Habituation of two gorilla groups complete
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has announced the addition of two new gorilla families/groups that are now available for tourists who safari to Uganda for a gorilla tracking/trekking – bringing the number to 17 up from 15.
According to a public statement that the conservation authority has issued, the addition of the two families follows the successful habituation of Katwe group in the Buhoma sector and Christmas group in the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Big demand for gorilla permits
The new development comes at a time when tour operators are stuck with visitors intending to go for a gorilla safari but are hampered by the unavailability of permits – having already sold out! As things stood before the new additions, all August and September permits had been sold out.
In the public statement, UWA made the point saying “we have received overwhelming demand for gorilla permits during the past 3 months.”
The overwhelming demand over the last three months of what is considered the peak season has been partially occasioned by the fact that many tourists and indeed tour operators in Rwanda have been forced to book Uganda gorillas for their customers because of the increased permit price in Rwanda.
Because gorilla permits are generally booked in advance, tour operators have been risking – taking especially safari goers who have been making bookings at short notice to Bwindi in the hope of purchasing permits that become available when tourists that booked them cancel at the last minute.
No betting on gorilla permit availability
UWA said that when such permits have not materialized, tour operators who took the risk of betting on availability have been placing a lot of pressure on UWA to provide permits even when there has been no availability.
“In order to address this need, we have increased the number of gorilla families for tracking from 15 to 17, following the successful habituation of Katwe group in Buhoma and Christmas group in Nkuringo.
Tour operators/ safari companies have been requested by UWA to always liase with the reservations office in Kampala before travelling to Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks to avoid being turned away due to unavailability of permits.
In the same vein, tour operators have been discouraged from carrying cash and making on the spot reservations in Bwindi. While the practice of paying cash on the ground in Bwindi or Mgahinga has been discouraged, UWA has said it will be authorized in limited and exceptional cases.
Permits booked at UWA HQ
Visitors or their agents have been advised to book their gorilla permits through the UWA reservations office at the Headquarters in Kampala.
However, a small window has been given to tour operators and individuals who had already booked through the UWA offices in Bwindi and Mgahinga to pay at headquarters and continue to track. Going forward, payment on the day of tracking is possible but has been discouraged.
UWA has also announced that they are working on developing an improved full cashless system for payment of permits and the other services they offer. “Once this is concluded in the next few months, the public will be informed,” reads the statement in part.