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Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?
  
 
rcm123
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


I am in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to Africa to photograph the mountain gorillas. I am aware that treks are guided from within Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From my reading so far, it's difficult to determine whether the photo ops (number of gorillas likely to be observed) may be better in one country or another. Also, any input on best time of year, weather, etc. would be most appreciated. Thanks.


Sep 26, 2017 at 09:43 PM
Bobg657
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


We went to Rwanda in February and had a great time on two gorilla treks. Rwanda is the safest and most comfortable of the choices, but also the most expensive (licenses are $750/day) however the money goes to pay for Rangers and defending the animals. Uganda is just on the other side of the same mountain park and is cheaper, perhaps someone else has gone there and can chime in. I believe the DRC is unsafe now, they have lowland gorillas rather than mountain.

In Rwanda they have a limited number of licenses per day so you have to plan ahead. They divide up trekkers by physical ability and assign 8 per group. We visited two different families on successive days, fortunately both were only a 1-2 hour trek as some trekked all day to see their family.



Sep 27, 2017 at 02:53 AM
tek9
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


We went to Uganda in 2015 (also in February - the weather was great). We rented a rav4 from a legit company and self drove ourselves around for a week.

Permits for gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest were $600 per day and the car rental company assisted us in obtaining them prior to arrival. Money also goes in majority to conservation program.

You get to spend exactly 1 hour with gorillas once you find them. You're instructed to keep at least 6m away and don't look them in the eyes. No eating or drinking while in the presence of gorillas.

There are 4 different locations in Bwindi Forest you can do tracking at (and every location has specific number of gorilla families + a daily limit of visitors). The kicker is - you never know which gorilla family group you're going to see until the very morning of the trek into the jungle in the specific location. So you don't know what the composition of the family is going to be (some families have more silverbacks or more young males etc).

Sometimes the trackers locate the group very close to the start of your trek (30-45 minutes), sometimes it's a 3-4 hour slog through the jungle. Gorillas move around daily, so sometimes you'll find them in the shaded jungle, sometimes in an open clear cut with less vegetation.

Photos from our trip are in this album on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lukemeup/sets/72157648879451113/



Sep 28, 2017 at 05:11 AM
rcm123
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


Bobg657, sorry for the delay in responding to your post, I've been on the road for the past week. Thank you very much for the information, it is very helpful in my planning. Is it fair to assume that a 70-200mm lens would be sufficient, or would you recommend bringing a 100-400 as well?


Oct 05, 2017 at 01:04 AM
rcm123
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


Tek9, thank you very much for the information and the Flickr link. Much appreciated. What is your advice regarding how far in advance to purchase the permits? Also, my sense is that once I determine what month to travel, the first priority would be to purchase the permits and only then make the flight reservations, etc. Does that make sense to you?


Oct 05, 2017 at 01:10 AM
Bobg657
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


I found the 70-200 full frame range just fine, we got very close to the gorillas. If possible take a fast lens as light can be limited in the forest.


Oct 05, 2017 at 05:14 AM
 

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PerTulip
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


rcm123 wrote:
I am in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to Africa to photograph the mountain gorillas. I am aware that treks are guided from within Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From my reading so far, it's difficult to determine whether the photo ops (number of gorillas likely to be observed) may be better in one country or another. Also, any input on best time of year, weather, etc. would be most appreciated. Thanks.


I was in Rwanda and in Uganda this year.

Price: DRC about $250 for the permit, Uganda $600, Rwanda $1500 (increased this year).

Getting your permits is the most important thing. No permit, no Gorillas. And forget about getting one on location. I travel by myself, so had to get the permits, if you hire an operator for a whole package, the permits are included.

Rwanda is supposed to have the easier hikes. But it completely depends on where your (Gorila) group decides to be that day. Sometimes you hike 15min, sometimes 2hrs. Same for the photo opportunities. Choosing Rwanda or Uganda makes less difference that the location the group decides to the day of your visit. I didn't consider DRC because it's a nightmare.

Time of year: dry or wet season make a difference. I always try to go in the dry season. I the wet season there's the possibility of wading through ankle-deep mud for hours.

Gear: photo gear, a lot of liquids, some food. Hire a porter if you are not used to carrying a heavy load for hours (depends on group).

As said, luck plays a role.Your Gorilla can decide to just sleep in the bushes or the young Gorillas can decide to play like crazy. That makes the difference, not choosing Rwanda or Uganda.



Oct 15, 2017 at 05:22 PM
tek9
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


rcm123 wrote:
Tek9, thank you very much for the information and the Flickr link. Much appreciated. What is your advice regarding how far in advance to purchase the permits? Also, my sense is that once I determine what month to travel, the first priority would be to purchase the permits and only then make the flight reservations, etc. Does that make sense to you?


We purchased the permits before flying to Uganda (it was organized by the company we were renting the car from - and they charged $50 to handle it for us if I remember correctly). The permits were secured 2-3 weeks before our trip (but after purchasing the airfare). We didn't really use a 'tour operator' as the cost seemed pretty damn high for those organized trips... but we're pretty frugal.

We just rented the car for 8 days (before heading to Kenya to trek Mt Kenya) and drove from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park 1st (if you're there - take the boat cruise in the Kazinga channel) and to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest after that. The car included camping gear, so we camped on all but 2 nights - the national park campgrounds are secure, many places in Bwindi let you pitch a tent too. If you're not adventurous to drive yourself (on the left side of the road) - you can also hire a driver.

If you're deciding on Uganda - I can recommend b&b we stayed in near the airport and the car rental company (believe me - wiring the money in advance to cover the cost of permits gave us a very funny feeling - but it all turned out ok). One of the most memorable experiences in my travels so far.

Also - if you're a birder - reserve some more time to spend in Uganda. I'm not - but the number of different species of birds was pretty mindblowing.



Oct 16, 2017 at 02:23 AM
rcm123
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


Thanks very much for your input. It's very helpful in my planning process.


Oct 16, 2017 at 11:41 AM
rcm123
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


To PerTulip and Tek9, my thanks for the information was intended for both of you.


Oct 16, 2017 at 11:43 AM
PerTulip
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC?


rcm123 wrote:
To PerTulip and Tek9, my thanks for the information was intended for both of you.


Your welcome.

The Gorilla treks are very well organized. Just make sure you have your permit and arrive at the meeting point on time.



Oct 16, 2017 at 02:32 PM







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