Gorilla Trekking in Uganda from Kigali, Rwanda, also referred to as Kigali to Bwindi gorilla trekking, will not only save you money but also time.
The distance from Kigali to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.
The Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are located just a few kilometers from the border of Rwanda and Uganda.
The approximate location of these national parks to this border has made gorilla trekking in Uganda from Kigali easier.
You can also book gorilla habituation from Kigali.
Gorilla Trekking Uganda from Kigali
Tourists can fly into Kigali International Airport in Rwanda and then travel by road to Uganda within 4 hours for a Kigali to Bwindi National Park gorilla trekking experience.
You can save money and driving time by trekking gorillas in Uganda from Kigali.
The main reason why most tourists fly to Rwanda and trek gorillas in Uganda is that Rwanda gorilla permits are expensive, costing $1500 per person, compared to Uganda where gorilla trekking permits cost $700 per person.
Budget travelers find it convenient to book Kigali to Bwindi gorilla trekking safaris.
Tourists who do not want to travel for 8–11 hours to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park from Entebbe and cannot afford domestic flights to and from Entebbe International Airport to these respective national parks can fly to Rwanda and drive to Uganda for gorilla trekking, as it takes approximately a 4-hour drive.
Mountain gorilla permits cost $700 in Uganda, $1500 in Rwanda and $400 in Congo (during the peak season and $200 during low season).
Uganda is the only country offering gorilla habituation experiences at the moment.
A gorilla habituation permit costs $1500 each, equaling the price of Rwanda gorilla permits.
All tourists planning to book Uganda gorilla trekking from Kigali must book their gorilla permits in advance through a trusted tour operator like us.
All mountain gorilla trekking parks are located in the same climatic zone.
Therefore, the best time for trekking mountain gorillas is during the dry seasons of June to September and December to February.
The rest of the months can make your trek hectic with muddy and slippery trails.
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Video by Wode Maya
Video credit: Wode Maya
About Kigali City – Africa’s Cleanest City
Kigali serves as the capital city of Rwanda, a title it acquired following the country’s independence in 1962.
The Twa people were the original inhabitants of Rwanda between 8000 BC and 3000 BC, and they primarily engaged in hunting and gathering.
Between 700 BC and 1500 BC, the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups migrated into the country, bringing with them agricultural and cattle-keeping traditions.
Kigali boasts a wide range of enjoyable activities, such as golfing at the Kigali Golf Club, swimming in luxurious hotels, bowling, skateboarding, and zip-lining, among others.
Top things to do in Kigali City before Driving to Bwindi
- Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Monument. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a final resting place for over 250,000 Rwandans, particularly the Tutsi population, who were persecuted by the Hutu during the Rwandan Genocide.
- Visit Hotel Rwanda. If you have ever watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” then you should not miss the chance to visit Hotel des Mille Collines. This is the place where Paul Rusesabagina saved hundreds of Tutsi during the 1994 genocide.
- Visit the Nyamata Genocide Memorial Church. The Nyamata Genocide Memorial Church is one of the main genocide sites in Kigali. It was established by the Catholic Church in April 1997.
- Visit the Inema Art Center. The Inema Art Center is a privately owned art gallery in Kigali. Here, you can find paintings, sculptures, and many other beautiful works of art.
- Visit the Camp Kigali Memorial Site. The Camp Kigali Memorial Site is a place where you can find the tombs of ten Belgian soldiers. These UN peacekeepers were murdered on the first day of the genocide. Each of the tombs has a soldier’s name and age at the time of their death engraved on them.
- Visit the Nyanza Genocide Memorial Site. The Nyanza Genocide Memorial is a resting place for over 4,000 Tutsi who were massacred during the Rwandan genocide that occurred after the murder of the Belgian soldiers.
- Take on the Mural Art Tour. The mural art tour is an ideal tour for art enthusiasts. You can check out the Kurema, Kureba, and Kwima, which means create, see, and learn. This tour was created to focus on meaningful street art.
- Visit Mount Kigali. Mount Kigali, located at the heart of the city, is the best place to go hiking. There are several routes you can use, and the hike is not strenuous, so you will require no special skills. However, the hill provides breathtaking views of the city and fresh air. On top of Kigali Hill, there is a horse riding school called Fazenda Sengha, where you can take a horse ride on the hillside or go through horse riding lessons.
- The 1000 distillery tour. The 1000 Distillery tour expounds on how they make their locally distilled spirits, from grain to alcohol, demonstrating each of the steps and the process of making spirits.
Other notable things to do in Kigali include visiting Kimironko Market, the Caplaki Crafts Village, and Biking Tours among other activities.
Crossing to Uganda through the Cyanika Border (Kyanika Border)
The Cyanika border is a linking point between Uganda and Rwanda, found in the southwestern part of Uganda and the northeastern part of Rwanda.
The Cyanika border is about an hour’s drive to Volcanoes National Park and a 30-minute drive to Mgahinga National Park.
The Cyanika settlement, also known as Kyanika, is on the Ugandan side and only about 10 kilometers from Kisoro town, a tourist destination in Uganda.
