Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga; Which One is Better?
Compare Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga and get to know which national park offers the Best Gorilla Trekking Experience in Uganda before booking. The experience of tracking mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat is second to none, and this had made Uganda one of the top Safari destinations in the World.
The World population of mountain gorillas now stands at about 1080 individuals, living in only four National Parks (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) in Uganda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Uganda stands out for two reasons- one is that it shelters half of the mountain gorilla population and secondly, tracking is done in two National Parks – Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Best Gorilla Trekking Safaris to Bwindi & Mgahinga
3 Days Gorilla Trekking Safari Uganda is an Africa wildlife safari leading you to Bwindi impenetrable national park for mountain gorilla trekking and Batwa community walk… Read more
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This always leaves travelers wondering “what is the difference between Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga National Park?” Which National Park offers the best experiences? We bring you the answers here;
First, it is worth noting that at 321 square kilometers within south-western Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a tinny Protected Area in all standards (it is actually the third smallest of the 10 Parks, after Mgahinga and Semliki National Park) but this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a treasure trove.
The Park presently hosts about 120 species of mammals that include 10 primate species (mountain gorillas inclusive), small Antelopes, nocturnal animals like jackals, civets, African golden cats and surprisingly leopards as well as Giant Forest pigs, Also, about 350 species of birds as well as 220 butterfly species can be spotted in this Tropical rainforest.
At 34 square kilometers, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest Park in Uganda but also another amazing gorilla trekking destination. The Park protects the Ugandan side of three Virunga Volcanoes- Gahinga, Muhabura and Sabyinyo.
This Protected Area is part of the vast Virunga conservation area that also encompasses Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park. There are over 76 mammal species and about 100 bird species in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park alone.
Therefore, here is the comparison between Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mountain Gorilla Population and Habituated Families
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to about 460 mountain gorillas (about three quarters of Uganda’s gorilla population and almost half the World’s Mountain gorilla numbers), which means there are more habituated gorilla families for tracking. Of the 40 gorilla groups in the Park, about 20 have been fully habituated for tracking.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the other hand has about 80 mountain gorillas and one habituated gorilla family named “Nyakagyezi”. Additionally, gorilla treks in Bwindi are done within four different sectors, each sheltering more than one gorilla family.
This also meals that there are fewer visitors hence less crowds during the briefing and after gorilla trekking. However, Gorilla permit rates are the same in both National Parks- $700 per person for the foreign non-residents, $600 for the foreign residents and shs. 250,000 for the East African residents.
The Gorilla Habituation Experience
Bwindi is the only place (in Uganda and the entire World) where the Gorilla Habituation Experience is offered. Currently, two gorilla families in the southern sectors of Nkuringo and Rushaga are available for travelers interested in tracking and visiting semi-habituation gorillas (those still undergoing training to make them accustomed to human presence) and 4 hours are provided for photographing, observing or taking videos of.
This activity is different from the standard gorilla trekking tours because only 4 visitors are allowed to track each day versus the 8 visitors during standard gorilla treks.
Possibility of Sighting Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi vs Mgahinga
The probability of sighting the gorillas is now guaranteed in both Bwindi and Mgahinga parks, but there was a time when that wasn’t the case within the latter. The Nyakagyezi gorilla family was known for always being on the move to Rwanda and Congo, but has for the past few years settled in its home (Mgahinga).
Difficulty of Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga
Treks are generally physically demanding in both National Parks as they involve hiking through steep and rugged terrains to find the mountain gorilla. Nonetheless, it has been observed that tracking Mgahinga’s only gorilla family is much easier.
Members of this family live in a smaller range compared to majority of the gorilla families in Bwindi. Given Bwindi’s size and denser vegetation, trekkers will have to move deeper into the forest to find the Giant Ape.
Possibility of Encountering other Primate in Bwindi vs Mgahinga
Mgahinga is the only National Park in Uganda where visitors can track both the endangered Golden Monkeys and Mountain Gorillas- “where gold meets silver”. This means that travelers can combine gorilla and golden monkey tracking.
Whereas Bwindi is home to Chimpanzees, they are not habituated and therefore very wild and not tracked.
Accommodation Options in Bwindi vs Mgahinga
Both national parks in Uganda offer a range of lodging options. Bwindi has the highest concentration of safari Lodges compared to Mgahinga, making it popular with tourists.
Bwindi forest land area is about 10 times bigger than Mgahinga and so do the number of lodges. There are many Uganda safari lodges in Bwindi offering world-class amenities compared to Mgahinga.
Mgahinga is not as popular as Bwindi due to its size and number of mountain gorillas, but there are still a few lodging options available for visitors who choose to explore this incredible park.
Other Activities to Enjoy besides Gorilla Trekking (Types of Experiences Available in Bwindi vs Mgahinga)
It is interesting to know that Gorilla Tracking in Mgahinga also provides the opportunity for Volcano/Mountain climbing, which isn’t possible in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Three of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes are protected by Mgahinga and travelers can opt to track Gahinga, Muhabura or Sabyinyo Volcanoes. Taking on these volcanoes reward visitors with more wildlife and bird sights as well as breathtaking views.
Cave exploration is also possible in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, where travelers have the opportunity of visiting the Garamba and Muhabura caves that were once home to the Batwa and used for a number of purposes like a Royal Palace, food store and battle field.
Both Mgahinga and Bwindi offer the once in a lifetime opportunity of experience Batwa culture. These pygmies lived in the two forests before they were gazetted into National Parks.
Visitors can learn about the hunter-gathering way of life when they still lived in the forest, making fires by rubbing sticks, use of traditional medicine, bamboo cup making, traditional dance and honey harvesting among others. Also, Guided Forest walks are possible in both National parks
While both National Parks are in south-western Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is strategically located close to Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to the tree climbing lions hence making it possible for travelers to combine gorilla and wildlife safaris.
It is only 3-4 hours; drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park where travelers can sight tree climbing lions, Uganda Kobs, elephants, Defassa waterbucks, buffaloes, Topis, Hippos and many others.
Accessibility – Getting to Bwindi vs Mgahinga
Both Bwindi and Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala or Kigali in Rwanda. It takes about 8-9 hours of driving from Kampala to get to these Protected Areas or 4-5 hours of driving from Rwanda’s Kigali City via Katuna/Cyanika borders for Bwindi or Cyanika border for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Aerolink also operates scheduled flights to Kisoro and Kihihi airstrips to serve any of the National Parks.
Having provided the comparison between gorilla trekking in Bwindi vs Mgahinga, the choice of destination is entirely yours to make but whichever place you go with, be assured of unforgettable experiences.