Mountain gorilla trekking in Africa is synonymous with Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. These 3 east Africa countries are the famed homes of the world’s endangered primates. Mountain gorilla trekking being a popular tourism activity, this has made these countries so famous and some of the most visited destinations in Africa.
Uganda being the home of the largest population (50% of the world’s total) of mountain gorillas boasts two enormous national parks where these peculiar apes dwell; these include Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Rwanda on the other hand is home to the second largest population of mountain gorillas, with Volcanoes National park harboring more than ¾ of world’s total population. Over 12 gorilla families have been habituated in Volcanoes national park for gorilla trekking all year round.
Congo has least number of mountain gorillas, though at one point it had the largest number but due to insecurity and poaching activities in Virunga national park, the number reduced tremendously. Currently, D.R. Congo only has eight habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park.
Beyond reasonable doubt, Africa presents the only and the best destinations for gorilla trekking. However, these have not been fully exploited because of different reasons, including insecurity in DRC, and high costs of purchasing a gorilla permit and more.
Cost of a gorilla permit
It should be noted that for anyone to be able to trek mountain gorillas, a gorilla permit is a must have and only those with it are allowed to access a given gorilla family. Costs of a gorilla permit varies from country to country, ranging from 400$ in D.R. Congo to 1500$ in Rwanda; in both cases, a gorilla trekking experience remains the same.
Rwanda has set its standards high to become Africa’s luxurious gorilla destination with a price hike in their gorilla permits from 750$ to 1500$ in 2017. This doubles Uganda’s gorilla permits which are only 600$ per permit per trek. Cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda is constant throughout the year, after the discounted low season permits were stopped in 2017. These discounted permits used to go for 450$ per permit but due to high demand of gorilla permits, prices were kept at 600$.
However, some tour operator associations, like the AUTO – Association of Uganda Tour Operators sometimes give out promotional permits in low season, which go for 450$. Uganda’s high season runs from June to September and December to early February. And then the low season is from March to May and October to November, though gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done all year throughout.
Discounted prices are also given to foreign residents with work permits, nationals and citizens of the East African member states; that is Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Foreign residents living and working within one of the east African member states are charged only 500 USD for a gorilla permit, while for East African nationals it is 250,000 Uganda shillings per permit.
Inclusions of a gorilla permit cost
The gorilla permit price come with park entrance fees, tracking fees, a guide, vehicle parking fees, ranger fees, conservation and monitoring costs as well as the percentage that goes to the neighboring local community. But it excludes porter fees, transport to and from gorilla trekking destinations, other activities, accommodation, tips to rangers, drinks, meals and souvenir shopping.
Gorilla trekking equipment
Having booked your gorilla permit to either Uganda, Rwanda or D.R. Congo; there are different essentials that one must remember to come along with. These range from clothing, food, and more. Must have include strong hiking boots, long sleeved shirt / blouse and trouser, garden gloves, rain jacket, packed lunch /light snacks, enough drinking water (1.5 liters recommended), a hat, insect repellants and anything else considered important for the trek.
Though gorilla trekking in Africa involves hiking through dense steep, misty and boggy jungles and seemingly presenting a strenuous and expensive experience; but the joy of coming face to face with a calm gorilla family with a giant silver back, playful juveniles and caring mothers is all worth it.