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Gorilla Tracking Permits & Bookings Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo

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Gorilla Parks Location Map PDF
Gorilla Parks Location Map Gif

Obtaining a Gorilla Tracking permit.
1. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP Uganda
2. Mgahinga Gorilla NP Uganda (currently suspended)
3. Parc National des Volcans - Rwanda
4. Parc National de Virunga - DR Congo
UWA New tariffs document Jan 2009 - June 2010 (148KB)Adobe Acrobat Document

Effective 01st July 2007 permit fees for gorilla tracking will rise to US Dollars 500- per person across the East African gorilla national parks of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda following an agreement between the three wildlife conservation bodies.

Option 1:
Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala. The UWA offices are located next to the Buganda Museum at Plot 7 Kira Road, Kamwokya. Telephone direct on 0414 346287/8 to check on permit availability in both Bwindi and Mgahinga. UWA reservations officers can be e-mailed on uwa@uwa.or.ug.

The new tariffs effective 01 July 2007 are as follows and include the park fee, guide fee, community levy and a certificate of tracking will be presented.

Bwindi:
Non Residents US$500-
East African Residents: US$475-
Uganda Citizens: Ush250,000-

Mgahinga: Tracking at Mgahinga had been suspended in early 2005 after the resident family moved to a territory in Rwanda. The group has returned in July 2007 from their long ‘exile’ across the border in Rwanda’s Parc de Volcanoes. The group continues to move between the three countries that share the border. Many of the gorillas in that border transcending ecosystem, nestled in the triangle between Congo DR, Rwanda and Uganda, migrate across international borders. The main body of the habituated group is now back in Uganda while only some females reportedly still lingering on the Rwandan side of the park. This development allows Uganda Wildlife Authority to once again sell gorilla tracking permits for the Mgahinga and relieve some of the pressure on Bwindi. These permits are only sold on the day for tracking from the office of UWA in Kisoro.

Non Residents US$500-
East African Residents US$475-
Uganda Citizens Ushs250,000-

Gorilla tracking permits for both Bwindi and Mgahinga should be booked and paid for in Kampala at UWA's offices. It is possible to make an international booking for permits using email direct with UWA. The procedure of securing a booking from overseas involves UWA advising you of a date or dates on or close to your requested date of tracking from your original email that they will tentatively reserve. Should any of these advised dates work for you do not delay in replying to UWA of your intent to reserve the permit/s. You will be advised by UWA of their banking details so you can proceed with an electronic transfer of funds. When you have sent funds UWA requests you immediately fax a copy of the transaction receipt from the bank to them. UWA will keep your booking for a maximum of 7 days. If they have not received payment within that window you will loose the booking. UWA does not accept credit card payments.

Tracking permit Tracking certificate
Tracking permit - Tracking certificate

The number of permits available for visitors trekking in Bwindi had been increased to 32 after the a split of the Habinyanja group in 2002 allowing for the tracking of what is now 'Habinhanja ' and 'Rushegura' groups and the introduction of the Nkuringo group in September 2004.

Below is a breakdown of the composition of habituated Gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mga Hinga National Parks as of March 2003. Group numbers obviously change for various reasons although fortunately their is a positive growth with new babies born as opposed to a demise through poaching activities. The composition of the Nkuringo group in Bwindi is very fluid. This group is living in close proximity to villagers and human deceases contracted by babies have lead to a high mortality rate of these individuals. Currently the park has logistical problems of how to get visitors to this group. Please read the Bwindi page for infomation on getting to Nkuringo. The Kyagurio group is a study group located in the Ruhija area of the forest. Tracking permits to visit this group are not available.

 Group Name
Bwindi
 Silver Back  Black Back  Female  Juvenile <4  Juveniles/Babies >4  Total
 Mubare  1  4  3  2    10
 Habinyanja  1  2  7  10  3  23
 Rushegura  1  0  5  4  5  15
 Nkuringo  2  2  9  2  5  20
 Kyaguriro  2  0  6 6  1  15

 Group Name
Mgahinga
 Silver Back  Black Back  Female  Juvenile <4  Juveniles/Babies >4  Total
 Nyakagezi  2  0  3  3  3  11

Below is some background knowledge on how the Gorilla Permits are sold by UWA taking into account protecting local tour operators in an attempt to look after the needs of independent travelers and tourists a like.

Up to 80% of the available tracking permits at Bwindi are available for sale from UWA to members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators up to 2 years out from the intended month of tracking. Each member may purchase up to 20 permits in any month. A deposit of 30% (US$75-) is payable on each permit booked with the balance needing to be paid 3 months (91 days) from the month of tracking by the first working day of the month Monday-Friday.

Individuals and non members of AUTO can purchase a maximum of 2 permits each in the month 3 months prior to the intended month of trekking when the booking opens on the first working Monday-Friday of the month. Permits not sold on the day the booking opens will be sold on the following day with no limits put on the number of permits purchased by an individual or tour operator.

Permits are becoming much easier to obtain at UWA in Kampala what with email booking and the acceptance of money transfers. Since the Bwindi incident in 1999 a refunds policy has now been introduced and is outlined below:

. Refunds/Cancellation Guidelines

· UWA shall refund the full tracking fee, if the visitor fails to track due to illness, this will be at discretion of Warden in Charge and this clause only applies to visitors who have made their way to either BINP or MGNP.

