gorilla tracking permit

2024 Mountain Gorilla Permit Prices in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC

Having the most updated information on mountain gorilla permit prices for tracking mountain gorillas is key to making a comprehensive budget for your next trip to East Africa.

Gorilla tracking is an incomparable jungle adventure, not only because of the mountain gorilla’s poignant eyes but also because it presents a chance to be close to one of the few species that most closely resembles our own.  

Before you can experience this singular thrill of wading through such a verdant environment, chopping through underbrush before finally coming across these incredible animals, you need to plan. 

And that planning for your next mountain gorilla tracking adventure starts with choosing a country. For families looking forward to planning a trip with their kids, it’s worth remembering that the minimum age to do this adventure is 15. For a list of mountain gorilla facts to get you excited about your Uganda gorilla tracking adventure, check out our list here.

Now, when it comes to choosing where to indulge in this experience, there are only three countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last updated: March 24, 2024

Gorilla Tracking or Gorilla Trekking

These two terms are often used interchangeably. Gorilla tracking refers to the idea that the rangers are tracking the gorilla families. As they are regularly moving through the forest to find fresh food, each gorilla tracking experience is different. 

Gorilla trekking can refer to the idea that we do a hike or trek to get to the gorilla families, as we need to find our way through the dense forest and the gorilla families are in regular movement. 

Still, because the gorilla families are in regular movement, we believe tourists are part of the tracking experience, too. 

Gorilla Tracking in Uganda

Uganda is one of only three global destinations where you can enjoy meeting mountain gorillas. In fact, Uganda has more than half of the existing population of mountain gorillas spread over two beautiful parks. Of the 18 known mountain gorilla families in Uganda, 17 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and one in Mgahinga Forest

In Bwindi, there are four tracking sites: Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Each site has several gorilla families, each identifiable by a unique family name.

Best season for gorilla tracking in Uganda

Bwindi is a compact rain forest that tends to be more difficult to navigate in the rainy season due to muddy, slippery slopes. Therefore, the best time to visit is the dry season between June and August and January to February

Permits and prices for tracking in Uganda

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a gorilla tracking permit in Uganda is $800 per person. One hour entails tracking, viewing and photographing the fully habituated mountain gorilla families in either Bwindi forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

However, tourists that want to enjoy a more exclusive time in the company of the gorillas can opt for Gorilla Habituation permits that cost $1500 per person. In this case, tourists with desires to research or study the animals are grouped in groups of four to embark on the scintillating journey. 

The Gorilla Habituation permits are only done in Uganda and guarantee a day of tracking and three hours in the company of a wild mountain gorilla family in either Rushaga or Nkuringo in Bwindi Forest.

Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda

The immeasurable feeling of having the company of gorillas in the wild is quite a unique one. Most tourists who leave the escapades in Virunga Massif believe the experience to be life-changing. Rwanda has even bolstered its tourism campaign over the past 4 or 5 years with a well-structured team of experts to see you through your gorilla tracking trip.

Rwanda has at least 1,000 mountain gorillas, with 604 in Virunga Massif. There are 12 gorilla families staying in the Volcanoes National Park, fully habituated and a few others habituated for scientific research. Each group or family consists of at least one silverback and several females and younger ones.

Best season for gorilla tracking in Rwanda

The best season to go gorilla tracking in Rwanda is between June and September because it is peak season and the most prolonged dry spell. In addition, the season means easy movement to the parks, and hiking trails aren’t slippery or muddy. 

If you want a less crowded season with similar weather patterns, then book your trip between December and February with an extra incentive to catch the birding season.

Permits and prices for tracking in Rwanda

With only eight permits issued per family every day, an encounter with gorillas in Rwanda is intimate. However, there are only 96 permits issued every day and booking in advance either online or via a trusted tour company may be the best course of action.

A permit to track gorillas in Rwanda is processed depending on what you intend on doing. A traditional permit costs $1500 per person. Tourists are clustered in a group of eight members to track and spend one hour viewing and photographing a fully habituated mountain gorilla family in the Volcanoes National Park

The alternative is the exclusive experience for tourists looking for something relatively private. Here a tourist and their family to the acceptable number of 8 people to form the tracking group are permitted to track a particular gorilla group at the cost of $15,000. The amount includes private guiding services.

