Just like the name suggests, mountain gorillas live high up in the unique forested mountains of Virunga massif a straddle that borders Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo (DR. Congo) and the neighboring Bwindi Impenetrable National park in Uganda in the world over. Gorilla adventures trips to these two iconic places give almost the same trekking experience though more adventurous travelers opt to choose Bwindi impenetrable (World heritage site by IUCN) over Virunga massif (Volcanoes National Park on Rwandan side, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on Ugandan side and Virunga National Park on DR. Congo Side) because of its topography.
With road trips or self drive safari adventures being the trending travel style that allows one or a small group traveler(s) explore the world on their own, gorilla trekking is a lifetime experience and Africa’s adventure highlight. Meeting face to face with the giant silverback gorilla makes you realize how close they are to humans, remember these few remaining, most endangered species share 98% human genes. We have compiled for you on what to consider before making a final decision on your self-guided gorilla adventure tour to Africa.
Arrive from anywhere
There are two international airports near the mountain gorilla region and that is Entebbe International Airport in Uganda and Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport. At whatever above mentioned Airport you arrive, the car rental company will deliver you your rental vehicle free of charge. Choosing which Airport to arrive at, there are a couple of reasons accruing to the demands in your tailored itinerary such visiting other national parks especially in Uganda or for those who are afraid of long driving hours from Entebbe international airport to Bwindi can fly into Kigali and trek mountain gorillas in Uganda as it is about 3-4 hours of drive including border crossing compared to 8-9 hours from Entebbe. This has become popular ever since Rwanda decided double their gorilla permit prices from US$750 to 1,500 per permit compared to Uganda’s US$700 per permit. Both Uganda and Rwanda are member states of east African community and they subscribe to the East Africa single tourist visa which allow visitors arriving to one of the three member states (Uganda, Kenya or Rwanda) to for the visa at the first country of entry and travel freely within the three countries.
Go for a Roof-Top Tent Vehicle
It is proven, if anyone chooses to hire a land cruiser with a roof-top tent saves on both transport and accommodation. So, opting for a roof-top tent land cruiser is the most cost effective way of many travel options yet you have a freedom to explore or adventure at your own pace and time than the guided tour safaris. Choose a reputable car rental company that offer self drive or self guided car hire services to this region.
The self drive car rental company can as well help you reserve your gorilla trekking permit(s) well enough in advance upon request, this will save you from struggling to secure these scarce permits for your intended trekking dates after your arrival. Its is recommended that you are planning to go gorilla trekking in Africa to reserve or secure your gorilla trekking permit at least three (3) months in advance or prior to your intended trekking date. The self drive car rental company can as well book for reasonable budget accommodations for your trip within the region if you don’t wish to use a roof-top tent. You only have to hire either small budget Toyota Rav4 or Mid-range Land Cruiser Prado hard top or with a pop-up roof if you wish to visit savannah parks in Uganda as well.
Do Double gorilla trek
Now that you have saved some cash, consider doing a memorable double gorilla trek and be a legend. You can secure two gorilla permits, one for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the other for Virunga Massif (Virunga conservation area) either in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park or Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla National park, same forest but divided by international boundary.
However, Rwandan side (Volcanoes National park) a trekking permit is more expensive than Uganda side (Mgahinga gorilla national park) yet it’s the same forest divided by international boundary and offer similar trekking experience. If one doesn’t see the reason for a $1,500 trekking permit in Rwanda can go for a $700 permit on Uganda side. The reason to choose either Uganda or Rwanda is obviously due to high insecurity levels or risk rates in DR. Congo’s Virunga national park tours which is for more adventurous travelers.
A double gorilla trek will obviously make you understand and probably get an answer for the ever rising questions to whether mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest are a sub species of the real Mountain gorillas of the Virungas as Rwanda puts it. Uganda is the only country in the world where you can do double gorilla trekking in two different national parks, Mgahinga gorilla national park, part of the Virungas and Bwindi Impenetrable National park.
Gorilla Habituation Experience
This is a process of training mountain gorillas to get used to human presence, visitors to Bwindi impenetrable national park have a chance to take part in this once in a lifetime exercise. You will requires to wake up very early and enter the impenetrable forest with trekkers and researchers to look for this identified but still wild gorilla family, start to follow them as they foliage. You will at some stage be required to imitate what the gorillas are doing so that they don’t see you as a stranger however you will be required to always adhere to the instructions given by the head ranger guide.
Gorilla habituation experience allows a trekker four (4) hours in the presence of a mountain gorilla family and only done in Bwindi impenetrable national park, this is far better than the normal trekking that allows you only one hour in their presence. This 4 hour experience permit in the presence of mount gorilla costs US$1,500 and this is far better than normal trek in Rwanda that cost the same amount yet only allows you just a single hour with a Mountain gorilla family.
Visit the Bio-diverse Uganda
Uganda boasts of over 10 national reserves with each being unique its own way, it’s only in Uganda where you have a chance of meeting the Big five animals and the special two – Gorillas and Chimpanzees. We all know the big five animal is a description of the hard to hunt animals that include, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Lion. Maximize your chances of the Big five by visiting at least 2 of the three savannah parks of Uganda and that is; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National park. Meet the unique tree climbing lions of Ishasha sector, south of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Enjoy boat Cruise to encounter high concentration of wildlife, the boat cruise along Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth national park and along Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park rewards you with remarkable wildlife encounters. Meet the biggest schools of hippos along these two stretches believed to be Africa’s biggest. Giant Nile crocodile, Elephants, Giraffes, Buffaloes, different antelope species will be seen along the water bank coming to draw water.
Kibale National park is Africa’s primate capital with over 13 different primates’ residents in this ancient rain forest one of the few remaining of the central African tropical rain forests. On top chimpanzee, there are Bush babies, Black and white colobus, Red tailed, Vervet, Red colobus, l’hoest monkeys among many
Uganda has Africa’s third highest point, the snowcapped Margarita peak at 5109 meters above sea level, the Rwenzori Mountains also called the “Mountains of the Moon”. A seven to eight days are enough to reach its peaks.
White water rafting on arguably world’s longest river, The Nile River. With its source in Uganda flowing northwards not only known for supporting wildlife but forms quite a number of water rapids suitable for a number of water sports like white water rafting and tubing as well as kayaking and Bungee jumping.
The bird life is quite enormous but the most remarkable are those endemic to Albertine rift. Birds in Uganda range from small tiny like kingfisher, northern red bishop to big ones like eagles and vultures or even migratory birds from Europe and Kenya, Uganda is a birder’s paradise.
In nutshell, you need pretty a number of days to enjoy the diverse Uganda, ‘From the high mountains in the north through the beautiful savannah grasslands to the thick forests in the south’ is what describe Uganda. In fact early travelers like former British Prime minister, Winston Churchill, in his book “My African Journey” published in 1908, described Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa”. The beauty of Uganda is endless, beautiful Ssese Islands beaches in the middle of sea size Lake Victoria give one a honey moon rest, while the equator line through the country ensures beautiful sunset, Uganda has the best weather in the world on top of amazing waterfalls like World’s most powerful water fall – the Murchison falls, Sipi falls which is as high as 100 meter. Uganda is truly gifted by nature and a self guided trip is truly the best travel option to explore fully this virgin east African nation.