Can I do Gorilla Tracking (Trekking) in Uganda without a Tour Operator?
Independent gorilla tracking Bwindi… how?
All the Mountain Gorilla trekking information you need, – brought to by Lifetime Experience safaris.
My advice is simple; private/independent travelers face a lot inconveniences, and sometimes go through lots of hard ships, but finally get to where they want to be. Save yourself the burden, choose a private tour company to handle your travel and gorilla tracking.
Originally, you could actually just call the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), exchange emails and they would save the permits for you after receiving your payment. This worked but it’s something that you could arrange way ahead of time. Keep in mind UWA is government owned and managed, emails responses are not as you would expect in any private business company. From the time you make the first contact to the time you receive a confirmation notice that your gorilla or chimps tracking (trekking) permits have been secured, better if you contact a tour operator and just come up with a reasonable deal for the service. It’s much more convenient to try to arrange things through an operator.
Back in the days, customers used to contact us online and we could advise them to contact UWA directly if the needed to have gorilla permits secured, ….so they could wire money straight into their bank account and things could work out good but not as easy as it may sound here. They need a confirmation from their bank that your money was received. The custom is however, they check for their bank account updates once or twice on particular day(s) of the week. You have to patiently wait for their responses since you are not the only customer to be served. You may have to remind them telephonically if it seems to be taking long,…maybe 4 days or so after your contact. Sorry to mention, but they can hardly return to you if a phone call breaks. Knowing the best time to call is ideal but good if you take note of the time difference between the 2 countries.
They mostly deal with cash as it has been the manner here, so they want you (the interested customer) to save them the email exchange load. Also, the tour operator is guarantee to them that they will have balances paid if any,…in other words, they know where to go, and who to call or even see in case of any outstanding balances. –They secure gorilla permits for registered tour operators…not individuals anymore. As Tour Operators are in country, and usually in Kampala, it is easy for them to buy permits. Some large aggressive Operators will try to block book permits but if you turn up with cash and there are vacancies you will get them. Also, many block booking tour companies return the unsold permits to UWA or even circulate an email to AUTO members about the available gorilla permits for resalable
Originally, and even now (2013) you write to them and they reply saying you cannot yet buy the permits from them, only 90 days in advance. However, it’s now government policy for gorilla permits to be booked online but you have to have your choice of a tour operator before you get on their website to do the booking. So you specifically have to mention your tour operator and the system will let you book the permit. Your operator is the one to fetch the permit for you from the UWA offices. If you contact UWA directly, they will of course advise you to book permits through a tour company if you want to have them secured.
Be sure you have the required information i.e. the passport details and your tracking date. Please note that you cannot do gorilla tracking (trekking) the same day you travel to the park as its about 9 – 11 hours drive to the gorilla Bwindi Park….only if you fly.
I was browsing the internet and came across a story of one traveler on tripadvisor as she tried to share her UWA experience as she tried to book the gorilla permit. I am thinking that she probably contacted an incompetent “scam” tour operator and also dealt with lazy UWA agents after as you may see.
I am not suggesting that you should come to us because it’s part of my business but just felt this piece of information might be helpful in your decision making process.
Most tour operators charge $50 up to even $120/permit to help you have the gorilla permits secured. Choosing to go for any of our gorilla trekking package means there will be no extra charge for us helping you to secure the permits as we are happy to get permits as part of their overall service. If you are an independent traveler and don’t need any or our other services, we can help you secure gorilla tracking (trekking) permit at only $20/permit and we’ll do all leg work for you. Hiring our car and driver at the most reasonable rates in Uganda is an added advantage. If you are coming to Uganda from the south western boarder (Kigali – Rwanda) and you are wanting to do gorilla trekking in Uganda without coming to Kampala as it’s the norm here, that’s something we have done several times before.
For more help, call or email us today and let us see how best we can be of help to you. ….jesse-tom