Gorilla Tracking in the DRC 

Update as of 2022: Currently, mountain gorilla tracking is not available in DRC. Visit Virunga, the official tourism website of the Parc National des Virunga, has the following message:
“Gorilla and Nyiragongo treks are closed until further notice. If you’d like to make a booking for 2023, please contact visit@virunga.org.”
Though it remains closed, we know you may be planning a trip for late 2022 or early 2023, so we are including our original information below. Please keep in mind that you can check with Visit Virunga to confirm the current status of mountain gorilla tracking permits in DRC.

After years of tourist inactivity, Virunga National Park reopened to visitors about ten years ago. There, tourists can enjoy gorilla tracking and Nyiragongo volcano climbs when they visit the park. With gorilla tracking becoming one of the most sought-after tourist activities, Virunga presents a serene private experience like no other. 

The park is situated in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Traveling to the national park is quite challenging from most routes except Goma Town, which is just 32 km away. Therefore, many National Park tourists fly to Kigali International Airport before accessing it by road through Gisenyi Town before crossing to Goma using a dirt road. 

Tourists from the Ugandan route can access the Bunagana Border post in Kisoro and then take an hour’s drive to the Bukima mountain gorilla tracking starting point. The park also arranges private transport for tourists arriving by air at Goma Airport.

It is important to note that Virunga Massif extends into Uganda and Rwanda. And despite its enormous expanse, there aren’t as many gorillas here as its neighbors. However, those who have visited the park have left with affirmative tales of the Kabirizi gorilla family.

Best season for gorilla tracking in DRC

Located along the equator, DRC is known for its desirable tropical climates. The best season of the year to go gorilla tracking is between May and September, given that this is the longest dry spell of the year.

Permits and prices for gorilla tracking in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Gorilla tracking permits in Congo are cheaper than in Uganda and Rwanda. A permit will cost you about $450 and can even go as low as $200 during the low season (Between March 15th and May 15th and then between October 15th and December 15th) for non-resident tourists. Tourists can hire a porter at around $25 per track to carry their property.

Beyond gorilla tracking, each of these countries offers a number of unique experiences. If you’re looking for a helping hand planning your next trip to East Africa, we encourage you to get in touch with our team of travel specialists at Kikooko Africa Safaris.

the african lion

Where to see the Big 5 in Uganda

When travelers search for where to find the Big 5, they are often pleasantly surprised to find out it’s possible in Uganda.

There are some countries that are well known internationally for their safaris that show-off the Big 5, like South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. In fact, there are 13 countries in total that make seeing the Big 5 Possible. Including those 3 we just mentioned, you also have Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo…

And Uganda!

Often referred to as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is vibrantly rich in nature and landscape. The East African country possesses a perfect blend of fauna and flora to keep tourists in high praise whenever they are done with their trips. 

So why would you come to Uganda to try and see the Big 5? Because this is where the Big 5 isn’t just an amazing goal – it’s the start of a beautiful wildlife adventure.

Uganda, which is also known to have the most significant number of mountain gorillas in the world, also nurtures other unique species worth exploring for the country’s visitors. The country has ten national parks, 13 wildlife reserves, 345 mammal species, 1,020 bird species (half the total number in Africa), and 4500 species of vascular plants.

Thanks to its vast range of habitats, the country is regarded as the hotspot for biodiversity. The tiny country offers the perfect escape for those looking to maximize time in the wild. Uganda is one of only three mountain gorilla sanctuaries in the world. You can enjoy the exquisite gorilla tracking activity, and among only thirteen where you can glimpse the Big 5 animals. 

You are most likely to see the Big 5 in predominantly three regions, namely Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Kidepo Valley National park.

The animals in Uganda can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Primates: These include mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and many others
  • Carnivores: lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wildcats, hyenas, etc
  • Herbivores: Elephants, buffalos, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, zebras, antelope, Ugandan Kob, and others
  • Reptiles: snakes, crocodiles, monitor lizards, chameleons, and others
  • Birds: vultures, African eagle, turacos, and others

Which animals are part of the Big 5?

The ‘Big 5’ concept first came about in the old days when the land’s ancestors used to go hunting. The animals weren’t named ‘The Big 5’ due to their size, but rather because they were the hardest to catch and posed the gravest danger to the hunter. Hunting down any of the Big 5 earned a hunter a reputation in the African society as a brave hunter, and clan heads often rewarded them with a trophy for their bravery.

