If you have your heart set on seeing the rarer mountain gorillas you are looking at a trip to Uganda or Rwanda and here are is what you should consider: Gorilla permits in Rwanda have recently increased to $1500 per person. They are $600 per person in Uganda with a removal of the low season package. The permit gets you an hour of time spent with the gorillas with an 8 person group. If you buck at the price think of it this way. You are contributing to the preservation of gorillas and as a “thank you” you get to spend an hour with them. Remember only 80 people a day get to see them and their habitat is very fragile. Every time you walk through the forest you are leaving a footprint.
Rwanda provides the easiest access to gorilla trekking safaris so it is your best option if you are combining it with a safari to Kenya or Tanzania or if you only have a few days. The town of Ruhengeri, the jumping off point for trekking in Volcanoes National Park, is only a few hours’ drive on excellent roads from the capital (and its international airport) Kigali. Seeing gorillas in Uganda is more of a process and involves an 8-10 hour drive from the international airport in Entebbe. I recommend making Uganda a full 8-day trip with stops along the way instead of just a place to see gorillas whereas you could see gorillas in Rwanda in just a few days.
Seeing mountain gorillas can involve 2-4 hours of hiking to find them. In both Uganda and Rwanda this is going to be a long day and the hikes can vary quite a bit depending on where the animals spent the night and which troop you are seeing. That being said, the general experience is that treks in Rwanda are slightly easier while those in Uganda are slightly more strenuous. Again there are no guarantees either way. I have friends who hiked for three hours in Rwanda before finding a troop while my group came across a troop in just over an hour in Uganda.
Trekking takes place 8000 – 10,000 feet above sea level, not high enough for altitude sickness but high enough to knock the breath out of anybody, no matter how fit, who has just flown in from a low altitude. For this reason, visitors who are spending a while in Rwanda might think seriously about leaving their gorilla tracking until they have been in the country a week or so, and are better acclimatized (most of Rwanda lies at about 5000 feet). Likewise, if you are coming from elsewhere in Africa try to plan your itinerary so that you spend your last pre – trek days at medium to high altitude.
There are 10 habituated troops in Rwanda and 8 in Uganda and they can move freely between the countries so this really doesn’t need to be a consideration. The gorilla trekking system is similar in all countries and because gorillas are followed on a daily basis, a sighting in all the locations is virtually guaranteed.