Gorilla permits are cards issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority that authorizes tourists to trek mountain gorillas in the wilderness of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Uganda Gorilla Permits are classified in a way that each issue guarantees you a visit to / one hour encounter with one of the mountain gorilla families in a group of 8 tourists. Before making your journey into the forest, you will be asked by Uganda Wildlife Authority officials to present your Gorilla permit to confirm your purchase and particulars.
How much is a Gorilla permit?
Uganda gorilla permits cost $600 in the peak season (January, February, March, June July, August, September, October, December) and $450 in the low season (April, May & November). Unlike the low season, these permits easily run out of stock in the peak season hence, call for advance purchases. The rates above are for foreign non-residents. Each day, about 72 people visit Bwindi to see mountain gorillas and a number with only 8 people being allowed to visit a gorilla family.
How to book a permit
It’s strongly recommended to book your gorilla permit through a tour operator in advance (at the same time of booking your safari) though you have an option of booking directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority. After making a deposit for your safari, you are required to present scanned copies of your passport so as to allow your tour operator purchase the permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala and then send you scanned copies of the permits to confirm the purchase. You ought to demand for scanned copies of the gorilla trekking permits because some operators have a tendency purchasing permits days to your safari despite receiving payments in advance.
What if you want to purchase the permits yourself? The better! This might seem a bit complex for you but at least you are guaranteed to get permits for highly visited gorilla families (Buhoma and Nkuringo). Like said previously, some operators will not buy your permits right away despite convincing you to make a deposit so as to allow them make the purchases. This usually slots your booking in less visited gorilla families in case they miss out on grabbing a slot for the most visited families. To book your permit directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority, you have to send them an email inquiring about the availability of permits for a chosen date and then follow the procedures involved until you make your payment (inclusive of all bank charges). Upon making your payment; usually via electronic funds transfer, you will have to send the payment receipt to UWA to confirm your booking.
If you are certain that your dealing with a reputable safari operator then you can delegate this task to them and be guaranteed that your permits will be booked for your select gorilla family unless then permits for those dates are all booked.
What to consider
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest currently has over 10 gorilla families that are all dispersed in it’s various edges. What you should know is permits for some gorilla families get booked quickly as compared to the rest. This is because the areas of some families have exceptional accommodation facilities. This is the main reason why Buhoma permits get booked so quickly and are on high demand. Some operators book permits for families that are far away from your accommodation facility which might be quite a challenge for you when it comes to travelling back and forth. Always ensure that your permit entitles you to trek a gorilla family near your safari lodge.
When to pay for a permit
Basing on the huge number of tourists that travel to Uganda for gorilla tours, you are advised to book your permits several months in advance to avoid missing out on them. These permits are served in a first come basis and often get booked so quickly. The payments for Uganda wildlife authority gorilla permits are usually made in full because partial payments are neither allowed nor will entitle you to tentative bookings.
What if my permits are booked in different names?
To ensure your permits are booked in your real names, you need to present scanned copies of your passports to enable UWA issue the permits without any errors. Despite this precaution, permits are still booked in wrong names till today only that most of the time guides explain the mistakes to the officials in the national parks so as to allow then use such permits.
Discounted gorilla permits
A number of safari companies do give out discounts on gorilla permits but unfortunately most of the offers fall in the low seasons. it’s very unusual to get discounted permits in peak seasons because of the competition and scarcity of trekking permits. It’s always recommended to look thoroughly through the website of a tour operator to find out if they have any offers of discounted gorilla permits. Alternatively, you can ask them as you inquire about your safari.
Refunds and Cancellations
What if i booked a safari and cancelled it after? Would i get a refund for your permits? Truth is very few companies will issue refunds for permits which might also not come sooner either that’s why it’s advisable to only secure a permit when you know you are travelling to Uganda for a safari. In case you purchase a permit but rather cancel your trip before due date, a tour operator has to resell your permits to another trekker at a much lower rate then refund you partial amount. Uganda Wildlife Authority currently doesn’t issue refunds for gorilla permits long purchased in most cases but some cases might call for partial refund.
Tourists who fail to trek mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park because of their movement to the neighboring country (Rwanda & Congo) are entitled to a full refund on their gorilla permits. Tourists who trek for the entire day but fail to view mountain gorillas are entitled to a 75% refund. All refunds are got from the reservations office of Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kamwokya, Kampala.
Upon cancellation, UWA refunds the following percentages;
91 days plus to Gorilla Trekking – 75% refund.
46 – 90 days to Gorilla Trekking – 50% refund
9 – 45 days to Gorilla Trekking – 25% refund
0 – 8 days to Gorilla Trekking – no refund
Please note that these policies used to be strong years ago but it’s become more complicated to receive refunds lately. And besides, most safari operators retain refunds and count it as compensation for the time and efforts wasted to secure the permit. This implicates clients often receive refunds on very rare cases.
Booking your safari with prominent safari companies several months in advance will guarantee you permits for trekking the most visited gorilla families. Besides, some of these companies are insured, implicating even if you cancelled your safari you would still receive a full cover for your gorilla permits.