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Gorilla Trekking Costs- Uganda & Rwanda- gorilla trekking cost is relatively high compared to other wildlife encounters as we will discover.
What is gorilla trekking and why is it so expensive?
Gorilla trekking is defined as a hike to the tropical forests of Africa to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and it is one of the most thrilling wildlife activities in Africa. The experience is much different from a game drive in the Serengeti, Masai Maraa or Kruger National Park. Gorilla trekking is special because mountain gorillas look and behave like we humans. They live in families with a hierarchy where the dominant silverback dictates everything that is done by the group. Gorilla trekking is expensive because mountain gorillas are endangered and because of that many people want to see them. The high numbers of tourists interested in observing wild mountain gorillas has forced many governments to raise the price of permits. You can say the principle of demand and supply applies here – The higher the demand, the higher the price. But demand is not the only explanation for the high cost of gorilla permits. There is need for funds to protect the primates.
Gorilla conservation involves significant investments in research, Rangers and scientists. This requires money. Part of the money collected from gorilla permits is used to fund activities related to protecting these majestic primates. In general, 15% of the money collected from gorilla permits goes to the government, 10% to the local communities and 75% to gorilla conservation. It is important to also note that if the cost of gorilla permits were reduced considerably, too many tourists would visit the primates hence affecting the overall well-being of the few habituated gorilla groups.
Where to find Mountain Gorillas
Mountain Gorilla trekking is possible only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, mountain gorillas can be tracked in Mgahinga and Bwindi National Park. In Congo, the primates are found in Virunga National Park while in Rwanda it is the Volcanoes National Park.
The Cost of Gorilla Trekking- Uganda, Rwanda & Congo
The cost of gorilla trekking differs from country to country. It is important to note that the price of gorilla permits is just a fraction of the overall cost of gorilla trekking. You still have to consider transportation, accommodation, food, Visas, air tickets, packing lists, porters and tips for the Guides. The following are the costs of gorilla trekking permits in Uganda, Rwanda & Congo;
The cost of a gorilla permit:
If you are planning to do gorilla trekking in any of the three countries, you will need to acquire a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit is a document that allows you access to the gorillas. In Uganda, gorilla permits cost $700, in Rwanda $1500 and Congo $450. If you are an East African national, you can obtain a gorilla permit in Uganda for 300,000 shillings. During the low seasons of the year, Gorilla permits are sold on a discount in Virunga National Park of Congo for as little as $250 dollars (This could change soon). Rwanda may also have discounted permits for African Union Citizens, foreign residents, large groups, families and those taking part in other activities in the country. Uganda has discounted gorilla permits for foreigners who are residents in East Africa.
For those who are interested in the gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi, you will have to pay $1500 for a permit. The Gorilla habituation experience is quite different from gorilla trekking. It takes the whole day and involves having four hours with mountain gorillas instead of the one hour allocated to tourists during normal gorilla trekking.
A gorilla permit is a requirement for tracking gorillas. You cannot be allowed to take part in the activity without showing your permit to the park authorities. What is included in the price of a Gorilla Permit? A gorilla permit includes interacting with the gorillas for one hour, park entrance and Ranger fees.
To book a gorilla permit, you need to go through your tour operator like mond safaris or one of the government authorities in the respective countries. In Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority issues out gorilla permits while the Rwanda Development board does the same in Rwanda. If you are planning on a safari in Congo, you can book a permit with the Virunga National Park website or through your tour operator. It is important to book your gorilla permit or gorilla tour at least 2 months in advance. If you are planning to travel in the peak season (June, July and August), we recommend that you do the booking at least 5 to 6 months before the trip so that you don’t go through the stress of asking different tour companies if they have availability.
