Mountain Gorilla Numbers Surpass 1,000!
The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Rwanda, and Republic of Uganda release new census results. has just issued a Mountain Gorilla Census and the count is now over 1,000. Click here to read the Press Release.
This is truly awesome news and proves onece again how tourism promotes wildlife conservation. Click here or the Alpha Male (above) from the Nyakagezi Group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda to see a suggested Gorilla Trekking Itinerary.
The below short video is of two Mountain Gorilla Brothers playing. They are part of the Nyakagezi Group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda. This was shot when I was hosted by the Uganda Tourism Board during the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo in 2017.
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
Below is the statement by the Uganda Tourism Board that it will NOT increase Gorilla Trekking Permits. It is a little hard to see - but one of the five gorilla babies mentioned below is being held by its mother behind the Alpha Male. His name is "Christmas" as he was just born in December 2016!
No price increase for gorilla tours in Uganda
The Ugandan government has confirmed that it will maintain the $600 fee per person for gorilla permits and promises that there will be no price increase in Uganda.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority today announced that there will be no price increase in Uganda for a minimum of 12 months. Gorilla tracking charges will thus be maintained at $ 600 per person in peak season and $ 450 in low season.
In Uganda, sustainable gorilla tourism is a major contributor to the protection of these rare and endangered animals. Revenues from gorilla permits help to preserve the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas. Through tourism, the protection of animals also attracts worldwide attention and support. And gorilla tourism offers communities around national parks an economic perspective, as 20% of fees go directly to the local population in addition to tourism creating jobs. This avoids long-term conflicts between humans and animals as well as poaching.
“The mountain gorilla population in Uganda has been steadily increasing to about 550 individuals since the 1980s. This shows that our model for gorilla tourism works and both conservation and locals benefit from the tourism. We therefore have no reason to change anything or increase fees,” explains Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has in fact been very successful in the protection of mountain gorillas. Between September 2016 and January 2017 alone, there was a real baby boom with a total of five new-born mountain gorillas. This gives hope to conservationists, in the light of IUCN recently listing the mountain gorilla as critically endangered on the latest ”red list” of threatened species.
“Once you have looked into the eyes of a mountain gorilla, you understand how important it is to protect these primates. We therefore think it is important, that not only a wealthy minority can get the chance to experience these animals in their natural environment, but everyone who loves gorillas and wants to contribute to their conservation. Besides, we feel obliged to our tourism partners worldwide to keep prices stable”, said Stephen Asiimwe, CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board.
To protect these highly endangered primates, gorilla tracking is highly regulated. A maximum of 8 visitors per day are allowed for each gorilla group. Together with specially trained rangers, tourists hike into the rainforest and track the animals. Once the group is found, visitors can stay with them for about an hour only.
In Uganda, gorilla tracking can be done in two national parks: in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which protects the habitat of about 450 mountain gorillas living in 36 families. And the Mgahinga National Park on the border between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga has between 50-100 mountain gorillas. According to WWF there are only 880 mountain gorillas worldwide. The remaining population lives in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In light of Uganda’s recent marketing drives in Europe, tour operators in Germany, Austria and Switzerland expect a rise in demand for safaris in favor of Uganda. Uganda is not only absolutely safe for tourists, but also offers other attractions besides the mountain gorillas, such as safari tours in the ten national parks, chimpanzee tracking, hiking and mountaineering, boat cruises on the Nile as well as an immense variety of bird species.
The below has been reprinted with kind permission from Great Lakes Safaris & Uganda Lodges Ltd. The thoughtful analysis of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) substantial increase in charges for the Gorilla Trekking Permits has sent shockwaves through the Rwanda and Uganda Gorilla Trekking Communities. My sincere thank you to Sheila for her thoughts and analysis.
Sheila Kogo Malinga
Great Lakes Safaris & Uganda Lodges Ltd - Where the journey into the wild begins…!
Differences in Gorilla Tracking : Rwanda vs Uganda
Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Rwanda is pretty much the same experience although the factors that accompany the tracking are different.
One of the principle tracking difference in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – is that Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is in a thicker rain forest, with steeper slopes and ridges, compared to Rwanda where the Volcanoes National Park, mountain forest is open and the hiking gradient more evenly spread, making it relatively easier to track the Gorillas in VNP Rwanda compared in BWNP.
The similarity is the Mountain Gorilla, all in rain forest- accessible by a mountain hike. It also the case that Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is closer to Kigali, the Capital of Rwanda, compared to Uganda whose capital city Kampala is 495km away.
Our experience in tracking Gorillas both is Uganda and Rwanda is that different persons arrive at different conclusions in comparing the Gorillas- whereby the younger, stronger and more fit person experience a preference for Uganda where they feel they have worked for the eventual coming to the Gorillas experience as opposed to Rwanda, where they find it easier and more ‘zoo-like’ in their opinion although we do not share that opinion.
For the more elderly person- I would say above 50, whose principal interest is to see the Gorillas and do not necessarily have massive doses of energy to extend in that quest, they tend to have a preference for Rwanda. Also persons who desire to do multiple Gorilla treks also have a preference for the easier option but there is a general tendency for some people to believe that the Gorilla Tracking in Uganda is a more authentic quest in search of these ‘gentle giants’ of the forest.
Also for persons with very limited time, obviously Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda being so close to Kigali, within 2.5 hours drive is a big advantage. However for persons with more time, gorilla tracking in Uganda tends to be more appealing as they have many options of extending their tour in Uganda with her hugely more diverse tourism product as opposed to Rwanda where gorilla tracking seems to be the thing and there is nothing much else- meaning
Rwanda has failed to deliver as a standalone tourist destination.
For the budget sensitive person the lower price of gorilla permits $600 in Uganda versus $1500 in Rwanda, coupled with the hugely attractive low season rate in Uganda of $450 (April-May and November) and not available in Rwanda is a huge appeal.
All the gorilla habituated families in Rwanda are accessible from one starting point , although the distances to the various trail heads differ- while in Uganda the Gorilla families are divided between the Northern section of Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park called Buhoma and the Southern Section called Nkuringo and therefore the difference between the North and the South prohibiting and necessitate persons tracking gorillas in the North to also choose accommodation in the Northern section and vice-versa for the southern section.
This also gives the impression that tracking in Uganda has an added tendency to seem un-crowded.
In the end, Rwanda is Rwanda and Uganda is Uganda – two distinctively different countries. It is hard to really say which is better or not better rather that different persons comparing tend to arrive at different conclusions making it more an issue of personal choice/preferences.