Gorilla Trekking Bwindi vs Mgahinga – Comparing the Two Experiences
Gorilla Trekking Bwindi vs Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are two experiences that need to be compared and contrasted in order to choose the right destination to visit. Gorilla trekking is among the greatest captivating wildlife experiences in Africa. This much loved activity by primate fans is enjoyed in the four national parks on the black continent. These places where to see gorillas in the wild include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. In this categorization, Uganda is exceptional since she hosts half of the world’s remaining numbers of mountain gorillas in its two national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 due to its great biodiversity. Besides mountain gorillas which are major attraction in Bwindi, the forest at present has 120 species of mammals including small Antelopes, the African Golden Cat, Giant Forest pigs, the side-striped Jackal and African Civet among others. There park is also endowed with several primates including Chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s Monkeys plus Black and White Colobus Monkeys. Around 220 butterfly species and 310 bird species can be seen in this abundant forest. Among the distinguished bird species comprise of the Frazers Eagle Owl, African Green Broad-bill, Brown necked parrots and the White tailed blue flycatcher.
Mgahinga National Park is another spot for gorilla trekking in Uganda. Existing as the smallest National Park in Uganda, Mgahinga sits at the foot of 3 dormant volcanoes. Unlike Bwindi forest which stands geographically independent, Mgahinga is an extension or part of the greater Virunga region and conservation area which includes the vast Virunga National Park in Congo and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. With all the 3 parks combined, they make up the large Virunga Conservation Area.
The top attractions in Mgahinga National Park are the rare mountain gorillas and golden Monkeys. Tourists can select to do other activities like seeing smaller primates and mammals, going for forest or nature walks, mountain climbing plus birding.
Comparing Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest to Mgahinga’s
To begin with, almost half the population of remaining mountain gorillas in the world live in Bwindi impenetrable forest as their habitat. This makes Bwindi an outstanding park among the four gorilla parks in Africa. Bwindi which covers an area of 331 Square kilometres is much bigger than Mgahinga occupying 33 square kilometres. With its massive size, Bwindi boasts of over 20 gorilla families 19 of whom are habituated for trekking. Sadly, Mgahinga has only one habituated gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi gorilla group available for visiting by guests.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is done in four different gorilla sectors of the park each hosting more several gorilla families. There are also two groups Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors that are reserved for the captivating gorilla habituation experience, for which only 4 visitors are allowed to be with the gorillas for 4 hours. This distinctive gorilla experience can only be done in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and not in Mgahinga. Gorilla habituation experience is different from the standard and ordinary gorilla trekking where 8 visitors are permitted to visit a gorilla group and stay with it for only 1 hour.
Seeing gorillas is now fully guaranteed in both parks, even though there was a time when this was not the case Mgahinga. The Nyakagezi family that is now believed to have permanently settled in Mgahinga was infamous for crossing over to Rwanda and occasionally DR Congo stumbling all gorilla trekking activities in this minor park. Even if the Mgahinga gorillas are believed settled, you can never tell when they might choose embark on their border crossing habits.
Gorilla trekking in both Bwindi and Mgahinga can to be strenuous encompassing mountaineering through rough and steep topography to trace the gorilla groups. Nonetheless, it is largely acknowledged that the Nyakagezi family of Mgahinga is a much easier gorilla unit to trek. The Mgahinga group keeps itself in a shorter distance range compared to most of the gorilla families in Bwindi. As a huge woodland, visitors to Bwindi might need to hike deeper in the forest in search of some of the gorilla groups unlike Mgahinga. But on the other, some of the gorilla groups in Bwindi live not far from the starting points from where, finding them takes less than two hours.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga has got a few crowds since its only one gorilla family unit to visit and there expect 8 guests during briefing. The pre gorilla trekking briefings in Bwindi have bigger numbers since each sector does one gathering for briefing tourists who then disperse to different gorilla families of a particular sector. With Mgahinga’s less crowds, even after gorilla trekking, visitors may have more privacy to serenely enjoy the great scenery nearby the park.
Another unique advantage Mgahinga has over Bwindi is that it is the only national park in Uganda where tourists can spot both the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. This denotes that guests can combine gorilla trekking with golden monkey tracking in just a single trip. But having the attractive Golden Monkeys is not a complete triumph for Mgahinga as Bwindi also has chimpanzees. During Bwindi gorilla trekking, visitors by chance may spot chimpanzees along the tracks, an occurrence that is not possible with. Mgahinga.
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga offers an opportunity to guests to do mountain hiking unlike in Bwindi. Mgahinga has three Volcanoes in Mgahinga to choose including Mount Muhavura, Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga. Ascending to the peak of any of these volcanoes will reward tourists with spectacular views of Mgahinga National Park. Visiting Mgahinga also enables one to spot birds, forest mammals and primates like Golden Monkeys along the paths. There is no such an activity as mountain climbing in Bwindi, making Mgahinga a clear winner on mountain climbing.
