Want to go gorilla trekking in Uganda, but can’t make up your mind between Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park? In this post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each choice so you can make an informed decision.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
1) It is home to half the world’s population of mountain gorillas
Eager to see mountain gorillas on holiday, but scared you will somehow not happen upon them on your gorilla safari in Uganda? If you harbour this fear, then you’ll want to plan your Ugandan holiday around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
With over 400 gorillas divided into 11 habituated bands, rangers are confident in their ability to track down these beasts. Even if you have to wander for a bit longer than you planned through a sopping wet, steamy jungle, you are virtually assured of coming across a troop of these gentle beasts at some point in your trek.
2) You can go on chimpanzee treks as well
Bwindi may be known primarily for its mountain gorilla expeditions, but they aren’t the only primate which calls these dense woods home. Chimpanzees, a smaller, more agile species of monkey, can also be found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
If you choose to go on a trek to look for chimps, know that you will be sweating up a storm, as these primates are fast movers and non-habituated. This means that while you’ll be able to see them in their natural habitat, the slightest indication that humans are near will cause them to flee.
Additionally, these apes are early risers, so if you hope to catch them as they leave their nests in the morning, you’ll need to be entering the forest with your guide before sunrise – don’t forget to set your alarm!
3) There are accommodation options for all budgets
As mentioned earlier, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is home to almost half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. This fact has made Bwindi the epicentre of wildlife-based tourism in Uganda.
As a result of this, there is an abundance of lodges available within and just outside the park boundaries, providing accommodation options for every budget.
Backpackers will love the value they’ll get for their money at Bwindi Backpackers Lodge, travellers looking for comfort will find it at Yellow Haven Lodge, and those who require luxury will enjoy their stay at the Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.
These are just a few of the options you’ll have at your disposal while booking accommodations in Bwindi, so shop around until you find a place you like.
1) It is the more touristy option of the two
The popularity of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has the potential to turn off some visitors, especially in the midst of the high season. Thankfully, the number of permits are capped at all times, ensuring the gorillas aren’t overwhelmed by the crowds that swamp other safari parks in Africa.
However, other activities in the park aren’t crowd controlled, so if you are looking to find peace and quiet on a hike, you may have to actively tune out the presence of others.
2) Longer treks make it unsuitable for those in poor health
When you set out to find the gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, the amount of walking, scrambling, and climbing you’ll have to do is an open question. Depending on where the closest band of gorillas are hanging out, you could have a leisurely stroll of 45 minutes, or you could be in for a long eight-hour slog.
As such, we don’t recommend this adventure to those in exceptionally poor health due to the amount of physical exertion involved. If you are out of shape right now, start going for hikes or jogs as soon as possible.
Mgahinga National Park
1) It is quieter and less crowded
If large crowds of people make you nervous, basing yourself in Mgahinga National Park might be the best option for you, as many pass over this place in favour of Bwindi. With smaller, more intimate groups being the rule even in high season, this spot is much better-suited to introverts, as you don’t have to fight off throngs of people when pursuing activities outside of gorilla trekking.
2) This park is also home to the golden monkey
When you aren’t making your way through the jungles of Mgahinga National Park in search of its mountain gorillas, you’ll have the opportunity to check out another wonderfully unique primate: the golden monkey.
Unlike chimps and mountain gorillas, the golden monkey remains mostly stationary with regards to its nest, making them easy to find. Also, your hike to where they can be found typically begins at the more reasonable hour of 8 am, making it unnecessary to head to bed at 9 pm the night before in order to get enough sleep.
1) This park is home to only one band of mountain gorillas
While making Mgahinga National Park the central focus of your Ugandan holiday has its advantages, it is clearly less desirable for those dead set on seeing a mountain gorilla. The reason for this is simple: unlike Bwindi, which is home to eleven bands of gorillas and half the world’s population, Mgahinga is home to only one.
Not only are they are hard to find, you might not be able to track them down legally, as they often abscond over the international border to Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
2) Accommodation options are limited, especially at the high end
Mgahinga National Park may be a quieter place to visit, but the lack of tourist traffic also means there are few high-quality places to stay. To be clear, there are sufficient options that are clean, comfortable, and safe, but those seeking a top-shelf experience may end up disappointed by what they find.