Last month, Rwanda doubled the price of gorilla permits effective immediately in a move that has had the Uganda travel trade debate the merits and demerits of the seemingly ambitious move.
In as far as gorilla tracking safaris (an encounter with the endangered Mountain gorilla is considered by most nature enthusiasts as one of the best experiences in the world) are concerned, Uganda is Rwanda’s direct competitor given that few tourists travel to DR Congo to track the gentle giants.
Citing the need for sustainability of conservation as a justification, Rwanda doubled price from $750 to $1500. Comparatively, Uganda, which is the other Mountain Gorilla safaris destination, charges $600 for a permit and according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), there are no immediate plans to increase the price.
Even before Rwanda’s doubling of the permits price, tracking gorillas in Rwanda cost more by $150.
While it was already cheaper to track Gorillas in Uganda, with the doubling of the price, it should be a no-brainer for any nature enthusiast out there who has not yet secured their date with the gentle giants to come to Uganda.
Beyond the fact that it is cheaper to track the famous and endangered Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, be advised that a safari to Uganda affords you much more for your money given the country’s diverse attractions.
An encounter with the gentle giants as they are usually referred to is an experience like no other according to a lot of nature enthusiasts.
When you read a lot of travel magazines write about Uganda as a destination, because the country is simply emerging from years of stagnation and has not been a big draw for tourists, they will tell you that besides gorilla tracking, the country has got a lot more to offer and after a visit, tourists are always left in awe.
Even when you choose a short stay of 4 days to go Gorilla tracking, be sure that beyond your encounter with the gorillas, your eyes will feast on the changing landscape as you travel across the country.
A lot of safari operators will include a detour in your itinerary to the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi – one of the most scenic places you will see ensconced between mountains. For your money, you will be wowed by your encounter with the gorillas and then some more.
For a short 5-day stay, you will take in sights in the Queen Elizabeth National Park with a chance of running into the famous tree-climbing lions of Ishasha before your encounter with the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
For an extra day, you can also meet the Batwa people who used to share the forest with the Mountain gorillas before they were asked to leave the forest to conserve the endangered great apes.
For those who have a lot more time, you can go on a 21-day safari all across Uganda visiting all of the country’s important nature reserves and parks – culminating into your encounter with the vulnerable Mountain Gorillas.
Over the 21 days, you will visit the source of the Nile, white water raft on the Nile, take in sights like Sipi Falls, the pre-historic Nyero rock paintings, one of the best national parks in Africa in Kidepo Valley, a slave trade relic in Fort Patiko and Murchison Falls National Park where you will find the endangered Rothschild giraffe.
Your 21-day safari will also take you to Kibale Forest National park – the ‘so called’ primate capital of East Africa where you will track chimpanzees. You will continue to scenic Queen Elizabeth National Park where you will go on an exciting boat safari along the Kazinga channel.
From here, you will arrive in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for your gorilla trek. But before you do meet the gorillas, take a nature walk in this verdant forest and meet the people who neighbour the park.
From your gorilla trek, you will make a transfer to Lake Bunyonyi – a destination that should be on the radar of every traveller to Africa given its beauty. From Bunyonyi, you will conclude your 21-day safari via Lake Mburo National Park for a chance to see game on horseback or on foot.
This is not to say that Uganda as a destination is devoid of challenges! No.
Like any travel destination, there are challenges including the quality of service, a poor road network in some of the tourist places, challenges in terms of conservation, under-funding in marketing etc but those are continually being addressed as destination Uganda recovers.
Generally speaking though, if you consider the $1500 that Rwanda is now charging for a gorilla permit, when you choose to visit Uganda as your next safari/holiday destination, you get to track the famed gorillas and much more.