Yes, gorilla trekking is a worthwhile experience that every wildlife enthusiast should undertake in a lifetime. Interfacing with these awesome giants is a breathtaking phenomenon. You can choose to enjoy either a gorilla trek that allows you an hour in the presence of the gorillas; or have fun with the gorillas for over 4 hours – the Gorilla Habituation Experience.
The cost of a gorilla permit for foreign non-resident visitors is USD 1500 for Rwanda; USD 400 in DR Congo; and USD 700 for Uganda.
In terms of drive distance, Rwanda being a small country geographically, it takes only 3 hours to access the gorilla park (Volcanoes National Park) from Kigali airport on a smooth road; whereas it takes about 5 hours from Kigali to Bwindi national park in Uganda. If one is to begin the tour from Entebbe airport, it would take more than 8 hours to get to the park.
In terms of gorilla tracking experience, both countries are the same since they share similar features – they both belong to the Virunga Conservation Area and owing their originality to the same tectonic forces that form the mighty Virunga Massif with a rich biodiversity.
Uganda national parks including Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks are the safest parts of this country. The team park rangers are well paid and motivated. They keep patrolling the parks 24/7.
Uganda is the cheapest safari destination in East Africa. Apart from a gorilla permit that costs USD 700, with a minimum of USD 100 each person per day can suffice. A safari in Uganda can be a day to 24 days depending on how you wish a safari to be customized for you.
Gorillas can be visited any time of the year. However, the dry months of June, July, August and early September; and December to February are the best period of the year. During the rainy season March to May, and October to December, roads tend to be destroyed by floods; and in the park being tropical rainforests, rain is quite unpredictable thus making a gorilla safari albeit expensive, becoming a nightmare!
Gorilla Habituation Experience (Gorilla Habituation experience) is the activity where tourists are allowed to spend 4 hours with the gorillas as they immerse in all activities the gorillas undertake on a particular day. This experience is only organized in Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park in Uganda. When a guest books this Gorilla habituation Experience the funds are utilized in promoting the gorilla conservation efforts.
In Uganda the minimum age for gorilla and golden monkeys trekking is 15 years; and for chimpanzee tracking 12 years. In Rwanda, gorilla tracking minimum age is 15, so is the hike to Dian Fossey’s tomb; and 10 years for golden monkeys tracking.
In Uganda, if the child is below age and is keen to track gorillas, the adult guardian or parent must sign a document by Uganda Wildlife transferring all risk on him or her.
Only 8 people are allowed to track a gorilla family per a day. Where the number exceeds 8, there must be exceptional cases and Uganda Wildlife Authority senior park warden has to explain the reason for that.
For Gorilla Habituation Experience, only 4 persons are allowed to track a gorilla family. It is one of the reasons why a permit for this activity is as costly as USD 1500 per person.
There are over 97% chances of seeing the gorillas. The reason is that an advance team of rangers, on a daily basis, follow up the gorillas and can ably tell their movements. In the last 10 years we’ve been in operation (Excellent African Safaris), we have not witnessed any incidence of our clients missing gorillas.
At Excellent African Safaris, we advise our potential guests 4 months before traveling with us at least to pay a deposit that can buy a gorilla permit and pay the rest of the balance 2 weeks to the travel date. Gorilla permits sell out very fast as they are on a very high demand.