Ever thought of planning a gorilla safari to Uganda or Rwanda and stopped along way wondering why gorilla trekking is so expensive? Well, you are not just alone. Many people have been turned off from their dream of trekking the gorillas due to the cost of the gorilla permits and the entire tour costs. For example, in Rwanda, gorilla permits costs US$1500 whereas in Uganda, the gorilla permits are sold at a minimal fee of US$700.00.
Such a high price for the permits makes the gorilla trekking safari to be the most expensive safari holiday experience in Africa. Many travelers have taken part in this amazing life-changing encounter with the gorillas while others continue to plan their gorilla tours for the nearing future. What is interesting about the gorilla permit fees is that you can pay this money throughout the year regardless of the season. To trek the gorillas in Rwanda, the permit fees remains the same for both nationals and non-nationals which is not the case in Uganda.
When talking to one of the authorities of wildlife conservation at Rwanda Development Board, we were highlighted about some of the reasons why gorilla trekking is so expensive. The reasons among others include;
The Mountain Gorillas are highly endangered
One of the top reasons as to why gorilla trekking is so expensive in Rwanda or Uganda is that the gorillas are highly endangered and therefore requires the authorities to reduce their interaction with big crowds of people. According to recent statistics as of 2016, it is estimated that only 1000 mountain gorillas are remaining in the whole world surviving in the tropical rain forests of Bwindi Forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, this calls for a high cost of the gorilla permits to perhaps discourage some people from traveling hence saving the highly endangered species from the crowds.
Mountain Gorillas Susceptible to Human Diseases
Another reason perhaps is that the mountain gorillas are close relatives to human beings which makes them vulnerable to being infected by human diseases. This means, to save the mountain gorillas from being overcrowded by many humans, the permits have to be put on a high so as to limit some people from trekking them and also to avoid over-exploitation and exceeding the carrying capacity of gorilla national parks, which are Volcanoes National Park, Virunga national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
The need to conserve and offer sustainable gorilla tourism
After experiencing a great loss of mountain gorillas in the 1980s due to poaching and human encroachment on the mountain gorilla habitats. The authorities decided to increase the gorilla permits in both countries so as to accrue revenue which can then be used to conserve the gorilla habitats and also to promote a sustainable gorilla tourism environment. This tells why Rwanda, for example, doubled the gorilla permit fee from $750.00 USD in 2017 to US$1500 aiming to conserve the shrinking habitat of mountain gorillas. Uganda too increased her gorilla permits from US$450 to the current price of US$600. To the Wildlife Authorities Conserving the gorilla is an indirect way of promoting sustainable gorilla tourism in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. Imagine if there was no limit on the number of travelers allowed to trek mountain gorillas? There would be crowding and overstepping which destroy gorilla habitats. A high number of travelers also make mountain gorillas uncomfortable in their natural habitat, which destructs their social happy life.
Safety and Easy Monitoring
Being that the mountain gorillas are highly endangered species, it is necessary to continuously monitor them so as to ensure they are safe which may not be possible if too many people are allowed to visit their habitats. According to the authorities, the funds collected from selling gorilla permits are partially used remunerate the ranger guides who monitor the wellbeing of mountain gorillas in their habitats such as tracking their movements, feeding, and health status. Tourism police and other armed rangers have also been hired to ensure the safety of mountain gorillas from any external attack by the poachers, and rebel groups who in the past used the gorilla habits as their hiding places. Incase travelers are connecting from one destination to another at night; tourism police escort them which ensures their safety throughout.
Gorilla Trekking is one way of improving the livelihood of the locals
Gorilla tourism has become an indirect source of Local livelihood for the communities adjacent to gorilla national parks. Responsible governments share part of the revenue earned to local communities to improve their standards of living. In Uganda, local people are given 20% of the total revenue earned from gorilla permits while Rwanda gives 10% to local people. Sharing with local people has created a positive attitude of local people towards gorilla tourism and conservation hence reducing the natural resource conflicts between local people and the management of respective national parks. Before the introduction of gorilla tourism and wildlife conservation, local people had full access to all resources in the forest.
PLEASE NOTE: In order to create a peaceful, enjoyable and memorable encounter with these highly endangered species in their natural habitats, travelers are required to follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations: These include dressing smart for the jungle, keeping a distance and keeping within their groups. The do’s and don’ts are similar in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
How to behave with mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas are shy and calm creatures that stay peaceful even in the presence of travelers. You are therefore reminded not to disturb these animals in any way. All travelers must not come so close to gorillas, which disrupt and make them uncomfortable. Also, don not feed gorillas touch them to avoid the spread of human-wildlife communicable diseases. Incase gorillas approach you, you are reminded to step back and let it pass. Travelers are also required to speak at a low tone and keep within their groups not to wander in the forest, which can be harmful.
Therefore, the reasons as to why gorilla trekking is so expensive are all worth the high cost of gorilla trekking but that must not deter you from fulfilling your dream of trekking the gorillas. Truly, this is a magical thrilling adventure which happens once in a lifetime. Book your gorilla permit today to Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo and be part of the world’s best wildlife experience.