The gorilla permit -All you need to Know
The gorilla permit -All you need to Know : Gorilla trekking is a mind-blowing and thrilling wildlife experience only the few privileged get a chance to participate in, this remarkable adventure allows you to get up close and personal with mountain gorillas – the most endangered animals I Africa’s wilderness in their natural habitat.
To undertake in once-in-a lifetime adventure, you need to have a gorilla permit which acts as permission to allow you into their habitat. In this article, we detail all you need to know about gorilla permits, explore the differences between Uganda and Rwanda gorilla permits and also all the essential information regarding booking, availability and terms and conditions.
What is the gorilla permit?
A gorilla permits refers to a government – issued document that grants tourists permission to access the gorilla habitat, trek mountain gorillas and spend a set period of monitored time with a habituated gorilla family in their natural habitat.
A gorilla permit fee is a significant source of revenue contributing to the conservation of gorillas and the development of communities around the gorilla parks as well as the endangered mountain gorillas and their habitats in Uganda and Rwanda.
Uganda Gorilla Permit
Uganda is home to half of the world’s population of remaining mountain gorillas with over 400 individuals residing in two national parks that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
These two national parks, host 20 habituated gorilla families which are available for gorilla trekking. Only 8 gorilla permits are issued per habituated gorilla family for gorilla trekking and 4 permits for gorilla habituation.
Gorilla families in Uganda available for gorilla trekking include
- Mubare Gorilla Family
- Binyido Gorilla Family
- Habinyanja Gorilla Family
- Shongi Gorilla Family
- Rushegura Gorilla Family
- Bitukura Gorilla Family
- Oruzogo Gorilla Family
- Nkuringo Gorilla Family
- Nshongi Gorilla Family
- Mishaya Gorilla Family
- Kahungye Gorilla Family
- Bweza Gorilla Family
- Busingye Gorilla Family
- Bikingi Gorilla Family
- Kutu Gorilla Family
- Kyaguriro Gorilla Family
- Mucunguzi Gorilla Family
- Mukiza Gorilla Family
- Bushaho Gorilla Family
- Christmas Gorilla Family
- Nyakagezi Gorilla Family – (Mgahinga)
Note: Uganda has only one gorilla family open for Habituation Experience and is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is available only in Rushaga sector, South of Bwindi.
In Uganda, you can choose one of the 5 gorilla trekking sectors or centres for gorilla trekking that is Ntebeko in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Nkuringo and Rushaga sectors in the South of Bwindi, Buhoma and Ruhija in the North of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- a gorilla permit costs $ 700 per person per trek
- a gorilla habituation permit costs $ 1,500
A Uganda gorilla trekking permit allows visitors to spend an hour observing a habituated gorilla family in groups of 8 people and a habituation permit allows visitors to spend 4 hours with a semi – habituated gorilla family.
On both experiences, the permit includes armed ranger protection and expert tracker guide and a certificate of completion.
Rwanda Gorilla Permit
Rwanda is another beautiful home for mountain gorillas with 12 (twelve) habituated gorilla families living on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains protected within Volcanoes National Park.
There are 12 habituated gorilla families available for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park including
- Noheli (7 Members)
- Kwisanga (17 Members)
- Agashya (20 Members)
- Amahoro (21 Members)
- Igisha (34 Members)
- Isimbi (16 Members)
- Karisimbi (10 Members)
- Kwitonda (20 Members)
- Muhoza (17 Members)
- Sabinyo (18), Susa (21)
- Umubano (14)
On a daily, 96 permits are available for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Rwanda Gorilla Permit costs $ 1,500, in comparison to Uganda’s gorilla permission. Rwanda’s gorilla permits are higher however, Rwanda’s gorillas are easier to access from the International Airport than in Uganda. Also, the road network in Rwanda is exceptionally maintained.
Rwanda also hold Kwita Izina – a unique gorilla naming ceremony annual celebrated in September. During this event, visitors can participate in naming newly born gorilla babies which is similar to the ancient Rwandan Culture of naming newborns. Also, this festival celebrates Rwanda’s commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism bring together communities around Volcanoes National Park, Research Partners, Vets and dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas.
