Where to Buy Gorilla Permits in Uganda?

Are you wondering where to buy gorilla permits in Uganda? Taking a Gorilla Trekking Tour in Uganda is every primate lover’s pastime. The fact of the matter is, that there are only three countries in the whole World where you can see Mountain Gorillas. These gentle but huge-sized primates live high in the mountains and dense rainforests of East and Central Africa with a World population of less than 2000 individuals.

Over the years, a thriving gorilla trekking industry has ballooned to accommodate the thirst for close-up encounters with the magnificent creatures in their natural habitats. Mountain Gorillas have lived in the dense rainforests, high on the mountains since time immemorial. Not too long ago humans in the region didn’t just watch these Giant Apes but hunted them for their skin and other by-products. Meeting face-to-face with these Giant Apes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but you can only see them when you have a valid Gorilla permit.

A Gorilla permit is your ticket to exploring the extraordinary Giant Apes in their natural habitat and is only valid for a specific date. This is a document that allows you to visit one of the habituated (or semi-habituated, for the Habituation Experience) families in either Bwindi or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. For every fully habituated gorilla family, only 8 gorilla permits are issued to a maximum of 8 visitors (hence one permit per person). In this article, you will be provided with detailed information on how and where to buy Uganda Gorilla permits.

How Much Do Uganda Gorilla Permits Cost?

Gorilla Permits in Uganda cost $800 per person per trek for foreign non-residents, and $700 per person for foreign residents, Shs.300,000 for East African Community residents, and $500 per person for travelers from the Rest of Africa. These are rates for standard gorilla trekking tours (ones that allow visitors to spend one hour with the mountain gorillas. Visitors yearning to enjoy the Gorilla Habituation Experience should be ready to part with $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents and visitors from the Rest of Africa, and Shs.750,000 for East African Community residents.

Where to Buy Gorilla Permits in Uganda

Where and How to Buy Uganda Gorilla Permits?

Permits for Uganda Gorilla Trekking are only issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which operates an automated system that manages the sale of these permits. However, permits are only sold to Tour Operators (or Tour Companies) like Native Africa Tours that have been licensed by the Uganda Tourism Board. This is mostly applicable to foreign non-resident tracking permits.

However, there is an exception with foreign resident permits (up to 5 permits) that can be bought for any Gorilla Safari for family members who are residents in any of the East African Community Member States. These countries include Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Somalia). If the family members are not residents in any of the East African Community Member States, they will be treated as foreign non-residents.

Buying Uganda Gorilla Permits through a Tour Operator

It is a hectic process to buy gorilla permits directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority (if eligible), hence the stress-free option is doing it through a Tour Operator. The Tour Operator will handle the entire process.

How do you buy Uganda Gorilla Permits through a Tour Operator? Make an inquiry (via phone call or email) for availability for tracking slots. If the dates and tracking locations have permits, the Tour Operator will reserve on your behalf. You will be required to make payment (including the extra fee) by credit card or money transfer into the Bank account you will be sent. Your passport details will be required for booking your permits. Once successful, the permit will be scanned and sent to your email.

However, for our Gorilla Tour packages, Gorilla permits are included in the cost; hence you will not be required to pay extra fees for booking the permit.

Buying Uganda Gorilla Permits directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority

If the option of buying directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority is applicable, you can either do it online (which was still unavailable at the time of writing) or physically. This can be at the Uganda Wildlife Authority Reservations Office, at their Headquarters at Plot 7 Kira Road, in Kampala. It is possible to make booking and payment for Uganda Gorilla permits in full, as long as your dates are within a period not exceeding 12 months from the date of reserving.

The Uganda permit online reservation and payment isn’t ready at the time of writing. However, for offline permit reservations, the process begins with making inquiries with the Uganda Wildlife Authority for the availability of tracking space on the tracking date and in the tracking location of your choice. The locations are Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija, or Nkuringo in Bwindi and Ntebeko in Mgahinga. You can call, send an email or physically walk in at the reservations office. If there isn’t availability, you will be advised on the optional dates or locations with availability.

Availability is not guaranteed 

If availability is positive, you can go ahead to reserve the number of permits you are interested in, and be issued a Proforma invoice by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to confirm your booking. However, this is valid for only one week without payment, after which you will lose your permit/s (they will go back to the market) if payment isn’t made. Payment can be made online (by card or mobile money), bank deposits (which weren’t available at the time of writing), and Mobile Money transactions. Once payment has been effected, you will be issued an automatically generated receipt.

You will need to present your passport, so that your gorilla permit is updated with your bio-data information, before tracking.

Uganda Gorilla permits can then be picked up from the Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters in Kampala. On the day of tracking, your permit will be verified by Park Wardens during the briefing process. This is before embarking on your gorilla trekking adventure. You therefore need to present the provided documents which will be validated against records in the UWA booking system. When successful, you will then be allowed to enter the Park (Bwindi or Mgahinga) through the different locations to search for the Giant Apes in their natural habitat.

When is the Best Time to Buy Uganda Gorilla Permits?

Uganda Gorilla Permits are limited, whereby only 160 permits are issued each day by the Uganda Wildlife Authority on a first come first serve basis. For this reason, visitors are advised to book and buy permits in advance- two to three months for the low season and six to twelve months for the high season.

Conclusively, mountain gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It brings primate enthusiasts face-to-face with one of mankind’s closest relatives in the animal Kingdom. However, your dream of getting up close and personal with gorillas can be shuttered if you don’t possess a valid trekking permit. Permits can be booked directly via a Tour Operator.

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