May 2017 spelled bad news for tourists intending to travel to Rwanda to see its famous gorillas. Rwanda has now doubled the cost of its gorilla permits from 750 USD to a 1500 USD (about £1100). While this is all in the name of conservation, some tourists to East Africa might find this pricetag a little too steep.
Yet there are still alternatives for travellers who want to see gorillas in the wild – and tick off this amazing experience on their bucket list!
1. Gorilla trekking in Uganda
The most popular alternative is going gorilla trekking in neighbouring Uganda as it's much more affordable. In Uganda, the gorilla permits are 600 USD per person and during certain months they’re only 450 USD per person. Just remember that this price is per hike or per day, which doesn’t guarantee – much like Rwanda – that you see any gorillas, although the chances of seeing these incredible creatures is extremely likely.
Cost of gorilla trekking permit: 600 USD high season, 450 USD low season
2. Gorilla viewing at Odzala (Congo)
Western Lowland Gorillas are the lesser-known relatives of the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda. “They are similar to their mountain cousins but more active and like climbing trees,” says Suzanne Bayly-Coupe, owner of Classic Portfolio. Of the three habituated groups, two groups are easy to reach within a short 8 km walk from the lodge through the lowlands.
This means that there is no vehicle, entrance gate, or mountains to climb. This is perfect for travellers who aren't keen hikers.
Odzala Ngaga Camp is a leading eco-lodge, and home to a research team who interact with the guests and give guided walks. “With 25 years in the field, without which the gorilla conservation would be in peril, the research team is fanatic about gorilla survival and their passion is inspiring,” says Suzanne Bayly-Coupe.
Cost of gorilla trekking permit: 355 USD
3. Chimpanzee tracking at Nyungwe Forest Lodge (Rwanda)
Nyungwe Forest Lodge in Rwanda has different kinds of monkey trekking as an activity on offer. Guests are able to choose from trekking different species such as chimpanzee, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Blue Monkeys and Golden Monkeys. The five-star lodge, part of the 5-star One & Only portfolio, is nestled in the largest mountain rainforest in Africa, which is home to over 13 different primate species.
Cost of chimpanzee tracking: A day spent with a guide tracking chimps and other primates is 90 USD and 60 USD, respectively, through the lodge. We have not yet received their rates for 2018 but if you have any queries, just contact us.
4. Chimpanzee trekking at Greystoke Mahale (Tanzania)
Greystoke Mahale, set on Lake Tanganyikan in western Tanzania, is a great place for up-close encounters with chimpanzees. There are about 1700 chimps living in the remote Mahale Mountains National Park, but visitors will only get to see the 60-strong Mimikere group, who are well habituated to humans.
Run by Nomad Tanzania, the lodge offers chimpanzee trekking in the mountain forests. “We watch again and again, through our guests’ eyes, as the enormity of what they are seeing hits them for the first time. After tracking them, for an hour or two, maybe more, only aware of the sounds they are making ahead of us, we find them; suddenly they are everywhere. We sit quietly on the forest floor and take a deep breath, this is what it's all about,” says Amanda Corse from Nomad.
Cost: Included in lodge stay.
If you'd like one of our consultants to set up gorilla trekking for you, just pop us an email.