The mountain gorilla tour is a popular Africa safari excursion in the jungles of eastern Africa rainforest. This African jungle experience has been picked up by overwhelming numbers of travelers that want to catch a glimpse and maybe spend 1-4 hours with the rare and endangered mountain giants in their natural habitat because the mountain gorilla can not survive anywhere outside the east and central African region.
Mountain Gorilla was unknown to science until 1902, when two were first encountered by a German explorer and promptly killed. It set the tone for the relationship. For much of the time since, due to deforestation and poaching, it has seemed that the mountain gorilla was swiftly destined to be lost to the world again. Not long after the species’ greatest champion, the American zoologist Dian Fossey was killed in Rwanda in 1985-there were fewer than 300 of the giant primates left in the wild.
The total population of mountain gorillas is now confirmed at 1,063 (459 in Bwindi and 604 in Virungas) and this suggests that mountain gorillas are the only great ape species to greatly be increasing in numbers.
A mountain gorilla tour excursion can take place in two regions where the endangered mountain gorillas finds sanctuary – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and the Virunga Massif (an area that encompasses Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park; the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Mikeno sector of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC).
Mountain gorillas have flourished in Uganda and Rwanda largely due to combined conservation efforts by government authorities and the world’s conservation initiatives. Their habitat has been protected and managed by UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and RDB ( Rwanda Development Board). Returns from mountain gorilla tour permits have helped in the support of local communities living in the gorilla regions with better healthcare, education, sanitation and employment opportunities, all aided by gorilla tourism.
Gorilla tourism began in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1993 and its been more 25 years of this incredible experience. The current number of fully habituated gorilla families available for gorilla tours in Uganda is currently at fourteen (Bwindi 19 / Mgahinga 1) with one further family semi-habituated in Bwindi. Bwindi Impenetrable NP is devided into four sectors ( Buhoma, Ruhiga, Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors), which are commonly known as trailheads – where the gorilla tour excursions are started from.
To visit the groups of Mountain Gorillas you must first obtain a gorilla tour tracking permit from the only authorized seller, Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala. Members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) are able to purchase permits of up to 2 years ahead from UWA, make sure you acquire yours from a legitimate operator.
At Nkuringo Safaris, we assist our visitors with processing and obtaining gorilla tour permits in Uganda and Rwanda, for either the Nkuringo, Bushasho, Nshongi, Mishaya, Bweza Kahungye or Busingye groups on the south side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Gorilla groups on the Buhoma sector of Bwindi based availability. Contact us to get professional assistance.
A Uganda Gorilla Permit currently costs USD $700 (2020) and Gorilla Habituation Experience permit costs USD $1500 and Nkuringo Safaris’ surcharge is USD $30 per tracking permit. We cannot make tentative bookings for tracking permits with Uganda Wildlife Authority. All bookings we make with Uganda Wildlife Authority must be support with payment in cash at the time of making the reservation with UWA.
Uganda Wildlife Authority has introduced gorilla habituation experience in the Rushaga region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park for gorilla tour excursions.
In order to become habituated to the presence of humans, each gorilla group undergoes an extremely delicate process, lasting around five years, during which the gorillas gradually get accustomed to the presence of humans.
UWA Park rangers start off by spending a limited period of time with the gorillas every day and by remaining at a certain distance to respect the gorillas’ comfort zone. As the years go by, rangers gradually increase the time and reduce the distance. The habituation process ends when the rangers deem that the gorillas are ready for tourists’ visits.
The gorilla habituation experience allows a few lucky visitors to participate in this process by going on full day excursions with the rangers and trackers. At present this type of experience is limited to one gorilla family in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The price for the mountain gorilla habituation experience is US $1500 per permit (including Park Entrance Fee), is limited to 4 people per day and it allows to be with the mountain gorillas for up to four hours – this excludes the time spent to reach the gorillas.
Obviously if the gorillas are not still but rather on the move, the visitors will have to move along. Minimum age and behavior guidelines remain the same of gorilla tracking.
A mountain gorilla tour in Uganda can be enjoyed either by taking a gorilla tracking excursion or gorilla habituation experience. Here we identify the key differences between the two African jungle experiences.
Start Time: In Bwindi gorilla tracking starts at 8.30 AM and 7.30 AM the gorilla habituation starts. (Briefing before hiking into the jungle is mandatory and starts way earlier. so be at the trailhead at least 30 minutes before hand.)
Permit Costs: Gorilla tracking costs US $700 while Gorilla Habituation costs US $1,500 per permit per person.
Number of visitors allowed: Only 8 tourists are allowed to track each mountain gorilla family while only 4 people can be escorted on a gorilla habituation experience.
Duration: The time spent with the mountain gorillas after tracking them is 60 minutes but with gorilla habituation, you can stay with the African beasts for up to 4 hours
Location: Gorilla habituation can only happen in areas with mountain gorillas under habituation; as of now, it is only in Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable NP.
Its highly advisable to book your mountain gorilla tour permit earlier than your planned gorilla trekking date as permits tend to get finished early. Volcanoes National Park is home to 10 Mountain Gorilla groups and each group can only have 1 group of 8 people visiting a day for only 1 hour.
Nkuringo Safaris for the last 13 years has supported lots of clients source mountain gorilla tour permits, with our Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge we are on the ground to support clients tracking and share our in-depth knowledge as to how they can further maximize their visit to Uganda.
Please note: You must be over 15 years of age to obtain a gorilla viewing permit.
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