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Rwanda, Uganda or both?

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I am currently planning our second safari (last year we spent a month in Tanzania). This time I'd like to see the mountain gorillas and I was wondering if anyone would recommend Rwanda over Uganda, or vice versa, or whether you feel it's best to visit both. I'm not sure if the season makes a difference, but we're planning for January or February, 2008.

Also, we intend to visit Selous in Tanzania (meeting up with some people we met at Mahale last year) and probably a couple other places in Tanzania (for example, Kusini). What is the best route? Should we land in Entebbe, travel to Kigali and then head to Kilamanjaro airport from there? Any advice would be appreciated.

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    I liked both, having made 5 trackings last December, but it depends on how much time you have and how many trackings you will do. Every group is different. There are many threads and trip reports for you to research here also.

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    Ideally, do both countries and do more than gorillas.

    If your focus is mainly gorillas, I'd suggest Rwanda, but would not discourage you from Uganda. I found the gorillas easier to see/photograph in Rwanda than in the Impenetrable Forest of Uganda.

    The higher altitude of Rwanda made for much cooler hiking in the month of July (could be a different story in January) than I had experienced in Uganda.

    A minor point: Assuming the procedures have not changed, choosing which group you wished to see at the last minute was easier in Rwanda, whereas Uganda permits for a specific group had to be bought in advance and could not be easily switched.

    To economize on your travel days it is possible to arrive in Kigali and spend the night, then leave about 4:00 am the next morning in time for the gorilla trekking briefing at about 8:00 am at the ranger station. I did not do that and I would not do that, but it was quite common, saving travelers a day.

    You also can see the golden monkeys in Rwanda for a fraction of the cost of the gorillas, spending an hour with them like the gorillas. These amazing and beautiful creatures jumped from branch to branch, flying about not far above our heads. No binocs needed.

    However Uganda is a good choice for gorillas, chimps, and other game. Uganda allows only 6 visitors and Rwanda allows 8 for gorillas. Only once did I actually have all 8 in Rwanda, with only 5, 4 and 2 on the other visits. In Uganda twice I had less than 6.

    You may be considering doing other safari activities in Uganda or Rwanda besides gorillas.

    The only other thing I did in Rwanda was the Never Again Memorial in Kigali, a tremendously moving experience. There is also Akagera with open plains and Nyungwe with many habituated primates.

    Uganda has some wonderful additional options. Ngamba is a Jane Goodall chimp sanctuary on an island off Entebbe that you can visit for the day or several days and even be a volunteer, which I did and it was awesome. These chimps have been rescued from bad situations and live in a wild, but managed setting.

    There is Queen Elizabeth Nat Park with the amazing Kazinga Channel, with hippo, bird or other wildlife spottings every minute of the river launch. You can do chimp trekking in Chambura Gorge in QE. There is also a cool bat cave in QE and good all around game, especially elephant. QE offers your best shot at the elusive giant forest hog.

    Kibale Nat Park is great for chimps. We even saw them using a stick as a tool to cut figs from trees.

    Further north is Murchison Falls, which is now safe. Never been to that park, but believe it would be a great place to visit.

    You could easily visit both Uganda and Rwanda and I'd recommend it. I had a road transfer from Uganda to Rwanda. If you did it in the opposite direction, you can save a day. You can track in Rwanda in the morning and reach Bwindi to overnight, then track the next day.

    Weather for each country

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    Having recently seen gorillas in both Rwanda and Uganda, here are some comparisons. Almost everything that Lynn just tld you is correct, except that Uganda has now increased the maximum tourists to 8 per gorilla family. Our two treks in Uganda were both fully booked, as were both our treks in Rwanda.

    In a lot of ways, the gorilla trekking experience in the two countries is similar. The gorillas are habituated, the rangers are polite and professional, and the number of tourists and length of time with the gorillas is the same. Both the ORTPN and the UWA give certificates to successful gorilla trekkers.

    Physically, the trekking in Uganda can either be somewhat more difficult than Rwanda or, if you go to the H group, a whole lot harder. As Lynn mentioned, Buhoma is at lower altitude than Ruhengeri (4800 feet vs. 7000), so it is warmer in Uganda, and there are a lot more bugs in the forest. Some of the tourist groups in Rwanda are in less-dense forest than Bwindi is, but that is not always the case -- for example, five of the tourist groups in Rwanda live in a very dense bamboo forest between Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Sabinyo. Then again, some of the groups in both countires routinely hangout in semi-open fields outside the park boundaries (Group 13 in Rwanda and the Nkuringo Group in Uganda do this).

    I will tell you that my best day of gorilla observation and photography was without question in Bwindi (the Habinyanja Group), but that is certainly a function of chance rather than a reflection that there is anything inherently superior about doing it in Bwindi.

    In the end, if you really want to ensure a good viewing experience, the most important thing is to schedule a large number of treks. Doing them in two different places hedges the risk that you might get a whole week of rain in one location (as will sometimes happen). So, I am very happy that we decided to split our four treks between Rwanda and Uganda. If you have the physical fitness to do that, I think it is the way to go.

    You can get a good idea about the types of experiences we had in the two countries by looking at our pictures at

    Good luck in planning your trip!

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    I went with my daughter and 2 friends to Uganda and Rwanda. We trekked in both places. Our experience was a little different from the first responder. Although more difficult, Rwanda had the best gorilla viewing for us, b/c we entered the forest from the field. If you are going to Rwanda to trek, BRING GARDEN GLOVES AND RUBBER PANTS. There were STINGING NETTLES where we were and, by golly, they stung through safari pants, long sleeve shirts and socks! Worth it though.

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