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The Gorilla Permit: All you need to know

What is a gorilla permit?

mountain gorilla permit is an authoritative card issued by Wildlife Authority on behalf of the government to any traveler above the age of 15 years that wants to be escorted into the mountain gorilla jungle to see a selected habituated mountain gorilla family in a designated region. The traveler should be able to pay the asking price of the gorilla permit herself or through an licensed agent/operator.

In the recent years the Eastern Africa jungles have seen an influx of travelers that want to see the mountain gorillas. This alone has made the gorilla permit a very scarce commodity in the travel industry pushing travelers to book the permit way ahead of their travel dates. If you’re planning on seeing gorillas this year, I would recommend you run and get yours at least 4 months before your travel date. Otherwise, your travel calendar may be disrupted.

Why do I need a gorilla tracking permit?

Yeah, why do you have to buy a gorilla permit? Can’t you just grab your gear and hike into the jungle yourself and see the mountain gorilla?

The mountain gorilla is listed as an endangered specie on IUCN red list, meaning there are only 1008 mountain gorillas remaining in the world and only in this little Eastern Africa corner. The mountain gorillas poached by scrupulous humans that want their body parts, so they have to be protected against all odds. They have to be protected, kept healthy and within their natural habitat for they can’t survive anywhere else.

Doing that takes millions of dollars and a number of researchers, doctors, trackers and rangers to maintain. Therefore the gorilla permit is currently the easiest and the only way to keep the gorillas flourishing in these parts. So, dig into your pockets and pay up mahn!

How much does gorilla permit cost?

A gorilla permit cost varies depending on one of the three countries you chose to go tracking the gorillas.

In Uganda the gorilla permit currently costs US$600 per person per day, but that price will be changing to US$700 for Foreign non-residents, and US$500 to US$600 for Foreign-residents starting July 1, 2020. You can download the tariff guide document and keep for reference.

In Rwanda the gorilla permit costs US$1,500 per person per day.

And in DR Congo, the gorilla permit will cost you US$400 per person per day.

Can I get a gorilla permit at a cheaper price?

No. The gorilla permit price is standard, sold at face value and set by the government authority. Any primary sale of the gorilla permit is illegal. No one else is authorized to reduce or increase the price of the permit. If you’re unlucky with an operator, you may pay a higher price with processing fees added. Otherwise, an operator could sell you a permit at a lower price if they’re stuck with the permit and can’t find someone to buy it, especially in the low travel seasons.

Uganda used to offer low season gorilla permits but since the country has had an influx of travelers wanting to spend moments of the adorable creatures, the low season gorilla permits were scratched till further notice.

So if you want cheap gorilla permit offers, do an intensified search. You could get lucky. Or avoid Rwanda because the price of the gorilla permit in Rwanda more than doubles that of Uganda and I would avoid DR Congo’s Virunga National Park if I were you. Too much insecurity down there.

Who is authorized to issue gorilla permits?

Only the government Authorized bodies issue out gorilla permits and no one else. In Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is the only body that issue the gorilla permit card. Everybody else, tour operators and travelers alike, cue up to buy the permit from UWA.

In Rwanda, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) issues the gorilla permit and everyone else is a customer or agent employed by the customer.

Where can I buy a gorilla permit?

You can buy the gorilla permit from UWA offices in Kampala Uganda if you want to track Uganda gorillas. In Rwanda, head over to RDB in Kigali to get your permit. But the easiest way for anyone not in the country (since the gorilla permit is very scarce) is to engage a tour operator. Most tour operators include the gorilla permit with every gorilla tracking safari.

Rwanda has made it easier for non-residents to purchase gorilla permits online through their Irembo website. Uganda hasn’t moved towards online gorilla permit choice yet.

What do I need to get a gorilla permit?

First, you need a valid passport if you are a foreigner. For citizens, make sure you have a valid National ID. Secondly, you have to be above the age 15 years, otherwise you’ll be left at the gorilla lodge with your imagination roaming the forest jungles. Thirdly, you’re advised to have time on your side, ie. make sure you book your gorilla permit way ahead of your travel date.

Don’t wait to get into the country and start looking for the permit, you may not be that lucky to find one. Talk to an operator to assist you with the bureaucratic process. Gorilla permits are a very scarce commodity, because the number of habituated gorillas available for tracking is also limited since only 1008 mountain gorillas still live and they have to be protected from the humans. So, humans are limited on the number of people to see a particular gorilla family for limited duration (i.e a habituated gorilla family is visited once a day by only 8 people for 60 minutes).

Can I transfer a gorilla permit to another person?

Reselling or transferring your gorilla permit is not authorized. But you can’t avoid the change that could come to you. If you have purchased your gorilla tracking permit through a licensed tour operator, they may be able to transfer you permit through a network of operators in the country. Otherwise, it may be very difficult to recover your money once you have the permit. Same applies to transferring the gorilla permit, your operator may be able to help you with that.

Does a gorilla permit expire?

Yes the gorilla permit expires. The gorilla tracking permit is issued for a particular date and after the date on the card passes, the permit is deemed expired and cannot be claimed or reused. So make sure you give the correct date to the issuer and avoid bouncing or losing your money in the process.

Is there a gorilla permit refund or cancellation?

According to UWA, 50% of the gorilla trekking permit fee will be refunded if the visitor fails to make it to the tracking starting point due to illness. This can only be at the recommendation of the Warden in Charge. Find out more from our team of consultants.

Visitors who fail to make it to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest mountain gorilla tracking point as a result of their movement to the neighboring country will receive a full refund on their permits. However, those who would have tracked the whole day and failed to view the gorillas for one reason or another will be refunded 75% of the gorilla permit fee. All refunds shall be affected through the Reservation Office at UWA Headquarters in Kampala.

When you make a cancellation with UWA they’ll consider retaining fees as follows;

  • 0 – 8 days to tracking date – no refund
  • 9 – 45 days to tracking date – 75% (25% refund to client)
  • 46-90 days to tracking date – 50%
  • 91 days and above to tracking date – 25% (75% refund to client)
  • Any refund to be made on the 30% deposit shall be at the value of the permit.

That’s all the important information about the permits. You can contact our office to help you acquire or buy a mountain gorilla tracking permit in Uganda. Alternatively, all our gorilla tours include the gorilla tracking permit at no cost. Check out our list of gorilla tracking tours in Uganda and Rwanda and start planning your African Safari in the jungles of East Africa.

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