The Cost of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo

The cost of gorilla trekking is comparatively high compared to other wildlife encounters as we will discover in this article. Define gorilla trekking and why is it so expensive. Gorilla trekking is one of the most fascinating and eye-catching wildlife activities in Africa. The escapade is different from a game drive in the Serengeti, Masai Mara, or Kruger National Park. Gorilla trekking is exceptional because mountain gorillas share 99% of human DNA hence our closest relatives. They live in families led by a dominant silverback who dominates everything that is done by the group. Gorilla trekking is expensive because mountain gorillas are endangered and for that reason, many people want to see them. The high number of tourists interested in observing wild mountain gorillas has forced many government officials to increase the price of gorilla permits. You are right to say that the principle of demand and supply applies here – The higher the demand, the higher the price. But demand is not the only reason behind the high cost of gorilla trekking permits. There is a considerable call for grants to safeguard endangered species.

Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi

Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi

Gorilla conservation requires crucial financing for research, infrastructure, Rangers, and scientists and this needs finances. Part of the finances collected from gorilla trekking permits is allocated to safeguarding these majestic gentle giants. In general, 15% of the money collected from gorilla permits goes to the government, 10% to the local communities, and 75% to gorilla conservation. It is paramount to note that if the cost of gorilla permits were reduced considerably, huge numbers of tourists would visit the primates hence affecting the overall well-being of the few habituated gorilla groups.

Note: Mountain Gorilla trekking is only possible in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, mountain gorillas can be tracked in Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks. In Congo, the primates are found in Virunga national park while in Rwanda it is in Volcanoes national park.

The Cost of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo

The cost of gorilla trekking differs from country to country. It is crucial to note that the price of gorilla permits is just a fragment of the overall price of gorilla trekking. You still have to consider transportation, accommodation, food, Visas, air tickets, packing lists, porters, and tips for the Guides. We will be discussing each of the elements in the overall gorilla trekking cost in the following paragraphs. We hope that by the end of the article, we would have answered the following questions: –

  1. How expensive is gorilla trekking?
  2. What is the cost of gorilla trekking?
  3. How much does a gorilla safari cost?
  4. How much does gorilla trekking cost?
  5. What is the gorilla trekking price range?
  6. How much does it cost to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
  7. How much does it cost to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
  8. What is the gorilla trekking in Rwanda prices?

The cost of a gorilla permit

In case you intend to do gorilla trekking in any of the three countries, you will need to acquire a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit is a document that grants you access to the gorillas. In Uganda, gorilla permits cost $700, in Rwanda $1500, and in Congo $450 and the prices are constant regardless of the season. If you are an East African national, you can obtain a gorilla permit in Uganda for 300,000 shillings and the cost of the permit is constant regardless of the season. During low seasons of the year, Gorilla permits may be sold at a discount in Virunga National Park of Congo for as little as $250 dollars (This could change soon). A Virunga gorilla trek cost of a gorilla permit can be lower because of this generous discount. Virunga national park is currently not open to visitors because of the current ongoing war. Rwanda has discounted permits for African Union Citizens, foreign residents, large groups, families, and those taking part in conferences and events however to secure such discounted permits you need documents like passports and invitation letters for the conference or meeting. A Rwanda gorilla trekking cost is higher than in Uganda or Congo because of the price of permits.

For travelers who are interested in gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi, a gorilla habituation permit costs $ 1500. The Gorilla habituation experience is quite different from normal gorilla trekking in such a way that it grants you access to the mountain gorillas the whole day and involves spending 4 hours with mountain gorillas instead of the one hour allocated to the trekkers during standard gorilla trekking.

Gorilla Tours in Rwanda

A Gorilla Tour in Rwanda

A gorilla permit is a requirement for tracking gorillas. You cannot be allowed to take part in gorilla trekking without showing your permit to the park authorities. What is included in the gorilla permit price? A gorilla permit includes interacting with the gorillas for one hour, park entrance, and Ranger fees.

