Gorilla Permit Cost in Uganda – How much is a gorilla permit in Uganda?
Even though you have never tracked the mountain gorillas before, you have probably heard about a gorilla permit and wondered what it was and why it is a big deal. Well, a gorilla permit is a document issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (for Uganda) or Rwanda Development Board (for Rwanda) allowing tourists to track the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats, without which you can never have the chance to encounter these Giant Apes.
Situated in the South-western side of Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks are the two places where mountain gorillas can be tracked in Uganda but due to the high demand for gorilla trekking, a permit has to be acquired at least 6 months in advance (especially for the peak season from December to February and June to September) prior to your visit and this allows you to spend one hour with one of the 17 habituated gorilla families including Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mishaya, Christmas, Katwe, Bweza, Nshongi, Busingye, Kahungye, Nkuringo, Bikingi, Bishaho, Oruzogo, Bitukura, Nyakagyezi (in Mgahinga) and Kyaguliro. This gorilla permit also allows only tourists that are 15 years and above to track the giant apes under several guidelines (standing 7 meters away from the primates, not coughing or sneezing in their presence and not touching them among others).
Only 8 tourists are allowed to track a habituated gorilla family per day (hence 8 permits are sold for each group per day). This restriction is done to ensure minimal behavioral disturbances to the mountain gorillas and their habitat as well as reducing the risk of these animals catching contagious diseases such as cold, cough, measles and Tuberculosis. Tracking time is between 8:30am and 7:00pm with tourists expected at the Camp ground by 7:00pm.
As earlier mentioned, Uganda has two gorilla trekking destinations (Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks) and permits cost only $700 per person for foreign non-residents, $500 per person for foreign residents (foreign tourists living and working in Uganda and expected to present a valid work permit) and Shs 250,000 for East African Community residents. However, there is another exceptional activity known as the “Gorilla Habituation Experience” for about $1500 per person that allows tourists to spend at least 4 hours (instead of the usual one hour) with a gorilla family still undergoing habituation (to make it accustomed to human presence) and it is only offered in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Until recently, UWA offered discounted permits for the low seasons (April, May and November) at $450 for foreign non-residents, $400 for foreign residents and Shs 150,000 for East African Community residents but this all changed in 2018 when the discounted permits were cancelled.
How to book for gorilla permits in Uganda
Uganda’s gorilla permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and can directly be obtained from their Head Offices in Kampala at Plot 7, Kira Road in Kamwokya after Uganda Museum. Alternatively, you can call +256 414 355 409/410 or send an email to email@example.com for availability of permits for the date you intend to track. With the 16 trackable gorilla families (in both Bwindi and Mgahinga), UWA sells up to 128 gorilla permits. When you confirm availability, you will be required to transfer money to UWA’s account and your details (such as Nationality, passport number and name to be used among others) will be requested. Later a scanned copy of the permit will be sent to you to confirm your long awaited participation in the adventure of a lifetime.
Booking directly from UWA is tiresome and stressing for some tourists, hence the reason to go for the easier yet more costly option-booking through a certified tour operator, which will book the entire safari or even just buy the gorilla permit (but will be required to pay a commission).
It’s natural and normal that things may not go as planned but interestingly, Uganda Wildlife Authority has a cancellation policy where it retains a certain percentage of money paid depending on the time of cancellation. For 91 days and above to the tracking date, UWA will retain 25% and refund 75% of the amount paid to the client. For 46-90 days to the tracking date, there will be a 50% refund, for 9-45 days to the tracking date, UWA will retain 75% and refund 25% to the tourist while from 0-8 days to the tracking date, there will be no refund.
In conclusion, gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of Africa’s most desired and sought-after adventures requiring prior booking and a valid gorilla permit that usually costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and Shs 250,000 for East African Community residents.