Gorilla tracking permits need to be purchased in advance, as much as six months in advance if you’re travelling during peak season or if you are in a large group. The earlier you book, the more choice you have on where you track and where you stay. Last minute bookings may be possible during low season or where there are just one or two people tracking, but availability of gorilla tracking permits is not guaranteed.
The busy peak seasons are June through to October and Christmas and the New Year.
Each gorilla family can only be visited one hour per day. There is a minimum age requirement of 15 years to track the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.
Gorilla tracking permits can be purchased up to two years in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or the Rwanda Tourism Board (RTB) or via a registered tour company. DRC gorilla permits can be bought on the Visit Virunga web site.
The advantages of booking with a tour operator or Safari company is that they have intimate local knowledge of the accommodation options and proximity of gorilla families. They know these remote areas well and their drivers are experts at negotiating slippery, steep dirt roads. If you plan to extend your trip, and most people do, the company can also give great travel recommendations and make all the activity and accommodation bookings for you.
To book your gorilla tracking permit, you will need to provide:
- The date(s) you would like to track the gorillas. Suggest a few dates in case your first choice of date is already booked up. Ideally, scan and email a copy of your passport to whoever is organising your permits.
- Your name, nationality and passport number. Gorilla tracking permits are non-transferable. (Note that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the pre-tracking briefing).
- Payment. The best way to pay is by bank wire transfer. Remember to instruct your bank to deduct any transaction charges from your account.
- If you are buying gorilla tracking permits directly from UWA or RDB, you will need to send them the bank payment confirmation email.
- If you are buying gorilla tracking permits from a tour operator, note that not all tour operators in East Africa accept credit cards. Of those that do, many add a hefty surcharge (of between 3% and 9%). Once the tour company have your preferred dates and personal details, they can make a temporary reservation with the authority.
- Confirmation of your reservation. You should receive a scanned copy of your gorilla tracking permit within a few days or weeks. When you arrive in country, your tour driver guide will give you your original permit or you will collect it from the UWA / RTB office (if you are travelling independently).
Your gorilla tracking permit will have a unique serial number and your personal details written on it. It is non-transferable.
Remember that you will need to show your passport or some other form of identification at the pre-tracking briefing.
Tips on purchasing a gorilla tracking permit in Uganda
Uganda’s gorilla families are spread over a wide geographic area, so it is important that you book accommodation that is within an hour’s drive – or a few minutes’ walk – of the start of the gorilla tracking.
To reserve gorilla tracking permits in Uganda, you will need to specify which park (Bwindi or Mgahinga) you would like to visit. Before your tracking, UWA staff will guide you on which family you will be tracking, according to your fitness level and interests. To purchase gorilla tracking permits visit the Uganda Wildlife Authority office, Kira Road, Kampala or call +256 (0)414 355 409/410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips on purchasing a gorilla tracking permit in Rwanda
You do not have to specify a particular gorilla family when you purchase your gorilla tracking permit in Rwanda. I’d suggest looking for accommodation within an hour’s drive of Kinigi, the base for all gorilla trackers. Not only is this convenient for your early morning start, the volcanic scenery is superb!
Rwanda gorilla trekking permits can be made through a local tour operator or the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office by telephoning +250 252 576 514 or by emailing email@example.com