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Have you ever wondered what it is like coming face-to-face with a majestic mountain gorilla? It is a feeling words couldn't fully express. 

Seeing the majestic mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, a verdant tapestry of old growth and dense rainforest is an unforgettable experience - a glimpse into a world untouched by time. But before you embark on this incredible adventure, there's one crucial aspect to consider: gorilla trekking permits.

Gorilla permits allow you to visit and spend time with the gorillas. The revenue from the permits makes it possible to continue the work of protecting gorillas and their habitat.

sitting baby gorilla

In this article, we shall look at all the things concerning gorilla trekking permits and how they relate to your journey to fulfil your desire to see gorillas in the wild. By the end, you will have all the necessary information and some key insights to help you easily experience what it is like to crouch down in the green jungle, just a few metres from a big and calm silverback gorilla.

Gorilla Trekking Permit

A gorilla trekking permit is a document or card issued by a wildlife authority that allows you to participate in a gorilla trek. It's essentially a permission slip to enter a protected area and see these endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. 

Permits are strictly regulated to limit the number of visitors who can see the gorillas on a given day. This is for conservation reasons such as protecting the animals from stress and disease. 

The money generated from the gorilla permits is used to further aid the protection of gorillas and their habitat. Here is a quick breakdown of why gorilla trekking permits are important.

  • Conservation: The revenue generated from permits goes towards gorilla conservation efforts, such as habitat protection, research and community empowerment.
  • Protection: Limits the number of visitors each day, which helps to minimize stress on the gorillas and reduces the risk of disease transmission.
  • Sustainability: Funds responsible tourism practices that benefit local communities.

If you are to track gorillas in the wild, you must obtain a gorilla trekking permit, to allow you a day with the gentle giants of the forest.

capturing gorillas

Gorilla Trekking Permit Cost

Unlike other tourism activities in Africa, gorilla trekking is quite a costly activity for any traveller, local or foreign. This is due to the strict regulations and measures that have to be taken with gorillas. 

While most people would assume that the price is an indication of scarcity, conservation related to mountain gorillas is much more complex and expensive mostly because all of it happens in the wild. This is because mountain gorillas can't survive in a captive environment like a zoo, where research would be easier to conduct.

Related article: Where to see mountain gorillas in Africa

Here is the cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda and Rwanda.

Permit Type Uganda  Rwanda 
Foreign Non-residents 800 USD 1500 USD
Foreign Residents 700 USD 500 USD
Rest of Africa 500 USD 500 USD
Nationals / EAC Citizens 300,000 UGX 200 USD

We have left out mentioning the price of gorilla tracking permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo because there is a temporary closure of gorilla trekking in Virunga, that has been going on for some time. Generally, the gorilla permits in DR.Congo are much cheaper than Uganda or Rwanda but the country's security is a major challenge.

Please note that Foreign Residents are the people who are living in a country legally either for work or family - and not just there on a visiting visa.

Booking A Gorilla Trekking Permit

Obtaining your gorilla trekking permit is a straightforward process. Permits are issued by the respective government wildlife authorities - the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in each of the respective countries. Both organizations offer online booking options on their official websites.

People who are experienced with booking their travel logistics [on their own] can very easily book and pay for their gorilla trekking permits.

Most people book their gorilla permits through a tour operator who is also handling the full details of their visit to Uganda or Rwanda. This is good because there are a limited number of permits on any given day and the tour operators can plan and book your permit before they run out. 

gorilla trekking hike

Additionally, a tour operator can always reach out to a bigger network of other safari companies and look for permits being resold due to cancellations and rescheduling of trips.

We recommend working with a tour operator to help you with this and all the other logistical details of your safari so that when your safari starts, your primary role is to have a wonderful experience. Having their experience to rely on for transport, quality safari guides, accommodation, schedules and much more, will make it possible for you to immerse yourself in your gorilla trekking experience fully.

