This however doesn’t mean that you will receive cheap and mediocre service but rather expect hygienic accommodation options with basic facilities such as comfortable beds, clean showers/bathrooms, eco-toilets and most interestingly good food.
If gorilla permit prices are to go by, then the Democratic Republic of Congo is the best destination for budget gorilla trekking. Before you going to permit prices, it is interesting to learn that this country provides opportunity of trek two gorilla sub-species (Eastern lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas), all belonging to the Eastern gorilla specie.
For the mountain gorillas, the budget gorilla trekking trip leads to Virunga National Park in the Eastern side of the country, close to Goma Town and offers 8 amazing habituated gorilla groups. Visitors booked for budget gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park will have one hour with Kabirizi, Nyakamwe, Lulengo, Munyaga, Humba, Bageni or Mapuwa while staying at any of the beautiful accommodation facilities that include Tchegera Island Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp, Kibumba Tented Camp or the ones within nearby Town of Goma.
For the Eastern lowland gorillas, budget gorilla trekking trips head to Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the East of Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonnani, Chimanuka, Nganwa, Mugaruka and Moungwe are the gorilla families that are habituated and open for trekking while sleeping options are Coco Lodge Bukavu and Orchids’ Safari club, to mention but a few. For gorilla permits of $400 per person per trek, this country is the best place to enjoy budget gorilla trekking experiences.
Budget gorilla trekking trips to Uganda are undertaken within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which combined offer the highest number of habituated gorilla families. Thanks to its 21 habituated gorilla families, the 321-square kilometer Bwindi has the higher number of permits totaling to 168. The beauty about budget gorilla trekking trips in this Park is that adventures are undertaken in four different trekking sectors/regions. Be prepared to meet Bikingi, Christmas, Bweza, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Bushaho, Bikingi, Kyaguliro, Kutu, Katwe, Muhoza, Nshongi, Mishaya, Rushegura, Rwigi, Mubare, Nkuringo, Kahungye, Habinyanja, Mukiza or Oruzogo.
With the wide range of sleeping options for the budget gorilla trekkers, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the best option and expect to stay at Nshongi Camp, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Wagtail Eco Safari Camp, Bwindi Guesthouse, Ruhija Community Rest Camp, Bwindi Backpackers Lodge Gift of Nature Lodge, Nshongi Gorilla Resort, Broadbill Forest Camp and so much more.
Budget gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is limited to only 8 visitors each day, owing to the one habituated gorilla family (Nyakagezi). The basic accommodation options for visitors to this small Protected Area are Travellers Rest Hotel, Mutanda Eco Community Center, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Golden Monkey Guesthouse and so much more. Permits in Uganda generally cost $700, $600 and Shs. 250,000 for the foreign non-resident, foreign resident and East African visitors respectively. Booking for these permits are done directly through the issuing Authority (Uganda Wildlife Authority) or indirectly through a trusted Travel Agency.
While Rwanda is famous for being the luxury gorilla trekking destination, it is also wonderful for budget gorilla trekkers, although gorilla permit prices are the highest (at $1500 per person per trek). Achieving a budget gorilla safari is possible when you book any of the basic sleeping options that include Villa Gorilla, Kinigi Guesthouse or Muhabura Hotel, although the same 12 gorilla groups of Agashya, Susa A, Karisimbi, Kwitonda, Isimbi, Titus, Sabyinyo, Bwenge, Umubano, Hirwa, Ugenda and Amahoro.
Regardless of safari destination, gorilla treks begin with briefing at Park Headquarters on the dos and don’ts before visitors are transferred to the trailheads to start actual gorilla treks. While duration is not always predicted, expect 30 minutes to 5 hours of walking through the dense rainforest to search for the allocated gorilla group. When found, expect one hour of interaction through photography and learning about their unique characteristics.
Like any other gorilla safari, budget gorilla trekking tours are undertaken all year round, although the dry season-June to September or December to February offers the best conditions-drier trails or forest floors hence less challenging. This also explains why these months are peak months and permit booking has to be done several months earlier to avoid disappointments.