The Cyanika border can be reached within a 3 hour drive from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
Crossing to Uganda through the Katuna Border (Gatuna Border)
Katuna, also known as Gatuna in Kinyarwanda, is a border crossing found between Uganda and Rwanda.
The border town on the Rwandan side is called Gatuna, while on the Ugandan side, it’s known as Katuna.
This border is primarily used for imports and exports between Rwanda and Uganda, making it Rwanda’s busiest border.
The border is open 24 hours a day.
Katuna settlement is located in the Kamuganguzi sub-region in Ndorwa County.
The border is about a 15-minute drive from Kabale.
According to history, in 1600 AD, the Bakiga people believed that their ancestors migrated from Rwanda to the hills of Rwanyena and Kagarama but feared to cross the large Lake Bunyonyi.
So, they discovered a shortcut along the plain where they rested and called the place Gatuna for resting.
Gatuna town is located in the Gichumbi district of Rwanda, approximately an hour’s drive from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, with a population estimated to be about 41,000 people.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda covering 331 kilometers squared, its home to over 348 species of birds recorded, 220 species of butterflies, 120 species of mammals, 10 species of ferns, 163 species of trees and over 1000 species of flowering plants.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park takes place in its four sectors; Nkuringo, Rushaga, Ruhija and Buhoma.
Each sector has its own mountain gorilla families, with a variant terrain.
Map of Bwindi showing its four sectors
The Nkuringo sector is located in the western part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Gorilla families here include; Nkuringo Gorilla Family, Bushaho Gorilla Family and Christmas Gorilla Family.
The best accommodation facilities here are Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge and Gorilla Heights Lodge.
You can also sleep in Rushaga sector of Bwindi, trek gorillas in Nkuringo sector and vice-versa.
The Rushaga sector of Bwindi is located in the southern part of the park.
It has the highest number of habituated gorillas among all sectors.
The Rushaga region is very close to Rwanda and is ideal for Kigali to Bwindi gorilla trekking tours.
It is only a four-hour drive from Kigali.
You can also sleep in Rushaga sector of Bwindi, trek gorillas in Nkuringo sector and vice-versa.
Located in the eastern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Ruhija sector of Bwindi forest has several habituated gorilla groups, including the Oruzogo gorilla family, Kyaguriro gorilla family, and Bitukura gorilla family among the rest.
The Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park was the first region to be visited by tourists in the park, and it harbors the oldest gorilla family in Bwindi.
This sector is located in the northwestern part of the park.
Other Things to do in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Besides gorilla trekking, there are a lot more Bwindi activities that you can engage in when in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; and some of these include: gorilla habituation, birding safaris, Batwa cultural experiences, Mountain biking, hiking and nature walks among the rest.
1. Gorilla habituation in Bwindi
Gorilla habituation involves tourists joining researchers in the gorilla habituation process.
The sole purpose of habituation is to train gorillas to get used to human presence so that they can easily be trekked by tourists after a period of time.
This activity takes 4 hours, unlike the usual gorilla trekking, which takes only 1 hour.
You can learn a lot about mountain gorillas and their behaviors through this experience, although it involves an extra cost.
However, the experience is fascinating and worth it.
The maximum number of persons in a group that can habituate gorillas is only 4 members.
2. Bird-watching in Bwindi
Birding in Bwindi is amazing. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is home to over 348 species of birds, with 23 being endemic to this area.
Some of the notable bird species found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park include Ruwenzori nightjar, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Collared Apalis, Dusky crimson wing, Red-faced woodland warbler, Honeyguide, African green broadbill, Purple-breasted sunbird, Archer’s robin-chat, Dwarf honeyguide, Shelley’s crimson wing, Stripe-breasted tit, Grauer’s rush warbler, Kivu ground thrush, Francolin, Short-tailed warbler, Regal sunbird, Mountain masked Apalis, African wood owl, Montane Oriole, Western green tinkerbird, Doherty’s bush shrike, Short-tailed warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Chestnut-throated Apalis, and Fine-banded woodpecker, among others.
3. The Batwa cultural experiences
The Batwa community in Bwindi used to inhabit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for over 500,000 years.
These forest people were hunter-gatherers who relied on the forest for shelter, food, and medicinal plants.
However, they were eventually forced to leave the forest and join the Bakiga tribe living outside the forest.
Both communities have unique cultures and values that are distinct from other parts of the world.
Exploring these cultures allows you to see how the Batwa use various tree stems and roots for medicinal purposes, visit local blacksmiths, learn the art of basket weaving, and, most importantly, experience the joy of local traditional dances and songs under the bright African stars.
This can be a delightful way to end a day of gorilla trekking.
4. Hiking and nature walks
Nature walks in Bwindi provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the ancient forests more deeply.
Various walking and hiking trails have been established for these activities.
During these walks, you will have the chance to observe many other primates in Bwindi aside from gorillas, such as red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, and many more.
Additionally, you’ll encounter various species of birds, butterflies, and a wide array of plant species. Some of the trails available include the Muzabajiro loop trail, Munyaga river trail, bamboo trail, waterfall trail, and Rushura hill trail.
