Gorilla Permit Booking Information

A gorilla permit is like a movie ticket that allows the viewer into the auditorium. The show is set in the prehistoric rainforest jungles of east-central Africa, where mountain gorillas have flourished for thousands of years. You need the gorilla permit for permission for secure and guided entry into their territory.

Although more than 1070 wild mountain gorillas roam the slopes of Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest—the only two mountain gorilla habitats in the world—there are countable groups habituated for tourism in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The low number of mountain gorillas available for tourism and the high number of tourist wanting to see these magnificent creatures means a limited number of gorilla permits.

Mountain gorilla permits are scarce during peak travel months of June, July, August, September, December and February. Therefore, planning a gorilla trekking safari requires that you book a permit months before your journey’s date.

The government wildlife authority issues the gorilla permit at face value. Any traveller can purchase the permit directly from the authority’s office or use a licensed tour operator to process the permit on their behalf.

Since 2003, Encounter Africa, working with wildlife authorities, has processed gorilla permits for hundreds of travellers around the world and successfully operated gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda: we have the reviews to show of. On this page, we put together all the relevant information about gorilla permits to help you plan your gorilla trekking safari. 

Let’s take a quick look at the summary of what we cover.

  • What is a gorilla permit?
  • What is Gorilla trekking?
  • How much is a gorilla permit in Uganda?
  • How much is a gorilla permit in Rwanda?
  • How many gorilla permits are available in Uganda?
  • How many gorilla permits are available in Rwanda?
  • How are gorilla permits allocated?

What is a gorilla permit?

A gorilla permit is a document or card issued by ORTPN, Rwanda Development Board or Uganda Wildlife Authority that allows any traveller above 15 years of age to trek mountain gorillas in any of the three habitats – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park (Uganda) and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

The gorilla permit includes two armed rangers for your jungle security and a knowledgeable tracking guide to lead you to where a mountain gorilla group would be foraging. 

After verifying your permit at any of the forest trailheads, your assigned guide will lead you and seven other trekkers into the forest, flanked by armed rangers for your security against wild animals and anything that would threaten your wellbeing.

Once you find the assigned gorilla family, your acquired gorilla trekking permit will allow you exactly one hour in their presence. However, the gorilla trekking activity can take approximately 30 minutes to 9 hours to find the assigned gorilla family. Non-the-less, most tourists usually find them in less than 3 hours. 

What is Gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking is defined as the activity of hiking in the rainforest jungles of Virunga Mountains slopes, looking for a habituated gorilla group and spending a specified time with them once found.

Gorilla trekking happens only in two habitats found in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. One of the habitats is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwestern Uganda, where 19 gorilla groups have been habituated for gorilla tourism and where almost half of all the mountain gorillas find refuge. 

The second mountain gorilla habitat, where gorilla trekking occurs, is on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains straddling the border that separates the three countries. The Virunga habitat stretches into Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (where 10 gorilla groups are habituated for tourism,) DRC’s Volcanoes National Park (10 gorilla groups) and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, where two gorilla groups are available for the gorilla trekking experience.

How much is a gorilla permit in Uganda?

A gorilla permit in Uganda costs USD 700 (£495/€575) per person per day. The minimum age for a permit is 15 years old. A permit for foreign residents (with work permits) costs $600, and EAC nationals cost UGX 250,000 per person. 

The Uganda gorilla permit is issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and sells it at face value (which means it doesn’t matter where you buy it, the price is the same). However, special permit offers are occasionally available, as shown below.

Gorilla trekking permit discounted offers in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Park;

  • National, EAC—UGX 150,000 ending June 31, 2021
  • Foreign residents—$300 ending June 31, 2021
  • Foreign non-residents—$400 ending June 31, 2021

See discounted permit prices.

How much is a gorilla permit in Rwanda?

A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs USD 1,500 (£1,062/€1,232) per person per day. The minimum age for a permit is 15 years old. Special permit offers are currently available as shown below:

Gorilla trekking permit offers in Volcanoes National Park

  • Nationals, EAC—$200
  • Foreign residents—$500
  • Corporates/Organizations—10% discount on bulk purchases from 30 permits
  • Families—15% discount for family visits (couples and children over 15 years old)
  • African citizens—a promotional $500 will be applied for mountain gorilla trekking.
  • International tourists (Non- African Citizens) travelling in a group of 100 and more—a promotional rate of $500 will be applied for mountain gorilla trekking.

How many gorilla permits are available in Uganda?

