How to plan for a gorilla safari
Proper planning is a key to a successful gorilla tracking tour in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Even when its a one day adventure, traveling to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is s a long waited encounter which require advance preparation by all travelers to make it successful. Since the time of Dian Fossey, gorilla tourism has been a success, many travelers have taken part, others are booking and many others are expected to come in the near future to interact with these critically endangered species. Hiking to watch gorillas is a beautiful long walk through the tropical rain forests of Central and East Africa which bring you close to human’s closest relatives. While planning for a safari to gorillas, detailed information, guidelines and trekking regulations is very essential to ensure good health for the both travelers and gorillas in the mist.Planning involve selecting where to go for gorilla trekking, gorilla permits, accommodation and possibly the best time to meet these endangered species.
Where to go for gorilla trekking
Mountain gorillas live only in four national parks of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in DRCongo.Travelers therefore need to understand in details about each destination and choose where to go. Gorilla experience in each national park is unique in its own but the difference is in altitude and accessibility. A traveler can therefore choose any country to see gorillas or else do a combined safari to Uganda, Rwanda and DRCongo on a single trip.
The cost of the gorilla permit
After knowing where gorillas live consider how much a gorilla permit costs in each country. Permit prices vary from country to country with Rwanda having the very expensive permits at 1500usd paid by all travelers including Rwanda nationals throughout the year. In Uganda, the cost of the permit depends on the season and that is 600usd in the high season between the months of june, July, August, September, December to February. This price is discounted to 450usd in the low season in March, April and November. The discounted gorilla passes in Uganda is an added advantage especially for budget travelers. On the other Democratic Republic of Congo has the cheapest permits for gorilla viewing at only 400usd in all seasons. Despite the difference in costs, trekking in each country is surely a unique and memorable experience.
Advance booking and payment of the deposit
You are required to book for a gorilla permit as early as 6 months before the actual date. Early booking is recommended due to high demand to watch gorillas by most travelers especially in high seasons. Peak season is always associated by high bookings and shortage of permits. Travelers access passes on a first come first serve basis hence early booking give travelers a guarantee to access permits despite the high demand.40% of the total cost is required as a booking fee and the rest can be paid later or on arrival.
There are roughly 36-habituated gorilla families/ troops available for trekking in the whole world. Uganda shelters 13 gorilla families 12 in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Rwanda is a home to 10 gorilla families in volcanoes national park and DRC with 8 gorilla families in Virunga national park. The many gorilla families a country has, the more gorilla permits available and the more chances to access permits by the traveler. This means that the many gorilla families in Uganda guarantee traveler’s access to gorilla permits even those who book at the last minute. Choosing on which gorilla family to trek depend on the physical fitness of travelers. Gorillas live in low and higher altitudes meaning that a traveler should choose which family to see depending on his/her physical fitness and the ability to hike.
Best time to trek gorillas
Most travelers like trekking in the dry season between the months of June, July, August, September and December to February. During this season, there are limited or no rains at all which make trekking, hiking and photography easier. However, trekking in the low season is an advantage since gorilla permits are offered at a discounted rate especially in Uganda from 600usd to 450usd. Similarly, services in hotels and lodges together with transportation costs are offered at a quite cheap cost in the low season compared to the high season, which is an advantage for budget travelers.
After you have known which country, the gorilla family and the travel date, you should book for the accommodation. In all gorilla national parks, there are lodges, which provide travelers with food and sleeping services at affordable prices. These lodges are both luxury, mid range and budget meaning that a traveler chooses which one to book depending on his/her budget.