The history of gorilla tourism in Uganda began in 1991, when the government gazetted Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority. Uganda encountered a terrific delay in the sector’s development as during the 7th tourism was restricted and protected areas considered poaching places by president Idi Amin and no conservation was even promoted. In the eightieth, Uganda again experienced a civil war up to 1986 when the last National Resistance Army over took power in Kampala. After a few years of restoration of rule of law and the reconstructions of the public institutions of the country, Uganda in the earlier 19th was ready to bridge the gap with rest of the nations where these critically endangered apes are protected.
Firstly, Uganda began by habituating the Mubare gorilla group where the silverback gorilla Ruhondeza was identified to possess good manners especially when it comes for encountering with human presence in the wild and hence supporting gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda. Mubare group was therefore opened for tourism purposes in 1993.
In 2004, four gorilla groups were already set for tourism in Uganda including Mubare, Habinyanja, Nkuringo, and Rushegura. At this time, the permits were sold at $360. In 2012, Bwindi Conservation Area had 9 (nine) habituated gorilla groups with the two new tracking areas in Ruhija in the central part and Rushaga in the South-eastern part of the park. By this period, trekking safaris for mountain gorillas in Uganda were conducted at $500 per visitor.
Gorilla Tourism Today
The long term growth of gorilla tourism since its inception in early 1970’s is attributed to conservation efforts of rangers and support of the local communities living around gorilla protected areas who have for long been the custodians.
The growth is largely reflected in the increase in tourists visiting gorilla national parks for gorilla trekking while on a safari. There are 1000 mountain gorillas in the wild. Half of their numbers about 400 live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda while the rest are scattered in the Virunga Conservation Area including Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The only habitats left on earth for mountain gorillas.
To ensure these people benefit from gorilla tourism, several mechanisms were created including minimizing the problem of human-gorilla and other wildlife conflicts, revenue sharing scheme, resource use zones, and employment of locals as rangers, guides and many who are involved in the daily management of gorilla parks.
Locals have also engaged in income generating tourism enterprises such as fruit and vegetable growing, honey bee keeping, selling hand-craft products, and providing accommodation, food and beverage services as well as community and cultural tours. Therefore the majority of tourists who come for gorilla trekking, end up staying longer as they also spend more money on various tourist activities and experiences.
In Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla tourists visit the BaTwa cultural trail and Iby’Iwacu cultural village while in Volcanoes national park Rwanda. Many locals believe gorilla tourism benefits in spite of the existing poverty. Some of the local sustainable agriculture, cultural and conservation organizations receive donations or host visitors who also fund their conservation activities. In the long run, local people including former poachers have changed their mindset and desist from anti-conservation practices. This has made gorilla parks premier eco-tourism destinations attracting many tourist safaris.
Despite the larger appreciation for gorilla tourism, common cases of encroachment and snare traps that often kill or injure gorillas still prevail. Even though these apes are not the main target, poaching for bush meat is directed at small antelopes and bush pigs.
Complaints for wildlife conflicts are still a challenge much is being done by gorilla authorities. Locals are empowered to manage animals that ride local farmlands, planting of thorns and unpalatable crops like tea along the park boundaries, buffer zones in Nkuringo area south of Bwindi forest were created.
Note, however, gorilla parks need to be managed better than today due to increase in tourists and development of infrastructures like hotels, roads, towns, population increase leads to high demand for land and natural resources. Gorillas and their habitats are kept off limits through daily monitoring by armed rangers who fight encroachment and illegal activities while gorilla doctors carry out disease monitoring and intervention to cure sick or injured gorillas.
Therefore, gorilla trekking appear to be hope to increase funds for conservation. Tourists by purchasing a gorilla permit, you’re contributing to gorilla tourism and conservation. Seeing gorillas is a once in a life time like no other wildlife experience in Africa. You can book a gorilla safari any time of the year with a tour operator.
Do you know gorilla tourism? Do you know that gorilla tourism in Bwindi is an ethical form of tourism? This comprehensive resource has been prepared for travelers and researchers interested in gorilla tourism. There is much to explore on this website about where and how to see gorillas, information about gorillas, gorilla research, conservation projects and more. Would you like to visit the gorillas in Africa? Find advice and tips to tread lightly through the different places where gorilla watching is done.
Over the last 3 decades gorilla tourism has become an amazing wildlife experience for thousands of people from all the world who want to get upclose and personal with the amazing majestic creatures that we all know and love – the gorillas. Every day, travelers travel to numerous national parks where gorilla tourism is conducted to meet the endangered gorillas on an activity known as gorilla tracking. Though gorilla tracking was the first name adopted for this adventure, the use of the word gorilla trekking is more popular though it doesn’t bring the clear meaning of this adventure!