To book a gorilla permit, you need to go through your trusted tour operator or one of the government authorities in the respective countries. In Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority issues gorilla permits while the Rwanda Development board does the same in Rwanda. If you are planning on a safari in Congo, you can book a permit with the Virunga National Park website or through your tour operator. It is important to book your gorilla permit or gorilla tour at least 2 months in advance. If you are planning to travel in the peak season (June, July, and August), we recommend that you do the booking at least 5 to 6 months before the trip so that you don’t go through the stress of asking different tour companies if they have availability.

The cost of accommodation

One of the things you will have to consider while planning your gorilla tour is where to sleep. All the gorilla national parks have high-quality lodges. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your budget. Good-budget hotels cost anywhere between $50 to $130 dollars a night. Good mid-range hotels go for between $150 to $300.

The luxury hotels start from $400 to $5500 per night. You can book these hotels on your own if you are planning to do a self-drive but most travelers book the hotels through a reliable tour company. If you book a hotel yourself, ensure that it is located close to the starting point of the gorilla family or sector you have been assigned. If you book too far away, you may not show up for briefing on time hence missing the trek – This is all the more reason why it is better to book your gorilla tour through a reputable tour operator.

The cost of food

Apart from accommodation and gorilla permits, you need to take into consideration expenses for food, drinks, and particularly water. The hotels provide this but you are going to need water and food when out of the hotel or traveling. Food and drinks should cost you about $40 each day if you are traveling on your own. You should not worry about food if you book your vacation with a tour company. The company should take care of the food and water while at the hotel and when traveling between activities.

The cost of transport (Plane tickets and hiring a vehicle)

After securing the gorilla permits and identifying a lodge, the next thing that comes to mind is how to get to the gorilla parks. Air tickets to and from your country of origin can cost between $600 to $2500 depending on your choice of airline, travel dates, and the starting point of the trip. If you are planning to book chattered flights from within the gorilla trekking country, you might need to part with another $600. Should you find internal flights way beyond your budget or should you decide that you want to experience more of the African countryside, then traveling by road from the airport is highly recommended.

Hiring a car in Rwanda and Uganda will cost you between $100 and $ 150 inclusive of a driver’s guide per pay excluding fuel. Expect to travel on the road for long hours especially if you are tracking in Uganda and Congo. It takes between 8 and 10 hours of driving to reach Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable park from Entebbe international airport. The driving distance from Kigali International Airport to the Volcanoes National Park is 3 hours. Those who choose to d gorilla trekking in Virunga national park have to first land in Kigali and then proceed to the Congo border in a journey that can take about 4 hours.

Gorilla trekking Congo

Gorilla trekking in Congo

Arranging your own vacation in an unfamiliar and developing country can be complicated. It is why most travelers leave the issue of transport, permits, and accommodation to their chosen tour operators so that they are only left with the task of showing up at the airport. It is also important to note that few tour companies book air tickets on behalf of their clients. Consult your tour company to see if they can help you with booking flights to and from your country of origin.

Cost of items on the gorilla trekking packing list

For the best experience, while tracking and watching the gorillas, you will need to travel with a good camera, insect repellents, sunscreen, hiking boots, hand gloves, a pair of binoculars, and a rain jacket. These are all hidden costs that need to be taken into consideration apart from the gorilla permit itself. You might want to read more about the items recommended on the gorilla trekking packing list.

Visas and border crossing

Gorilla trekking often involves crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo.  If you are planning to do gorilla trekking in Congo, expect to cross the Goma border post at a cost (of $100 for the VISA). Those who find the price of gorilla permits in Rwanda beyond their budget can choose to track the gorillas in Uganda instead but arrive through Kigali to avoid traveling for 8 hours from Entebbe or Uganda’s capital Kampala. Gorilla trekking from Uganda through Kigali involves paying a VISA fee of $50 at either the Katuna or Chanika border crossings. The East African tourist visa can also be acquired at a cost of $100 for those who are combing safaris in different countries of East Africa.

Visas and border crossing in East Africa

Visas and border crossing in East Africa

Yellow Fever vaccination card

This may not seem important but it is a requirement for entering Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. If you read gorilla trekking reviews, you will learn that yellow fever vaccination cards are among the documents presented at the airport and while crossing borders. If you are planning to travel to most African countries, you need to consider the cost of taking the shot.

