Safaris to see mountain gorillas rank among the top travel experiences in Africa. For over two decades, gorilla trekking has been attracting a high number of travelers from all parts of the world. The questions of how are mountain gorilla permits/families allocated in Africa is very common among travelers intending to visit these endangered primates. Gorilla permits/family allocations take place at the headquarters of respective gorilla national parks in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is at the same time when registration and pre gorilla trekking briefing on the rules and regulations of gorilla trekking takes place. Gorilla Trek Africa gives you a guide on how gorilla permits and families are allocated to travelers in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The overall physical fitness of a traveler is one of the key things considered when allocating gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Virunga Massif. Some gorilla families live near the starting point while other live far way. Gorilla treks are categorized into short, medium and long depending on the ease and difficulty of accessing a specific gorilla group. In most cases, physically fit travelers are given hard to trek (tough) gorilla families while the physically unfit are given short treks to enable them see gorillas with no difficulty. A short gorilla trek takes roughly 30 minutes while along one can go up to over 7 hours.
Someone’s age is another determinant of which gorilla family he/she will be given to trek. Travelers aged below 50 years are normally considered fit and energetic hence given tough gorilla families. On the other hand, elderly travelers aged over 50 years are given easy to trek gorilla families to save them the strenuous hikes. However, if you are young but unfit, talk to the park wardens and you will be given an easy to trek gorilla family. This also applies to the elderly travelers who are physically fit.
In Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, mountain gorillas are scattered into four sectors i.e Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija. Each gorilla sector has different habituated gorilla families and permits. The gorilla families in Buhoma region include Mubare, the oldest gorilla group in Bwindi Forest, Habinyanja, Muyambi, Rushegura and the newly created Katwe family. In Ruhija, you will find families like Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro and Mukiza gorilla group. Gorilla families in Rushaga sector include Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza, Busingye, Rwigi and Mucunguzi. Rushaga is also home to Bushaho and Bikyingi gorilla families, which are undergoing habituation experience. Nkuringo is home to Nkuringo and Christmas gorilla family. Nkuringo sector is known for its tough treks but offering great scenic views.
The choice of a traveler
Some travelers come with a made up mind on which gorilla family they want to trek. If you have a certain gorilla family you would like to visit, please inform your travel operator during the booking process. More so, remind the park wardens about your choice of a gorilla family during the allocation at the start of the trekking day. If you are trekking in Uganda, ensure to ask a gorilla family in the respective sector you are staying. If you are visiting Buhoma, then the gorilla family you choose to visit must be in Buhoma to avoid long hours of driving
Number of gorilla treks
The number of gorilla treks you have also determine family allocation. If you have more than 1 trek, you will definitely be allocated different gorilla families and in different localities. A person doing a double gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is advised to visit different families in different regions for better and diversified experiences.
Who Does the Gorilla permit/Family allocation?
Park wardens at respective conservation bodies in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo do allocation of gorilla families and permits. These bodies are Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda, Rwanda Development Board in Rwanda and ICCN in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Conservation bodies have hired and trained park wardens and ranger guides who live in the park to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the endangered gorillas. The park wardens therefore do gorilla permit/family allocation.
Where is the best place to see gorillas?
The conclusion on where is the best place to see gorillas is not certain but rather depends on the travelers. However in terms of accessibility, Volcanoes National Park is the most accessible gorilla park compared to Bwindi/Mgahinga in Uganda and Virunga Park in Congo. Volcanoes Park is roughly 3 hours drive from Kigali International Airport. Regarding gorilla permit availability, Uganda is the best place!
The Pearl of Africa is home to the highest number of mountain gorillas with many habituated families and permits. Uganda has 17 gorilla families in Bwindi Forest and the only one Nyakagyezi family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. You can therefore choose to trek in both parks. Concerning trekking costs, the Democratic Republic of Congo offers the most affordable mountain gorilla permits. A single permit to see gorillas in Virunga National Park costs $400 far cheaper compared to $700 in Uganda and $1500 in Rwanda. Travelers who wish to compare trekking experiences in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo are advised to visit both destinations for the first hand personal experience.
Conclusively therefore, gorilla trekking remains the best wildlife experience in the wild. For bookings and trekking guide, contact Gorilla Trek Africa.