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Absolute bucket list item. And an activity that may not be around together, so although it doesn’t come cheap, trekking with mountian gorillas in East and Central Africa is something not to be missed. Save your pennies, and book your ticket. You won’t regret it.

So for sure you’re wondering “How much does it cost to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda?”. Rumours of crazy expenses are unfortunately pretty accurate – to trek with the Mountain Gorillas in either Rwanda or Uganda will cost you a one-time fee of $750 (rumours of $1000-$2000 increases through 2015 & 2016 are rife) which gives you access to the gorillas for one hour only. Ouch!

how much does it cost to see the gorillas in Rwanda?

Ok ok so $750 is a heartbreaker but money comes and goes and this really is an opportunity of a lifetime. Petting sedated tigers in Bangkok, feeding domesticated monkeys in India – these kind of activites are contrived tourism practices with dubious morals, but trekking with the mountain gorillas is true wildlife at its finest. You get up close and personal with these massive creatures and there are few more inspiring, intimidating and impressive sights than a 200kg silverback male standing on two feet and beating his chest at you, just to let you know who’s boss, and believe me you will certainly know who’s boss!

mountain gorillas uganda

So should you see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda?

Well, you can trek mountain gorillas in 3 places in the world – Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. The DRC can be dangerous and with the convoluted and expensive visa requirements pushing the costs higher I’d rule that one. So Uganda or Rwanda? The actual cost remains the same ($750) so which should you choose?

In Uganda:

TRANSPORT: Located a whole days drive from Kampala, it’s more difficult to access and with accommodation around the park being expensive, the costs for independent travellers can soon soar. The town of Buhoma, the nearest town to the gorillas, is a gruelling 13 hour bus ride from Kampala so factor that into your timing too. The other entry point is Nkoringo which involves a similarly arduous journey. Get yourself to Kampala, early in the morning head to the bus station in the town centre and you’ll be off. The bus costs around $10 to get to Bwindi,

BOOKING: For Uganda, you need to book through the  Ugandan Wildlife Authority, they are more efficient than their Rwandan brothers and are much more open to emails, phone calls etc. Only 50 permits available each day but cancellations are quite common so if there are only a couple of you, you can turn up and wait for cancellations – normally within 2 or 3 days you’ll be good to go.

VISAS: Most nationalities (EU passports, Canada, US, Australia, NZ etc) don’t require any prior work. Just arrive at the border, pay your $50 (steep i know!) and you’re in. Only single entry visas are available.

GORILLAS: Amazing of course, the groups (bands) are smaller than in Rwanda but still impressive. The rainforest here is reportedly denser than that of Rwanda so the photo opps aren’t  necessarily as presentable however, as a silverback runs across your path that’ll be the least of your worries! The trek from the park to the gorillas range from 1 to 5 hours depending on the gorillas movement.

In Rwanda:

TRANSPORT: From Kigali, you’ll be heading to Musanze the closest town to the Volcanoes National Park. Probably still a tad too far to consider a day trip so I would recommend heading down the day before, sleep there have your day with the gorillas and head back to Kigali or onwards to Uganda the same day.

BOOKING: With only a limited number of spaces available each day to trek with the gorillas ideally you should book in advance. Easier said that done! For Rwanda, you book through the  ORPTN office in Kigali, Rwanda although as you’ll see from their retro website, they aren’t exactly surging through the technological times! Endless emails and phone calls will be required and in the end, if you have time to spare, it’s easier (in a group of 1, 2 or 3) to turn up to the office and book when you arrive. You may have to wait a few days for cancellations but if you’re patient, you’ll get to the see the gorillas I promise! Note that, Rwanda is not a cheap country to stay in so try to get an idea of what specific days there may be spaces so you can arrive roughly around that time and avoid emptying your wallets in the overpriced Kigali!

VISAS: Available on the border and in the airport and generally cost $60 for 30 days. No problems at all.

GORILLAS: The general consensus is that the Rwandan gorilla groups are larger, easier to spot and the scenery allows for better photos and, after visiting here, I can only confirm all of the above. It really is something special, with baby gorillas rolling around at your feet to Silverbacks charging around within a metre or two of you, it will take your breath away. The most famous group, and the furthest to trek to is the Susa group so if you’re feeling energetic ask for that. They have the biggest male, the most babies but can often be up to 5 hours trek away!

