Uganda stands out as the number one primate destination for adventure travellers hoping to see chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. It undoubtedly beats the competition in offering the most affordable gorilla trekking costs. Uganda has a very successful primate conservation program, contributing heavily to community sustainability, excellent infrastructure, and a competitive tourism market, which together make the cost of a gorilla trekking safari affordable to most travellers.
The price of a gorilla permit, which makes up seventy per cent of the gorilla safari cost, is the most affordable in the region, considering it’s the most scarce item in planning a gorilla trip. Uganda offers more than 160 gorilla trekking tickets per day (double Rwanda’s), yet most travellers have to book months in advance to acquire the permit.
The costs of trekking gorilla in Uganda will include the price of the gorilla permit, transport, and transfer costs to get you from the airport to a gorilla safari lodge or camp where you’ll spend a night before the adventure. you’ll also spend on accommodation and meals.
If you don’t trust your physical fitness to traverse the steep, uneven terrains to reach the gorillas, your safari costs will increase by the cost of hiring the services of a local porter. Other than that, the gorilla safari costs will also include logistical support fees (if you use the services of a local tour operator), entry visa fees, mandatory Covid-19 tests, and others.
The costs of a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda include;
The gorilla permit price is what makes the gorilla trekking costs higher than what most would expect. A Uganda gorilla trekking permit costs $700 per person per trek (2021/22) for foreign non-residents. Foreign residents’ permit costs $600, and Uganda Shillings 250,000 for East African nationals.
Genuinely, the expensive gorilla conservation funding is what makes the permit so darn expensive. Many factors for a continuous successful primate conservation program in Uganda need financing to keep the gorillas healthy and protected, including primatologists, teams of rangers, trackers, guides, and a whole conservation management system run by Uganda Wildlife Authority— a government body. Almost 75 per cent of the permit fee finances conservation. The government retains 15 per cent, giving the last 10 per cent to the local communities surrounding the gorilla parks.
The gorilla permit cost includes an expert local tracker guide that will lead a party of eight tourists to find a gorilla family and guide them through the whole jungle adventure. You also get two armed rangers for your security from the unexpected, like a wild animal attack.
And to make sure all tourists get the chance to spend time with the gorillas, a team of rangers heads out at dawn to find the gorillas before they leave their nests and stick with them for the whole day. Although gorillas stay on the move in the early hours, the rangers keep communicating with your expert tracker to supply exact bearings on where to find the gorillas.
The gorilla trekking permit allows you only one hour with the gorillas once you find them. Alternatively, you can spend more time with the gorillas, for at least four hours, on a gorilla habituation experience. But the habituation permit cost ($1,500 per person) more than doubles the trekking permit. With it, you get to track wild gorillas that are not fully habituated to human presence and stay with them on their daily foraging expeditions for at least four hours.
Anyone above 15 years can purchase the permit directly from UWA offices in Kampala at face value, with no extra costs. All you need is your passport or national ID. If you can’t stand navigating the intricate local logistics, any licensed local safari company can purchase the permit on your behalf. However, they’ll usually include permit processing costs of about $10-$60 per permit to cover liabilities. Some operators will not charge you any fees if you book accommodation and transport with them.
Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks, where gorilla trekking adventures occur, are located about 290 mi (465 km) from Entebbe International Airport. It could take about a 10-hour drive to get there, which definitely requires spending on transport costs.
Some local operators, like Nkuringo Safaris, own and manage a fleet of 4×4 safari trucks and will usually charge you about $150 – $300 per vehicle per day, including a driver guide and fuel to transport you to Bwindi or Mgahinga and back to Entebbe.
Alternatively, you can fly between Entebbe and Bwindi to avoid travel fatigue and spare your energy for the trekking adventure. There are daily commercial flights between Entebbe and two airports, a two-hour drive outside Bwindi, Kihihi Airstrip north of Bwindi and Kisoro Airstrip south of Bwindi.
A single flight between Entebbe and Bwindi costs about $253 per person, and a return flight costs about $542 with Aerolink local airline. A flight connecting Kenya’s Masai Mara to Entebbe costs $200 with the same airline.
Your Lodge usually organises transfers from the airstrip in Bwindi. Most gorilla lodges will include airport transfer costs of about $100 – $200 on your accommodation price for a 4×4 car carrying 2-6 people per transfer.
A great many lodges sprout around the five gorilla trekking sectors around Bwindi and Mgahinga, offering different types of accommodation for befitting budgets. From budget hostels to comfortable lodgings to luxury mountain-side forest resorts outfitted with rustic wood beams and vintage-stone fireplaces, abutting the national park’s misty rainforests.
Next to the gorilla permit, accommodation costs take up most of the gorilla trekking costs in Uganda. A shoestring place to stay with bed and breakfast costs below $100 per person per night. Gorilla trekking accommodation of about $100 – $200 per person will get you descent lodging with meals. Gorilla lodges that cost about $200 – $350 are primarily all-inclusive with comfortable ensuite cottages and usually located a walkable distance from the starting point for gorilla treks.
