Why Most Travelers Prefer Bwindi than Mgahinga for Gorilla Trekking

Uganda hosts two national parks that protect the mountain gorillas. These are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Both parks are frequented by tourists looking for the popular and thrilling Uganda gorilla safaris, great trips that bring upclose encounters with the mountain gorillas.

Where is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is situated in South western Uganda. Its one of the biologically diverse rain forests in Uganda with ever green vegetation.The park is the most popular for gorilla trekking in the world. It hosts almost half of the world’s remnant population of the mountain gorillas. Of the estimated 1060 mountain gorillas, Bwindi hosts about 460 mountain gorillas that live within the forested park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest covers 321 squire Kilometres and is popularly famous for hosting mountain gorillas and it is characterised with tropical trees, shrubs and wetlands.

On the other hand, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda covering 33.7 squire Kilometers.  Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

In comparison, I prefer Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and below are the reasons justifying my statement:

Many Mountain Gorillas – It’s believed that over 400 Mountain Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable. This is almost half of the world’s mountain gorillas. With 21 habituated habituation Mountain Gorilla Families, Bwindi impenetrable National park offers Uganda much foreign exchange revenue. On the other hand, Mgahinga National Park protects one Gorilla Family known as Nyakagezi.

Over 120 mammals are found in Bwindi Impenetrable national Park. Among the mammals include forest elephants, forest Antelopes, leopards and many primates like including monkeys, chimpanzees among others.

Gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National Park are mobile but do not cross the boarders to the neighboring Rwanda or DRC therefore, meeting Gorillas in Bwindi Forest is guaranteed. Unlike in Mgahinga National Park, Nyakagezi Gorilla family is so mobile and sometimes cross boarders to Rwanda.

About 350 species of birds stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park including 23 Albertine rift valley endemics. Therefore, guests interested in birding safaris, Bwindi Impenetrable forest is a must visit.

Accessibility– In terms of accessibility, Bwindi impenetrable National Park is easily reached by road and air. You can fly from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Air strip to Kihihi or Kisoro Air strips. From there, you drive for few hours to Bwindi impenetrable National park. Alternatively, you can drive for 7-8hrs Entebbe Airport to Bwidi Impenetrable National Park.

Gorilla habituation is only done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Rushaga sector). Gorilla habituation enables guests spend 4hrs with Gorillas. Normal tracking allows one hour with Gorillas. On the other hand, Mgahinga National Park offers no Gorilla habituation.

Differences in relief – Mgahinga national Park is mountainous and unfit guests can’t maneuver. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is a bit gentle and manageable. It should be noted that Gorilla trekking involves walking through different land terrain before meeting Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.

Mgahinga National Park protects one habituated Mountain Gorillas known as Nyakagezi, Bwindi with more than 18 habituated gorilla families. For that note, guests are given chances to exercise their freedom of choice.

Meet the Batwa of Echuya Forest

Echuya Batwa, commonly known as pygmies, is an endangered group of people around Echuya Forest Reserve in Kisoro and Kabale Districts of South-Western Uganda. The Echuya is located in the Albertine Rift region recognized as an important eco-region. The Batwa are believed to have migrated from the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of wild animals to hunt, hence the name Kisoro, literally meaning “the area occupied by wild animals”. The Batwa live in small huts mainly made from sticks and grass. After your amazing gorilla safari in Bwindi Forest, you can take an excursion to the Batwa Community of Echuya.

“Originally, Batwa were forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers based in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, and are widely accepted as the original inhabitants of the region.  As their traditional forest lands and territories fell under the control of agro-industries and conservation agencies, the Batwa became squatters living on the edges of society. The establishment of the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks for Mountain Gorillas in 1991 enabled the authorities to evict the Batwa definitely from the forest.

Echuya Forest Reserve

Echuya Forest Reserve is located in the most densely populated area where, the average land holding per household is 0.8 ha and population density is 353.9 persons per km2.  Other than Batwa, the forest is surrounded by Bakiga, Hutu and Tutsi who comprise a bigger percentage of the population. Bakiga are commonly referred to by Batwa as Bairu. Batwa comprise about 5% of the population. Their households are scattered in various settlements in villages located adjacent to the forest. They include: Murubindi, Kashasha; Gitebe-Kanaba, Biizi-Rugeshi–Murora, Mukasaayi that comprises two settlements, Karengyere-Rwamahano and Kinyarushengye.

Before the declaration of the Echuya as a central government forest reserve, the forest was heavily encroached upon. Up to now, some activities such as wild hunting, collection of honey, mushrooms, water, bamboo for basket making, building poles, making of bee hives and fire wood are being carried out by both Batwa and non-Batwa dominant ethnic communities. Batwa, illegally hunt in the forest due to lack of alternative sources of proteins. The forest is also of cultural importance to the Batwa, who offer religious sacrifices to their gods.

The Batwa can be found in other places in Uganda like, Semliki National park, Mgahinga national park and Bwindi National park. Once visited they Demonstrate their culture, how they used to stay in the forests, how they used to start fire, the Hunting techniques, their songs and Dance. Some of them are not mixed blood due to intermarriages with other cultures.