Have you ever wondered how gorilla permits are allocated to tourists during a gorilla trekking safari? Gorilla trekking is so far the most demanded tourist activity in Rwanda with many tourists making trips to the North-western side of the country where Volcanoes National Park, the home to over 10 habituated gorilla families is found. With these 10 families, the Rwanda Development Board issues only 80 gorilla permits per day (depending on the basis of 8 permits per family) but some gorilla groups like Sabinyo are preferred to the others and if everyone would track the family he/she prefers, then some groups might be left out hence the reason RDB has to assign tourists to particular families.
The question now is, “how are gorilla permits for Volcanoes National Park allocated?” In the past gorilla families were allocated randomly but of recent, several parameters are being used when allocating gorilla permits and these include;
- Level of physical fitness
Level of physical fitness is one of the most important factors used when allocating tourists to gorilla families, so that individuals can track groups they can be able to. Trekkers that are physically fit can be allocated to far and difficult-to-track groups like Susa A and B while those that are not physically fit can opt for the easier families such as Sabinyo. However, not being physically fit should not hinder you from tracking gorillas because sedan chairs can be hired at an extra cost, so that you are carried throughout the tracking process. More still, you have to hire porters to carry your luggage and support you when hiking through areas of higher elevations.
Age is always an important factor when allocating tourists to particular gorilla families, hence the reason you must openly declare your age while booking for gorilla permits in Volcanoes National Park. The reason is that there are gorilla families that are found in areas of higher elevations and more difficult to track while others are easier to track. Therefore, elderly tourists especially above 50 years are allocated to easier to track families while energetic youth of 20-35 years are always allocated to difficult-to-track families.
- Number of times you have tracked
There are tourists that always track gorillas more than once, hence the reason someone can’t be allocated to the same gorilla family twice but rather given the opportunity of tracking another gorilla family. If you tracked the Sabinyo gorilla family in your previous trek, there is no way you will be assigned to the same gorilla family in the current trek unless you ask for it. You may not have the right to choose what family to track but based on your interest and other factors, you will be assigned to a wonderful habituated gorilla group and all you need is to book for the safari at least 6 months in advance to avoid disappointment. Generally, each gorilla family has an exceptional behavior that may match yours hence you can specify it so that you are assigned to the right gorilla family.
Therefore due to the availability of 10 habituated gorilla families for tracking within Volcanoes National Park, the Rwanda Development Board uses several procedures for allocating gorilla permits to tourists and these include age and physical ability of the trekker as well as the number of times someone has tracked before.