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BUDGET GORILLA SAFARIS | UGANDA GORILLA TREKKING TOURS

Budget Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari Tours & Holidays

While gorilla trekking seems more costly than other wildlife safaris, an encounter with Uganda or Rwanda mountain gorillas is the ultimate wildlife experience. Yes, Rwanda/Uganda gorilla trekking permits are expensive, but an hour spent with mountain gorillas is priceless!

The permit fee is high because a majority of the money raised goes into conservation efforts, such as paying park rangers, promoting the work of gorilla doctors who ensure the apes’ perfect health, and inspiring the local communities.

A gorilla permit costs US Dollars 700 in Uganda, US Dollars 1500 in Rwanda, and US Dollars 450 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Because of the many number of people who want to see gorillas and since there is only a specific number of people allowed to see a given gorilla family per day, Mountain gorilla permits tend to sell out because there are only around 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild and therefore, it is also necessary to obtain a gorilla permit for at least three months before the gorilla tracking date.

Equally, it’s important to note that Uganda is home to more than half of these mountain gorillas, with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo sharing the other half.

Mountain gorillas are classified as endangered by organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their low population worldwide.

When it comes to gorilla safaris in Uganda or Rwanda, the debate about which country is better for a gorilla safari is based on personal opinion (even bias) and continues without resolution. Each country has advantages over the other, in our experience running gorilla and wildlife safaris, and the choice of where to go gorilla tracking is entirely yours. 

Some of our gorilla safari clients choose to visit the gorillas in both Rwanda and Uganda in order to learn more about the variations in tracking mountain gorillas in these two fascinating countries.

Aside from regular gorilla tracking, mountain gorilla habituation is a two-year phase that helps Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to become accustomed to human presence. This helps a group of mountain gorillas to remain with or near humans without being aggressive or escaping.(Unless they are provoked). Around 20% of mountain gorillas in Uganda are habituated.

Mountain gorillas who have not been habituated are unpredictable, and visitors are not permitted to approach them.

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Commonly asked Uganda Rwanda gorilla safari questions

What is the right time to see the gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda?

Mountain Gorilla Tracking includes walking through dense woodland, steep hills, and mud-strewn roads. This activity is more enjoyable than it seems.

Typical gorilla monitoring or habituation encounters can be undertaken at any time of year however, the perfect time to go on a gorilla safari is just after the rainy season has finished, for a more satisfying experience. The countryside and gorilla parks are still stunningly green and less dusty at this time of year. 

How long does tracking gorillas take?

The period of gorilla tracking in Uganda or Rwanda is determined by the gorilla family assigned to you; the activity can last anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours. We suggest that you mentally and physically brace yourself for your gorilla trekking trip.

We normally suggest a packing list and lodging options to all tourists who are planning to track mountain gorillas. Before you head out into the forest, the guides and wardens at the various parks will usually give you a briefing on the criteria for gorilla tracking. 

Uganda/Rwanda Gorilla safari packing list

It’s not a joke to spend more than half a day in the jungle forest! To ensure an enjoyable and stress-free gorilla habituation experience, pack the essentials.

Hiking boots/shoes, gardening gloves, long trousers, long sleeved shirts / blouses, sun glasses, hat, rain jacket, and insect repellants should all be on your habituation packing list. Also, remember to bring plenty of water and energy-boosting snacks to keep you going strong. If you are to successfully undergo a gorilla habituation experience, it’s highly recommended that you bring a porter and a walking stick.

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What are the chances of seeing the gorillas? 

We have never heard of anyone returning without having seen gorillas. Over 95% of the time, you’ll be able to see them since gorilla families are pre-tracked and the last known location is recorded by the guide rangers, this is the case. This way, you won’t have to spend the whole day looking for the assigned gorilla family.

Following your gorilla-watching excursion, you may participate in a variety of Uganda or Rwanda safari activities, such as visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb to learn about her gorilla conservation and security efforts.

During your Uganda Gorilla safaris, you will meet other primates such as chimps, baboons, and golden monkeys that live in Uganda and Rwanda’s gorilla parks. 

After this, you can further go on a safari to view other jungle animals in other national parks and reserves. If you enjoy nature walks, white water rafting, cultural visits, bird watching, and mountain hiking, Uganda or Rwanda is the place for you. Friendly Gorillas Safaris has tailor-made packages that combine gorilla safaris with other activities.

When can I book my Uganda Rwanda gorilla permit?

When you intend to go gorilla trekking in Uganda/Rwanda, you must book your gorilla permit as soon as possible. Your gorilla trekking permit should be obtained at least three months prior to the tracking date.

