2024 Uganda gorilla tracking ticket price increased to USD 800

Uganda has increased the gorilla tracking permit/ticket from $700 to $800. The new price of the gorilla tracking permit is effective from July 2024 when the new Uganda financial year starts. So for all purchases of gorilla trekking permits for tracking dates starting 1st July 2024 one has to pay $800. It has also been announced that those that had only deposited (and not paid full amount) on the gorilla permit(s) basing on the old price before this announcement will be paying the new price, hence top up amount should make $800. Only those that had paid the full fee of the old price will not be affected by the new price.

The increase in the gorilla permit means more finances available for conservation of the gorillas and their habitats, and also more revenue shared to the local communities near the gorillas. A percentage of the gorilla ticket money is sent to the communities near the gorilla parks and is used in projects that uplift the communities such building schools, hospitals, setting income generating projects, e.t.c…

The price of the gorilla tracking permit is revised every two years, so the new price of $800 is for the period of July 2024 to June 2026.

Take advantage of cheaper permit and book your gorilla trip before July 2024

The gorilla tracking will still cost $700 until June 2024 so this is the best time to book a gorilla trip to Uganda and take advantage of the old price. You will be saving $100 which can be spent on a nice budget accommodation.

Uganda still offers an affordable gorilla tour

Even with the $100 increase on the gorilla permit, the gorilla tour in Uganda is still more affordable than the gorilla tour in Rwanda where the gorilla tracking permit costs a whopping $1500.

More habituated gorilla families announced

At the start of 2024 the Uganda Wildlife Authority has also announced five more habituated gorilla families added for gorilla tracking. That would make more than 20 habituated gorilla families for gorilla tracking in Uganda. In total 194 gorilla tracking permits are available each day which improves availability even during the peak tourism season. Chances of tracking gorillas on ones dates, even for a last minute booking, are better now.

Nyungwe National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On September 19, 2023 Rwanda has received wonderful news, it has been confirmed Nyungwe National Park has been inscribed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nyungwe National Park also becomes the first site in Rwanda to be listed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites which are places of global importance. That is to mean, sites that should be recognized and protected because they possess a biodiversity (in the case of the Nyungwe) or something and that is not found in many places in the world and should therefore be protected for the future generations to find. UNESCO World Heritage sites are therefore of benefit to the whole world not just to the places where they are found.

In 2021 Nyungwe National Park was put on the list of places that were under consideration to be qualified as UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has been long overdue for the site to be recognized and included.

Why Nyungwe National Park’s inscription was long overdue?

Nyungwe National Park protects an ancient forest that has been around since the last ice age thousands of years ago. This longevity has enabled it accumulate and protect an incredible biodiversity. The forest has a lot of species that are not found anywhere else on the planet and researchers are continually discovering new wildlife most of which is not found outside Nyungwe and the Albertine Rift valley. Moreover, there are very few forests of this kind left in Africa and therefore elevating Nyungwe to a UNESCO heritage site is vital in preserving important global ecosystems that have been threatened by human settlement and exploitation. Many such forests in Africa have been depleted.

Nyungwe is also an important water catchment for the region and the continent of Africa as it contributes water to two major rivers in Africa, that is, the world’s longest river the Nile River (the farthest known source of the Nile is found in Nyungwe) and the Congo River. Nyungwe also provides 70% of the fresh water in Rwanda.

What does this new status mean for Nyungwe National Park and Rwanda?

This status is very vital for Nyungwe National Park as it brings it at the forefront of conservation efforts. Nyungwe will now attract more funding for conservation as a world heritage site. This therefore helps the survival of this vital ecosystem.

Rwanda getting her first UNESCO World Heritage site is an achievement worth celebrating and is a testament to the massive effort the government of Rwanda has put in protecting and preserving her natural resources. Rwanda is dedicated to protecting the natural resources and the ecosystems amidst the immense challenges and pressures these places due to an increasing and demanding population. Seeing what Rwanda has done with the recovery of Akagera National Park which is was nearly no more but now has all the big five, the turn around seen at the Volcanoes National Park whose gorilla population is growing every year that many baby gorilla are named during every during the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony,  this shows Rwanda needs to be commended as one of the biggest conservation successes in the world.