The Kwita Izina naming Ceremony is free but by invitation only.
Important Point to Note
Before booking anything concerning your gorilla safari, you should book your gorilla permit first. Once, you have secured a gorilla permit. Then you can plan your itinerary around the dates for your permit, otherwise adjusting your dates later can really be a pain.
How To Book a Gorilla Permit
Booking a gorilla permit in Rwanda and Uganda is best done through a registered local tour operator, one must be 15 years or older to be eligible for a gorilla permit.
In Uganda, gorilla permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and you can only acquire them through a registered tour operator.
In Rwanda, you can book your gorilla permit through either an authorized agent or the official website of Rwanda Development Board www.visitrwandabooking.rdb.rw.
The age limit for booking a gorilla permit in Uganda and Rwanda is 15 years and you must provide valid passport details, preferred trekking dates, park of choice.
Payment is required upfront to secure your gorilla permit
When Should You Book a Gorilla Permit
To book your gorilla permit, it is best to book at least 6 to 12 months in advance most especially if you plan to travel during the high season (June – September and December – February).
During these months, permits tend to sell out quickly due to the ideal trekking conditions and increased demand. Additionally, you will find it challenging to book a decent accommodation in the entire safari region during the peak seasons.
However, if you are traveling during the low season (March-May and October-November), you can book your permit a few weeks or months a head of your preferred trekking date.
During the low season, heavy rains disrupt travel for many people and trails are challenging to navigate, this lowers the demand for gorilla permits. Also, most safari lodges offer reduced rates for rooms this being a perfect time for low budget travelers.
Gorilla Permit Availability
By law, only 8 tourists are allowed to visit each habituated gorilla family per day. This means that only 152 permits are available daily in Uganda and 96 in Rwanda, availability for gorilla permits is limited and they tend to sell out quickly. So booking in advance in essential, more important gorillas are issued on a first – come – first – serve basis.
Permit Terms and Conditions
Gorilla permits in both Uganda and Rwanda are non – refundable and non – transferable since your passport details are normally checked against the ticket.
If you cancel your gorilla tour or fail to turn up the day of gorilla trekking, you can not get your money back for any reason whatsoever. When ticket expires, that is it. You cannot make any claim.
However, your tour can reschedule the permit to another date up to 14 days before tracking date and this can only be done once at no cost. The second time incurs a 25% penalty.
If the tracking date is within the next six months, a full payment of 1005 is required to confirm the booking. This ensures that the permit is reserved for the specific date and the group size requested.
For bookings where the tracking date is more than six months away, a deposit of 50% of the value of the permit may be made to secure the booking. This allows visitors to plan their trip in advance and secure their permits while finalizing their travel arrangements.
If the tracking date is within the next six months, a full payment of 100% is required to confirm the booking. This ensures that the permit is reserved for specific dates and group size is requested.
For bookings where the tracking date is more than six months, a deposit of 50% of the value of the permit may be made to secure the booking. This allows visitors to plain their trip in advance and secure their permits while finalizing their travel arrangements.
As issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the following are the permit cancellation terms.
- No refunds for less than 9 days to the tracking date
- 25% refund for 9-45 days to the tracking date
- 50% refund for 46-90 days to the trekking date, and
- 70% refund for more than 90 days to the trekking date
In Rwanda, if you book your gorilla permit through an operator. It is possible to reschedule to another day within a minimum of 30 days’ notice.
However, there is an exception for people who fail to track due to unexpected gorilla group movements. Depending on trekking availability, they can try again the next day or receive a full refund. If you trek all day and fail to find the gorillas, you will get a 75% refund.
This price of the gorilla permits could change at any time without notice, ensure you speak to your booking agent to update you on the latest terms.
In conclusion, if you are planning a gorilla tour in Uganda and Rwanda. It is crucial to consider booking a gorilla permit before anything to enable you to experience a once – in – a life time adventure.
Note: You must book gorilla permit through a registered tour operator.