The cost of accommodation:
One of the things you will have to consider while planning your gorilla tour is where to sleep. All the gorilla national parks have high quality lodges from where you can spend the night. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your budget. The good budget hotels cost anywhere between $50 to $130 dollars a night. Good mid-range hotels go for between $150 to $200. The luxury hotels start from $300 to $2500 per night. You can book these hotels on your own if you are planning to do a self-drive but most travelers book the hotels through a reliable tour company. If you book a hotel yourself, ensure that it is located close to the starting point of the gorilla family or sector you have been assigned. If you book too far away, you may not show up for briefing on time hence missing the trek – This is all the more reason why it is better to book your gorilla tour through a reputable tour operator like mond safaris
The cost of food:
While traveling to these countries, you need to take into consideration the expenses on food, drinks and particularly water. The hotels provide this but you are going to need water and food when out of the hotel or traveling. Food and drinks should cost you about $40 each day if you are traveling on your own. If you are planning to buy expensive booze or cigars, you might have to plan for a higher amount per day. If you are booking your vacation with a tour company, you should not worry about food. They should take care of the food and water while at the hotel and when traveling between activities.
The cost of transport (Plane tickets and hiring a vehicle):
After securing the gorilla permits and identifying a lodge, the next thing that will come to your mind is how to get to the gorilla parks.
chattered flights from within the gorilla trekking country, you might need to part with another $600. Should you find internal flights way beyond your budget or should you decide that you want to experience more of the African countryside, then traveling by road from the airport is highly recommended. Hiring a car in Rwanda and Uganda will cost you about $50-170 depending on the type of vehicle a day excluding fuel and a driver. Expect to travel on the road for long hours especially if you are tracking in Uganda and Congo. It takes between 8 and 10 hours of driving to reach Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable park from Entebbe international airport. The driving distance from Kigali International Airport to the Volcanoes National Park is about 3-4 hours. Those who choose to do gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park have to first land in Kigali and then proceed to the Congo border in a journey that can take about 4 hours.
Arranging your own vacation in an unfamiliar and developing country can be complicated. This is why most travelers leave the issue of transport, permits and accommodation to their chosen tour operators so that they are only left with the task of showing up at the airport. It is also important to note that only a few tour companies are willing to book air tickets on behalf of their clients. Consult you tour company to see if they can help you with booking flights to and from your country of origin.
Items on the gorilla trekking packing list:
For the best experience while tracking and watching the gorillas, you will need to travel with a good camera, insect repellents, sunscreen, hiking boots, hand gloves, a pair of binoculars and a rain jacket. These are all hidden costs that need to be taken into consideration apart from the gorilla permit itself. You might want to read more about the items recommended on the gorilla trekking packing list.
Visas and border crossing:
Gorilla trekking often involves crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. If you are planning to do gorilla trekking in Congo, expect to cross the Goma border post at a cost ($100 for the VISA). Those who find the price of gorilla permits in Rwanda beyond their budget can choose to track the gorillas in Uganda.
Yellow Fever vaccination card:
This may not seem important but it is a requirement for entering Uganda and Congo. If you read reviews about gorilla trekking, you will learn that yellow fever vaccination cards are one of the key documents asked at the airport and while crossing borders. If you are planning to travel to most African countries, you need to consider the cost of taking the shot.
Cost of porters especially for the elderly:
If you are traveling with heavy equipment, bags or video cameras, you will need to hire a porter to help you carry them while tracking the gorillas. The porters can also help you carry packed lunch and lend a hand during the difficult sections of the trek. Gorilla trekking for the elderly is more complicated because they would need to use Sedan chairs and hire about eight porters to lift them up to the tracking point. It can cost about $400 to hire a Sedan chair and the porters to carry it. Porters live close to the gorilla parks and some were once poachers. A few of the porters are students who are looking for money to top up their school fees or men interested making some money to feed their families. By hiring these porters, you contribute to their general well-being and indirectly help them support their families. Hiring a porter costs about $15 and they can be found at the park offices or during the briefing. You may want to know how gorilla groups are allocated to travelers.
Tips for the Guide/Driver, Park Rangers and Hotel staff:
Sometimes hotel staff, Guides, Rangers, waiters and waitresses go out of their way to make sure that your time with them was perfect and memorable. Out of courtesy, you might decide to show your appreciation for the work done by giving them tip. The amount depends entirely on you. Tipping during gorilla trekking is not compulsory and should only be paid after a service is rendered and you are happy with it.
Gorilla trekking is one of the most interesting experiences that you wouldn’t miss on your African safari, however you must fully get ready for it. Book with Mond Safaris Uganda for the best gorilla trekking experiences in Uganda and Rwanda.
For any inquiries, please send us an email at email@example.com or check us out at www.mondsafaris.com for more information.