What do in Nyungwe National Park

If you are visiting Rwanda then a UNESCO Heritage World Heritage site should on the list of places to visit. Nyungwe provides an array of experiences for the nature lover. The most popular activity is the chimpanzee trekking, an activity that gives you a chance to track down a community of chimps and spend an hour around them and it is one of the best wildlife encounters you can have. If you are visit Rwanda for the gorilla trekking, the best way to compliment meeting the gentle giants is going to Nyungwe for the chimpanzee trekking.

There is a canopy walk adventure in Nyungwe National Park that is highlight you should not miss. The walkway provides breathtaking views across the forest and a chance to see monkeys and birds at eye level.

Nyungwe National Park is a birdwatching heaven that provides the best opportunity to tick off the Albertine Rift endemic species including the Rwenzori Turaco

Other activities to do in Nyungwe National Park include nature walks on several trails leading to beautiful parts of the park such to a waterfal, tracking the colobus monkeys, visit a tea estate on the edge of the forest. Night walks are also available in Nyungwe to enable discover the nocturnal life of the forest you won’t see during the day.

Are wild dogs making a comeback in Uganda?

wild dog hastily captured on phone camera as it quickly dashed away

The African Painted Dogs, also called African Wild Dogs have been sighted in Kidepo Valley National Park which is located in the semi-arid Karamoja region in the far north eastern corner of the Uganda. This confirmed sighting of the wild dog by the park on 27th June 2023 is the first after a long absence from Uganda since the wild dogs were extirpated (went locally extinct) in the 1980s.

Over the last few years, there have been reports of sightings of the wild dogs in that region such as in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve that is also in the semi-arid north east of country, and even in as close as Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, but these have always been treated as rumors as there was never any evidence such as a picture. The dogs are quite quick and so offer very limited chance of a long enough appearance for one take a picture. They will quickly take a dash into the bush immediately they realize they are being watched.

The ranger guide in Kidepo National Park who found the dogs around the Narus Valley was able to steal a shot of two wild dogs on his low quality phone before the dogs quickly dashed away into the bush. The low quality pictures however properly reveal the features of the wild dog. Doubts have been put to rest that the wild dogs (African painted dogs) currently exist in Uganda.

Uganda Wild Authority has immediately sent out teams into the park for further investigation to establish the extent of the wild dog occurrence in the park. There are suggestions that these could be African migrants as the dogs are capable of traveling thousands of kilometers when dispersing to look for mates and new home ranges.

What are wild dogs?

Scientific name Lyacon pictus, wild dogs are recognized by the big rounded ears and their multi-colored far coats which have irregular patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow. In fact each individual has its own unique coat pattern.

The dogs also have four toes on their long legs, differentiating them from other dogs which has five toes on the forefeet.

Most prolific of hunters

The wild dogs are perhaps most famous for their incredible hunting abilities. They are praised as the best hunters of all the predators. They almost never fail and their hunting expedition does not take long till they have put down the prey. They hunt in large packs and will carry out a strategy of hunt depending on the prey. Their common tactic is chase after the prey until it wears down, and when the prey slows down or stops to rest they pounce on it and start biting pieces off it and will eventually die from pain (a similar way hyenas eat their prey, they do not kill the prey first before eating). The dogs are light, agile, fast and are persistent runners.

Also, unlike other predators like lions that hunt at night, the wild dogs hunt during day.

The wild dogs will raise the predator profile of Kidepo Valley National Park and Uganda.

Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law – is it safe for gay tourists to visit Uganda?

Uganda has passed the “anti-homosexuality law” that criminalizes same sex relationships and the promotion of gay activities in Uganda. The law is said to be one of the toughest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world that includes the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality, and up to 20 years in prison for promoting homosexuality.

The Uganda anti-homosexuality/anti-gay/anti-LGBT law has drawn strong condemnation from local and international human rights organizations and more importantly from world leaders of countries such as the USA President Biden, that uphold and promote the rights of the LGBT persons.

The consequences of the law are starting to bite! The international gay/LGBT rights lobby is already up in arms promoting a boycott of travel to Uganda to discourage tourists from visiting Uganda, the famed Pearl of Africa, that is included on African vacations mostly for the gorilla trekking, in addition to other popular Uganda tours include the chimpanzee trekking, trip to Murchison falls national park – home to the world’s strongest waterfalls and lots of animals, and Mabamba wetlands for the Shoebill bird, among others.

So what is the mood and intention of the law and is it still safe for LGBT/gay people to consider Uganda for a safari?

How popular is the anti-gay law in Uganda?