It’s worth mentioning that all visitors must have Gorilla permits in order to access the park, so you shouldn’t confirm travel dates until you’ve secured a gorilla permit. If you have confirmed your trip, you must pay the gorilla permit fee to the company in order for them to be secured.

Booking gorilla permits, particularly during peak season, can be difficult, but Friendly Gorillas Safaris can assist you in obtaining them quickly and putting together your entire gorilla tracking itinerary – making it pretty enjoyable. 

We will assist you in arranging transportation, lodging, and obtaining gorilla permits. The gorilla permits are included in the total cost, which you will be told about. Each of the three mountain gorilla trekking countries charges a different fee for gorilla permits.

In Rwanda, there are ten gorilla families, and a permit costs USD 1500. In Rwanda, gorilla permits are obtained at the Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali or Ruhengeri, which is close to the park.

Booking Gorilla Permits in Uganda – Gorilla Permit Cancellation Charges and Policy 

Only the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park offer gorilla trekking in Uganda. Uganda has a total of 12 gorilla groups.

There are 11 gorilla families in Bwindi, but only one large gorilla family in Mgahinga. In Uganda, gorilla trekking costs USD 700 per person per day. Uganda has reaped major benefits from the low cost of gorilla permits. Although Rwanda struggles to sell permits, it receives many more visitors than it used to. 

Rwanda/Uganda Gorilla trekking rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations of gorilla trekking are given out in a simple briefing every day before leaving for gorilla trekking at the headquarters of the respective gorilla national parks.

These rules developed gorilla trekking rules and regulations by the conservation bodies in Uganda & Rwanda. Gorilla trekking rules, also known as dos and don’ts, have been developed to ensure the safety of both the endangered gorillas and the travelers.

Gorilla tracking is the most common tourist activity in Africa, drawing large crowds to Uganda’s Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, as well as Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. 

To ensure a peaceful and enjoyable gorilla trek, travelers are encouraged to obey these guidelines. Mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species with over 99 percent human genes, rendering them vulnerable to human communicable diseases. Some of the rules apply before you encounter the gorillas, and others apply while you’re with them.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Uganda, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in Rwanda, and Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) in the Democratic Republic of Congo are conservation organizations that enforce gorilla trekking rules and regulations.

The following are some of the gorilla trekking laws and regulations in Africa:
Before meeting the gorillas:

  • If you’re sick, don’t go trekking with the endangered mountain gorillas. Any tourist who exhibits symptoms of a cold, flu, or illness will be denied access to the endangered gorillas. Human diseases are contagious in mountain gorillas.
  • Mandatory temperature monitoring to ensure passengers are free of the killer virus during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • For proof, bring your gorilla permit and other travel documents.
  • Travelers under the age of 15 are not permitted to visit the gorillas (Gorilla trekking is a strenuous adventure that may be difficult for children). 
  • Only eight people are permitted to visit each gorilla family.
  • Put on your mask. 
  • Hand washing and sanitizing are needed before and after meeting the gorillas.
  • Only four people are allowed to meet a gorilla family during a gorilla habituation experience.
  • Keep the group together (do not move alone in the jungle)
  • Human waste, especially faeces, should be buried at a depth of at least 30cm (12 ft).
  • Do not litter in the park and follow the park ranger’s instructions. When in the jungle, pay attention to his/her advice. 

When with the gorillas;

  • Keep a seven-meter distance between you and the endangered mountain gorillas. Maintain a social gap to prevent the spread of human-wildlife diseases.
  • Do not look the threatened gorillas in the eyes directly. Direct eye contact with gorillas irritates the critically endangered animals.
  • Cameras with flash should not be used. Before taking any photos, remember to turn off your flash. Torching the gorillas’ eyes is strongly discouraged.
  • When you’re with the gorillas, keep your voices down. These endangered species thrive in a tranquil environment.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the presence of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
  • When you’re with the gorillas, don’t chew.
  • If you’re with endangered mountain gorillas, don’t drink. 

Other rules that govern Gorilla tracking National parks

  • When driving, do not wander from the marked paths.
  • Off-road driving is prohibited in Uganda’s and Rwanda’s savannah parks.
  • Camping is only permitted at designated locations in the park.
  • In national parks, horns and other loud noises are prohibited.
  • In the national parks, dogs, cats, and other pets are not permitted.
  • Ammunition and weapons are not permitted in the park. Only rangers are permitted to carry firearms in the park. The weapons are used to scare wild animals away from humans in case of an assault.
  • Keep a safe place for your entrance receipts.
  • From time to time, you will be asked for verification.
  • While in the park, do not exceed a speed of 40 kilometers per hour. Speeding is strongly discouraged, and punishable.

