Has gorilla tourism peaked its peak? Uganda today receives an incredible number of tourists interested in visiting the gorillas in their natural home. During the peak months of June to October, gorilla permits have become scarce and many bookings from prospective tourists are being turned down by tour operators.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda has become one of the most sought after experiences in the world and the country is currently at boom. This is largely due to the given the increase in the cost of trekking permits in Rwanda from $750 to $1500 per visitor. This figure doubled Uganda’s cost of permits which are still obtainable at $600 per person.This surge in tourists has brought mixed reactions and has raised issues that need to be addresses as well.
In the past, some visitors preferred Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking compared to Uganda. This was due to its smooth roads which link Kigali to Volcanoes National Park where the rare mountain gorillas thrive in Rwanda. There were also more connecting flights to Kigali Airport than Entebbe making Kigali a hub for connection of the great lakes region.Whereas the journey from Kigali International Airport to Volcanoes National Park takes visitors only around 3 hours, visitors on safari in Uganda tourists have to embark on a 8 to 10 hours’ drive on both tarmac and murram routes from Entebbe International Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga National Park. When Rwanda doubled the price of gorilla permits to US$1500, despite the disadvantaged position of Uganda, more tourists decided to opt for the gorilla treks in Uganda given that they are more affordable.
More to See in Uganda
There is a lot more to see in Uganda if compared with Rwanda. Safaris to Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park require about 3 days or more. Despite the tiring journey, visitors on safari to Bwindi have a chance to catch a glimpse of spectacular views of the country’s surrounding. Encounter interesting wildlife most especially the rare tree climbing lions at Queen Elizabeth National Park or go on a primate watching safari in Kibale National Park. Striding the Equator is another adventure that you can enjoy.
With the current construction of the Mbarara-Kabale and Kabale-Kisoro routes, visitors now spend less hours on the way as the status of roads have highly improved. This has boosted gorilla tourism in the region ever since Rwanda increased the cost of its trekking permits. Besides visitor travel from the city to Entebbe International Airport has improved and it is expected to be better than ever before with the Entebbe to Kampala Expressway which is under construction and expected to be complete around May 2018.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is only conducted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park.
The two national parks offer refuge to over 480 mountain gorillas making Uganda a home to half of all the mountain gorillas that thrive on the planet today. Besides, it also features the largest number of gorilla families which represent about 38, and only 12 have been set for gorilla trekking safaris. The more habituated gorilla groups mean more trekking permits and hence a great opportunity for visitors to catch a glimpse of these dramatic apes while they are in their natural habitat. This also translates to 96 gorilla permits that are available everyday for visitors to book for this lifetime experience.
Important Lessons to Learn
The Surge of Tourists Visiting Uganda may also bring negative effects if not controlled. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has tried to maintain the set carrying capacity of the habitats by maintaining 8 tourists to visit a habituated gorilla family.
Tourists should also try to make their safari bookings early enough. This will save them the embarrassing situations to turn down their requests during the peak season. It is advisable to make your booking as early as 5 months before the actual travel date.