The above law has been passed on a moralist ground, or call it an excuse, of protecting the cultures and values of the local population. Homosexuality is looked at as a foreign vice that is against what is regarded as normal traditionally. This sentiment is carried and believed by most societies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Uganda is also a highly religious country, with more than 70% of the population identifying as Christians and a big percentage of the rest being Moslems. The law has therefore had a big backing from the ultra religious community that believe homosexuality is one of the worst sins and should therefore be fought in whatever way possible to save Uganda from the fate of the biblical “Sodom and Gomorra”.

A law of convenience for the time?

Drawing from the strong cultural and religious feelings of the local population, the law may seem like a perfect scapegoat the government really needed to sway the public away from its failures! From the assassinations and shootings that had become rampant, to corruption scandals by top government officials making the news every day, and to a total breakdown in the infrastructure of the capital Kampala, are among a sea of problems the country is drowning in. The government had attained such an image of incompetence among the population.

The anti-gay card had always worked whenever the government found itself in such a dilemma and it has not been any different this time. After finally passing and signing the ant-gay law the president has been praised as messiah of sorts for saving the “African values”. Finally the government has managed to sway the public attention from the many crises and temporarily attained some much needed public approval for this time.

A politically motivated law?

Another reasoning behind the motivation for the government to make the anti-gay law is that there is an assumption that gay rights group in the west have been heavily facilitating local organizations and political formations that are hostile to the Ugandan government. By this law, the organizations in Uganda that are found or are thought to be promoting rights of the LGBT in Uganda are sanctioned and prosecuted accordingly.

There is also a fear that the law could be used to set up and falsely accuse political opposition as gay or collaborators of promoters and persecute them. Because of the feelings of the local population about homosexuality, this would be an easy scapegoat of a law for government to use to stifle opposition.

However, experience has shown, politically motivated laws in Uganda only service a political purpose during the political season.

Why LGBT/gay persons can still visit Uganda albeit the anti-gay law

The president of Uganda clarified that the law is not intended criminalize suspected homosexuals or those that identify as gay. So there is no hunt for gay people.

Also important to note is that, as much as Ugandans want to feel strongly about their cultures and religious beliefs, Ugandans are some of the most welcoming and accommodating people irrespective of ones differences. As a gay person, no one will be interested in your sexuality as no one will ask about you, but rather everyone will want to see that you are comfortable as a visitor.

No more covid test before gorilla trekking and visiting parks in Rwanda

For long it has been a requirement for one to undertake a covid test and present a negative result before the gorilla trekking in Rwanda and also before visiting any of the parks in Rwanda. The gorilla trek required a mandatory PCR test, the same for all primate activities in Rwanda such as chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest, golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park and monkey tracking in Nyungwe forest. If one was not doing any primate trekking/tracking, then just a rapid test would suffice before visiting any of the three parks (Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe National Park and Akagera National Park) for a tour.

This mandatory covid-19 testing guideline in Rwanda is NO MORE after the government announcement on May 23 2023.

This comes as a huge relief for a number of reasons! First, the covid tests caused an extra cost to the traveler, with the PCR covid test costing 50$, and the rapid test costing 10$. The test had to be done and the result gotten within 72hours to the time of an activity, meaning if you were visiting several parks and doing different activities between several days you would have to do multiple tests. What was most unsettling for the most travelers though, was the thought of paying for the gorilla tour and traveling all the way to Rwanda only for the test to turn out positive. This was a major concern for many travelers who thought it was such an inconvenience and a big risk. Many travelers that planned to do the gorilla trekking instead opted for the gorilla trekking in Uganda which did not have these kinds of guidelines.

A timely decision and prayer answered…

With the tourism peak season knocking on the door (starts in June), this announcement is very timely and a prayer answered for many tour operators that struggled to communicate to their clients that they would need to undergo a covid test before the already booked tours.

Also, with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring an end to covid-19 as a global health emergency, and there being virtually no new infections being reported in Rwanda, the government has taken the right decision at the right time.

Also important to note before traveling to Rwanda:

No covid testing for the fully vaccinated traveling to and from Rwanda

Fully vaccinated (at least two shots) persons who are traveling to Rwanda are not required to test for covid but should show proof of vacation which is a vaccination certificate. Those departing Rwanda are also not required to test unless if their destination requires it.

Visa on arrival possible for all travelers to Rwanda

Rwanda’s is an open-door policy that allows everyone travelling to the country to be able to get a visa on arrival. This makes it easy to visit even on the last minute.