How to book last minute gorilla safari and permit in Uganda and Rwanda
Booking gorilla trekking last minute is possible, although you are limited with a choice of services, like accommodation, vehicle hire, professional driver guide, and so much more that makes up the gorilla trekking package.
Availability of gorilla permits varies with season, whereby the peak season, which is June to September and December to January, permits are highly demanded. The low-season gorilla permits may not be highly demanded sometimes.
Securing a gorilla permit at the last minute sometimes causes panic and limits on the choices of service providers, especially in the peak season.
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Getting a gorilla permit on the ground on the day of trekking is possible but very uncertain because you may not know in which area your permit is booked for the case of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
There are chases of securing a gorilla permit at the last minute from companies that are reselling theirs. This opportunity, however, is possible with companies registered with the Association Of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO). Encounter Africa Safaris is a full member of the Association Of Uganda Tour Operators.
When Is The Best Time To Book Gorilla Trekking Permits
At Encounter Africa Safaris, we encourage our clients to secure their gorilla permits at least six month to a year in advance. Even last-minute gorilla permits may be booked, but this is a probability in most cases because of there limited number. The Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board sell gorilla permits on first come first served basis.
The gorilla permits are also limited to a maximum of 8 permits per family per day.
Uganda has about 160 gorilla permits released for the public to book per day from 19 gorilla families.
Rwanda has about 96 gorilla permits released per day for the public to book.
Purchasing your gorilla permit is the only way to show your commitment to participating in the gorilla trekking safari.
In Uganda, you must know the area where your gorilla permit is booked before securing accommodation so as not to drive so early in the morning to catch up with a briefing in another area. The way is sometimes slippery and full of potholes that may puncture your tires. No one would be happy in case they are stuck in the middle of nowhere while on safari.
How Much Can I Buy A Gorilla Trekking Permit For Uganda or Rwanda?
The Uganda gorilla permit currently costs $700 per person per trek, and the Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1500 per person per trek.
The price of gorilla permits includes the ranger guide fees, one hour of viewing the mountain gorillas, security, gorilla medication, park fees, and others.
The cost of the gorilla permit excludes the porter costs, drinks, packed lunch, tipping, transport, and other items of personal nature.
You can use a tour operator like Encounter Africa Safaris to purchase your gorilla permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority or Rwanda Development Board. You can also purchase it directly from either body although passing through the long queue of calls to obtain availability may be quite nagging.
Are Gorilla Permits Refundable?
Gorilla permits refund is managed by the Rwanda Development Board or Uganda Wildlife Authority gorilla permit refund policy. When you secure a gorilla permit, it is marked sold and so reimbursing the money depends on the refund policy.
You have an option of rescheduling your gorilla permit to a future date, but it must be fully paid in case you purchased it in installments. Uganda and Rwanda allow paying for your gorilla permit in installments as long as you purchase it 90 days to the date of trekking. You must remember to top it up before the 90 days to the date of trekking or else stand a chance of losing it.
When you discover that you have a communicable infection before coming for gorilla trekking and you volunteer not to go, you may stand a chance of receiving a refund according to the policies of these bodies.
How Long Does Gorilla Trekking Take
On the day of trekking, it is hard to determine how long your gorilla trek will be. Locating the mounta8in gorillas depends on several factors.
The proximity of the mountain gorillas’ food. The mountain gorillas feed from a particular area for sometimes until food is exhausted then, they relocate to another.
In case of a fight with another mountain gorilla family, the family you are trekking with may go to another area in case they lose so prolong your trek. In case the family is victorious, they may celebrate for some time which may make it easy to trace them at times.
During the severe rainy season, the trails are more slippery and untimely down pours are received in the wilderness. This may delay your time to locate the mountain gorillas because they sometimes relocate to the slopes.
When a gorilla family losses a family member, they may go into a somber mood which may keep them in hiding and so locating them may be challenging too.
When the dominant silverback is adventurous, the entire gorilla family may be forced to follow his hobbies. This makes trekking to locate the mountain gorillas challenging too.
Which Is The Best Country For Gorilla Trekking Of Uganda and Rwanda?
Meeting the mountain gorillas is an unmatched experience because standing in front of the only leftover mountain gorillas in the world is exceptional. You may forget all that you may have gone through while preparing to go gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda.
In order to really understand the difference, you may take the opportunity of attending gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda. But some of the differences you can point out between Uganda and Rwanda include the following:
The cost Of Gorilla Permits
In Uganda, the gorilla permit cost $700 per person per day, while the Rwanda gorilla permit costs $1500 per person per trek.
Rwanda has so far 12 gorilla families open for tourism, while Uganda has 19 gorilla families so far open for tourism.
