How to organise your gorilla trekking and chimp trekking permits
Mountain gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only 800 mountain gorillas left in the wild. Almost half of the worlds’ population of mountain gorillas can be found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda. The spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom is hard to describe.
Important information for roadtrippers who want to go gorilla and chimp trekking covered in this section:
- How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit
- Where to go gorilla trekking
- Where to go chimpanzee trekking
- What does a trekking day look like?
How to obtain a gorilla trekking permit
If you are planning to visit the gorillas or chimpanzees, it is recommended that you reserve the trekking permits well in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters in Kampala issues the permits only upon cash payment in full (no pre-booking). Permits cost USD 600 per person until June 2020. From July 2020 on they will go for USD 700 per person. There are no discounted permits for the gorilla trekking related to a low or high season.
Roadtrip Uganda can arrange the gorilla and chimp permits for you, after you have booked your rental car with us. In order to do so, we need (1) full names corresponding with your passport, nationality, date of birth and passport number of all the people tracking, (2) preferred starting location and date (3) second best dates in case the preferred date is fully booked. Once proof of payment has been sent, we will purchase the permits on your behalf. Kindly note that UWA does not have a refund policy in case of any cancellation or change of location or date. Note that the minimum age for gorilla tracking is 15 years and for the chimps it is 13 years. For this service we charge a handling fee of $25 per gorilla permit and $15 per chimp permit.
Once your permits are bought, it is not possible to change the start location and / or date.
Where are the gorilla trekking locations in Uganda?
Bwindi National Park protects an estimated 350 mountain gorillas, including 11 habituated groups which can be tracked. There are four departing places: Buhoma and Ruhija which are in the northern part of the park, and Nkuringo and Rushaga, which are in Kisoro District in the southeast of Bwindi. Roadtrip Uganda partners with Mutanda Lake Resort, from where you can visit the Nkuringo or Rushaga family. Another trekking location is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which borders Rwanda and protects the Ugandan parts of the Virunga mountains.
Where to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Kibale Forest is the prime chimpanzee trekking location, organized by the UWA with a 95% chance that you will spot a chimp family. Trips start every morning and afternoon in Kibale Forest National Park. Chimp tracking permits cost USD 150 per person until June 2020, from July 2020 on they cost USD 200. You can also opt for the full day chimp habituation experience, which costs USD 200 (From July 2020 they will cost USD 250). It is recommended to reserve the permits in advance. Note that the minimum age for chimp tracking is 13 years. We can help you to arrange chimpanzee trekking permits for Kibale Forest.
Budget tips for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
For those on a budget, Budongo Forest, Kalinzu Forest or Kyambura Gorge are cheaper alternatives to see the chimpanzees for which you can arrange permits yourself. Budongo Forest Reserve is near Murchison Falls National Park. The likelihood of spotting chimps is highest in the morning, with an estimated 80% chance of encountering the chimps. The tracking is organised by Uganda Lodges - Budongo Eco Lodge. Permits can be obtained at the site, or reserved in advance through Uganda Lodges. Prices for the Budongo Forest are USD 75 during low season (March-May, Oct-Nov) and USD 85 during the rest of the year.
Kalinzu Forest NR is situated along the road Mbarara to Queen Elizabeth NP, after Ishaka. The walk is charged at $40 only, and the chance of seeing chimps is estimated at 50%. Nevertheless, even if you miss the chimps, it is a beautiful stretch of nature to walk around in.
Kyambura Gorge is located in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is a steep walk as you descend to the gorge and enter a totally different mini-ecosystem. Tracking here is highly recommended, yet remarkably little visited by tourists. There is no guarantee that you will spot the chimps (about 50% chance), but there is plenty of other wildlife and the gorge is a destination in its own right. Permits cost USD 50 and can be bought at the Katongo Park Headquarters, or arranged in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Curious about what a day of gorilla trekking looks like? Read our travel blog.