For visitors who want exploring caves might need to opt for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga. Visiting the Garamba and Muhavura caves which were at one time used by the Batwa for storing food, royal housing plus gathering and preparing for war are good supplementary activities on top of gorilla trekking in Mgahinga. Both Bwindi and Mgahinga enable tourists to go visit the Batwa Pygmies during their time in the park. The Batwa Cultural Experience is a popular activity that could be included on the gorilla trekking itinerary. The Batwa were the original and dominant communities inhabiting the park for many centuries prior to their eviction from the park in 1991. The persistent decrease in number of mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other park wildlife were partly attributed the existence of the pygmies in the park. In order to effect gorilla conservation programmes, government decided to relocate the Batwa to outside the parks. This move was has never been a win-win approach for the Batwa as they never fully got integrated in their new communities with other human being. Experiencing the Pygmies’ way of life is largely more electrifying and satisfying in Mgahinga National Park. Mgahinga’s Batwa trail enables visitors to experience the Batwa lifestyle for more than 5 hours and inside the park as different from Bwindi. In Mgahinga, some of the Batwa are allowed in the park to play a role of local guides as they introduce visitors to their culture, antique caves, traditional stories, former war retreats, gods, sacred places, dances, language, dressing ways and hunting methods. Whereas in Bwindi, visitors ordinarily check on the Batwa outside the park for a little time after trekking mountain gorillas.
Both Bwindi and Mgahinga offer visitors with chances for nature walks but Bwindi seems to have an edge here over its counterpart. Tourists to Bwindi can take treads through numerous recognized trails like the Rushura trail, waterfall trail, Muzubijiro loop trail and Bamboo trail. One may also tour the local communities around Buhoma and study more about local brewing, languages, culture and entertainment.
Gorilla trekking safari costs are almost the same for both national parks. The price for Gorilla permits in both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park is at USD 700. Nonetheless, the whole gorilla expedition might cost between $1500 and $2000 basing on accommodation standard, number of tourists in a group as well as transport means used. The cost of a gorilla trip from Kigali in Rwanda is expected to be lower than a similar safari from Entebbe or Kampala. Flying Entebbe to Kihihi or Kisoro airport and then connect to the park might make the safari more costly than using ground transport to the same destinations for visiting gorillas.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is advantageously positioned close to one of Uganda’s biggest and most popular game parks, Queen Elizabeth National Park. After gorilla trekking, you may take about two hours to drive from Bwindi’s Buhoma Sector to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park offers opportunities of spotting elephants, crocodiles, Hippopotamus, the Uganda Kob, Antelopes, Buffaloes and the rare tree climbing lions in the massive southern Ishasha sector. Furthermore, in case anyone didn’t get the chance to see chimps during gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking at the spectacular Kyambura gorge or take a tour to the salt mining lake near the park to observe the attractive Flamingo birds. Bwindi’s nearness to Queen Elizabeth National Park lets visitors to effortlessly enjoy gorilla trekking, game drives and boat cruise in one Uganda tour which make it a truly marvelous African safari tour.
At both Bwindi and Mgahinga, similar gorilla trekking rules and regulations. These regulations were put in place to help protect endangered gorillas from human ailments and irritation from the continued human manifestation. Coming to see gorillas while sick with exchangeable sicknesses is banned. Per every group, eight visitors are permitted to trek gorillas in a day and stay strictly for a maximum duration of one hour. One must be 15 years and above to participate in the gorilla trekking excursion in any of the parks. It prohibited to smoke, use flashlight on camera or make unnecessary movements and noise in the presence of mountain gorillas in both Bwindi and Mgahinga.
The gorilla trekking packing list for either Bwindi or Mgahinga are the same. Any park that you select to visit, it would necessitate you to come along with long sleeved shirts, pants, long stockings, a hut, water-proof hiking shoes, sunscreen and a walking stick. Items like drugs, camera, binoculars, water and snack will ensure you have a comfortable time during the trekking adventure in any of the parks.
With transportation, you can freely reach both Mgahinga and Bwindi National park from Kampala or Kigali city by road or air. However, from Kampala, the distance to Bwindi is smaller compared to Mgahinga. But road, you can use public bus transport or a private car to reach the tourists destinations. Driving from Kampala, there are many routes to reach the park. The drive from Kampala to Kisoro, the major town proximate to the two parks is about 7 – 8 hours. In case you find this distance long and worried of sitting for long, it best to reach any of the two parks by taking a shorter distance from Kigali (4 hours) in Rwanda or use scheduled or charter flight from Entebbe. Fly Uganda and Aerolink operate flights from Kajjansi and Entebbe to Kisoro or Kihihi Airfield. Gorilla trekking enthusiasts in Bwindi can essentially land straight at Kihihi Airstrip which is not far from Ruhija sector in the east or Buhoma sectors in the north of Bwindi.
If you are still pondering about the best national park of the two, this is a little summarized conclusion for you. Bwindi forest is a world heritage site having half of the earth’s remaining numbers of mountain gorillas. It has 19 habituated gorilla families open for gorilla trekking or gorilla habituation experience. Bwindi nature walks are excellently organized in very nice trails. Getting to Bwindi from Kampala or Kigali by road is shorter than to Mgahinga. The positioning of Bwindi nearby Queen Elizabeth national park offer primate and safari fans have varieties during their Uganda Safari. Mgahinga’s one gorilla family with less crowds during gorilla trekking while allowing tourists opportunities to see golden monkey trekking, hike mountains and experience the Batwa pygmies make it a wonderful destination to consider. Finally, depending on your available time, preferred activities besides gorilla trekking and accommodation plus where you begin the trip from, the choice you make to visit any of the two parks will address your holiday satisfaction.
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