Gorilla trekking is special because mountain gorillas look and behave like we humans. They live in families with a hierarchy where the dominant silverback dictates everything that is done by the group. Gorilla trekking is expensive because mountain gorillas are endangered and because of that many people want to see them. The high numbers of tourists interested in seeing them has forced many governments to raise the price of permits.
What to consider when planning gorilla trekking
The cost of a gorilla permit
If you are planning to do gorilla trekking in any of the three countries, you will need to acquire a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit is a document that allows you access to the gorillas. In Rwanda gorilla permit is at $1500. A gorilla permit is a requirement for tracking gorillas. You cannot be allowed to take part in the activity without showing them to the park authorities. What is included in a Gorilla Permit Cost? A gorilla permit includes interacting with the gorillas for one hour, park entrance, Ranger fees and advance trackers.
To book a gorilla permit, you need to go through your tour operator or one of the government authorities in the respective countries. In Rwanda Development board does it in Rwanda. It is important to book your gorilla permit or gorilla tour at least 2 months in advance. If you are planning to travel in the peak season (June, July and August), we recommend that you do the booking at least 5 to 6 months before your Rwanda safari trip so that you don’t go through the stress of asking different tour companies if they have availability.
The cost of accommodation
One of the things you will have to consider while planning your gorilla tour is where to sleep. All the gorilla national parks have high quality lodges from where you can spend the night. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your budget.
Rwanda’s gorilla is a luxury safari, even hotels are luxury. You can book these hotels on your own if you planning to do a self-drive but most travelers book the hotels through their tour company. If you book a hotel yourself, ensure that it is located close to the starting point of the gorilla family or sector you have been assigned. If you book too far away, you may miss the trek. This is all the more reason why it is better to book your gorilla tour through a reputable tour operator.
The cost of food
While traveling to these countries, you need to take into consideration the expenses for food, drinks and particularly water. The hotels provide this but you are going to need water and food when out of the hotel or traveling. Food and drinks should cost you about $40 each day if you are traveling on your own. If you are planning to buy expensive booze or cigars, you might have to plan for a higher amount per day. If you are booking your travel with a tour company, you should not worry about food. They should take care of the food and water while at the hotel and traveling between activities.
The cost of transport (Plane tickets and hiring a vehicle)
After securing the gorilla permits and identifying a lodge, the next thing that will come to your mind is how to get to the gorilla parks. Air tickets to and from your country of origin depending on your choice of airline. The driving distance from Kigali International Airport to the Volcanoes National Park is 2 hours.
Arranging your own travel in an unfamiliar and developing country can be complicated. It is why most travelers leave the issue of transport, permits and accommodation to their chosen tour operators so that they are only left with the task of showing up at the airport.
It is also important to note that only a few tour companies are willing to book air tickets on behalf of their clients. Consult you tour company to see if they can help you with booking flights to and from your country of origin.
Cost of items on the gorilla trekking packing list
For the best experience while tracking and watching the gorillas, you will need to travel with a good camera, insect repellents, sunscreen, hiking boots, hand gloves, a binocular and a rain jacket. These are all hidden costs that need to be taken into consideration apart from the gorilla permit itself. You might want to read more about the gorilla trekking packing list.
Visas and border crossing
Gorilla trekking often involves crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. If you are planning to do gorilla trekking in Congo, expect to cross the Goma border post at a cost ($100 for the VISA). Those who find the price of gorilla permits in Rwanda too high can choose to track the gorillas in Uganda instead but arrive through Kigali to avoid traveling for 8 hours from Entebbe or Uganda’s capital Kampala. Gorilla trekking from Uganda through Kigali involves paying a VISA fee of $50 at either the Katuna or Cyanika border crossings. The East African tourist visa can also be acquired at a cost of $100 for those who are combing safaris in different countries of East Africa.
Yellow Fever vaccination card
This may not seem important but it is a requirement for entering all the three countries. If you read reviews about gorilla trekking, you will learn that yellow fever vaccination cards are one of the key documents asked at the airport and while crossing borders. If you are planning to travel to most African countries, you need to consider the cost of taking the shots.
Cost of porters – especially for the elderly
If you are traveling with heavy equipment, bags or video cameras, you will need to hire a porter to help you carry them while tracking the gorillas. The porters can also help you carry packed lunch and lend a hand during the difficult sections of the trek. Gorilla trekking for the elderly is more complicated because they would need to use Sedan chairs and hire about eight porters to lift them up to the tracking point.
By hiring these porters, you contribute to their general well-being and indirectly help them support their families. Hiring a porter costs about $15 and they can be got during the briefing. You may want to know how Gorilla groups are allocated to travelers.
Tips for the Guide/Driver, Park Rangers and Hotel staff
Sometimes hotel staff, Guides, Rangers, waiters and waitresses goes out of their way to make sure that your time with them was perfect and memorable. Out of courtesy, you might decide to show your appreciation for the work done by giving them tip. The amount depends entirely on you. Tipping during gorilla trekking is not compulsory and should only be paid after a service is rendered and you are happy with it.
If you are planning to track the gorillas in Rwanda, add the prices above to get an estimate of your overall expenditure.