano in Rwanda and Congo provides more open areas in the forest, making for greater views of the gorillas and opportunities for photographs. Photographically, tracking gorillas in either Rwanda or Uganda will yield stunning results.

Table Format: Comparing Gorilla Trekking Uganda vs Rwanda vs Congo

Safety Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa Uganda’s national parks are very safe, although there is crime outside the parks Low and conflict riddled. There have been numerous killings of park rangers and guides; tourists have been kidnapped in the past
Cost of gorilla permit (USD) $1,500 $700 $450
National Park where gorillas live Volcanoes National Park Bwindi Impenetrable Forest & Mgahinga National Park Virungas National Park
International getaway airport Kigali Entebbe Kigali
Distance from the airport to the park 3h drive 10h drive 3h drive to Goma then cross the border by road into Congo
Road conditions to the park excellent bumpy and winding excellent to the border, then bumpy
Number of habituated gorilla families 12 12 8
Gorilla habituation process (4 hours with the gorillas) not offered offered not offered
Other attractions Rwanda Genocide Memorial, Lake Kivu, big game in Akagera National Park, and chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, big game in  Queen Elizabeth National Park & Murchison Falls National Park Climbing Nyiragongo (very tough climb) which is an active volcano, seeing chimpanzees
Accommodations high-end hotels mid-range & budget hotels budget hotels
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