The time taken to drive from Kigali Airport in Rwanda is about 3 hours to Volcanoes National Park while the drive from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park is about 8 hours to 9 hours.
Uganda has a wide range of safari activities options which you may combine with gorilla trekking, while Rwanda is limited with other safari activities options.
The layout of the briefing point for Rwanda gorilla trekking is well structured while the Uganda briefing point still needs improvement.
Many tourists who do gorilla trekking say it is a cryptic activity that leaves you feeling some attached to the mountain gorillas.
Where To Do Gorilla Trekking In Uganda And Rwanda
Volcanoes National park
This is Rwanda’s only gorilla trekking destination and a biosphere reserve too. So far, Volcanoes National Park is home to about 12 gorilla families that live in this historical forest. The topography of this park is generally mountainous with five distinctive volcanoes: mountain Gahinga, Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabyinyo, Mountain Karisimbi, and Mountain Bisoke.
A number of other primates also live in Volcanoes National Park some of which include Black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, golden monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and others.
An array of birds live in volcanoes National Park including some Albertine rift endemics. You can also hike in the last steps of Dian Fossey, the mountain gorilla heroin.
You need to book a Rwanda gorilla trekking permit to be allowed one hour with the mountain gorillas. The Rwanda Development Board is the Rwanda gorilla permit selling body so you can check for Rwanda gorilla permits availability online too.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
In the southwestern part of Uganda is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The thickness of Bwindi forest is the reason why it has two names that mean the same that is to say Bwindi means impenetrable locally.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park hosts almost half of the total number of mountain gorillas in the world. Even other primates are exciting to look at while trekking to locate the mountain gorillas. Some of these primates include chimpanzees, olive baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and others.
A wide range of birds also live in Bwindi forest including Albertine rift endemics and seven bird species of those on IUCN red list.
To do gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you must have a gorilla permit which is reserved according to area. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four gorilla trekking areas that is to say Buhoma area, Ruhijah area, Rushaga area and Nkuringo area.
Before booking accommodation for your gorilla safari, you must know which area your gorilla permit is booked. This is to prevent you from rising up so early to catch up with briefing in another area. At times the roads are so slippery and getting vehicle issues may happen because of the darkness around.
If you are booked on a fly-in gorilla trekking safari, ensure you hire a transfer vehicle because Kihihi airstrip where planes land is about 2 hours from Buhoma, the main administrative center for the park.
Mgahinga National park
Mgahinga National Park is the smallest National park in Uganda but also one of the hosts of the mountain gorillas. Its topography is made up of three distinctive volcanoes that is to say mountain Gahinga, Mountain Muhavura and Mountain Sabyinyo. This park lies on the southern base of these mountains which they share with Volcanoes National park in Rwanda.
The park so far has one gorilla family called Nyakagezi. It was known to meander into Rwanda but lately, the gorilla family is steadily living in Uganda. You can pre-book its gorilla permits which used not to happen previously.
Alternatively, you can take a day’ hike on either mountains for a return trip of 8 hours. You must have an escorting ranger guide too. For keen birders, this park is a Uganda birding haven with more than 115 bird species recorded by ornithologists but the list is still expanding.
What Is the Age Limit For Gorilla Trekking?
15 years and above is the age limit for gorilla trekking because of several reasons like the time for locating the mountain gorillas is unknown so some patience is required. A child below this age may not withstand the conditions in the forest.
Sometimes one needs to be physically fit in order go through the entire hike which children below this age may not have. This may delay the rest of the gorilla trekking group, creating anger amongst the other trekkers.
At times the mountain gorillas are provocative, which may not go well with a child below this age. You need to follow the information given to you by the ranger guides during briefing.
What are the Dos and Don’ts of Gorilla Trekking?
- No eating or smoking in about 200 meters from the mountain gorillas so that they are not enticed to grab eats from you and start depending on human provision.
- Spitting on vegetation or the ground of forbidden as you may pass some germs to the mountain gorillas.
- Keep a distance of about 8 meters from the gorillas when you locate them. They are highly susceptible to human infections.
- When searching for the mountain gorillas, keep silent or talk at low tone because they are scared of unfamiliar voices in there vicinity.
- Only a flash less camera is allowed when taking photos during gorilla trekking. This is to prevent chances of causing a stampede in the forest.
- Only one hour is allowed in front of the mountain gorillas when you locate them. They are habituated to be in the presence of humans for just that hour so that they can go about there day’s activities.
- Provoking the mountain gorillas is forbidden because they may get agitated and run into hiding.
- In case you wish to do a long call, ask the ranger guide to dig a hole of about 30 centimeters and cover everything well beyond recognition.
- Volunteer to stay behind in case you catch any communicable infection like cough, flu and others.
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