Where to see gorillas in Africa: Rwanda vs. Uganda

For those who have already been on safari across East or Southern Africa and are looking to return to Africa then perhaps Uganda or Rwanda could be just the thing. Africa is such a huge continent with so many different countries to visit and so many different things to do, it can be very hard to narrow it down. Uganda and Rwanda are not the first places to spring to mind but they are actually both fabulous places to visit with stunning scenery, warm welcoming people and incredible wildlife. They are to be found inland in central eastern Africa to the west of Kenya and Tanzania respectively. Uganda is the larger of the two and it shares its southern border with the enormous Lake Victoria whilst Rwanda is much smaller and tiny in comparison to most African nations.

Scenery

The scenery in this part of the world is stunning. This area is known as the Great Lakes area and it is full of lakes and rivers that stem from the volcanic mountain range than runs across Uganda and Rwanda. It is here that the majestic river Nile starts its journey across Africa and en route it squeezes in dramatic fashion through a narrow cleft before pouring out at the stunning Murchison Falls. Uganda is very green and lush due to high rainfall and a warm equatorial climate all year round. Much of it is farmed but it also boasts stunning natural beauty everywhere you go. Much of it is protected national park including the Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi National Park.

Rwanda is much more mountainous with high mountain peaks in the west and more traditional African savannah to the east where it borders Tanzania. Rwanda has three important National Parks; Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe. The naturally occurring rainforest in Rwanda is protected in the parks which is important as a lot of Rwanda’s naturally fertile land is taken up with coffee plantations and subsistence farming. The most famous of the national parks is the Volcanoes which is home to an estimated one third of the remaining worldwide mountain gorilla population.Rwanda’s mountainous scenery forms part of the Great Rift Valley which runs through East  Africa and creates some of its most impressive scenery. In this part of Rwanda you can find the Virunga volcano range which includes the highest peak of Mount Karisimbiat 14,787 feet.  Some of the volcanoes in the area are still active and attract volcano fans and scientists alike.

Wildlife

Tourism is a vital source of income to both Uganda and Rwanda and both countries have shared a troubled past. But now they are both well on the way to recovery and have opened up their doors to visitors. In fact this part of the world is one of the friendliest and warmest you can come across. Most of the tourism income in both countries comes from visiting the unique wildlife in this part of the world. Rwanda along with Uganda is one of the only two countries in the world where visitors can see the endangered mountain gorillas. Gorilla tracking permit prices are high in order to keep numbers down and the money from the permits and the national parks goes back into the local villages in order to feed them and also educate them on the importance of the wildlife.  The best place to visit the endangered mountain gorilla is the Bwindi National Park in Uganda. This remaining population of around 335 gorillas is home to nearly half of all known mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking is not for the faint hearted as the terrain here is very challenging with miles of deep forest and steep uphill hiking. It can take up to 5 hours of solid hiking to find a gorilla group and then of course you have to hike your way home again. Visiting the gorillas is very strictly monitored and numbers are kept down and even when you do see the gorillas you are only allowed a maximum of one hour with them so as not to disturb them.

You can also visit mountain gorillas in Rwanda in the beautiful Volcanoes National Park where permits and visits are run along similar lines to those in Uganda. In fact many people combine the two. But there are also other primates in this area that are worth visiting such as the famous chimpanzee colonies. You can visit Kibale National Park to visit them – again you must obtain a permit first and travel with an organised group and time is limited to an hour in order not to disturb them.
If you are looking for more typically African game then you can enjoy a safari in Uganda in the Queen Elizabeth National Park where you can enjoy spotting the Big Five whilst on safari including lions, leopards, elephant and buffalo. This national park is a very large reserve, in between Lake George and Lake Edwards and as such offers the unusual chance to go on safari by boat! The Kazinga Channel connects the two lakes and is home to lots of hippos.

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