There are 152 gorilla permits available in Uganda. There are 19 gorilla groups available for tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks. Only 8 tourists can trek a single gorilla group per day, which means 8 gorilla permits are available for purchase for each gorilla group per day.

There are more tourist than available gorilla permits, especially during the high season months of June, July, August, September, December and February. So we highly advise guests to book their permit 3-12 months ahead of their tour date to avoid inconveniences. It’s sporadic to find last-minute permits available in Uganda.

You can purchase your gorilla permit at the Kampala UWA office if you can handle the long waiting queues and bureaucratic process; you only need your passport and travel date. Or you can use our booking services. 

UWA allows us to book the permit and pay for it on your behalf because we’re licensed to do so. So please email us at [email protected], and a consultant will jump at the opportunity to serve you immediately.

How are gorilla permits allocated?

Mountain gorilla permits in Uganda are issued based on the regions or trailheads located on the gorilla park boundaries where habituated gorilla groups make their territories. 

Uganda has five regions for gorilla trekking, including four in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Buhoma (northern section), Nkuringo (southern section), Rushaga (southwest section) and Ruhija (eastern section)), and one in Mgahinga National Park. So, gorilla permits in Uganda are allocated based on those five trekking regions.

When booking your gorilla permit in Uganda, make sure you identify the region you would be comfortable with trekking mountain gorillas. Rwanda has one trailhead, and all gorilla permits are issued based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There are all kinds of accommodation choices mushrooming in each region. Having the proper knowledge of where you would spend your night, having a good meal, and taking a shower is essential in choosing which region to purchase your gorilla trekking permit.

Also, it’s important to note that an issued gorilla permit is not transferable from one region to another. Assuming a guest purchased a gorilla permit for Buhoma and mistakenly spent a night in Nkuringo, which is about 6 hours drive from Buhoma, UWA official will not allow them to trek gorillas in Nkuringo or the nearby Rushaga. That permit will be wasted.

What happens when the gorilla permit expires, or you don’t see the gorillas?

When your gorilla permit expires before the holder treks the mountain gorillas, they will forfeit the gorilla trekking activity. However, the holder, or the tour operator on behalf of the holder, can reschedule the permit to another date, up to a week before the tracking date. Unfortunately, UWA does not permit any reschedule after the permit has expired.

UWA allows two gorilla permit reschedules within a period up to December 2022. However, a third reschedule will need express approval from the Executive Director and incurs a 25% penalty. A booker is also allowed to reschedule a permit that is partly paid. However, for a second reschedule, you should have a fully paid permit.

Rescheduling of promotional gorilla permits is only possible within the promotional period. Therefore, when rescheduling to a time after the promotional period, the booker is required to top up the fee at the prevailing non-discount rates.

One can book a gorilla permit in Uganda for more than 2 years ahead of the tracking time and pay at least a 30% deposit of the permit price at reservation time. The balance should be paid less than 90 days before the trekking date. If they fail to clear the balance, the booker loses the 30% deposit, and the permit is cancelled.

Suppose it so happens that you track the gorillas and fail to find them. In that case, the Executive Director may authorise rescheduling the permit to the following day, subject to the availability of trekking slots. Where there are no available slots for rescheduling the permit, the Executive Director shall authorise the cancellation of the permit and a refund of 50% of the permit value upon certification/confirmation of the inability to access gorillas by the respective Chief Warden/ Warden in Charge.

Gorilla permit cancellation

If you choose to cancel your gorilla trekking permit, a request to do so within eight (8) days to the tracking date shall attract no refunds from UWA.

If your requests for cancellation of a permit falls between nine (09) to forty-five (45) days to the tracking date, the booker will be entitled to 25% of the permit value.

A request to cancel a permit between forty-six (46) to ninety (90) days to the tracking date will give you back 50% of the permit value.

A client requesting cancellation of a permit ninety-one (91) days and more to the tracking date shall be entitled to 75% of the permit value.

What Next?

The bureaucratic process of acquiring a gorilla permit is challenging to most tourist, and many need a ground operator to take charge of the process. Encounter Africa is licensed by Authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC to process gorilla permits on your behalf.

We make the process very easy for you to spare energy in planning the rest of the trip. We can also guarantee availability on most unusual travel dates for that last-minute bookings. Trust us to make planning your gorilla trekking adventure the most memorable one. Please send us an email right now at [email protected], and a consultant will jump at the opportunity to reply to your message right away.

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