Whereas this may appear to look like overpriced to some travelers, it’s important to take note that all proceeding from the revenues is put back into conservation to strengthen the lives of people living near the park so as to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and promote research. It is very wise to compensate locals since they are the custodians of resources for long they used to hunt bush meat, cultivate crops in the park which no longer takes place.
Mountain gorillas can be found near Mikeno forest lodge which is about 2 and a half hours drive from Goma town and from Bunagana Uganda border post. The visits to se gorillas are very genuine and you are likely to trek yourself and the guide or in very smaller groups.
Since the Democratic Republic of Congo tends to be avoided by most travelers, the low priced permit of gorilla trekking is intended to lure visitors to visit the Virunga national park given the improbability to visit the country at any given time. In contrast to Rwanda volcanoes national park highly priced permit is a compensation for the easy and quick access of the park considering the cheap cost of ground transportation.
Apparently the permit of gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is at 400 US dollars and visitors must have guides to trek gorillas. In Rwanda the permit is at 750 US dollars while in Uganda at 600 US dollars.
The park can be accessed by different routes that will include crossing borders to the DR Congo which can take several hours to verify and clear visas and other necessary documents.
From Uganda, the park can be accessed through the overland border post at Bunagana and it is located near gorilla trekking sites of Jomba and Bikenge. To cross over you will need to secure a local visa which can be purchased right at the border which can b used to visit the park.
The other route passes through the border at Gisenyi or Goma from Rwanda and border crossing can be easy if you pre- arranged visas and it might delay in case you need to acquire a visa at the border. This route can take 5 – 6 hours.
Alternatively visitors can fly into Goma town in the DR Congo from Entebbe Airport but still a visa must be arranged before you fly.
In comparison Rwanda’s volcanoes is only 2 hour drive from Kigali on tarmac roads whereas access to Bwindi and Mgahinga parks can take long about 10 hours of road driving from Uganda’s capital Kampala. This places Rwanda on top of Uganda and DR Congo in terms of accessibility (travel time and distance).
Rwanda, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo which is the best?
It does not matter where you want to go gorilla trekking but most important thing to note is whether you want gorilla trekking alone or you need to combine gorillas with a larger African wildlife safari, the best option should be to compare the price of permits and transportation costs. But generally the difference of the costs including transportation, permits and visas is slightly smaller. Eventually the whole experience rests with setting eyes to the gentle giants who share 95% of their genes with humans is very charming and unforgettable.