Related Article: Gorilla trekking budget hacks. How you can come & see gorillas on a tight budget

When to Book Your Gorilla Permit

It is important to book your gorilla permit some months ahead of time because there is a limited number of permits given out to visitors on any given day. Generally, it would be best if you thought of booking 6 months or more in advance.

As a popular activity that is sought out by many tourists, the gorilla permits usually sell out some months ahead of time - especially for peak travel season (June - August and December - February).

Best time to see gorillas

Your choice of when you will see gorillas depends on your preferences and schedule. The climate in Uganda and Rwanda is generally warm and sunny all year round and gorilla trekking is open all year.

While most people choose the dry weather months for the clear skies and easier hiking, gorillas live in dense forests whose localized climate is a bit hard to predict with good certainty. if your schedule allows for it, we recommend visiting these dry season months (June - August and December - February) since there are lower chances of rain and the trails are less slippery.

The wet seasons still get big tourist numbers, but not as much as the wet months. This makes the dry season ideal for those who don't enjoy crowds and are not too worried about the rain.

Whatever season appeals to you, there is a way to plan around that period and truly have a wonderful time meeting the gorillas.

Gorilla Habituation vs. Gorilla Trekking Permit

There are two types of gorilla permits available: gorilla trekking permits and gorilla habituation permits. While both offer the chance to see gorillas in their natural habitat, they are quite different.

The gorilla trekking (tracking) permit is the more common option that allows you to spend 1 hour with the gorillas as they go about their day. With gorilla tracking, the gorilla family you visit is a habituated group - meaning it is used to human presence without negatively impacting their natural routines.

The gorilla habituation permit is a rarer and even more limited alternative that allows you to see a gorilla group for up to 4 hours. These gorillas are still being habituated and getting accustomed to human presence, but are not quite ready to be opened up for more human interaction.

While the major differences are in the experiences and time, you should know that gorilla habituation permits are more costly and more limited in terms of availability. However, the experience is worth the inflexible schedule and higher cost.

Gorilla Trekking and Responsible Tourism

Gorilla trekking is an incredible privilege, but it's crucial to remember that we are guests in the gorillas' home. Our responsibility is therefore to ensure that their well-being and that of their ecosystem are maintained and respected.

This responsibility is what drives the rules and guidelines around gorilla tracking - to make sure that it is an activity that benefits both the guests and the gorillas.

sleeping gorilla

As a guest to the gorillas, here are some of the important responsibilities you have while tracking gorillas in the wild.

  • Maintain a safe distance: Always follow your guide's instructions and keep a minimum distance of 7 meters (23 feet) from the gorillas. This minimizes the risk of transmitting diseases to the gorillas from humans (or vice versa).
  • Minimize noise and disruption: Avoid loud noises and sudden movements that could startle the gorillas. Speak softly and move slowly to avoid disturbing their natural behaviour.
  • No littering: Pack out all your trash and dispose of it responsibly. Leaving litter in the gorilla habitat not only creates an eyesore but can also be harmful to the gorillas and their environment.
  • Respect the environment: Stay on designated trails and avoid touching any vegetation. This helps to minimize our impact on the delicate ecosystem.

As you go to the forest to see gorillas, the park authorities will brief you about these guidelines and much more, as well as the importance of following them. Additionally, your trek is led by an experienced ranger who will guide and direct you throughout the experience.

Closing Thoughts

Seeing gorillas in the wild is a great privilege and one of the best ways you can get to see and appreciate the interconnectedness of nature. The playful young gorillas and the calming presence of a silverback are things worth experiencing in real life.

This article has given you all the information and insight you need to know about gorilla trekking permits and how you can plan your great gorilla experience. Whether you choose to use the experience and help of a tour company in organising or to do it yourself, you now know enough to prepare you for an encounter with the mountain gorillas.

Related Articles

Here are a few more articles to give you deeper insight about gorilla trekking. Read through and don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or need for clarity.