The Virunga Region is most famous for hosting the mountain gorillas, great apes that live in the tropical rain forest.
Uganda offers a total of 120 gorilla permits available for tourists everyday. If compared with other countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda offers more opportunities to tourists seeking gorilla watching. This has made Uganda the best destination for even last minute gorilla tour bookings.
Uganda’s gorilla permits are distributed in her thirteen (15) gorilla families that are habituated in its two national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park. These Permits are always available every day and they are sold out on the arrangement of first come first serve which at times take people by surprise to find out that they cannot get even a single permit to track gorillas on a particular day because of their late booking.
Uganda is one of the three countries in the whole world where mountain gorillas are still habiting. The gorilla families are in different regions of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. These regions include Buhoma with Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura families, Rushaga region has Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza and Busngye families, Ruhija region has Bitukura, Oruzogo and kyaguriro families and finally Nkuringo family found in Nkuringo section of the national park.
A single gorilla permit in Uganda is sold at US$700 for the foreign tourists, US$600 for the Foreign Residents with valid work permits and 250,000ush for the East African residents (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Gorilla permits can be accessed from the Uganda Wildlife authority headquarters in Kampala or through ant trusted tour company of a travelers choice.
There is high demand for gorilla permits in Uganda and because of the demand; the travelers interested in gorilla trekking are advised to undertake the reservation of the gorilla permit way in advance so as to guarantee themselves the trekking experience. Trekkers are required to book the permits at least 5 months in advance and pay the booking fee of 30% of the total gorilla permit charges.
Travelers should know that it is a requirement from the Uganda wild life authority which is responsible for issuing out the permits that unless one has deposited on the permit, it is not considered booked and can be sold to another person who pays the deposit.
Since gorilla families are in different regions, earlier booking enables one to select the region of his/her choice from the four trekking regions he / she intends to track the gorillas from. Concerning the choice of accommodation, earlier booking enable one to select the accommodation near the gorilla family he/she intends to track.
For the case of the Nyakagezi family in Mgahinga gorilla national park, there is no advance payment for the permit. The trekking permits are paid for on ground as a result of the family former crossing to the adjacent Congo and therefore one pays when the park authorities have fully ascertained that the group is available.
There are seasons for gorilla trekking which are the peak season in June, July September, December to February. This is when the permit is sold at 600usd. However, the Uganda Wild life Authority (UWA) offers discounts in these prices and this is always done for the wet season months that run from April to May and then November. This offer is always announced at the beginning of the year. When the discount is extended, the $700 reduce to $450, the $600 reduce to $400 and the 250,000/= reduce to 150,000/=. This discount is good for the budget travelers who have limited income.
Presently, Uganda gorilla permits can be accessed on line where the traveler applies and fills in the forms on line and then receive the confirmation note, travelers to Uganda are reminded that with effect from 30Th July 2016, all gorilla permits will be online. There will be no issuing of permit at the point of arrival, travelers should note this.
After filling the application form and the booking session, what follows is the gorilla permit printing process. At this point the Uganda Wildlife Authority requires your passport details including the name, nationality, passport number and date of birth to enable them keep a clear track of the records. For the foreign residents, they need to show the proof of their resident status in the region and the citizens as well to be allowed to undertake gorilla trekking at a reduced price. East African residents need to have the national identity card.
A gorilla permit allows the trekker to interact with the mountain gorillas for only one hour but the trekking itself can take a minimum of 30 minutes or up to nine hours looking for gorillas in the forest. However, seeing mountain gorillas is not a guarantee.
It depends on where the family slept the previous night and the hiking time in search for the gorilla depends on the location of the gorilla that day. The speed of the people in the trekking group matters, the guide moves at the speed of the slowest person in the group.
In conclusion, Uganda has many gorilla permits compared to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, travelers should make sure they book in advance and pay the deposits to avoid disappointments. It is easy to access Ugandan gorilla permits both on line and at the point of arrival, all travelers should follow the instructions given in accessing the permit for the great and memorable experience.