Uganda or Rwanda? For me, it’s gotta be Rwanda. The vast majority of the people I met along the way in Africa seemed to say the same thing, of course either country will be a great experience though but Rwanda pips it.

how much does it cost for the mountain gorillas in uganda?

Mountain Gorillas on a budget? There are countless tour operators who would love nothing more than for you to pay them $$$$ to arrange the whole thing for you, arrive by local bus, stay in local accommodation, have your $750 in cash and that’s the best you can hope for. This is not a cheap activity, but one you’ll never regret.

So are the gorillas worth the $750? Definitely, I wouldn’t change it for the world. For example, the standard line is that you must remain 7m away from them, try telling the gorillas that! They’ll be running around you, inches from your face, a truly awe-inspiring experience and one that I urge everyone to try to see for themselves. Not to mention the trek through the thick African rainforest as you make your way to the gorillas, this is Africa in it’s most purest, $750 might be steep but do it now before the price hikes truly make it impossible to consider!

Silverback gorilla in Rwanda
Me with the silverback

Any questions guys, feel free to comment below and i’ll get back to you asap…

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44 thoughts on “Trekking with Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda & Uganda

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  5. This is an experience that I would definitely love to have and your post’s really informative. Thank you!

  6. Johnny,

    I stumbled across your site last night while researching the best way to trek with the gorillas in Rwanda. I’ve literally spent the entire day going through, your site, reading posts and comments and I’m pretty sure I love you – you had me at ‘Fear of Commitment or Travel.’

    I started traveling in college, did some study abroad in a couple different countries. Got stuck in the corporate trap and then in my own trap as an entreprenuer, did a work exchange in England and then Wales and then got stuck again…

    If the Gods see fit, I will be doing a consulting job in Rwanda in March and then returning on and off for the next few years. This opportunity has been in the works for the past year, but was just confirmed yesterday. I’ve been corresponding with several companies to plan a gorilla trek and a driving wildlife safari, two things that I have longed to do for as long as I can remember. I can tell you that the Rwandan permits have increased from $500 to $750. They remain at $500 in Uganda. My plan is to see them from Rwanda. Where I’m really confused is with transportation. The outfits will of course provide this, but it seems only with a two to however many day “tour.” I’m going to look into the ORPTN office in Kigali as you suggested. I’m hoping you can give me a little more insight as far as transportaion from Kigali to VNP. As a solo female (and I always travel abroad solo)who has never traveled to Africa, I’m a little more reserved than I have been in the past. If you have any information on doing a Rwandan driving safari, I would appreciate hearing about that too.

    Also, thanks for the inspiration…I’ve spent three years trying to get myself blogging in the hopes that it will help me to live my life the way I want. After today, I’m going to do more than just think about it.

    Thanks again!

  7. Wow your experience sounds absolutely amazing!! I’m thinking of going in February to Rwanda. Just a quick question, once you had your park permit, how did you arrange the tour in the park itself? What was the cost for that?
    Thanks for the awesome post.

  8. Hey Johnny,

    Great posts and what an incredible life you are living!

    My partner and I are kicking around the idea to see the Gorrilas. Is Jan a good time to see them? Do you use the tour operator? Do you have one to recommend? We are down to earth and like rugged type travel. I contacted one company named Insight Safari, have you heard of them? The quote for 5 days Gorillas trek in Rwanda and Uganda is $2300, can I do better?

    We had been to safari in Tanzania and Kenya two years ago and I had awe experience in Serengeti and Ngorongoro. We are thinking of going back there again. How feasible is it to travel from Kampala or Kigili to Northern Serengeti?

    Here is our rough plan:
    Fly from US to Kigili
    Take 5 days Gorillas trek in Rwanda and Uganda
    Find our way to Mwanza/ Lake Victoria
    Take 5 days Safari starting in Serengeti to Ngorongoro
    Get to Arusha and continue on to Nairobi where we catch our flight back to the US.

    I would love to hear your thought, ideas, suggestions or any helpful information really.

    Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.
    Jommhok (born and raised in Thailand and now living in the USofA)

    1. thanks jommhok!

      u can defintely do better! ur plan is great tho, personally i always arrive and sort it out from there – but i know u guys have a tight time budget :S for my safari (4 days) i paid less than $400, and for 1 days with the Gorillas (enough for me), $500. U have to use the state operator, no other options.

