Gorilla safaris in Africa are a few most unusual travel experiences that anyone should not miss out in life. With only 3 destinations that are available for tourists to encounter these mighty wild creatures, Rwanda is undoubtedly one of the best choices you can make to view the rare mountain gorillas in the wild. Mountain gorillas have become Rwanda’s identity! What else can people talk about Rwanda if it is not gorilla trekking? Gorilla safaris in Rwanda are only conducted in Volcanoes National Park, Northwestern part of the country which offers refuge to more than a 3rd of all the mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga Mountain ranges. There are 10 habituated gorilla families that are available every day for tourists to track mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. Obtaining “life changing” experiences in Volcanoes National Park entirely comes at a cost just like any other adventure!
The cost of gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda:
Since gorilla permits are a must to have for gorilla adventures in all the 3 destinations where mountain gorillas are protected, Rwanda sells its gorilla permits at $1500 per visitor and this applies to all the visitors. For cases where a tourist may prefer to book an entire gorilla family, gorilla permits are purchased at $15000 with exclusive tour guiding services.
Discounted Rwanda Safari Packages
For combined safaris within Rwanda’s National Parks for instance gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and then visit to Akagera or Nyungwe Forest National Park, gorilla permits are purchased by tourists at $1050. This applies only in the month of November to May. For conference visitors who stay back before or after MICE events to view mountain gorillas, they pay $1275.
Gorilla Filming and Photography in Rwanda
For visitors who are interested in gorilla filming and photography in Volcanoes National Park, the gorilla permits are obtainable at $5000 which applies for three consecutive days of mountain gorilla filming and professional photography and $12000 for filming and photography crew per day with maximum of 8 tourists. Obtaining a gorilla permit allows a visitor to track one gorilla group but this doesn’t guarantee visitors 100% to see the mountain gorillas in the wild.
However, there is need to address the question of “why gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda are more expensive than in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The reasons are as follows;
Volcanoes National Park is rated as the most accessible destinations for gorilla trekking. Tourists spend nearly 2 to 3 hours to drive from Kigali International Airport to the park to track mountain gorillas and even return to the Airport. This helps tourists to save time especially if they were to travel from Entebbe International Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda which takes about 9-10 hours on road.
Gorilla adventures in Volcanoes National Park are a bit better based on the argument that gorilla trekking is simpler in Rwanda due to favorable vegetation cover that allows clear view as compared to dense jungles of Uganda and DRC.
The prices for gorilla permits in Rwanda are also high mainly to limit the number of visitors who get into mountain gorilla habitats. Whereas everyone’s priority is to make money, conserving these endangered creatures in the wild is also crucial and setting high prices for gorilla permits is one of the strategies to ensure that few people get access to gorilla habitat which in a long run ensures their conservation. The larger the population of tourists in the gorilla habitat, the more they become stressed and vegetation cover gets destroyed in the course of creating trails for tourists. By so doing, sustainability of conservation efforts ensured and in turn improves tourists’ experiences.
Conservation of mountain gorillas and other wildlife species can only be successful if other stakeholders are also considered or involved in the practice that is why in Rwanda and Uganda the park management introduced revenue sharing scheme. For Rwanda, the revenue sharing scheme was recently increased from 5% to 10%. This revenue sharing is part of the park entry fees that tourists pay and it is given back to support the adjacent local communities and several projects such as education, health centers, roads construction, clean water provision, goat rearing among others. This is intended to enhance peoples’ livelihoods which in turn will inspire them to appreciate gorilla conservation and tourism in their area.
In conclusion, there are several reasons that can explain why gorilla trekking permits are more expensive in Rwanda some of these may not be strong enough to justify the matter. Besides Rwanda, gorilla adventures can equally be experienced in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Southwestern, Uganda and in the Virunga National Park in Eastern, Democratic Republic of Congo. Visiting any of the 3 destinations for gorilla trekking rewards tourists with magical experiences that come once in life time!