What is gorilla habituation?

This is a gorilla encounter activity that allows you to spend four hours with the gorillas (rather than the usual one hour during gorilla tracking) while being guided by professional researchers and trackers.

The aim of this extraordinary experimental training or taming of wild mountain gorillas is to make them familiar and relaxed with humans. Both gorillas must go through a gorilla habituation experience before they are deemed free and available to trekkers.

Unlike trekking, where a traveler can only observe from afar, the experience allows visitors to participate in gorilla training. To meet the wild gorillas, visitors hike with a team of conservationists, gorilla doctors, researchers, and armed park rangers.

The team imitates gorilla behaviours such as chewing vegetation, walking on their arms, and scaling trees, which adds to the fun and enjoyment of the experience. 

This $1500 experience in Uganda is for those who have already been on the regular tracking trip and now want to learn more about mountain gorillas. You’ll have spent four hours with the gorilla family and learned a lot by the time you leave. 

Where to do Uganda Gorilla habituation

Only the Rushaga sector, south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is used for the experimental experience.

Anyone interested in participating in this magical experience should fly to the Rushaga sector in south-eastern Uganda. Two gorilla families (Bushaho and Bikingi) are reportedly undergoing habituation and will be available for trekking soon.

Mishaya family, Kahungye group, Busingye family, Bweza family, and Nshongi gorilla group are among the gorilla families that have already been habituated in the Rushaga region. The Rushaga sector has the most habituated gorilla communities, making it the best place in Uganda to go gorilla trekking. 

Requirements for booking a gorilla permit.

Your tracking dates are based on your availability. Info about your passport number that should be submitted to your travel agent.

Gorilla permits are non-transferable, and you will be required to show identification at the park to ensure that your personal information matches that on the permit. Bank transfer or Pesapal are the two methods of payment (A payment link is sent to you). 

More Information on Securing Gorilla Permits in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo

A gorilla permit is the only paperwork that allows you to observe gorillas and visit the theme parks. When booking your trip, Friendly Gorillas Safaris can ask for your passport information or a copy of your passport so that we can verify your age and language skills.

The age factor is significant because it decides whether you are qualified for gorilla trekking and whether you would need the services of a porter when visiting the park.

The copy of your passport will also assist the tour company in deciding if you need a multilingual guide. 

What is included in the gorilla permit price?

The cost of a gorilla permit includes park entrance fees as well as the services of the rangers and guides who will accompany you on your gorilla tracking expedition. The rangers keep you safe by scaring away any wild animals with gunshots (rarely).

The cost of a gorilla permit does not include food, transportation, porters, or tips. Before traveling, make sure to book your gorilla permits and safari months in advance. This is especially critical during peak seasons.If you get a gorilla permit without making a reservation in June or August, consider yourself lucky.

Rwanda Gorillas Trekking: What to Expect

Here are a few highlights to look forward to during your visit to Rwanda. You’ll need to get up early in the morning, which means you’ll need to wait near the park entrance. At 7 a.m., your African gorilla guide will send you a briefing on safety precautions and etiquette.

The Rwanda Development Board provides over 80 gorilla tracking guides who are well-trained and speak English and French.  You walk to the forest with the rest of the group and begin the climb, which could be a bit challenging depending on your physical condition. Remember, these are mountain gorillas, so some hiking is needed.

The adventure will last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. The English-speaking forest guides are fantastic, and will lead you to a special ‘habituated’ mountain gorilla community that has no problem with human presence. 

Although a mature silverback male gorilla can weigh up to 200kg, or three times the weight of an average man, the fear usually disappears once you see the group.

Usually, the gorillas would be scattered around a small patch of dense vegetation. They will continue their interactions and even eat without regard for their human guests, but they will keep an eye on you. Rarely, a playful youngster will boldly approach you with inquisitiveness, at times approaching so close that you must step away.

(You are not permitted to approach them closer than 7 meters; this is to protect the gorillas from infectious human disease.) Please carry along warm clothing.

How many mountain gorillas are left in the world?

There are only 1063 mountain gorillas left on the planet, and they can be found in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They are listed as an endangered species, and their wild survival is still in danger. They are scientifically known as Gorilla beringei beringei, and their bodies are usually well-built and muscular. Females can weigh up to 250 pounds, while males can weigh up to 390 pounds. Mountain gorillas live in groups or families of three to thirty individuals.

