How Much Does It Cost To See Gorillas?

How Much Does It Cost To See Gorillas?
By Charlotte Beauvoisin

The main costs of a gorilla trek are the tracking permits, accommodation, transport, meals and tips, plus optional expenses like hiring a porter. Most international visitors to Uganda and Rwanda book everything in an organised tour package; this is by far the easiest route.

The most important expense is your gorilla tracking permit. This allows you entry into the relevant national park and one hour with the mountain gorillas, accompanied by official ranger guides.

The gorilla tracking permits are highly regulated systems, enabling the authorities to control human-gorilla interaction and generate much-needed revenue. The availability of permits is limited by the number of habituated gorilla families and the number of visitors allowed per family.

Each permit is printed with a unique serial number and the traveller’s personal details. They are non-transferable and non-refundable (except for medical reasons, in which case a medical certificate is required). You will need to provide your passport when you book your permits.

Most visitors use a tour operator who will arrange a driver guide for the duration of the tour. Typically, the driver will welcome you at the airport, take you to your lodge and accompany you to the start of the gorilla trekking point. The majority of visitors will extend their trip several days afterwards, with the same vehicle and driver.

The gorilla trek starts early in the morning, so you’ll want accommodation near to your chosen national park entrance. It's recommended that you arrive at your lodge the day before you trek and then spend a second night at the same lodge. Most accommodation options are full board.

The majority of lodges are independently owned. Some are owned by locals, and others by international operators. Generally speaking, locally-run establishments are cheaper. Some are commercially run, and others support local projects. High-end lodges often invest in corporate social responsibility projects around the lodges. Internationally owned establishments often have more years in the business and thus give a better overall experience, at a price.

Although your gorilla tracking permit does include a fee for the ranger guides, tips are greatly appreciated. You’ll also find it very useful to hire a porter so should allow a fee of $10- $20 per person plus tip.

Rwanda gorilla tracking permit costs

In Rwanda a gorilla tracking permit ordinarily costs US$1,500 for international tourists but has been temporarily reduced to $500 during the Covid-19 recovery.

Rwanda gorilla permit availability

With ten habituated gorilla families in Rwanda and a maximum of eight visitors per group, there are a total of eighty permits available per day.

You can buy your permit up to two years in advance through the Rwanda Development Board or through a registered tour company.

Accommodation costs

Rwanda pitches itself as the high-end gorilla trekking destination; this is reflected in the higher price of the permit and the bigger range of top-end accommodation. Rwanda has some sensational luxury properties and a fair number of overpriced mid-range ones, so book with caution.

Typical accommodation costs in Rwanda:

Budget : $30 - $50 per person per night based on two sharing

Mid-range: $80 - $250 per person per night based on two sharing

Luxury: $300-$3,000 per person per night based on two sharing

Rwanda’s gorilla trekking region is only two hours’ drive from Kigali, making the gorillas far more accessible than in Uganda. In theory this means you can save on transport and accommodation by doing a shorter trip. It’s possible to do a one-day gorilla trek in Rwanda from around $1,700 per person. A two-day gorilla tour will start from £1,900. A three-day luxury gorilla safari may cost $2,000 to $5,000 per person. Tours include one gorilla tracking permit, private transport, English-speaking guide, accommodation and meals. Charter plane and helicopter transfers are additional options.

Uganda gorilla tracking permit costs

The advertised price for a gorilla permit in Uganda is US$700 per person, according to the tariff of July 2020 to June 2022. However, the Uganda Wildlife Authority has temporarily reduced the price to US$500 during the Covid-19 recovery period that applies to 31 March 2021.

Uganda gorilla permit availability

With 19 habituated gorilla families in Uganda and a maximum of six visitors per group, there are a total of 114 permits available per day.

Gorilla tracking permits can be purchased up to two years in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or via a registered tour company.

Accommodation costs

Uganda has more budget and mid-range accommodation options than Rwanda and also has a number of excellent luxury lodges.

Budget : $50-$70 per person per night based on two sharing

Mid-range: $80-$120 per person per night based on two sharing

Luxury: $300-$3,000 per person per night based on two sharing

The cheapest three-day gorilla trek will cost around $1,200 per person and will include one gorilla tracking permit, private transport, an English-speaking guide, accommodation and meals. A three-day luxury gorilla safari may cost upwards of $3,000 per person. Higher-priced tours may include flights to one of the small airstrips a half-hour drive from the gorilla tracking region.

How Much Does It Cost To See Gorillas?

Charlotte Beauvoisin

Charlotte is a travel blogger based on the edge of Kibale Forest, Uganda. She is a contributor to the Bradt Uganda Guidebook and has written for Lonely Planet, The Daily Telegraph and Fodor's. She first arrived in Uganda in 2009 as a Voluntary Service Overseas volunteer with the Uganda Conservation Foundation.

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