A Gorilla Permit is a legal document allowing you to be with a Gorilla Family in the wilderness for normally one hour. In Uganda, Gorilla Permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at the Central Reservations Office based in Kampala. Presently, about 180 Gorilla Permits available each day, allowing a maximum of 8 visitors to each of the 21 Habituated Gorillas Families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and 1 in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The permit is issued not for a particular Gorilla Group, but a sector or tracking region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest such as Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one tracking region - Ntebeko, - and Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is the only habituated gorilla group here. The minimum age of a participant is 15.
Mountain Gorillas are one of the top attractions to visitors to Uganda and due to the permit cost, Gorilla Trekking has become the most expensive Tourism Activity in Africa. Mountain Gorilla Tracking (Trekking) permits are a much sought after commodity and with a small number of people allowed to track each day. Uganda is the only country which offers affordable safe trekking gorilla permits. Although there are many tour operators which advertise “Cheap Gorilla Permits in Uganda”, truth be told there is nothing cheap about $700 One-Hour-Activity even when it's $800 lower than in Rwanda.
It takes a lot of planning to ensure an opportunity of the tracking of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. Since the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unstable presently, there is more demand for Gorilla Permits in Uganda. Besides, Rwanda’s recent bet for "High End Low-Impact-Tourism" doubled the cost of gorilla trekking permits which are now more than twice the cost in Uganda and nearly five times the cost in the DR Congo.
In 2017 Rwanda increased the price of their gorilla permit from $700 USD to $1500 USD.
In Uganda you can do Gorilla Trekking with a lower permit price - $700 USD (it was $600 for the last couple years until July 1 2020). There are no longer low season Promotional Gorilla Permits or “discounted gorilla permits” for the months of April, May, and November – that ended November 2017.
The 4-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience Permit which allows you to spend more time observing the Gorillas is only available in Bwindi and cost $1500 USD.
Virunga National Park in DRC offers the "lowest-priced" Mountain Gorilla Permits but we do not organise trips there due to Safety and Security Issues. Those wanting to go to Virunga National Park we refer to the Park itself. There has been consistent and current Travel Advisories issued by various Countries such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and others.
For Uganda in particular, Gorilla Permit details are loaded on an Electronic Card which is normally issued a few weeks before the actual tracking date. At the time booking however, UWA normally issues an invoice and receipt which show the name of the booking company, permit number, sector where you will be trekking the gorillas and the tracking date. UWA invoice and receipt do not bear the Trekkers passport details however, such specifics loaded on an E-Card issued to you or your tour operator. The issued invoice shows normally shows a unique "Valid" Booking Number or Booking ID which apparently is the most important detail - used to unveil the other info even on the tracking day. The Booking ID may hold one or a couple of permits for a specific tracking date and tracking location/sector and can also be used to check for the legitimacy of your permits with the UWA Central Reservations Office. The Booking ID is NOT shown or printed on any of the E-card faces but rather loaded together with the other details on your E-card chip .
Presently there is only one way to obtain Gorilla and Chimps permits and that’s going through the Kampala based Uganda Wildlife Authority central reservations office. Pre-booking permits for as early as 6 – 12 months is advisable as it’s practically impossible to book same day or a few weeks (2 years is max).
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 there are just one or two people tracking, but availability of gorilla tracking permits is not guaranteed. This applies in Uganda in particular where there is high competition for the permits.
Individuals can independently book trekking permits by applying directly to UWA via Email and Telephone obtainable from their website. This option however requires a lot of patience since it turns out a frustration to many. If you are buying gorilla tracking permits directly from UWA, you will need to send them the bank payment confirmation email.
What most travellers don’t realise is that UWA is a Government agency, - email of telephone conversations prompt as it would be with an individual or Tour Operator. You hear people raising complaints of no response, unable to get through and inaccuracies …. Anyhow, is this the norm for managing government business in developing countries? The answer to that is obviously no!
The best and simple way to successfully obtaining your permit is to use a Ugandan Tour Operator that is a member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) such as us. There are over a thousand Tour Companies operating in Uganda but many of them being Briefcase companies. A fraction of those is officially recognized partners in the Marketing and Sales of Gorilla Permits.
There is a secrete here – it is a deliberate policy to protect and promote Uganda Tour Operators. Thus you can only easily acquire gorilla permits through a local Tour Operator plus it even makes work a lot easy for them. Also, since most Tour Operators in country are usually based in Kampala, it is easy for them to buy permits and follow them up.
Besides, after going through the hassle sending the payments directly to UWA, there is no method of issuing the permits by Email – meaning you need to authorise someone else to fetch the permits on your behalf that’s if you cannot collect them yourself a day before you drive to Bwindi.
Additionally, UWA introduced an Online Permits Booking System and this has intermittently been in existence and accessible by exclusively Local Tour Operators. They are able to check availability, temporarily block permits for their clients and eventually effect payment. That being said, starting July 1, 2020, 80% of Permits will be allocated to registered AUTO members, 20% will go to the general public and freelance operators. An e-system will be in place for Tour Operator with online payment options.
Understanding that Permits are non-transferable and unique to each traveller, in the event that you have booked the permits but for some reason they are unable to travel an earlier notice allows a local Tour Operator resale the permits though this cannot be guaranteed.
Even if you are trying to arrange your trip as independently as possible to keep costs to a minimum, you can avoiding booking an entire gorilla tour but secure your Gorilla and Chimps permits with a reputable tour operator like us. Although booking a safari with Gorilla Trekking in it will result in the tour operator working with and for you and no extra charges obtaining permits - it is not mandatory that you have to book a tour with our agency for us to book your gorilla and chimps permits. Obviously any tour may offer a tour package you aren’t bound to consider it. A good tour operator can actually save their client money as they get better rates at the Lodges than you can.
The advantages of booking with a 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.
If you are considering hiring a car and a driver with our agency, we will book the permits for you at no extra cost. If you need help for just booking the permits and need no other services from us, will do this for you at $50 regardless of the number of number of permits you need.
Uganda Gorilla Permit is a highly sought commodity, issued on a first-served plan – thus priority planning is advised. Gorilla trekking should not be an add-on to their Time in Africa. Arranging a holiday when dates have been fixed elsewhere and flights already been booked may not be an easy task. Such planning often results in no Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Habituation Experience Permits.
Please remember that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the pre-tracking briefing.
Once we agree on book your gorilla permits of the entire safari trip, we will ask to send us a deposit which usually covers the cost of the permits. You may of course send more than that if it makes sense that’s not mandatory.
Payment for you Gorilla or Chimps Permit; Most travellers make their payment via bank transfer. This can either be the standard Bank to Bank wire transfer – a process which takes on average 2 days or via TransferWise which takes from just few hours to a day. Regular Bank to Bank Transfer are sent to our local US$ Stanbic Bank account in Uganda. Payments via Transferwise are sent to any of our accounts in the UK – GBP, Germany – EUR or Australia – AUD. Accounts details have been listed on our payments advisory page - Please check it out when you have a moment.
The second most popular way is via PesaPal where you submit your payment online via our website with your Credit or Debit Card. The PesaPal Service cost an extra 3.5% - service charge paid by you.
Confirm the date(s) you would like to track the gorillas. You may suggest a few dates in case your first choice of date is already booked up.
Also, we will need your passport details; - we simply need your name, passport number, date of birth, country of residence. You may simply send a scan of the passport but it’s not needed.
Please Note that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the pre-track briefing.
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 come to meet you with the original permit or you will collect it from the UWA (if you are travelling independently).
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