There is a dominant adult male, also known as a silverback gorilla, in every gorilla family. Female mountain gorillas have the same 8.5-month gestation cycle as humans.

Each day, only eight visitors are allowed to visit one habituated gorilla family group. Park guides will accompany tourists on a trek to see these endangered apes. There are 21 habituated gorilla families in Uganda, with 20 in Bwindi National Park and just one in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

In Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, there are ten gorilla families, and in Congo’s Virunga National Park, there are eight mountain gorilla groups/families.

Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is safe and therefore you do not have anything to worry about! All treks to see these apes take place inside gorilla families that have already been habituated, which means they are used to human presence. 

What is the difference between Gorilla tracking and Gorilla Trekking?

Gorilla trekking is a tourist activity that involves tourists traversing the jungle in search of mountain gorillas. If you want to go on this primate trip, you’ll need a valid gorilla permit. Depending on one’s level of physical activity, visitors can spend anywhere from 2 to 6 hours trekking to see gorillas.

Visitors join an assigned group of gorillas with a dedicated park guide in the lead during gorilla trekking meanwhile, Gorilla tracking is a term that refers to a monitoring system in which visitors look for a habituated gorilla community.

It differs from gorilla trekking in that it is usually carried out by park rangers or advanced organizations using a variety of techniques to help locate where gorillas can be and when they are found, what follows is trekking. 

Rwanda gorilla trekking groups/families

Only Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), a part of the larger Virunga mountains, is open to gorilla tracking in Rwanda.

Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga complex, which includes the southern area of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and some in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.

Rwanda gorillas are divided into two groups: those used for study or observation, and those used only by scientists and researchers.

The largest number of gorillas can be found in Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s. 

There are also ten gorilla families that have been habituated for tourism purposes and are open to trekkers.

Every day, only 8 people are allowed to visit each of the gorilla groups, and each visit is limited to one hour. The Ugenda, Umubano, Susa party, Karinsimbi, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Amahoro, Bwengye, Group 13 (the Agasha group), and the Kwitonda are among these gorilla groups. Both of these are mountain gorillas, according to Eckhart and Lanjouw. 

What Else To Do After Rwanda Gorilla Tours?

Nyungwe Forest National Park, Lake Kivu, and Akagera National Park are among Rwanda’s safari destinations. Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to 12 primate species, 300 bird species, and about 7 mammal species, making it one of Africa’s oldest forests.

Chimpanzee tracking, as well as birding, a canopy walkway, and hiking trails, are the main attractions. Elephants, lions, elephants, topis, zebra, antelope, monkeys, bushbuck, impala, and a number of other species can be seen in Akagera National Park. There are over 500 bird species to be found here.

Gishwati Mukura National Park is one of Rwanda’s newest parks.It becomes Rwanda’s third park, known for its primates and birdwatching. 

When is the most suitable time to visit Rwanda?

Rwanda safari trips can be taken at any time, though the best time depends on your personal preferences as well as your tolerance for rainy weather.

The majority of tourists come to Rwanda for gorilla trekking, which is accessible all year. However, trekking in the Virunga Mountains, home to the gorillas, can be difficult due to the wet climate – particularly during the rainy season (March, April, October and November). 

The driest months (June to August) are perfect for gorilla trekking in Rwanda, and hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is also recommended during these months. Most primates can be found in Nyungwe at any time of year, but chimps are easier to track during the rainy season because they prefer to migrate deeper into the forest when food becomes scarce. 

What are the main reasons for visiting Rwanda and what are the main attractions?

Rwanda is a lovely little country best known for the 1994 genocide. The good news is that the country has largely recovered from this devastating incident and is now extremely secure and tourism-friendly.

Throughout this tumultuous time, the Rwandan authorities managed to keep their gorillas protected, and seeing these gentle giants has become one of Africa’s top attractions.

So, trekking mountain gorillas is by far the most popular tourist attraction in Rwanda, and most visitors come for that purpose alone, often combining a safari in Kenya or Tanzania with a few days in Rwanda. There is, however, much more to see and do in Rwanda than gorilla trekking. 

Nyungwe Forest National Park is also worth seeing. This breathtaking high-altitude forest is shockingly open and home to 13 primate species, including chimps. Rwanda’s only savannah reserve is Akagera National Park.

It may not equate to the Serengeti or the Masai Mara, but this scenic park has a lot to give in terms of wilderness charm, and it is also home to the Big Five, thanks to recent reintroductions.