Gorilla Trekking: An Essential Guide

Gorilla Trekking: Rwanda vs Uganda

Gorilla Trekking: Rwanda vs Uganda
By Charlotte Beauvoisin

In short, Rwanda is a good choice for travellers looking to splash out, or those on limited time. Uganda is a better choice for the more budget conscious, and travellers looking for a bigger variety of activities before or after a gorilla trek.

Gorilla treks in Rwanda are generally more expensive, with the country focusing on high-end, low-impact tourism. Rwanda is a small country that has made huge strides in tourism; it’s an up-and-coming destination with big ambitions and a growing list of attractions.

Conversely, permit prices in Uganda are much cheaper and there is a wider range of budget and mid-range accommodation. However, journey times in Uganda are longer and roads into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are bumpier. Uganda is a more established destination with a wide variety of additional wildlife, cultural and adventure tourism activities. However, Rwanda’s tourism industry is swiftly developing. A two-country trip is a popular option.

Here's our rundown on the pros and cons of Uganda and Rwanda for a gorilla trek.

Gorilla trekking: Uganda vs Rwanda

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Uganda Mountaingorillababy lowres

Mountain gorilla family in Uganda

Is Rwanda Or Uganda better for gorilla trekking?

Weighing up the pros and cons

Price differences between Rwanda and Uganda

The gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda is more expensive than in Uganda. Gorilla tracking permits, accommodations and services are all costlier in Rwanda, part of a concerted government effort to nurture a more exclusive, higher-end tourism industry.

Current tracking permit prices are $700 per permit in Uganda and $1,500 per permit in Rwanda.

During 2023, Rwanda is offering gorilla permit discounts as part of the country's COVID recovery campaign. However, only African citizens and residents qualify.

How to buy permits

In Uganda, permits must be bought from the Uganda Wildlife Authority via a tour operator.

In Rwanda you can book a package with a tour operator or buy your permit directly from the Rwanda Development Board via their Irembo platform. There is no need to specify a gorilla family or accommodation.

Is gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda more difficult?

In Uganda the terrain is often steep and muddy. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is as dense as the name suggests – trekking through the jungle can be tricky and may require your guide to hack a path with machetes. Gorilla families may be spread across larger areas, and treks may be an all-day undertaking. It’s certainly more of an adventure but does require a degree of fitness. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has lighter, bamboo cover (similar to Rwanda’s) but tracking is steep in places.

In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park has generally easier terrain to climb, except on the longer tracks which can lead you into dense forest at altitude. The forest is largely bamboo, which creates a less dense canopy. Overall Rwanda is a generally easier-going gorilla trekking destination.

Ease of access in Rwanda vs Uganda

In Uganda it’s an eight to 10-hour drive from Entebbe International Airport to the gorilla trekking lodges. Fly-in options to local airstrips (within 30 minutes’ drive of gorilla tracking areas) are available.

Transport and access in Rwanda is much easier. It’s a two-hour drive from Kigali International Airport to Volcanoes National Park. Fly-in options to local airstrips, including helicopter transfers, are available but infrequently requested thanks to the good roads and comparatively short distance.

A popular option is to fly into Rwanda and drive to Uganda. It takes three to five hours to drive from Kigali International Airport to the gorilla tracking destinations in Uganda.


Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda’s main gorilla trekking National Park, has four distinct trailheads into the forest’s interior. The location of your accommodation is therefore very important. It’s recommended that you stay in a lodge near your specific starting point, so bear that in mind when you book your permit. Note that many roads are steep and rutted so what may appear as short distances can still involve long drives.

In Rwanda, all gorilla trekking starts at the VNP park headquarters in Kinigi. Most accommodation is within easy driving distance (10 minutes). The furthest lodges are 1.5 hours’ drive.

How long do you need in Rwanda vs Uganda?

In Uganda, owing to the remote locations, you’ll need a minimum two-night stay in the gorilla tracking area. Stay longer if you can and enjoy Bwindi Impenetrable Forest's waterfalls and diverse walks, meet the Batwa forest tribe and treasure the beauty of the spectacular rainforest.

In Rwanda, a two-night stay is recommended, although the accessibility of Volcanoes National Park means one-night (and even single day) trips are possible – but not recommended! There is a lot more to the country than seeing the gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking: Rwanda vs Uganda

Charlotte Beauvoisin

Charlotte is a travel blogger based on the edge of Kibale Forest, Uganda. She is a contributor to the Bradt Uganda Guidebook and has written for Lonely Planet, The Daily Telegraph and Fodor's. She first arrived in Uganda in 2009 as a Voluntary Service Overseas volunteer with the Uganda Conservation Foundation.

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