      From Uganda to Serengeti,i did it by land – takes time, but isn’t difficult 🙂

  9. I had an opportunity to see a family of 13 Gorillas in the DRC back in 2005. We were supposed to see them in Uganda, but the family that our trackers were following crossed over the border into Congo overnight. Luckily, there was about a 9 month window in 2005 when the border opened up (because there was a temporary ceasefire btwn the government and rebel forces). Unfortunately, the border is again, shut down. If Congo was still an option, it is probably the better of the 3 choices; but I agree, Rwanda over Uganda.

  10. The cost of gorilla permit has been reduced from USD 500 to USD 350. This applies to the months of March to Many, then October and November.Please update your website.

      Tour price includes permits,accommodation,meals and
      guranteed daily depatures

    1. cheers mate! yeah i know you’re right and with the imminent price hikes i could be the last of the 20-somethings to fork out the crazy cash for it too :S

  11. Great information to have. I am actually glad the price is as steep as it is. If it weren’t, more people would be lining up to do this, and I’d worry what would happen to the gorilla habitats if that were the case.

    1. hey gray, that’s very true – if it keeps the numbers down it’s beneficial but with that comes a moral dilemma – should only wealthy people get to experience these great activities?

      1. See, I don’t see it that way, Johnny. To me, it’s not a matter of wealth, it’s a matter of priorities for how you spend your money. Say you’re a bare-bones traveler who normally spends $500 in 1 month of travel. If you wanted to see the gorillas badly enough, you’d just have to sacrifice 1 month of travel to see them. How badly do you want to see them? Or maybe you decide instead of buying an iPad, you go see the gorillas instead. To me, the bigger moral dilemma is upsetting the gorilla’s ecosystem because so many lookie-loos want to be able to say they’ve seen them in their native habitat. And let’s face it, seeing gorillas in their native habitat is a luxury, not a need, in anyone’s life.

        1. i hear u Gray but with the price set to rise to $1000 for the hour and then potentially $2000 the price is actually becoming prohibitive whereby only wealthier people could truly justify such a lavious expense on one hour. Combined with your flights to East Africa, visa fees, getting to the remote areas the price becomes crazy! Already the vast majority of backpackers shy away from the exorbitant price, if the number of visitors is the genuine worry then limit the daily permits, don’t price the average jo out of the choice!

          1. Agree Johny

            If its a case of not hurting the environment then restrict numbers, but don’t do it based on the highest bidder, which it sadly could become. If you play it out… only the wealthy in the world can see and enjoy something like this, and they get enough already dont they?

      1. Not sure yet – will depend where we can get permits, so either Uganda, Rwanda or DRC. I’m hoping for Rwanda though!

  12. That sounds really awesome. I swear that we’ve looked into this before and found out that it was more a lot more expensive than $500 — hmm, gotta revisit this idea for our RTW then. I’d definitely spend that much for the opportunity. Thanks for the detailed post!

    1. $500 is a lot undoubtedly but it’s money well spent BUT i dunno who long it’s gonna remain $500 so move quickly! 🙂

  13. Ahhh, what was the closest that you got to one of them? And did they tend to just ignore you or did a couple stop and look at you? And I haven’t read all of your past posts; have you pet sedated tigers in Bangkok and fed domestic monkeys in India? 🙂

    1. I got to about 1cm from them! Seriously, you are totally surrounded in them. I went to the Susa group (the biggest) so they were all over the place, sometimes they run right through the people and touch you, which is exactly what happened when I was there. The tigers and monkeys were an early traveling experience, awesome at the time of course, but this was the real deal 🙂

  14. Wow . . . incredible, Johnny! I am planning a trip to Uganda myself later this year. The main focus of the trip is recording an album with local musicians & youth choirs, but I would love to make the gorilla trek a part of it, as well. Thanks for this killer post, man- so cool that you got a chance to experience this!

    1. uganda to work on music, sounds awesome mate! good luck with that and send me some links when u get something together, that should be cool, really interesting! The gorillas are something else mate, get some cash together and do it if u get the chance, amazing 🙂

  15. thumbs up man!! That’s an awesome experience! I would pay $500 to see these gorillas up close. What’s next? cage diving with great whites? or you’ve done those already?

    1. hey Calvin, yeah great white sharks are ticked off already! I think maybe grizzly bears in Alaska, polar bears maybe? Who knows! Hows the philippines, warmer than ireland over xmas i guess!?

      1. ooohh… no posts about them sharks? actually the weather’s refreshingly cool with a dash of rain here and there. although some parts are experiencing heavy rains.

        it’s kodiak bears in alaska not grizzlies. would love to experience that thing too!

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