If you’re planning a thrilling gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda, the most crucial item you’ll need is a gorilla permit. This permit is your access ticket to Volcanoes National Park, where you’ll have the unique opportunity to encounter the magnificent mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Rwanda, being a prime destination for gorilla trekking, offers only 96 gorilla permits per day, which is significantly less than the demand for this extraordinary experience. Due to the limited availability, last-minute bookings are incredibly rare. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to secure your gorilla permit at least three months in advance, and ideally six months in advance, to ensure you get a permit for the specific dates you plan to visit Rwanda.
A Rwanda gorilla permit is a pass or ticket that tourists purchase from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to partake in a guided mountain gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park. This permit grants tourists the unique opportunity to spend up to one hour with a habituated gorilla group in their natural environment.
The process starts with a briefing at the park headquarters, located just outside the park in Kiningi, before 0800 hours. During the briefing, the warden on duty verifies your permit, ensuring that your name matches the one on the permit and checking the trekking date.
The sale of gorilla permits serves as a significant source of funding for mountain gorilla conservation, the maintenance and protection of their habitats, and park services such as paying trackers, rangers, and monitoring gorilla locations to provide every tourist the chance to witness these remarkable creatures.
A gorilla permit in Rwanda includes guided access to a habituated gorilla group, armed security for protection, and the opportunity to spend one hour with the gorillas.
Rwanda allows only eight tourists to track one gorilla group. Throughout the trek, visitors are accompanied by armed rangers and an expert tracker/guide who leads and informs them about the trekking developments. The guide is a valuable source of information about the gorillas and the park’s inhabitants, and tourists can ask any related questions, which the guide will be glad to answer.
A Rwanda gorilla permit is valid for a single trek by a single person and cannot be reused or transferred. However, tourists are permitted to purchase multiple gorilla permits for different trekking days. Once the tracking date on the permit has passed, it becomes invalid.
The cost of the Rwanda gorilla permit does not cover additional services such as hiring a porter, tips after the trek, accommodation, transfers, meals, and logistical support for the gorilla trekking safari. Any other park activities, such as birding, hiking, or nature walks, will also be charged separately by the RDB.
The cost of a gorilla permit in Rwanda varies depending on the visitor’s nationality and age. For foreign non-residents above 15 years old, the permit costs USD 1500 per person per trek. Foreign residents with work permits are charged $500, and East African Nationals pay $200 per permit.
RDB offers a 10% discount on bulk purchases of 30 permits or more for corporates/organizations and a 15% discount to traveling families (couples and children over 15 years old).
The high cost of the Rwanda gorilla permit is primarily aimed at supporting mountain gorilla conservation efforts. The Rwandan government, along with various organizations, has been dedicated to relentless conservation efforts, resulting in a steady increase in the endangered mountain gorilla population. However, these conservation efforts require substantial funding.
Additionally, as Rwanda is a rapidly developing nation, the government uses the revenue from gorilla permits to support the development of local communities residing around the gorilla park. The government funds over 400 community projects, including the construction of schools, hospitals, and providing access to clean water, directly benefiting the people living near national parks.
The expenses associated with providing trekking services for wild animals that constantly move within the park also contribute to the high permit cost. The revenue from the permits supports a range of personnel, from on-the-clock rangers and guides to paper-pushing officers, all of whom play essential roles in ensuring a successful and safe gorilla trekking experience.
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to 12 habituated gorilla families. Each day, only eight people are allowed to visit a single gorilla group, resulting in 96 gorilla permits being available in Rwanda every day.
Unlike Uganda, which has five trekking offices, Rwanda has one tracking office located at Kiningi park headquarters. From here, all gorilla trekking excursions commence, spreading out to various trailheads located at the edge of the park and at the base of the volcano mountains.
To purchase your Rwanda gorilla permit, you can apply online through the IREMBO government website and pay using a credit card. Bookings are made on a first-come-first-serve basis, and you can book in advance depending on permit availability.
Alternatively, you can buy your permit directly from a licensed tour operator, which provides added benefits such as insurance for unforeseen circumstances and assistance with logistics, including rescheduling if necessary.
For assistance in buying your gorilla trekking permit for your chosen tracking dates, you can contact tour consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The online permit application process is straightforward, involving selecting an available date, completing mandatory forms, uploading required supporting documentation, and making the necessary payments.
When applying for a permit, you’ll need to provide the applicant’s details, including names, passport copy/number, email, and phone number. Even if you book through a tour operator, these details will be required for the application.
It is crucial to provide accurate and complete information during the permit application process to avoid any issues during the trek. At the park office during the trekking briefing, a warden will verify the tourists’ documents, and inaccurate or incomplete information may lead to denied entry even if you have already paid for the permit.
Last-minute gorilla permits in Rwanda can sometimes be obtained through licensed tour operators who purchase permits in bulk from the RDB with the hope of selling them to last-minute travelers. Additionally, operators may have permits available due to canceled trips, making them a viable source for last-minute bookings.
However, during high or peak travel seasons in Rwanda, it becomes highly improbable to secure last-minute permits. To ensure availability, travelers planning gorilla trekking safaris from June to September should make reservations at least six months in advance.
If you’re considering a last-minute gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda, you can contact gorilla safari consultants at email@example.com, as they may have some permits on standby.
Volcanoes National Park provides various options for refunds in specific circumstances. If visitors fail to track gorillas due to the movements of the gorilla group, they have another chance to trek or receive a full refund on their permit fee.
However, if visitors have already trekked for the whole day but were unable to make contact with a gorilla family for reasons beyond their control, they can obtain a 75% refund of the permit fee.
It’s important to note that no refund is provided for late arrivals, flight delays, absence, or cancellation of the trip for any other reason.
Trek Africa Tours offers customized Rwanda gorilla safaris, which include the processing of your gorilla permit, accommodation, and transport. Even last-minute bookings are accommodated, as they may have some gorilla permits available for travelers like you. With Trek Africa Tours, you can expect efficient planning, a well-managed trip, and an unforgettable safari experience. For inquiries or assistance in purchasing your gorilla trekking permit, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to their gorilla tour consultants right away.