Gorilla trekking Uganda: A gorilla feeding on leaves and twigs in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Uganda is one of three countries in the world to boast wild mountain gorillas as natural residents. Sitting amongst them, observing the way they play, interact, eat and take power naps between the trees in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the most fulfilling life-long dreams of any traveller. This experience is high up on many visitors’ wish list and for good reason. It is a breathtaking experience to hike through a jungle, come within meters of a wild gorilla, having them look you in the eye and interact with you.
Only just over 800 gorillas are left in the wild, with 11 habituated families in Bwindi, which is home to more than half of them.
Why you should Track Gorilla in Uganda
Gorilla Tracking market forces have triggered a shift in Gorilla Trekking preference from Rwanda to Uganda. It all began when the Rwandese government doubled gorilla permit fees from $750 to $1,500 in July 2017 for both local and foreign tourists. Even though Rwanda has recently habituated more Gorilla Families, the 900 USD permit price difference has increasingly driven Trekkers to Uganda. In addition, the recent closure of Virunga National Park in the Congo due to insecurity has boosted Uganda as a Gorilla Trekking destination of choice.
Here is how to book 2019-2020 gorilla tracking and trek permits for your tour in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park –
Gorilla tracking permits need to be purchased in advance, as early as six months in advance if you’re traveling during peak season or if you are in a large group. The earlier you book, the more choice you have on where you track and where you stay. Last minute bookings may be possible during low season or where fewer than eight people are tracking a particular group, but availability of gorilla tracking permits is not guaranteed.
In Uganda, Gorilla tracking is done in either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Each gorilla permit costs US$600. On each particular day, up to about 96 persons can visit Bwindi gorillas; 8 persons per gorilla family. Each gorilla family can only be visited for one hour per day. There is a minimum age requirement of 15 years to track the gorillas in Uganda.
Quick step illustration of how you can book 2019-2020 Gorilla permits in Uganda.
Gorilla Permits for both Bwindi and Mgahinga can only be purchased from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWAs) headquarters in Kampala, either directly or through a tour agent.
Booking 2019-2020 Gorilla Permits directly through UWA; To book your 2019 gorilla tracking permit (from out of Uganda) you first have to contact UWAs reservation office by email inquiring about availability of the dates you intend to track the gorillas. Note that you need to consider a full day of travel from Kampala to Bwindi after you have landed in Kampala. If the exact dates you want are unavailable, you can request UWA to let you know of the nearest dates.
You then reply to them expressing your intent to book those permits, and requesting them to temporarily hold them as you make payment. At this time, they will advise you of their banking details, so that you can proceed to make an electronic transfer of the money. Please remember to immediately send a copy of the transaction voucher/ receipt by email or fax to UWA.
The transfer should usually take not more than 3 days and UWA will keep your tentative booking for at least 7 days as they await the transfer to go through. Please ensure that you instruct you bank to deduct the bank charges from you. Otherwise if the money sent is less, your permit may not be booked.
To book 2019-2020 gorilla tracking permits in Uganda, You will need to specify which park (Bwindi or Mgahinga) you would like to visit. Before your tracking, UWA staff will guide you on which family you will be tracking, according to your fitness level and interests. Visit the Uganda Wildlife Authority office, Kira Road, Kampala or call +256 (0)414 355 409/410 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips on purchasing a gorilla tracking permit in Uganda
Uganda’s gorilla families are spread over a wide geographic area, so it is important that you book accommodation that is within an hour’s drive – or a few minutes’ walk – of the start of the gorilla tracking. 1000 shades of Green is always on hand to help you choose the best accommodation for your budget.
Booking 2019-2020 Gorilla Permits through a Tour and travel agent
Many intending gorilla trekkers find the procedure involved in booking gorilla permits directly with UWA rather tedious and have sought out quicker and less tedious ways of reserving their gorilla permits by working with local Uganda tour operator. The procedure is almost similar to booking directly, except that the tour agencies tend to speed-up the process and most likely you will get you gorilla permit confirmation faster.
The advantages of booking with a tour operator or Safari company is that they have intimate local knowledge of the accommodation options and proximity of gorilla families. They know these remote areas well and their drivers are experts at negotiating slippery, steep dirt roads. If you plan to extend your trip, and most people do, the company can also give great travel recommendations and make all the activity and accommodation bookings for you.
To book your gorilla tracking permit, you will need to provide:
The date(s) you would like to track the gorillas. Suggest a few dates in case your first choice of date is already booked up. Ideally, scan and email a copy of your passport to whoever is organizing your permits.
Your name, nationality and passport number. Gorilla tracking permits are non-transferable. (Note that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the pre-tracking briefing).
Payment. The best way to pay is by bank wire transfer. Remember to instruct your bank to deduct any transaction charges from your account.
If you are buying gorilla tracking permits directly from UWA, you will need to send them the bank payment confirmation email.
If you are buying gorilla tracking permits from a tour operator, note that not all tour operators in Uganda accept credit cards. Of those that do, many add a hefty surcharge (of between 3% and 9%). Once the tour company has your preferred dates and personal details, they can make a temporary reservation with the authority.
Confirmation of your reservation. You should receive a scanned copy of your gorilla tracking permit within a few days or weeks. When you arrive in country, your tour driver guide will give you your original permit or you will collect it from the UWA / RTB office (if you are traveling independently).
Your gorilla tracking permit will have a unique serial number and your personal details written on it. It is non-transferable.
Remember that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the per-tracking briefing.
Booking gorilla permits and transportation across Uganda (the 12-hour car journey is worth it) can be tedious, and 1000 shades of Green has a team dedicated to fulfilling and arranging all the required logistics. For more details about 2019-2020 gorilla permit booking information, please do contact us by email or phone and we will advise you accordingly.
For more gorilla trekking tour packages for Uganda see here