Gorillas in the midst
August 31, 2012 2:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in Tanzania with a friend in a couple of months after some medical volunteering in Kenya, and I'd like to see gorillas while they're still around. Does anyone have a recommended group to do this through, or one with a good reputation?
posted by Silentgoldfish to Travel & Transportation around Tanzania (10 answers total)
My wife has just booked a gorilla tour with On the Go Tours (link--search the site for 'gorillas'). Can't speak specifically to the gorilla tour but she and I have been on other tours with them in Egypt, South America and Russia, and they seem professional and well organised.
posted by Logophiliac at 3:10 AM on August 31, 2012

Gorillas in Tanzania?

The famous mountain Gorillas are in the Virungas Mountains -- Uganda and Rwanda and the Congo (which, due to civil war, is out of reach.)

The less famous lowland gorillas are in west central Africa and central Africa (DRC, again), and the tourism infrastructure is not well developed (ie, few habituated troops).

Monkeys and other primates, on the other hand, Tanzania has some of those.
posted by notyou at 8:06 AM on August 31, 2012

Yeah, are you wanting to see the mountain gorillas? If so, you need to do that in Rwanda or Uganda and book a slot in advance ($500/person in Uganda and $750/person in Rwanda). I just went a month or so ago and it is absolutely worth the steep fee. You can also see mountain gorillas in the DRC, near Goma, but that is not a safe bet considering the recent upflare in rebel activity in that very region of the Kivus.

I am not aware of there being any gorillas in Tanzania, and certainly no mountain gorillas.
posted by Falconetti at 8:15 AM on August 31, 2012

Gorillas are in Uganda and Rwanda, not Tanzania. If you go to Uganda, you buy the permit from a governement agency, and you don't have a choice about an organization that takes you up. Tour/Travel companies that are selling trips to see the gorillas are selling transportation, accomodation, and the service of purchasing the permit for you. That being said, it's fairly easy to facilitate all that yourself, without a travel company.

Can you confirm that you're just confused about the location of the gorillas? And that Uganda or Rwanda is what you're looking for? And if you'd rather do a package tour or are looking for a la carte recommendations? Because then i'll get out my mental rolodex of recommendations :)
posted by Kololo at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2012

Response by poster: Hah, no that was my bad. We've got two weeks and I was thinking we could both climb mount Kilimanjaro in tanzania and see the gorillas in Uganda - So I had the countries mixed up. She reckons now that in two weeks we'll only have time for one or the other. So I've got to decide which I want to do more!

So, if we do go gorillas (and I'm leaning more towards that) we're pretty flexible about where we'll be. Which would you say is better, Uganda or Rwanda?
posted by Silentgoldfish at 12:20 AM on September 1, 2012

I've done neither, but I've done a lot of copywriting about both for safari travel agencies. So, grain of salt.

What time of the year are you going? It'll influence your decision, both in terms of cost and climate.

Both are popular, but climbing Kilimanjaro is really popular and within the reach of lots of travelers. There's likely to be lots of tourist climbers on the mountain when you are. Somebody who has done it will have to share whether or not this affected their experience negatively. I see it as a negative.

For that reason, I'd choose* gorillas.

Rwanda's gorilla tourism industry is more established than Uganda's, Rwanda hosts more habituated troops than Uganda does (although they move around a bit), and travel between the airport and the park is shorter (Kigali - Vulcans = 2+ hours; Kampala - Bwindi/Virunga = 6-9+ hours). Rwanda offers the most direct access to the gorillas. Uganda offers more variety on the way.

If money was not much of an object, and since I'd have a couple of weeks, I'd choose Uganda and combine the gorilla trip with a few days in Queen Elizabeth Park.

*OK, really, what I'd do is I'd skip both gorillas and Kili and and visit Tarangire Natl Park in Tanzania (or go further south to the Selous Game Reserve) for a few days, then onto Zanzibar for a few more.
posted by notyou at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2012

Oh, forgot to share this previous AskMe about climbing Kili.
posted by notyou at 9:38 AM on September 1, 2012

I've done both - climb Kili and see the gorilla, although on separate trips. You have enough time in two weeks to do both, although it would be tight. I did Kili in 6 days with 1 days of prep before and 1 day of recuperation afterwards, so that is 8 days. Then travel to Dar es Salaam and fly to Entebbe, Uganda, probably at least anbother day. Then 1 day traveling to Bwindi, then 1 day visiting gorillas, then 1 day back to Entebbe. Maybe throw in one more day depending on the timing of flights. That is 13-14 days.

Uganda is cheaper to see the gorillas and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have heard it is not much different in Rwanda, but I have never experienced it there. I think there is more to do in Uganda as far as safari (Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo, Murchinson Falls, Kibale Forest, etc.) and adventure experiences (whitewater rafting and lots of adventure type stuff near Jinja in the east), so it may make sense to plan your trip around Uganda.

If you do the mountain instead, Tanzania has some great parks already mentioned, but Ngorongoro Crater stole the show for me.

Let us know what you decide.
posted by Falconetti at 9:05 AM on September 5, 2012

Also, as far as tourists on Kili, we did the Rongai Route and it was deserted (this was in January a couple years ago). It is the least frequented route and only moderate difficulty. On the way back we took a more frequented route and I didn't like seeing all the tourists. If you want to avoid tourists, choose Rongai.
posted by Falconetti at 9:08 AM on September 5, 2012

I've done both as well - but I did the gorillas in Rwanda. I had a fantastic experience.

I agree you should go with Rongai for Kili, if I had it to do over I'd do that. I chose Machame for specific reasons but also wasn't well advised before hand that it was growing to become the most popular route at the time. I got significantly slowed down on the trail by tourists, which as a climber trying to do a 4-5 day trek, was frustrating. I think you could definitely do Kili and the gorillas in either UG or Rwanda, but don't rush yourself on Kili or you'll hurt your chances of making the summit.

Rwanda is much more expensive to see the gorillas but from my understanding it was more of a "sure thing" whereas in Bwindi it can be more "hit-and-miss." That case may be changing, but when I went I didn't want to spend the money and potentially not see anything.

For Rwanda, you arrive in Kigali, and depending on your flight time, if you had ~3 hours before dark you could get the drive up to Ruhengeri done the same day (after picking up your passes at the park office in town). Then you hotel it overnight and are up early in the morning to go to the Rangers' office - get there super early and start lobbying for the group of gorillas you want to go see. Only 10 people get to go see each group, I lobbied for the biggest group at the time - Suswa. Take layered hiking gear and definitely some leather gloves and a rain jacket. Its thick bush. Be ready for a lot of hiking. I would potentially consider doing gorillas before Kili as you don't want a burnt-out body giving up on you during the gorillas' hike.

Hope this helps - I'm in Nairobi so feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to meet up and get more of my personal experience. I have a good friend who's a local guide in northern TZ who I could hook you up with for the Kili climb too if you're interested.

Safari njema.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:05 AM on October 8, 2012

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