· Visitors who fail to track the gorillas (MGNP) as a result of their movement to the neighboring country shall receive a full refund on their permits. However, visitors who would track the whole day and fail to view the gorillas for one reason or another will be refunded 75% of the tracking fee. All refunds shall be effected at UWA Headquarters in Kampala through the Reservations Office.

· UWA will retain the following percentages upon cancellations;
0 - 8 days to tracking date - no refund
9 - 45 days to tracking date - 75% (25% refund to client)
46-90 days to tracking date - 50%
91 days and above to tracking date - 25% (75% refund to client)

. Any refund to be made on the 30% deposit shall be at the value of the permit.

There are now 8 permits available every day since August 2005 for each group. In Bwindi there are now 4 groups better known as the 'M', 'HA' and 'RU' and Nkuringo groups. The HA/RU groups came about after the 'H' group split early in 2002. In Mgahinga there was one habituated group known as the Nyakagezi group which moved to a territory in Rwanda in 2005 and remained.

No stand-by permits are sold in either Bwindi or Mgahinga any longer. However if there is a 'no-show' or an individual was unable to track because of sickness and you happened to be there you certainly would be offered the permit for purchase by the National Park on spec. This would be at the current tracking fee. There are no provisons for discounts in such situations.

A plan of action to secure a permit whilst still in Kampala is to approach a tour operator that holds a permit during the period you would like to track. UWA can tell you who holds the permits for your interested dates and advise their contacts details. This is a bit of a shot in the dark approach to getting a permit but can prove to be fruitful although usually a tour operator or individual makes it known to UWA themselves that they have a permit available for resale.

Option 2:
Mgahinga Gorilla NP has an office in Kisoro 14 km from the park. You can contact the office direct on 0486 430098 or mobile 0772 383030.

Option 3:
Tracking in Rwanda. In Rwanda there are 5 groups currently being commercially tracked and 56 permits per day available. This does make getting a permit slightly easier. Contact Orptn (Rwanda National Parks) in Kigali on Tel. +250 76514/Fax: +250 76512 to check on permit availability and to make bookings direct, email: ortpn@rwanda1.com. If you obtain your permit from the Ortpn office in Kigali and are traveling by public transport to Ruhengeri the 90 minute ride with the Okapi Cars minibus taxi costs 900 Rwandan francs, about US$2-.

If you are staying in Rwanda the night before tracking there is accommodation in Ruhengeri at the Muhavura Hotel (camping or rooms) in town and opposite the Ortpn office Tel. 00.250.71.511 or the EER Shiyra Guest House, a very clean and econmical church-run establishment. The Kinigi Guest House Tel.: 00250.08.53.36.06./Fax 00250.84.413 (Beatrice) located 300m from the parks office has to be the best place to stay prior to the tracking starting at 08.00am. If you are staying in Ruhengeri be at the Ruhengeri ORTPN office by 0730 the morning of your gorilla visit.

Trekking fees in Rwanda increased as of 1st July 2007 to US$500- (note this does include the US$25- park fee).

Option 4: DR CONGO OPENS GORILLA TRACKING Jan 2004
The first steps were taken Jan 2004 on the Congo side of the Virunga Mountains, to once again enter into the lucrative tourist market for gorilla tracking. During the Congo wars to expel the late dictator Mobutu and the subsequent power struggles, and partly caused by Hutu militias responsible for the Rwanda genocide in 1994, which camped in these areas before being displaced by Rwandan and Ugandan troops, no tracking was possible due to the absence of security. The old tourist camps are now being restored and tourists can once more track gorillas in all three countries bordering their natural habitat.

Securing a permit to trek at Djomba/Rumangabo(Bukima) has opened up additional permits for backpackers and tour operators alike. Permit availablity can only be checked when in Kisoro. There are 4 groups that visitors trek at sites in Djomba (Ruhgendo and Rugabo) and Bukima (Quitonda and Mapua).

Trekking fees have been established at US$500- per permit in line with Uganda and Rwanda as of July 1st 2007. You will incur US$30- for the DRC entry visa and US$100- (shared) for the return transport Bunagana to Djomba plus an additional Ushs60,000- (shared) return for transport Kisoro - Bunagana. You will need to purchase a re-entry visa on your return to Uganda single entry US$50- or 7 day transit US$15-. Visitor accommodation facilities at Djomba are limited to the Frankfurt Zoological Society hostel at US$20- per person per night. It is usual for visitors to travel to and from Djomba on the day of trekking. Individuals should visit the Virunga Hotel for assistance in arranging visits to the Gorilla's in the DRC.

In Kisoro Uganda the Virunga Hotel (tel. 0486 430109) and Rugigana Valley Campsite (tel. 0772 647600) can assist in obtaining permits for tracking in Rwanda and now in the DRC.

With regard to the security situation on the ground in DR Congo local knowledge from fellow travelers in Kisoro will probably be your best source of information.

It is usual to travel to Rwanda only on the morning of your tracking date. Both the Virunga Hotel and Rugigana offer a package of permit and transport.
Gorilla Permit- US$500-
Transport- US$100- (this can be shared by several individuals travelling together for tracking in Rwanda)
You will also incur costs of US$30- for a Rwanda visa (if you need one and most do) issued at the border and a US$15- Uganda transit visa on your return.

An essential reference website for those planning to be part of a visit to a Mountain Gorilla family should checkout Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe (Mountain Gorilla & Rain Forest Direct Help)
http://www.berggorilla.de (English language text version also) Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe has been dedicated to the conservation of gorillas, especially the mountain gorillas, and their habitats since 1982.




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