Gorilla trekking accommodation costs for private luxury treatment in the jungle feature balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows, spoiling you with panoramic views, lush surroundings and unexpected kingly service in the wild, will oscillate between $400 to about $1000 per night.
Considering that you’ll be lodging in the remotest parts of Uganda, don’t expect to find decent restaurants in the region but only at your lodge. Most lodges will provide a short daily menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner covered in your room price. Some will go out of their way to pack lunch for your gorilla activity that usually takes more than half the day, and at the end of your stay if you’re taking the long-distance drive back to Entebbe.
Some travellers require special dietary for their meals, and most lodges will request that you inform them of your special dietary requirements beforehand and will not charge you differently from the room price.
Beverages like coffee, tea, juice and water are commonly free to all residents. Drinks at the bar are usually exclusive of the room price, especially at the budget to mid-range lodges. A drink at the bar can cost you about $2 for a beer bottle to $20 for a wine bottle.
Unlike big-city tours and overland adventures, gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda require that you hire the services of a local tour operator to outfit your safari and buffer you against the local logistical dilemmas.
Most licensed tour operators in Uganda will charge about 5 to 35 per cent of your total gorilla trekking safari costs. Smaller tour operators would prefer to leave out the operator fees and earn commissions from accommodation and transport. These usually provide the cheapest gorilla trekking costs but will not offer a fast and amendable response to unexpected changes like a car breakdown, trip reschedule or cancellation.
Most travellers would comfortably pay for the buffer cost an experienced travel manager prices in a destination they’re unfamiliar with. A local tour operator will know the ins and outs of local travel, so you’re aware of travelling times in advance, and they’ll sort things out if they don’t go as planned. They also know the best ways to contact and book you into lodges, arrange your transportation, meals and purchase your permits and park fees, which can be challenging due to different timezones, languages, and business cultures.
Other costs that may not appear in your gorilla trekking safari quote include entry visa fees, Covid-19 testing fees, souvenirs at gift shots, drinks, meals not stated on your itinerary, tips, language interpreter fees, and a trekking porter.
Entry Visa: Almost all foreign travellers entering Uganda require a 60-day single tourist entry visa, which costs $50. A single entry visa allowing you to cross between Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya’s borders costs $100. Uganda visas are processed online at visas.immigration.go.ug with a six-month valid passport and yellow fever card.
Covid-19 PCR tests on arrival and departure are mandatory for everyone above six years. Your gorilla trekking costs in Uganda will also include self-appointed PCR Covid-19 tests taken within 72 hours of your entry into Uganda and exit. Test at exit will cost about $20 to $60 from government-accredited laboratories across the country. Applications for the test are accepted online at arrivals.healthdesk.go.ug.
Souvenirs prices in Uganda, like African crafts and art, are relative to the shop, artists, and location. Many gorilla lodges have craft shops that provide a variety of choices with fixed prices. If you prefer to bargain your price, visit a craft shop in the city or roadside. However, buying from craft shops around the gorilla parks directly supports the communities that primarily depend on gorilla tourism.
Another way to support the local communities around the gorilla parks in Uganda is hiring a porter for your gorilla trekking excursion. For 20 bucks, a porter will carry your bag and help you through steep and impenetrable trails to the gorillas and back. The uniformed locals usually hang around the trailheads, hopping to cab a chance at serving generous trekkers, and 20 bucks would go a long way for a porter who feeds their family on less than one dollar a day.
A Language Interpreter for French, German, or Chinese can cost about $50 – $300 per day. English is Uganda’s national language spoken across the country. If you speak a different language, especially French & Germany, you would want to include the cost of a translater on your gorilla trekking costs in Uganda. Your local tour operator will arrange for the translater.
Tipping is not an expected cost in Uganda because most service providers will include service fees in the service cost. However, it’s an admirable gesture to tip someone when they provide outstanding service.
We suggest a tip of about $10-20 per person per day and double for a couple for a guide or driver. At the gorilla lodge, we suggest you prepare tips for the entire lodge team in a separate envelope and then drop the envelope into the gratuity box at the end of your stay. The amount you include in the envelope should be to your service satisfaction.
Extra meals and drinks not included in your itinerary quote could cost about $10 – $40 per day. They may consist of meals or snacks en route or drinks at the bar. If your stomach is easily upset by foreign snacks, we recommend you buy familiar snacks from big supermarket brands in Entebbe or Kampala or big cities en route that would last your entire trip. Your driver would know where to find the best supermarket.
Planning a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda may seem a pretty simple and fun affair considering the wide availability of planning information on the internet, but it’s not quite that simple. Uganda is a very new entrant to international travel and logistics change anytime. A foreign traveller will find navigating gorilla trekking safari planning logistics a nightmare.
Nkuringo Safaris, in business since 2007, offers you a buffer between planning logistics and your adventure experience. We will book your accommodation, buy your permits, organise your transport, transfer you to the gorilla trekking point and manage your entire journey from the airport and back. Additionally, we will provide insurance for any unexpected changes in your trip, including any cancellations. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free quote from a local safari planner or use that big green button on the right to chat with an expert.