Cost of porters – especially for the elderly

If you are traveling with heavy equipment, bags, or video cameras, you will need to hire a porter to help you carry them while tracking the gorillas. The porters can also help you carry packed lunch and lend a hand during the difficult sections of the trek. Gorilla trekking for the elderly is more complicated because they would need to use Sedan chairs and hire about eight porters to lift them up to the tracking point. It can cost about $400 to hire a Sedan chair and the porters to carry it. By hiring these porters, you contribute to their general well-being and indirectly help them support their families. Hiring a potter costs about $15 and they can be found at the park offices or during the briefing.

Tips for the Guide/Driver, Park Rangers, and Hotel staff

Sometimes hotel staff, Guides, Rangers, waiters, and waitresses go out of their way to make sure that your time with them was perfect and memorable. Out of courtesy, you might decide to show your appreciation for the work done by giving tips. The amount depends entirely on you. Tipping during gorilla trekking is not compulsory and should only be paid after a service is rendered and you are happy with it.

Note: The cost of gorilla trekking also depends on how many days you set aside for the activity, the number of people, the category of accommodation, and the nationality of the traveler. A 1-day gorilla trekking tour in Uganda will cost about $970 per person if traveling with someone. A 2 days Uganda gorilla trekking tour will cost about $1150 per person if traveling with someone on a budget. The 3 3 days gorilla trekking in Uganda tour will cost $1350 per person if traveling with someone on a budget. If you are planning to track the gorillas in Rwanda, a 1-day Rwanda gorilla trek will cost $ 1800 per person if you are traveling with someone. A 2 days Rwanda gorilla budget trek will cost $ 2500 per person if you are traveling with someone. Finally, a 3 days budget Rwanda gorilla trek will cost $3400 per person if you are traveling with someone. These prices do not include air tickets, tips, alcoholic beverages, and any expenses that appear personal in nature.

Nshongi Gorilla Family – Rushaga

Gorilla trek in Rwanda

Traveling alone is more expensive because you have to pay for transport, accommodation, and fuel yourself. Moreover, it is important to note that companies add some markup costs to the overall trip to cater for administrative services (Guides, office staff, office functionality) – This is normally 10 -20% of the total cost.

How can you save on gorilla trekking costs given the above expenses? One way is to do gorilla trekking in cheaper destinations like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another is to ask your tour operator to offer you the best budget lodges. Avoid traveling alone so that you can share the costs of transport, accommodation, and fuel with your spouse or friend. You can also travel in low seasons (rainy season) when fewer tourists visit the countries. You may find that accommodation facilities are cheaper and that there are discounts for hotels and even gorilla permits in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can also save costs by using public transport but this is risky because you have no control over the time you leave or reach your destinations. Public buses in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo do not leave on time. You risk arriving late for briefing at the park headquarters or missing the activity altogether. You can’t afford to miss the activity because gorilla permits are expensive. Moreover, there is no guarantee that you can purchase one for the next day even if you want to.

Amahoro Gorilla group

Gorilla trek in Rwanda

Another way of cutting costs is to avoid taking chattered flights within the country. Most of the chartered flights are very expensive. The reason for the high costs of internal flights is that few local people travel by plane. The airlines compensate for the few local travelers by charging tourists highly. Traveling by road may take hours but will provide you with a rare opportunity to marvel at the African countryside, landscape, beautiful scenery, and the local people going about with their lives.

The best way to learn about a country is by observing the cities and also the countryside. Last but not least try to compare the costs of different tour operators. Do not go for the cheapest – You might end up paying more. Go for a tour operator that is offering less but can guarantee quality services. The tour operator must be able to cater to the important elements of the trip which should include food, accommodation, water, fuel, and a car. Ask them to share with you details about the accommodation options. Many tour operators promise much but do not deliver on quality (Experienced drivers, vehicles, hotels, etc.). Book with a tour operator that can book for you good accommodation facilities even if they cost slightly higher. The hotel choice is very important and can make or break a trip. You don’t want to mess up your holidays because you are trying to save on a few dollars.