One interesting fact you have read or probably been told is that you can’t trek mountain gorillas in their natural environments without a gorilla permit. This is a document that offers access to gorilla families, for a limited period of time and is issued by authorized Government Agencies. For Uganda, Gorilla permits are issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda Development Board for Rwanda or Institut Congolais de Conservation de la Nature for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When it comes to booking your gorilla permits for Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda, it is less stressful or cumbersome to do it through a trusted Tour Operator or Safari Company although a small commission will be charged for obtaining it. Additionally, these Tour Operators have information on the different gorilla families thus able to tell which one suits your needs (as long as you communicate your aspirations) in addition to the best accommodation options when enjoying your gorilla safari. Also, advice on additional activities as well as travel recommendations for those who want to extend their safaris can also be provided by these Tour Operators.
However, if you are to book for the gorilla permit directly through the issuing agency-Uganda Wildlife Authority or Rwanda Development Board, just send an email to their reservations offices or contact them via telephone on availability of permits for the dates you wish to trek. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is done within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, although gorilla permits for the latter are reliable, owing to the existence of only one habituated gorilla family which is known for being mobile. For this reason, most treks for Uganda are undertaken in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, because there are more gorilla permits thus travellers have a wide range of options to choose from. For these two places, a total of 168 gorilla permits are issued each day for 21 habituated gorilla groups.
For Rwanda, gorilla trekking is done in the montane, tropical rainforest and bamboo forest based within the north-western corner of the country. Here, 96 gorilla permits are availed each day for the 12 habituated gorilla families. Before visitors enter the forest, they are first briefed on the rules and regulations to be followed while trekking and allocated a gorilla family depending on fitness levels, personal interests and age because families present varying difficulty levels.
When is the perfect time of booking gorilla permits?
Gorilla Permits are one of the highly-priced items in African tourism and sell like hot cakes, regardless of the high prices. Travellers are advised to make bookings at least 6 months in advance although some visitors even book up to two years before the trekking date to be safer).
This is more practical for the dry season (June to September and December to February) which is also the peak season. Any delay will most likely bring about last minute disappointments.
What is the cost of booking gorilla permits?
The cost of gorilla trekking permits in Uganda are at $700 for the foreign non-residents, $600 for the foreign residents but if you are a citizen of an East African Community country, you will be required to pay Shs. 250,000 per person. For Rwanda, gorilla permits cost $1500 per person for all visitors but there is a discount for travellers who spend at least 3 days in other National Parks (Akagera and Nyungwe Forest National Parks).
One thing you have to keep in mind is that you can never trek the mountain gorillas without fulfilling the first requirement-possessing a valid gorilla permit. By valid, it has to be issued by the authorized Government authorities and also, should possess the exact trekking date. However, not every interested person is eligible for gorilla trekking and therefore if you aren’t 15 years and above, you won’t be allowed to trek the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
After confirmation of availability, passport details-indicating nationality, passport number date of birth and name will be required by the booking agent. Even on the day of trekking, these details will be required to reduce chances of possessing another person’s permit.
Booking dates have to be provided during booking and if the suggested date is already booked, a nearer date will be provided. Partial payments have to be made then completed on the day of arrival into the country and this applied to travellers booking via a tour operator.