Gorilla Permit Booking in Uganda

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gorilla permit

A gorilla permit is a crucial document issued by government authorities, such as the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Rwanda Development Board, that enables tourists aged about 15 years and above to trek mountain gorillas in designated habitats. These habitats include Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga in Uganda, as well as Volcanoes in Rwanda and Virunga National Parks in Congo.

The cost of a gorilla permit covers essential services, including the provision of two armed rangers and a guide who accompany trekkers into the jungle, leading them to where these majestic creatures reside. Before venturing into the forest, the gorilla permit is first validated at the park headquarters. Trekkers are then grouped with others before being allocated to their assigned gorilla family.

Once allocated, trekkers are granted one precious hour to spend in the presence of these magnificent creatures. Gorilla trekking involves traversing long distances through the rainforest, searching for gorilla families and enjoying a specified period with them. The duration of this activity can range from 1 to 9 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas, although most tourists typically find them within 3 hours.

In Uganda, gorilla trekking primarily takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to 19 habituated gorilla families, representing almost half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. Additionally, Mgahinga National Park hosts two gorilla groups situated within the Virunga Mountains, straddling the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. These habitats extend into Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Congo’s Virunga National Park.

How much is a gorilla permit in Uganda

In Uganda, a gorilla permit costs USD 800 per person per day for tourists. The minimum age requirement for obtaining a gorilla permit is 15 years old. However, there are different rates for certain groups. For foreign residents with work permits, the cost is USD 700 per person, while East African nationals can acquire a permit for UGX 300,000 per person.

Gorilla permit

The Uganda Wildlife Authority is responsible for issuing gorilla permits, and the price remains consistent regardless of where you purchase it. Special permits may be available on occasion, offering unique opportunities for visitors.

These permits contribute to the conservation efforts aimed at protecting these endangered primates.

How many gorilla permits available in Uganda

In Uganda, there are a total of 192 gorilla permits available for tourists who wish to trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks. These permits allow visitors to join one of the 24 gorilla groups inhabiting these parks. However, each gorilla group can only accommodate a maximum of 8 members per day.

With the limited number of permits and the high demand from tourists, it’s crucial to plan ahead. During the peak season, there are often more tourists than available permits. To avoid disappointment, travelers are strongly advised to book their permits 5 to 6 months in advance of their desired tour date.

Gorilla permits can be purchased directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offices in Kampala, or visitors can opt to use a tour operator to handle the booking process on their behalf.

How gorilla permits are allocated

Gorilla permits in Uganda are allocated based on the specific regions or trailheads where habituated gorilla groups reside within the gorilla parks. In Uganda, there are five main regions designated for gorilla trekking: Buhoma (in the northern section), Nkuringo (in the southern section), Rushaga (in the southwest section), and Ruhija (in the eastern section) within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, as well as Mgahinga National Park.

When booking a gorilla permit in Uganda, it’s important to specify the region where you prefer to trek mountain gorillas. Unlike Uganda, Rwanda has only one trailhead, and gorilla permits are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Each region offers various accommodation options, so knowing where you’ll stay, eat, and rest is crucial in deciding which region to choose for purchasing your gorilla trekking permit.

Additionally, it’s essential to understand that gorilla permits are not transferable between regions. If a permit is obtained for a specific region, such as Buhoma, it cannot be used for trekking in another region, such as Nkuringo or Rushaga. Therefore, travelers must ensure they book accommodations and plan their itinerary accordingly to match the chosen gorilla trekking region, preventing any wasted permits.

When the gorilla permit expires or you don’t happen to see gorillas

If your gorilla permit expires before you have the chance to trek the mountain gorillas, you unfortunately forfeit the opportunity. However, there is an option to reschedule the permit for another date, provided it’s done at least a week before the original tracking date. After the permit has expired, rescheduling is not permitted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Gorilla permit

UWA allows for two reschedules of gorilla permits and the third reschedule requires special approval from the Executive Director and incurs a 25% penalty fee. Rescheduling is possible even if the permit is only partly paid, but for a second reschedule, the permit must be fully paid.

For promotional gorilla permits, rescheduling is only allowed within the promotional period. If rescheduled outside this period, the booker must pay the price difference at the prevailing non-discounted rates.

Gorilla permits in Uganda can be booked up to two years in advance, requiring a minimum 30% deposit at the time of reservation. The balance must be paid less than 90 days before the trekking date. Failure to pay the balance results in the loss of the 30% deposit, and the permit is canceled.

In the event that gorillas are not found during tracking, the Executive Director may authorize rescheduling for the following day, depending on trekking slot availability. If rescheduling is not possible, the Executive Director may authorize cancellation of the permit, with a 50% refund issued upon confirmation by the respective Chief Warden/Warden in Charge of the inability to access gorillas

Gorilla permit cancellation process 

If you decide to cancel your gorilla trekking permit, the refund policy varies depending on how far in advance you make the cancellation.

If you request cancellation within eight (8) days of the tracking date, unfortunately, no refunds will be issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Cancellation requests made between nine (9) to forty-five (45) days before the tracking date will entitle you to a refund of 25% of the permit value.

For cancellations made between forty-six (46) to ninety (90) days prior to the tracking date, you will receive 50% of the permit value as a refund.

Clients who request cancellation ninety-one (91) days or more before the tracking date will be entitled to a refund of 75% of the permit value. Though it is advisable to do reschedule your gorilla permit since Uganda Revenue Authority doesn’t t usually refund. 

It’s important to note these refund policies when considering canceling your gorilla trekking permit, as they are designed to provide some reimbursement based on the timing of the cancellation.