If you planning a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda, the most important item you will need is the gorilla permit. The permit is what will allow into Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas.
Rwanda offers 96 gorilla permits per day, far much less than the demand for gorilla trekking. Last-minute bookings are as rare as a pot of gold. So book your permit at least three months in advance; though six months is a better assurance to get a permit for the dates you’re planning to visit Rwanda.
How and Where To Buy Gorilla Permits in Rwanda
What is a gorilla permit?
A Rwanda gorilla permit is a pass or ticket a tourist buys from Rwanda Development Board to allow them for a guided mountain gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park. The pass allows tourists to spend up to one hour with a habituated gorilla group.
Tourists meet at the park headquarters located just outside the park in Kiningi, for briefing before 0800 hours. Here the warden on duty verifies your permit before allowing you to join the trekking excursion. They will ask for your passport to match the names on the permit and check for the date on the permit.
Selling gorilla permits is the best way the government can get funding for the mountain gorilla conservation, maintenance, and protection of the gorilla habitats. The money from permits also funds park services like paying trackers, rangers, and monitoring gorilla locations so that all tourists who come to see them can have that chance.
What is included with a gorilla permit in Rwanda?
The gorilla permit in Rwanda includes guided access to a habituated gorilla group, armed security, and a single hour with the gorillas.
Rwanda allows only eight tourists to track one gorilla group. They are escorted by armed rangers and an expert tracker/guide who leads and keeps everyone informed of the trekking developments. The guide is also your reference for any information related to the gorillas and the park’s inhabitants; ask them any related questions and they’ll oblige.
The Rwanda gorilla permit is a once-off-use. It is for a single person, a single trek, and can’t be reused or transferred. However, tourists are allowed to purchase more than one gorilla permit for different trekking days. Once the tracking date on the ticket passes, the permit expires and it’s as good as used toilet paper.
The cost of the Rwanda gorilla permit does not cover the porter and tips after the trek. It also does not include accommodation, transfers and meals, and logistical support for the gorilla trekking safari. The RDB will charge you differently for any other park activity like birding, hiking or nature walks.
How much does a gorilla permit cost in Rwanda?
A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs USD 1500 per person per trek for foreign non-residents above 15 years old. $500 for foreign residents with work permits and $200 for East African Nationals.
RDB offers corporates/organizations a 10% discount on bulk purchases from 30 permits and a 15% discount to traveling families (couples and children over 15 years old)
Why is the Rwanda gorilla permit so expensive?
The Rwandan government’s reason for the most expensive permit in the regions is to reinforce mountain gorilla conservation efforts. Relentless conservation efforts by the government and organizations have been successful in contributing to a steady rise in the endangered mountain gorilla population. But these efforts have to be heavily funded.
Also, as a highly developing nation, the Rwandan government wants to strengthen the development of local communities living around the gorilla park. The government funds more than 400 community projects, directly benefiting people living around national parks, including building schools, hospitals, and access to clean water.
Finally, financing the gorilla trekking services centered around wild animals that don’t stay in one place is take much of the gorilla permit revenue. From on-the-clock rangers, guides to paper-pushing officers, every single employee gets paid from the permit revenue.
Gorilla trekking requires two teams of rangers; one to stay with the gorillas from dusk to dawn and the other to protect the guard the tourists to and from seeing the gorillas. That way, the promise for every tourist to meet the gorillas is highly assured.
How many gorilla permits are available in Rwanda?
With 12 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park and only eight people allowed to visit a single gorilla group per day, there are 96 gorilla permits available in Rwanda every single day.
Unlike Uganda that has five trekking offices, Rwanda has one tracking office at Kiningi park headquarters. From here all trekking excursions start, spreading out to various trailheads located at the edge of the park, on the base of the volcano mountains.
Where to buy gorilla permits in Rwanda?
You can apply for your Rwanda gorilla permit online at the IREMBO government website and pay by credit card. Bookings are on a first-come-first-serve basis and you can book in advance depending on availability.
You can also book your permit directly with a licensed tour operator who gives you insurance on any unforeseen eventualities. A tour operator can help you through the logistics, especially rescheduling when you have to change the date.
Contact our tour consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you buy your gorilla trekking permit for your chosen tracking dates.
How to get gorilla permits
The online booking system will automatically issue a permit upon completion of the process application. The minimum age for a gorilla trekking permit is 15 years.
The permit application process is as easy as picking an availability date, filling mandatory forms, uploading requisite supporting documentation, and paying the applicable fees.
You’ll have to give the applicant’s details, including names, passport copy/number, email, and phone number, at the time of booking. Even if you book through a tour operator, these details will be required.
We advise tourists against giving inaccurate, incomplete, or false information on permit applications. Such cases are common with online applications where applicants apply for the wrong product, upload a false ID/Visa, or an expired ID/ Visa.
At the park office, during trekking briefing, a warden will be verifying tourist documents. It would be very disappointing to be denied entry when you paid all that money and made it all the way to the entrance.
Can you buy last-minute gorilla permits in Rwanda?
You can buy last-minute gorilla permits in Rwanda only from licensed tour operators who purchase the permits from RDB in bulk, hoping to sell to last-minute travelers. Operators hoping to sell-off permits for canceled trips are also a perfect source for last-minute bookings.
It’s highly improbable to buy a gorilla permit during the high or peak travel seasons in Rwanda. If you’re planning a Rwanda gorilla trekking safari for June to September, ensure that you have reservations at least six months in advance.
Is there a refund for a gorilla permit in Rwanda?
Volcanoes National Park visitors who fail to track gorillas as a result of the gorilla group’s movements, have another chance or receive a full refund on their permit.
However, visitors who would have tracked the whole day and failed to make contact with a gorilla family for one reason or another will get a 75% refund of the permit fee.
No Refund in case of late arrivals or flight delay, absence, or cancellation of trip for any other reason.
Book With Encounter Africa
Encounter Africa Safaris Ltd can tremendously reduce your planning time, manage your trip and assure you of a memorable safari experience. We plan custom-made Rwanda gorilla safaris that include processing your gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport.
We even accept last-minute bookings; we’ve stashed away some gorilla permits hoping to find travelers like you. No waiting, no erroneous promises with Encounter Africa. Email us at email@example.com to talk to our gorilla tour consultants right now.