Tourism stakeholders in Uganda have received a notice from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) regarding changes in its conservation tariff.

The letter, which I received a copy of, was signed by the Executive Director, Sam Mwandha on 7th August 2019.

This announcement comes weeks before the planned date on which UWA is expected to publicly avail a comprehensive visitor tariff to the public for the next two years (2020/21 – 2022/23), 31st August 2019.

“I would like to bring to your attention that UWA has revised its tariff to introduce new products, new rates for some products, new fines as well as clarification on some UWA products and services”, the letter reads in part.

Among the many proposed amendments, the increment in the price for the permit to track the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for both foreign residents (FR) and Foreign nonresidents (FNR) caught my eye first.

Going forward (effective 1st July 2020) all foreign tourists and foreign residents intending to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda will pay a fee of US$700 and US$600 per person respectively for the gorilla permit, up from US$600 which has been charged for the last 4 years.

The fee for East African Citizens, however, will not change from the current 250,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX) and there was no mention of any changes in the US$1500 charged for the mountain gorilla habituation experience.

Despite the US$100 hike in the price for the gorilla permit, Uganda still offers a much more affordable gorilla trek compared to its close competitor who doubled her fee in 2017 from US$750 to US$1500 per person tracking the same gorilla species (the fee is also charged to their own citizens); which is US$800 more expensive than Uganda.

It is obvious that the increase will ensure that Uganda collects a slightly bigger amount of funds which she will use for various efforts to further conserve this endangered species of great apes as well as the aggregate contribution to the local community in UWA’s revenue-sharing scheme.

This goes a long way in the funding of schools, hospitals, and other community projects which uplift the livelihood of the people living around the two parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi.

Uganda used to have a low season discount, but 30th November 2017 marked the end of this arrangement which was formerly aimed at encouraging visitation during the quieter months of the year (April, May, and November).

Stakeholders react to the changes in the visitor tariff

Various stakeholders in the tourism business, especially the tour operators, have for the past year and a half enjoyed a surge in gorilla business, especially during the high season months of June, July, August, and September. This is principally premised on various factors like the episode of improved PR and marketing, political stability, the fact that Uganda hosts more than half of the world’s remaining (approx. 1000) mountain gorillas as well as the exorbitant price charged of the same experience in neighboring Rwanda.

Tour company owners are however interested in the reinstatement of the low season deal, which they believe used to reduce the pressure in the peak season and encouraged tourists to visit Uganda’s mountain gorillas and various attractions in the low season months.

While the increment has been welcomed by many stakeholders, safari companies which already had advance bookings for gorilla holidays have intimated the need for UWA to come out clear on its plan to honor the bookings for the coming year at the present rate. This is based on the notion that clients book their trips way in advance, and for many of them, full or partial payments had already been made at the prevailing rate, US$600.

“UWA needs to clarify exactly how they are planning to handle bookings which we already have with them. It will be unbelievable for them to consider asking tourists to top up an extra US$100 per permit yet they already booked and paid for their trips, whether in full or by deposit. If two parties agree to buy a goat for say 100,000 UGX, and the seller agrees with the buyer on a deposit of say 40,000 UGX with the balance due to be paid in for instance 3months… If the seller realizes that the goat is yet to conceive, at this point he cannot increase the price but rather honor the terms of the initial agreement”, one of the local tour operators passionately stated relating the metaphor to the UWA’s gorilla permit booking guidelines.

Even at the new higher rate, the country will continue to dominate consumption rate over its competitors while still offering global travelers an excellent opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dreams of viewing these rare animals in the famous activity called the Uganda gorilla tracking safari, which has been dubbed “the greatest wildlife experience on earth” by Rough Guides’ Managing Editor, Keith Drew.

Filming prices discounted by more than 60 percent.

In the same review process, commercial filming fees for Uganda’s protected areas have been insanely subsidized.

Previously a crew of 1 to 5 people had to pay US$630 for FNR & FR per day, UGX 630,000 for East African Citizens (EAC), in addition to other activity fees. Film teams of more than 5 people were charged US$150 for FNR & FR and UGX 150,000 for EAC, per extra person per day.

It was even more expensive for someone intending to film special interest products like the mountain gorilla experience. You had to pay US$4,200 per hour for FR & FNR while with the gorillas, UGX 4,200,000 for EAC, in addition to the Gorilla permit fee of $600 per person. Filming a commercial piece on the chimps was previously priced at US$1,050 per day for FNR & FR, UGX 1,050,000 for EAC excluding the chimpanzee permits.

Going forward, UWA will only require that crew members pay 40% of the activity fee, which is less than forty percent of what they have been charging.

Various players in the tourism sector shared their positive sentiments on this reduction. The discount in film fees is a move to boost destination promotion by highlighting the country’s stunning national parks and wildlife reserves through film.

Other tariff changes of interest

The fee for the Uganda chimpanzee trekking permit and the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) have also been revised to add an extra US$50 for all categories, for both the Foreign residents and foreign nonresidents.

UWA will charge US$200 for FNR and US$150 for FR to track the Chimpanzees in Uganda; US$250 and US$200 for the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience for FNR and FR respectively. East African Citizens will be charged UGX150,000 for both experiences.

Below is an extract from the letter, displaying some of the tariff revisions. Click on the image to download the full letter

Planning to track the gorillas in Uganda? Check out these 5 tips for a stress-free experience.

I promise to update this article with the new tariff as soon as it is printed and shared

Updated on 11th September 2019!!!

Click the images below to download the current and new Uganda Wildlife Authority visitor tariff:

NEW UWA VISITOR TARIFF                                         CURRENT UWA VISITOR TARIFF

Written by 

My old folks call me Jonathan Benaiah but I prefer to go by as “The Ugandan Tourist“. I love to travel, write, take photos (of nature mostly). Ask me my best kind of trips and I'll tell you that it's those moments which allow me enough time in the African bush.