Uganda Gorilla Trekking Permit is one of the only three countries in Africa where mountain gorillas can be visited in their natural habitat. Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the other two countries.
Uganda has a population of over 400 individual mountain gorillas found in its Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Gorilla trekking in Uganda excursions are organized in the two parks and tourists are required to have permits before they can trek any gorilla family. Here are all the facts tourists need to know about a Uganda gorilla permit:
What is a Uganda gorilla permit?
A gorilla permit is a term that was coined by conservationists to refer to a document or card or temporary license that is issued to allow tourists to trek the endangered mountain gorillas.
A Uganda gorilla permit is issued to allow tourists to trek the gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the only locations where mountain gorillas are found in Uganda.
The gorilla permit issued indicates the park a visitor will go trekking, the date of trekking, and park region where to go trekking.
How much does a Uganda gorilla permit cost?
May 2020 and before
A Uganda gorilla permit for trekking gorilla families in Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla national parks costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 for all East African nationals.
These costs are however set to change with effect from July this year. The cost of a permit for foreign residents and foreign non-residents will increase by $100.
The cost changes are the result of directives issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority after discussions with the Uganda Tourism Board, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, and other tourism bodies.
July 2020 and after
With effect from 1st July 2020, a Uganda gorilla permit is set to cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and Ugandan nationals, as well as members of the East African community, will still pay UGX 250,000.
Reason for increasing Uganda gorilla permit cost
Increasing the cost of gorilla permits is aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The income generated from permit sales is to be used in funding gorilla conservation projects and supporting the local communities living near the parks.
Uganda’s gorilla permit cost still fair
In spite of the recent increment, the Uganda gorilla permit cost is still very fair as compared to Rwanda’s charges. A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs $1500.
How does one get a Uganda gorilla permit?
Gorilla trekking permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Visitors can book their permits directly by contacting the UWA head offices in Kampala. This can be done by email or phone call.
Using a trusted tour operator is the other sure way to get a gorilla permit. All one needs to do is to tell their tour operator when they want to go trekking and the operator can check with UWA to see whether a permit for any of the choice dates can be issued. If a choice slot is available, one can go on to make the payment. Due to high demand tourists are advised to book their permits 3 months or more in advance.
When does a Uganda gorilla permit expire?
A Uganda gorilla permit is valid for one day; the day a visitor is allocated to go trekking. Permits expire the moment trekkers successfully locate their allocated families.
In case of failure to locate a gorilla family, as a result of the group’s movement to a distant location or due to natural disasters, trekkers are given another chance to go trekking again the next day without paying again.
The Uganda gorilla trekking permit is otherwise valid for one day and cannot be reused after that.
Is it possible to switch gorilla trekking dates?
Yes, it is possible for tourists to change their gorilla trekking dates. Changes are allowed when there are still several months or days to the originally chosen date.
Rescheduling is not possible if it’s only a few days left to the trekking date. Late changes would cause losses to the UWA.
Also, changing dates come at an extra cost charged by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on the tourist.
Can you cancel your gorilla trekking permit and get a refund?
It is possible for a tourist to cancel their Uganda gorilla permit but a refund is conditional;
If a permit is canceled 0-8 days to the gorilla trekking date, no refund is made by UWA
For cancellation from 14-45 days to the gorilla trekking date, only 25% of the payment will be refunded and UWA will retain 75%.
For cancellation from 46-90 days prior to the gorilla trekking date, 50% will be refunded and UWA will retain 50%.
Cancellation from 91 days and above before gorilla trekking date calls for 75% refund and 25% is retained by UWA.
When are Uganda gorilla permits issued?
Uganda Gorilla permits are issued all year round. Tourists are advised to book their permits at least 3 months or more prior to their desired trekking dates.
Tourists are required to pay 30% of the total permit fee to confirm their booking. Pre-payment is aimed at ensuring the proper and timely allocation of gorilla families to trekkers.
Do tourists choose gorilla families to trek?
Tourists are given a chance to choose the family they want to trek, but the final decision solely lies in the hands of the park authorities.
Allocation of families is normally done in the morning, on the day of the trek, during the pre-trekking briefing. The best option would be to trek a family that is closer to one’s accommodation or lodge.
Is there an age restriction for acquiring a Uganda gorilla permit?
Yes, the minimum age for acquiring a Uganda gorilla permit is 15 years.