Each of these trails leads to unique and satisfying destinations that you will surely appreciate.
5. Mountain biking
There is a 13-kilometer Mountain biking trail established in Bwindi that starts from Buhoma sector and goes to the Ivy river (Ivi River).
This trail offers opportunities for wildlife watching, including bushbucks, bush pigs, and primates like black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and more.
You can also spot a variety of birds along the way. The round trip typically takes about 6-7 hours.
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The great Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located in the extreme southern part of Uganda, is the country’s smallest national park, covering an area of 33.7 square kilometers.
It borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
Mgahinga National Park derives its name from Mount Gahinga, which means “piles of stones,” named by the locals due to the small piles of stones gathered in heaps from their farmlands.
The park was first gazetted as a game sanctuary in 1930 and later established as a national park in 1991.
The Virunga ranges are known for harboring the only mountain gorillas in the world, with half of them found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
Mgahinga has only one gorilla family – The Nyakagezi Gorilla Family.
The group was found roaming in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda but has since settled on the Ugandan side since 2012.
One of the most interesting things about the Nyakagezi mountain gorilla family is that the old silverback, Bugingo, still lives in the group.
This is not a usual case among gorillas because once another silverback takes over leadership, the defeated one is banished to the forest alone or seeks refuge with other gorilla families.
Go gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to see this amazing gorilla family.
Other Things to do in Mgahinga National Park
1. Mountain Climbing and Hiking
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three of the Virunga Range volcanoes that can all be hiked for an unforgettable experience.
Mount Sabinyo is one of the volcanoes you can hike, and it can only be done from the Ugandan side due to its rugged nature on the Rwandan side.
It stands at an elevation of 3,669 meters above sea level, which takes about 8 hours for a round trip to reach the peak.
Mount Gahinga, on the other hand, is 3,474 meters above sea level with scenic views and a crater at its peak.
The hike roughly takes about 6 hours for a round trip, depending on the speed of the hikers.
Mount Muhabura is the highest peak of the Virunga volcanoes in Uganda, standing at an elevation of 4,127 meters above sea level.
The climb to Mount Muhabura will require some physical fitness, but the reward of stunning views at the top is worth the effort.
2. Golden Monkey Trekking
The renowned golden monkeys are endemic to the Albertine Rift and are on the list of some of the endangered species of monkeys in the world.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to over 4,000 golden monkeys.
Trekking golden monkeys is not as strenuous as gorilla trekking because they live in the lower slopes, unlike gorillas who occupy the higher slopes.
One advantage of trekking golden monkeys is that there is no limited number of persons to trek a given group, unlike gorillas where only 8 people are allowed to track in a group.
Additionally, the golden monkey permits are cheaper, costing only $50 per person.
3. Wildlife Viewing
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not only home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, but there are also many other animals living in the park.
These animals include bushbucks, duikers, bush pigs, waterbucks, civets, giant forest hogs, and primates such as the black-and-white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, De Brazza’s monkey, L’Hoest’s monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and many others.
4. Birding in Mgahinga
Mgahinga National Park is home to various birds, some of which are endemic to the Albertine region.
There are 79 species of birds recorded within the park, and here are some examples: Grey-capped warbler, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mousebird, firefinch bird, whydah, stonechat, Lagden’s bush shrike, scarlet-tufted Mackinnon’s sunbird, black kite, crowned hornbill, Kivu ground thrush, montane double-collared sunbird, dusky turtle dove, crowned crane, white-tailed blue flycatcher, Ruwenzori Turaco, Chubb’s cisticola, Alpine chat, Doherty’s bush shrike, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Mackinnon’s fiscal, Alpine chat, white-eyed slaty flycatcher, yellow-crowned canary, grassland pipit, wing-snapping cisticola, yellow-throated longclaw, and many others.
5. Cultural Encounters
The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga National Park is a must-visit place while in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
It provides you with insights into the Batwa tribe, whose guide will give you all the information you need about the Batwa people who once lived in the forest before it became a national park.
The Batwa people were hunter-gatherers who depended on the forest for everything.
The trail leads you to the Garama cave, which is about 300 meters long and was used by the Batwa in ancient times as a counseling chamber.
The visit ends with a Batwa traditional dance performed by local dancers at the cave.
On the way, you can encounter various wildlife and birds, not forgetting to learn from the Batwa guide about different plant species and how they use them.
Is Bwindi National Park Safe?
Visiting Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is very safe compared to most national parks.
You will be accompanied by an armed game ranger to trek mountain gorillas, and the forest is actually very safe to explore.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can pose a threat during mountain gorilla trekking.
Gorillas are wild animals, so you must be very attentive and follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations to avoid being attacked by mountain gorillas, which can lead to severe injuries or even death.
Though visiting Bwindi is safe, you will be recommended to take measures against malaria, as this is a tropical forest where mosquitoes breed, especially during the rainy season.
You can take antimalarial medication or carry a strong insect repellent to avoid mosquito and other insect bites.
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