So, how much does Gorilla trekking in Uganda cost? The price of Gorilla trekking in Uganda depends on a number of factors involved and these are what we need to look at to establish Uganda Gorilla trekking cost because when looking at the cost, it involves the whole package and not the single event / item of Gorilla Trekking Uganda.
Gorilla permit Cost; to be able to take part in gorilla trekking, you must obtain a gorilla permit so the cost of the gorilla permit largely determines the cost of gorilla trek in Uganda. The Gorilla trekking permit now costs $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents of East African countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania) and 250,000 UGX for East African citizens throughout the year. There are no low season discounts anymore or any other discounts so do not be deceived or misled.
The Gorilla Habituation Experience permit / pass costs $1,500 for foreign nonresidents, $1,000 for foreign residents in East Africa and 750,000 UGX for East African Citizens.
The Vehicle; it is important to know that Gorilla trekking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park and getting to both places is not a smooth ride all through. The longer parts of the journeys are all smooth on tarmac roads but you will most likely need a 4X4 vehicle to get to the parks and more so, the trekking points where your Gorilla trek begins.
Bwindi itself has four sectors in which the trek takes place that is; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo and each of them has different challenges in terms of roads and vehicle requirements. Small vehicles can be hired at $45 to $60 per day; a medium 4X4 goes for $80 to $100 per day whereas comfortable jeeps and Land Cruisers range between $200 to $300 a day, all of these different price ranges are only for car hire / rental without fuel.
Accommodation; as it is, you cannot take part in Gorilla trekking in Bwindi or Mgahinga without staying at least 1 night within the area and as such, the type of accommodation facility you choose, also determines your Uganda Gorilla trekking cost.
Budget accommodation ranges between $30 to $60 per night, mid-range at $80 to $180, Luxury accommodation Bwindi $200 to $500 and upmarket facilities that fall between $800 to $3000 per night All the prices are usually per room, per night on bed and breakfast basis so it might be slightly different if you are booking a full board package.
Lastly, porters can be very handy and can enhance your Gorilla trekking experience as they help with your equipment and can give a hand during the difficult points of the trek. Porters can be hired at $10 to $20 each, per trek depending on what is there to carry. The guide is provided for in the price of the permit so you may not need to hire one.
3 Days Uganda Gorilla Trekking Cost Estimates
So, looking at the above and putting all factors into consideration, the cost of a typical 3 Days Uganda Gorilla trekking package can be broken down as below;
- Budget Gorilla trekking – permit $700 + car rental $150 + fuel+ $200 + accommodation $150 which totals to $1,200.
- Mid-range Gorilla trekking – permit $700 + car rental $300 + fuel+ $250 + accommodation $450 which totals to $1,700.
- Luxury Gorilla trekking – permit $700 + car rental $750 + fuel+ $350 + accommodation $900 which totals to $2,700.
That is the price estimate for 1 person traveling alone (solo traveler) on a private Gorilla trek. The cost can slightly or considerably change depending on the number of people and whether it is a private or group tour.
Okay, aside from the price differences with the Rwanda gorilla trekking permit now at $1500 and Uganda gorilla going for $700, could there be some real difference in the experience one finally gets? As the entire mountain gorillas in both countries are the same species only separated by national boundaries, the only difference that should mainly arise is in your experience in the tracking and the general gorilla tour arrangement. Because Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is only about 125kms from your arrival airport – Kigali, it makes it much easier to access by road. For Uganda’s Bwindi/ Mgahinga, you would need 8 hours to drive from Entebbe Airport and another 8 hours back to the airport, although daily flights are available (taking about 50 minutes).With this prevailing, you would need at least two days to complete your gorilla tour in Rwanda and 3 days for a Uganda gorilla tour. So, even though the Uganda gorilla permits are cheaper, you would incur a transport cost of about $500-$600. Some visitors choose to arrive in Kigali and arrange to visit Bwindi from Kigali. You would still need 3 days for the entire tour.
All else being equal, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest because its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easier. The major challenge with trekking gorillas in Rwanda is certainly the price of the gorilla permit at US$1500 compared to Uganda’s US$700. However, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is impossible for Uganda. Volcanoes National Park is located 116 km from Kigali and can be driven in just 2 hours. On the other hand, Bwindi is located 500 km from Kampala/ Entebbe Airport and a drive can take 8 hours plus. In that sense, you will spend at least 3 days for your gorilla trek tour – one traveling to Bwindi, another doing the gorilla trek, and the other driving back to Kampala/Entebbe. If a tour operator is making you a tour package, they shall definitely have to consider this cost and include it in your tour cost.
With the oncoming of daily scheduled flights to Bwindi, operators now can have 3 days flying packages to Bwindi.
In real practice though, the one-day gorilla trek tour is not recommended because of the pressure it exerts on the trekker. For those limited on time, we would suggest the 2-days gorillas’ package.
However, the long drive to Bwindi is quite enchanting with great sceneries all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park (for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with abundant wildlife), terraced mountains with flowing rivers, and a lot of rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.
You will certainly spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it is for Rwanda although this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla permit.
Besides, some sections of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are not so comfortable to drive on yet in the case of Rwanda; you drive on smooth tarmac at least up to the Volcanoes National Park head office. Not to mention though, the roads leading from Volcanoes park office to the gorilla trek trail-heads can only be accessed with a raised 4×4 vehicle.