Whereas game hunting is now prohibited in most corners of the globe, over a hundred years ago, the then-American president Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an African hunting escapade. He was later quoted saying that the African elephant would never become extinct due to the sheer number he had encountered. Today, however, the Big 5 are among the most endangered species globally, and most African governments have put up strict measures to conserve the dwindling species.

The Big 5, in this case, are the following;

  • The African lion
  • The African leopard
  • The African elephant
  • The Cape buffalo
  • The rhinoceros

Now, though, the Big 5 is known more as a chance to see some of the world’s most incredible creatures in their natural habitats while on an African safari that helps to contribute to their protection.

Wondering where you can see Big 5 animals in Uganda? You came to the right place! 

Where to see the African Lion in Uganda

the african lion

The African lion is the second-largest cat in the world, and whereas it is referred to as the “King of the Jungle,” lions stay in grassy savannas, not dense forests. Lions are social creatures and move together in groups known as prides. Each pride consists of over 30 lions. 

A lion’s roar can be heard from over 5 miles away. Unfortunately, there are estimated to be less than 20,000 lions left globally, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) termed them endangered.

Lions in Uganda can be found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park. Since they are mainly night hunters, you stand a bigger chance of spotting them during a night game drive (unless you’d like to catch them having a catnap!). Therefore, if you plan to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park and want to do the night game drive, your guide should get a tracking device to locate them.

Where to see the African Leopard in Uganda

African Leopard in UgandaThe most elusive Big 5 animals, leopards, are scarce. Tourists who encounter these in-game drives are pretty fortunate. It’s also why it’s rare to find a tour operator who can give you a 100% guarantee to see every animal on the list. Leopards make habitats of rocky landscapes although they are also very adaptive and have been found in other areas. They love hunting at night and spend most of the day resting in tree branches.

Like lions, your best chance of glimpsing leopards is during night game drives in Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kibale Forest, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Mount Elgon National Park.

Where to see the African Elephant in Uganda

African Elephant in UgandaAnd whereas the African elephant is the biggest of the land animals, it is the most threatened by poachers thanks to its tusks which have a lucrative ivory business. Elephants are inherent to 37 countries on the African continent and are reported to be over 415,000 in the world. But, unfortunately, it is said that about 8% of that number is poached every year. 

The best part of visiting Uganda is that you will have a 90% chance of spotting an elephant in any of the parks you opt to stay in. If you are lucky enough, you will see both the smaller forest elephants and the colossal savannah elephants. 

The best parks to enjoy these massive creatures include Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Where to see the Cape Buffalo in Uganda

Cape Buffalo in UgandaNicknamed the “The Widowmaker,” the Cape buffalo was once considered the hardest to hunt in the Big 5 due to its unpredictable behavior. And unlike the other members of the Big 5, the Cape buffalo will fight off most of its predators. 

Buffalos reportedly kill more humans (poachers) than other animals. There are reportedly 900,000 in population with four different sub-species with the vastest number in protected reserves.

Uganda also, however, has unique reddish small buffalos. In addition, you can encounter buffalos in Uganda in Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Murchison Falls National Park.

Where to see Rhinoceros in Uganda

Rhinoceros in Uganda

Rhinos are divided into species; the White Rhino and the Black Rhino. Rhinos live mainly in grasslands and open savannas. They are robust and thick in body size and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. There are, however, only 29,500 Rhinos left on the globe. As a result, the IUCN listed rhinos as critically endangered. 

Rhinos in Uganda are predominately preserved and rehabilitated at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and is your best opportunity of seeing the Southern White Rhino. You can do this Ugandan rhino tracking experience on your way to or back from the Murchison Falls National Park.

How long to spend in Uganda for a Big 5 Wildlife safari

The time it takes to see the Big 5 varies. It can be done in as little as a few days. You can also stretch out your Ugandan safari tour for a week or two to add in chances to see more animal species, visit with local communities, and track the gorillas. 

To get an African safari trip designed just for you, get in touch with the expert team at Kikooko Africa Safaris today!

Gorilla & Golf

Mountain gorillas, Big 5, huge lake areas, spectacular mountains, friendly people, top golf courses. What else is needed from a destination? Nothing. Therefore: time for Uganda.

The article is in German, but you get the idea of golfing and safari. While we’re still developing this gorilla golf idea, you can also check out some of the most interesting facts about mountain gorillas here.

January, 2021

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