Mountain gorillas as the main tourist attraction in Uganda. Travelers who want to see them must organize a gorilla trekking safari which takes place in Africa’s forests; Virunga Region in Rwanda and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park in Uganda. When you’re planning to visit Uganda to see gorillas, you need to book a gorilla safari in advance because it’s almost impossible to arrange it upon arrival. As it needs care full planning and time to arrange a gorilla safari, most people think gorilla trekking is expensive. No, it is not. And here are the 10 ways to have a perfect gorilla safari on budget.
Discounted gorilla permits
A gorilla is a must have for any traveler going for gorilla trekking. Uganda gorilla permit price usually is at $600 during peak season (December to February and June to September) and that has proven expensive to most travelers. But you can get away from that price and plan to trek gorillas in low season with a permit at $450 during the months of April to May and October to November which makes a gorilla safari affordable. As rain fall tend to be frequent, few visitors manage to go for gorilla trekking thinking weather is miserable. Due to low demand, Uganda wildlife authority puts permits on discount which attract more visitors. This means gorilla permit availability is higher and easy to book one even at last minute.
Stay in low range or moderate accommodation and lodgings
Even when it’s a high season for gorilla trekking, visitors probably will be able to get a room with full board, enough space and good amenities at low cost. There are a variety of accommodations around Bwindi and in Mgahinga ranging from low range, mid range and up market. Among those owned by the local community do not charge much and your reason to stay is to support the locals as well experience local culture. Take time choose your favorite lodge and bargain though it can take time, you will reduce the costs on accommodation and ensure you have a budget gorilla safari. Note that the basic recommendation is that you should stay near the gorilla family you will be trekking. You need to wake up early for briefing about gorilla rules which is a must attend. However, we have had travelers who stay in a lodge that is 14 km away from the briefing center and still manage to drive early and catch up with their treks.
Low season gorilla trekking
Trekking gorillas in low/rainy season with heavy rains in March, April to May and short rains in October/November will definitely make a gorilla safari cheaper in many ways. Due to wet weather, visitors on a gorilla safari are very few and there’s always low occupancy rate in most of the accommodations. To attract more customers, luxury lodges also reduce their room rates to almost half the price they would charge during peak season. You can afford a room at low cost while getting high quality services including nice beds and food. With discounted gorilla permits, low cost accommodation, it’s possible to have a budget gorilla safari which can rather be difficult during the peak season. In addition to that, you gorilla trek in low season gives more solitude encounter with gorillas because the number of trekkers allocated to a gorilla family may even be lower than 8 people.
Use public transport to get to south western Uganda
The cost of traveling by bus/coaster from Kampala southwestern Uganda is very cheaper compared to using a tour operator or hiring a car for self drive tour. Mgahinga and the trekking centers in Bwindi which include Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo are accessible by bus. From kampala buses usually stop in major towns like Kisoro and Kabale which are very close to Nkuringo and Rushaga. You’ll need to drive further using a boda boda or taxi to your lodge. Visitors going to Buhoma by bus will have to stop in a trading center called Butogota about 15 km from the visitor center.
Travel as a group
Traveling as a group, mainly you want to share the costs of transportation on your trip to south western Uganda. The entry fees to Bwindi or Mgahinga Gorilla Park do not change but transport costs do. If you are alone or a couple, you’re advised to look for look for other visitors who will be traveling to Bwindi on the same itinerary. Depending on the number of people, you can agree to hire one vehicle through your operator with all costs including fuel, guide or driver services.
Book a gorilla safari in advance
If you book your Uganda gorilla safari in advance of 3-5 months, you get a chance to compare prices of accommodation and transportation from different tour operators. Thereby get good offers. Early booking can save you from higher prices that come with peak season gorilla trekking. You just have to be keen with the operator you choose because if one charges offers low prices it may affect the quality of services and ruin your gorilla trekking experience.
Use self-drive tour
The cost of hiring a car for self drive tour is not expensive with many tour operators and car rental services in Kampala. The costs will depend on the type of car you want but it must be a four wheel drive. However, before you pay, be sure to have checked the vehicle for any breakage to avoid getting stuck along the way. But genuine car rental services will provide necessary services such as spare tires to ensure a smooth drive to southwestern Uganda.