Chimpanzee Trekking Versus Gorilla Trekking?

“Tracking Chimps through the dense forest I felt giddy, slightly nervous, exhilarated and was stunned by the noisy sounds as they were communicating to each other”


Before I started working for The Gorilla Safari Company, I had the opportunity to visit Uganda with my daughter and a friend. We planned lots of fabulous activities such as safaris, boat cruises, community activities and chimp trekking. To be honest, we had opted for chimp trekking rather than gorilla trekking due to cost reasons but in fact the chimp trek turned out to be one of our absolute highlights of the trip. Of course, having done the chimp trek we then all instantly regretted not having arranged to go gorilla trekking too!! Fortunately, a number of years later, I finally got to see the gorillas in the wild and it was just as magical as I had hoped it would be.

We are often asked which we would recommend – gorilla trekking or chimp trekking.  Either experience, to be fair, is extraordinary as they both give you such a fascinating insight into these primates and their natural habitat.

“And there they were, the gorilla family we had set out to trek just a few hours before….… playing in the trees above, chilling on the forest floor whilst eating and quietly grooming one another. It was such a gentle sight and I felt as if I had stepped into another world.”

Alison T

Differences between Tracking Gorillas and Chimpanzees

  • Cost – Chimp trekking is considerable cheaper than gorilla trekking.
  • Gorilla trekking can be more strenuous with the forest conditions, altitude, and the uncertainty as to where the family will have roamed to in the forest.
  • Chimpanzee trekking is generally less of a challenge with flatter terrain but you will have to be prepared to sometimes move quickly if you need to follow the chimps who move swiftly through the forest
  • Gorilla trekking will generally be more peaceful than the noisy and sometimes frantic and erratic behaviour of the chimps who move noisily through the canopy, showing off their acrobatic prowess.
  • Your trekking group to view the chimps will be around 10-12 guests whereas for a gorilla trek there will be no more than 8 guests per group.
  • The minimum age for trekking chimpanzees is 12 years old, whereas for gorillas it is 15 years – they are very strict about this, a copy of your passport will be required to secure your permits.

Similarities between Tracking Gorillas and Chimpanzees

  • You will be given up to one hour for both treks from when they are first sighted by the group (this is to make sure they are not over exposed to human presence).
  • Both activities require a permit.
  • Your group will be led by an experienced ranger.

Physical Comparisons and Similarities

Both are great ape primates.  Neither have tails and both have larger brains compared to their body weight and have opposing fingers and toes.  Gorillas, however, have less flexible feet and hands than chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees spend more time up in the trees than gorillas and they also live longer.

Chimpanzees just beat gorillas on the intelligence front as they are ever so slightly more closely related to humans but both do share more than 98% of human DNA.  Chimpanzees will only pick ripe fruit and leave others to ripen (baboons who are not as clever will pick anything and discard the unripe fruits).

Gorillas are the largest living primate but these “gentle giants” are so peaceful and beautiful to watch whereas chimps can be pretty aggressive between and within their family community.

Both gorillas and chimps have emotions, like grief.  One ranger who had buried a dead chimp noticed that 2-3 months later a chimp came back and sat on the grave with his head in hands mourning!

Where can I trek the Chimps? 

Kibale National Park, Uganda is one of the best and most reliable places to trek chimpanzees, where approx. 1,500 Chimpanzees live. Elsewhere in Uganda, chimp trekking can be done in Kyambura Gorge or at Budongo Forest although sightings are less guaranteed.

You can also trek chimps in Rwanda (Nyungwe Forest) and Tanzania (Mahale Mountains).

Where can I see Mountain Gorillas?

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda and Mgahinga National Pak, Uganda.

How much will it cost?

We will arrange to purchase your permits for you as part of the trip that you take with us so it is nice and straightforward. All your arrangements will be taken care of from the moment that you land to the moment that you leave.

Gorilla permits vary in price:

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda: US$1500 per person
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda: US$800 per person

This cost includes the ranger and his support team who will guide you on your trek.  By purchasing a permit you are making a significant contribution to supporting local conservation efforts to protect the gorillas.

Chimpanzee permits also vary in price:

Kibale National Park, Uganda: US$250 per person

Kyumbura Gorge, Uganda: US$100 per person

Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda: US$150 per person

Mahale National Park, Tanzania: US$150 per person

When to go?

With Rwanda and Uganda both being close to the equator there is a similar climate all year round and any rainy periods really do not affect the movement of the gorillas or chimps.  However, we would say the optimal time to travel and enjoy the clearer air and less muddy terrain would be just after the 2 rainy seasons mid-December to early February or the longer dry season from June to September.

For more information on what to wear, tipping and more information about a gorilla trek please see our Travel Tale – Gorilla Trekking:  Preparing for an Adventure of a Lifetime!

Gorilla Trekking – Preparing for an Adventure of a Lifetime! – The Gorilla Safari Company

In summary, we know from our experiences and those of our clients that both treks will leave an imprint on your soul and memories to last forever. If you can and as a final tip, do try and experience both, as it really is a priceless opportunity.

To further discuss holiday plans and ideas please do get in touch to chat through options with our passionate African experts. Get in touch