Gorilla trekking is a once in a lifetime opportunity, that every tourist longs to participate in when in Africa. A gorilla safari is one of the best wildlife adventures you can ever take in Africa. Imagine the feeling you get when you meet face to face with the Giant Apes that share 98.2% of their DNA with humans. This feeling cannot be described in words, but can rather be felt by the participant. These exceptional creatures are found within the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda and the Virunga Massif (comprising of Mgahinga national park of Uganda, Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda) only, and their number is currently estimated at 880 individuals in the entire world.
Even with their high demand, only 96 gorilla permits are sold for Uganda per day (for 12 gorilla groups) and 80 gorilla permits per day (for 10 gorilla groups in Rwanda), meaning tourists have to book for permits at least 6 months in advance to avoid disappointment of being left out. There are also tourists who are always ready and willing for gorilla tracking, but cannot afford the price of the gorilla permit. The good news i have for tourists intending to track gorillas from Uganda is that “gorilla Permits are always discounted during the low season”. These discounted permits apply for April, May and November.
The idea of discounted gorilla permits was introduced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to enable those tourists who are not able to track mountain gorillas during the High seasons, so that they also get the opportunity to meet these giant Apes. Instead of the normal price of $600 for foreign non residents, tourists pay $450 per person hence allowing them to save $150 for other expenses. Foreign residents pay $400 instead of the $500, allowing them to save $100 for other things and the East African residents pay Shs 150,000 instead of the usual $250,000 charged for normal and peak seasons hence saving Shs 100,000. These discounted permits are offered during the rainy season that is also the low season. This price reduction is an advantage to the gorilla trekkers in terms of lower costs and also to Uganda because it reduces on seasonality in gorilla tourism.
However, because Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national Parks are found within Tropical rainforests and areas of higher elevations where it rains at anytime of the year (whether rainy or dry season). It is a common phenomenal for it to rain during the night or early morning hours hence it comes difficult to predict the rain patterns, which have been further worsened by the high rate of global warming. Surprisingly, whether it rains or not, gorilla trekking for the day has to go on..
The price of the Gorilla Habituation experience is not discounted where tourists pay $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents and Shs 750,000 for East African residents at all seasons. While Uganda was busy discounting the prices of gorilla permits, Rwanda was busy increasing their prices of gorilla tracking permits from $750 to $1500 per person with effect from 7th of May 2017 (presenting a 100% increment). This implies that when someone tracks the mountain gorillas from Uganda instead of Rwanda during the low season, he/she can be able to save up to $1050. Ask yourself how many interesting things you can do with the remaining $1050? You can extend your safari to several days so that you are able to participate in a game drive and launch cruise (in Murchison falls national park, Queen Elizabeth national Park and Lake mburo National park) and also participate in Chimpanzee tracking (from Kibale National park).
Interestingly, it is not only the price of gorilla permits that is discounted, Chimpanzee tracking permits in Uganda are also discounted during the low seasons (April, may and November) where tourists pay only $100 per person tracking these primates from Kibale national Park hence tourists are able to save $50.
How to Acquire the Discounted Gorilla Permits
If you intend to track the mountain gorillas during the Low season (April, May and November), you have to contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices to check the status of gorilla permits during your preferred dates (that must fall within the mentioned months). Alternatively, you can contact credible tour operators who will book for you.
Due to the high demand of gorillas permits and the inability of some tourists to afford the cost of these permits and the entire safaris, some of them are left out from achieving their dreams of meeting face to face with the mountain gorillas. The Uganda Wildlife Authority thereby introduced the discounted gorilla permits during the low season to allow every tourist to experience what others describe as breathtaking. You can now acquire a gorilla trekking permit, pack the required items and make a trip to Uganda during the months of April, May and November to experience what you will live to remember.