This resource is prepared for different people
- Travellers: There is much for you to explore on this website about what where and how to see gorillas in Africa, about the gorillas, links to further information including wildlife books and websites, advice on how to ‘tread lightly’ and possibilities for volunteering in research or conservation projects.
- Researchers: please explore our literature pages, research on gorilla tourism, coming and past events, discussions and a range of other pages.
- Tour operators: please explore our best practice guidelines to the development of gorilla tourism, discussions, blogs, resource pages and coming and past events.
About Gorilla Tourism
What is Gorilla Tourism?
- Historical beginnings of Gorilla Tourism
- Is Gorilla Tourism Commercial?
- Gorilla Watching, a tourism Promoter and Economy Booster
Mountain Gorilla Tourism
Mountain gorilla tourism is one of the most sought after experiences in the world. For visitors who are interested in trekking the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo are the only three options for you to achieve your dreams. These fascinating wild creatures have had an endless history that today the world boosts about them.
Gorilla Tourism Research
On this site we provide an extensive amount of information in many areas including:
- research literature relevant to gorilla tourism; discussions, blog entries and book reviews on wildlife tourism topics; reports on workshops, round table discussions etc.
Gorilla trekking is a breathtaking adventure that requires visitors to be physically well to be able to hike through the high altitude and the thick tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
Gorilla Tracking Vs Gorilla Trekking – Do they mean the same?
Through gorilla tourism, numerous countries have been able to improve their economic success and as well increase conservation of these great apes. Gorilla Tourism has led to success in educating people about the importance of the gorillas and other wildlife in regards to why they are important, how they help our ecosystem and today wildlife is protected like treasures in several places.
What is Gorilla watching?
Gorilla Watching is the act of observing of the gorillas in their natural habitat. It is an activity that involves watching these mammals as they live undisturbed in their natural habitat.
Wildlife experience seekers: plan your travels!
Tour Operators, Researchers and Students
- Promote your tours, Eco-accommodation, wildlife park etc.
- Find past or coming conferences, other news and research relevant to your business
- Discuss best practice and many other aspects of gorilla tourism and many other topics
Gorilla tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park dates back in 1993 when Mubare gorilla family opened for gorilla trekking. Since then, Bwindi National Park marks 26 years of successful gorilla tourism. Mubare group features as the first family to be habituated and also to open for trekkers on gorilla safari in Bwindi National Park and Uganda at large. This group is found in Buhoma sector in the northern side of the park. Since it was officially opened for trekking, gorilla tourism in Bwindi National Park has witnessed tremendous developments. It should be noted that gorilla tourism and conservation started in 1991 when Bwindi National Park was gazetted as a national park with aim of protecting mountain gorillas and their habitat.
Today, over 19 more gorilla families have been habituated and set for trekking in Bwindi alone making a total of 20 gorilla groups. They are distributed in the four major gorilla trekking regions; Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija. They include Rwingi, Kutu, Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Busingye, Bweza, Bikingi and Mucunguzi in Rushaga region; Bitukura, Kyaguriro, Mukiza, Oruzongo in Ruhija area; Nkuringo, Christmas, Bushaho group in Nkuringo region; Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe group in Buhoma regions. The significant increase in the number of the gorilla families in this park can be attributed to increase in the number of mountain gorillas which has been supported by the prevailing peace and security in the country. Currently, this park inhabits about half of all the 1004 mountain gorillas that still exist on earth.
Unlike other gorilla destinations, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the only place on earth where mountain gorilla habituation experience is done. This is a unique primate adventure and unlike the usual gorilla treks, habituation experience involves following semi habituated gorillas in order to make them get used to human presence before they are opened for gorilla trekking.
The 36 years of gorilla tourism in Bwindi National Park is characterized by high demand for gorilla permits. Unlike before, today each gorilla permit in Uganda goes at $600 per person for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents. However, from 2020, visitors on Uganda safari in Bwindi National Park will be required to pay $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and shs. 250000 for East African residents. About 160 gorilla permits are available for booking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The 26 years of gorilla tourism comes with several gorilla lodges for trekkers to trek. They are distributed in Nkuringo, Rushaga, Ruhija and Buhoma. You can choose from budget to luxury accommodation options to make your gorilla safari experience complete in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They include Buhoma Lodge/Chameleon Hill Lodge/Mahogany Spring Lodge (Luxury), Engagi Lodge Bwindi/Clouds Mount Gorilla Lodge/Gorilla Mist Camp (Midrange) or Buhoma Community Rest Camp/Broadbill Forest Camp (Budget).