Gorilla Trekking is fast becoming one of the most sought after wildlife experiences in the world. Nothing can compare to sitting a few yards away from a 800-pound silverback and appreciating these ‘gentle giants’. But at $500 a permit plus accommodations, is it worth doing a second gorilla trek?
There are few experiences in the world that can match the exhilarating thrill of tracking a Mountain Gorilla family through the thick tropical rainforests of the Bwindi National Park in Uganda or the Parc des Volcans ( Volcanoes National Park ) in Rwanda. George Schaller famously stated that “No one who looks into a Gorilla’s eyes – intelligent, gentle, vulnerable – can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes, we know that the Gorilla still lives within us”. There is arguably no more intimate and interesting wildlife experience in Africa. Gorilla-tracking can involve several hours walking to locate the families deep within the bush, however the walk through the bush quickly fades into memory as you settle down to observe in awe at these magical creatures of nature for the next hour.
A permitted and closely controlled experience, the cost of a permit to undertake this encounter is dear at $500 US for an hour. Not a cheap proposition! Add in your flights, accommodations and transportation and the experience seems to be a costly affair. But for those who decide to partake, there are likely very few travel memories you will treasure that will rival this experience. So it begs the question, if you are travelling so far, spending so much, is it worth doing two treks?
In years of selling this experience I have never had as many requests as I do these days to buy multiple permits for one trip. Why? The reasons are varied but include concerns about not finding your assigned Gorilla group, an hour not being enough, to convincing one’s self that it is an experience you’ll never get again.
Firstly, let’s consider the question as to what the chances are of finding the Gorillas on your trek. Officially the rate is pegged at 95%, but in my experience this more likely to be 99%. I have never sent or met anyone who was unsuccessful in their quest to track these giants. Fact is the guides excel at their jobs and the Gorillas have become so well-monitored that you would have to be extremely unlucky to not find your assigned group that day. I suppose a small chance exists, but it is for all intensive purposes, a certainty.
Secondly, I get questioned as to whether an hour is really enough? To be sure, this is somewhat a matter of opinion. Are you an avid photographer? Will you get enough time to both snap as many pictures as you would like, but also importantly, save enough time to put down the camera and appreciate the whole environment and setting as it unfolds in front of you without a viewfinder in the way? Will an hour be enough begin to fully realize the special shared genetic history of our two species? Will you be able to study and comprehend the social interactions of the family you are visiting? While my inclination is to counsel of course not, these are only questions that can be answered truthfully by you. What I will say however, is that should you wish to spend that extra hour and thereby shell out that extra $500, and provided you book your permits early enough, you can be assigned to a different family group on your second day and the experience will be a completely different one. Compare the experience to visiting a totally different set of your relatives. With such a shared genetic code to us, a new Gorilla group, just like humans, will have their own dynamic and their own social interactions and hierarchy.
And lastly is the extra cost worth it? Assuming you are not stretching your finances already, you have to consider this as one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime experiences’ and if the total cost of flights, accommodations, meals and transportation is factored in, the marginal cost of an extra permit and accommodation may become more of an acceptable addition to the total experience and cost.
However, I can truthfully say I have never had anyone report back that they wished they had not opted to organize a second trek. Perhaps this speaks more loudly than any of the aforementioned reasoning.
If you decide to do two treks (or more) it does require more prudent planning. Instead of finding only one available day with a permit, you will need to find two consecutive days with permits. Additionally, planning early will ensure that your experience on the second trek will be with a different Gorilla group, offering a whole different experience.
So when should you book? The high season for trekking is July and August every year, and to a lesser extent, September. If you are looking to travel in these periods, at least 6 – 9 months ahead is essential. Waiting to book your permits never results in a benefit, so if you know you want to go, take the plunge and organize the experience you want!
Of course, we can help you with your Gorilla Trekking experience, start by browsing our Gorilla tours or contact us for a custom trip.