Rwanda to Uganda Gorilla Tours

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Mountain Gorilla trekking expeditions can only be engaged in when one visits the 3 African countries that still keep these animals’ habitats intact. Mountain Gorillas can’t survive outside their habitats and these can only be found in Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mount Mgahinga Gorillas Park, Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and Congo (Virunga National Park). Much as there are three countries one can visit for Gorilla trekking, there are some factors that restrict a traveller’s choice for a particular destination; the costs for the Gorilla permits, stability of the tracking area, accessibility of the place and the uniqueness of the tracking area. Apparently, the cost of the Gorilla permit and the stability of the tracking area have been the major factors for travellers’ choice for a tracking area.

With a raise in the fees for Rwanda Gorilla permits, Uganda and Congo remained as the only destination options for travellers who yearn to realise their Gorilla trekking dream at a lower cost. Despite Congo having the lowest fee for the Gorilla permit of all these 3 countries, the political unrest together with natural disaster outbreaks turn many visitors away hence remaining with Uganda as their only option. A Gorilla permit for Rwanda is at US$1500 which is more than double the cost for that of Uganda. In Uganda, a permit fee is US$700 and $450 in Congo.

Flexibility in one’s choice for the Gorilla trekking destination (between Uganda and Rwanda) is supported by the geographical location of these two countries. Uganda and Rwanda are neighbours with good political and economic relations. They are both members of the East African Community which was established to ensure free movement of goods and services among member countries with others being Kenya and Burundi. This is partly the reason as to why Rwanda-Uganda Gorilla tours are trending. A tip off to any traveller that he/she can track Gorillas in Uganda when departing and returning to any part of Rwanda!

Arrive/fly into Kigali airport of Rwanda and track Gorillas in Uganda.

When making flight bookings, you may realise that fares to Rwanda’s Kigali International airport are lower compared to Uganda’s Entebbe airport yet you would like to track Gorillas in Uganda because the cost of the permit is lower than that of Rwanda, please go ahead and confirm your flight. Inform Jungle Escape Africa about this plan and we make your trip arrangements accordingly.

When departing Rwanda, the drive time to the Gorilla parks is less compared to that from Entebbe International airport. Depending on the sector of the park one is visiting, it usually takes between 4-5 hours from Kigali and 8-9 hours from Entebbe or Kampala.

From Kigali City of Rwanda via Chanika or Gatuna border points, it is a shorter drive of 4-5 hours to get to Bwindi Forest Park or Mgahinga Gorillas Park compared to the 8 or 9 hours from Entebbe/Kampala. At the latest, plan to leave Kigali any time before 3.PM and it all depends on the sector of Bwindi you are visiting. Some sectors are closer to Kigali than others.

When you finally take a decision to fly into Kigali but track Gorillas in Bwindi or Mgahinga parks, you will be lucky to visit two countries at the same and shortest time.

Rwanda – Uganda border crossing There is free movement of goods and services between Uganda and Rwanda courtesy of the East African Community to which these 2 countries are members. With this, tourists move freely across the borders. Even the trade issues that may arise between these two countries can’t deter/restrict tourists’ movements.

When visiting Uganda for Gorilla trekking, we usually use 2 border points of Cyanika and Katuna. The choice of the border through which to cross largely depends on the place where one is destined to do the Gorilla trek. We use Chanika border if the Gorilla trekking place is Mount Mgahinga Gorillas Park or any of the southern sectors of Bwindi(Nkuringo and Rushaga). Chanika is further from Kigali but very close to the above mentioned places. It is usually 3 hours of driving from Kigali to Chanika and one hour from the border to either Mgahinga Park or to the southern sectors of Bwindi Park(Nkuringo and Rushaga).

When the tracking destination is in the northern sectors of Bwindi Forest Park (Buhoma and Ruhija), we use the Gatuna (Katuna) border point. Gatuna is the closest from Kigali and the most preferred for many travellers. It is a 2 hours drive from Kigali to Katuna. However note that we can still use either borders to reach the respective Gorilla trekking destinations (mentioned above) and it is a requirement to get there a day before the tracking date.

Visa processing at the Rwanda/Uganda borders. Both Rwanda and Uganda have an open border policy which allows visitors to obtain visas on arrival at any entry point without prior applications. This applies to not only the airports but also the border points. With all the required documents, visa processing at the border is a hustle free process that usually takes not beyond 10 minutes. Each of these countries’ visas (tourist) are at US$50 payable only in cash.

Now that your plan is to fly into Kigali and track Gorillas in Uganda or visit Uganda for any other purpose, you are advised to get an East African Tourist visa at US$100 than obtaining one for Rwanda and again do another process at the border to get that for Uganda. This will save you a lot of time at the border. Also the same East African visa can be used to visit other East African countries of Kenya and Burundi except Tanzania. Tanzania is not a member of the East African Community.

The best time to leave Rwanda for Uganda on a Gorilla trekking trip. When planning to leave Kigali for any Gorilla trekking destination in Uganda, consider to set off any time from morning upto 3.PM (latest) especially when your tracking points are in the further sectors of Buhoma or Ruhija. Since they involve longer drives through the forest, it might be risky to drive when it gets darker (at night). Sometimes at night, elephants come out of the forest to rest in the middle of the roads hence blocking all movements until morning when they disperse back to the forest, but this rarely happens. Another incidence could be for a big tree which can fall and block the road and it could be far from the park staff to reach and clear it at that late hour. Although rare, also bear in mind the possibility of some delay at the border.

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