Call it gorilla tracking or trekking, but it’s one of those really thrilling, unforgettable, lifetime experiences, you should take time for before you leave planet earth. The exhilaration attached to the first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla is difficult to describe. Yet in the same sense, that magical one hour spent with the gorillas does not come cheaply considering that a permit goes for US$750 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda but it is unusual to find someone who regretted the financial outlay.
Mountain gorilla population is about 900; gorilla trekking can only be done on the habituated mountain gorilla families in both countries. 10 of the habituated families live in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and another 14 habituated mountain gorilla families live in Uganda (13 in Bwindi forest National Park, and 1 in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) and 1 in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. A maximum of 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day.
Because of the insecurity in parts of DR Congo, it is only safe to track mountain gorillas either in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mgahinga’s gorillas are quite unreliable as they keep crossing borders which make tracking them uncertain. The experience offered by the three parks is broadly similar, so the biggest factor now determining where you go is either the cost or availability of the gorilla permit.
Only 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day. In Uganda, 12 families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP, nine of which are available for tracking and one is dedicated to research thus making the total permits available per day 96 gorilla families. Rwanda can only take 80 persons per day.
Habituated mountain gorilla families both Rwanda and Uganda include;
The habituated mountain gorilla families of Rwanda include; Agashya Mountain Gorilla Family, Amahoro Mountain Gorilla Family,Bwenge Mountain Gorilla Family, Hirwa Mountain Gorilla Family, Kwitonda Mountain Gorilla Family, Sabyinyo Mountain Gorilla Family, Susa A Mountain Gorilla Family, Susa A Mountain Gorilla Family, Susa B Mountain Gorilla Family, Ugenda Mountain Gorilla Family, Umubano Mountain Gorilla Family.
Bwindi Forest National Park has about eleven habituated gorilla families which include Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura in the Northern section of the park called Buhoma, then Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro in the Eastern Part of Bwindi in Ruhija, Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye in Rushaga and then Nkuringo Gorilla Family all in the south.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park through Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced mountain gorilla habituation experience. All those interested in the habituation experience pay USD1500.00 per person per experience. According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, a gorilla family for this experience in Rushaga region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been put. With this experience, clients will spend more time with mountain gorillas compared to gorilla trekking which is restricted to only one hour.
Costs of gorilla permit both in Uganda and Rwanda
In Rwanda you can get permits through the Rwanda Tourism Board offices (ORTPN) in Kigali or Ruhengeri (near the PNV) after paying $750 USD
In Uganda a gorilla permit costs USD 600 per day per person. You can get the gorilla permits in Kampala (the capital of Uganda)at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters.
In low season, Uganda has discounted gorilla permits in the months of April, May and November .For those interested in trekking gorillas in low season, you will have to pay $450 per gorilla permit .Please note that off season prices for discounted gorilla permits in 2017 will still be at USD450 per person for foreign none residents and USD400.00 for east African residents holding working permits for Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Discounted gorilla permits in Uganda will always be announced every year for the months of November, April and May to enable tourists travel during low season in Uganda.
You need to mind about the gorilla permit you will be holding as it will determine the Region in which you will trek gorillas and the lodge/accommodation. For example Bwindi Impenetrable forest National Park has several sections and thus each section/region has its own gorilla families and accommodation properties.
Comparison of mountain gorilla trekking experience
In Rwanda, at about 7:00 AM, tea/ coffee dispensers with cups are laid for visitors going for the trek. You are free to take as much as you wish. As visitors are enjoying the tea/ coffee, they are entertained by the lively traditional dance troupe (SACOLA Traditional Dancers). If you are not traveling just to see the mountain gorilla, and you want to include other activities in your visit, Rwanda may not be the best choice. Many tourists have continually had to cross to Uganda after their Rwanda gorilla trek to tour other reserves like Queen Elizabeth National Parks so endowed with abundant wildlife one cannot see in Rwanda.
However, you can also get entertained in Uganda in the evenings (at a fee) from the various traditional cultural groups that are near the park. Although, the drive from Kampala to Bwindi is a very fabulous one traversing.Uganda is an excellent safari destination and wildlife hot spots include Queen Elizabeth National Park (lions and other big game) and Kibale Forest (chimps). Other attractions include Murchison Falls. Rwanda’s more limited attractions include the beautiful Lake Kivu, and Nyungwe Forest, a haven for chimps and other wildlife. For a full Big Five experience, you can combine your Rwanda gorilla trek with a safari in Kenya (most operators offer combined packages) or the parks in Uganda.
Gorilla Trekking Tour activities are breathtaking moments which are life time’s changing and many trackers find the hikes less demanding than what they expect. Chances of meeting Rwanda and Uganda mountain gorillas are 99% and above. Don’t miss an encounter with these endangered mountain apes in their natural habitat. Come we take you through the wild and you be part of the experience with Nature Adventure Africa Safaris Ltd.