Mountain gorillas are impressively magnificent and the most sought after attractions in the world. You can only find them in three countries-Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Setting yourself into the wilderness to see these extraordinary primates is such a splendid travel experience of a life time! Currently, there are less than 900 mountain gorillas that are still living in the world and visitors can only track them in any of the four national parks that are situated in the heart of Africa. In Uganda, visitors have only two choices to track these spectacular Apes in the wild and nowhere else except the misty valleys of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park-Southwest. With all the two choices, Uganda is proud to be a home to over 480 rare mountain gorillas which represent half of the world’s gorillas. In Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekking takes place in the Volcanoes National Park which represents a 3rd of the mountain gorillas at Virunga Massif while a quarter of them are also inhabited within the Virunga National Park in DRC.
It is however a must that you obtain a gorilla permit in order for you track mountain gorillas in Africa. In Uganda, gorilla permits are obtainable at $600 for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents. These costs apply specifically for visitors who travel during the peak season while those who wish to travel during the low season; Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) reduced the price of gorilla permits specifically for the month of April, May and November (2017) at $450 for foreign non residents, $400 for foreign residents and shs.150000 for the East African residents. If you wish to grab this opportunity, you can book for discounted permits for the month of November.
Spending only one hour with mountain gorillas is an incredible thing, but taking a safari to participate in Mountain gorilla Habituation Experience in South Western Uganda is another dramatic experience in life. This remarkable and experience is attainable no where else in Africa except Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where only two gorilla groups (Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families) have been designated for tourists to visit. The gorilla permits for this dramatic experience are obtainable at $1500 for foreign non residents, $1000 for foreign residents and shs.750000 for East African residents. There is no need to mind about the cost but what is important is that you will have the whole day and all the 4 hours of face to face interaction with these fascinating primates in their natural habitat. These rates comprise of the guide fees, park entrance fees for the day and community development contribution. In total, Uganda has 96 gorilla permits each day with 88 of them for visitors who wish to track mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park while the remaining eight are available for visitors who wish to track the only one habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
For visitors to Uganda, there are only two options for you to obtain your gorilla permits; one is directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). UWA manages all the ten national parks in Uganda and the headquarters is based in Kampala. The other option is directly from trusted and authentic tour agents (operators). If you wish to book direct from UWA, you ought to contact the reservation’s office by emailing them to inquire more on available dates that you wish to go for a trek. You should also know that traveling from Kampala to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an all day safari which will require you to take a 3 day safari. In case, the exact dates that you wish to go and track the mountain gorillas are not there, then you can request UWA management to make you aware of the next possible dates and they will do it for you. After, you will be required to reply to UWA expressing your interest to reserve the permit(s) and requesting them to abruptly keep the permits as you arrange the payment. They will therefore advise you on their banking details, where you will go on to make an electric transfer of the money. You will also need to send a copy of the transaction receipt by email or fax to UWA. Money transfer in most cases takes less than three days and UWA will maintain your tentative reservation for a period of about seven days as they wait for the transfer to go through. Make sure you also inform the bank to remove the bank charges from you to avoid sending less of what you are supposed to pay for the permits otherwise they may not reserve for you the permit.
Through a tour operator (Agent):
Usually, tour operators obtain gorilla permits from UWA and visitors purchase them without necessarily going through UWA. Getting a gorilla permit is a bit tiresome and challenging for most visitors and the best option is to contact the authorized tour operators in Uganda for assistance. In most cases, the process is a bit faster for visitors to obtain their permits using tour operators. If you are dealing with tour operator take note;
- You will need to send your passport details, nationality and your full names to help the tour agent register your gorilla permits. After visitors must travel in person to get their gorilla permits in Kampala or Entebbe and this should be at least a day prior the gorilla trekking date.
- It is also important for you to understand that Uganda’s tour operators through Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) almost purchase up to 80% of the available gorilla permits at up to two years out from the intended period of gorilla tracking. Every member in most cases obtains up to 20 gorilla permits in any month and a deposit of 30% is payable on every permit reserved while the balance will be payable 3 months time from the month of gorilla trekking by the first working day of the month.
- Deal with trust worthy, reliable and recognized tour operator