Mountain gorillas are critically endangered primates that can be found only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo within the Virunga mountains region. Today gorilla numbers have risen to 1000 individuals, evident from the recent ongoing gorilla census. Gorilla tourism has been key financer for mountain conservation projects and hence is the major factor for increase in gorilla numbers. Gorilla filming is another strategy to promoting and developing tourism in gorilla national parks as well strengthening conservation.
There are only 4 national parks where filming gorillas can take place; they include Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga mountains national park in Democratic Republic of Congo with the help of tourism and wildlife regulatory bodies in the respective countries.
Uganda has half of the world’s mountain gorillas over 550 species living in both Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in the South Western borders with Rwanda and DRC. With such great numbers of gorillas, destination Uganda becomes a good place to film gorillas in their natural habitat. Currently there are 11 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi and one group in Mgahinga making them 12 in total hence Bwindi is possibly good than Mgahinga.
Uganda Wildlife Authority is the top body in charge of gorilla tourism and specifically also manages mountain gorilla filming in Uganda hence all people interested in filming gorillas must first sign a memorandum of understanding with Uganda Wildlife Authority to be in position to obtain gorilla filming permit. There are a range of policies governing the conduct of filming gorillas, it’s a requirement for any company or individual interested in filming gorillas as a must to have the following:-
Media cards are issued by the Uganda media center; the filming equipment must also be cleared by the clearing and forwarding agents at Entebbe airport in Uganda who shall help to provide the value and related costs of clearance, transportation and other logistics as soon as you arrive at the airport.
Gorilla filming permits must be purchased through Uganda Wildlife Authority but in advance time of 4 months due to permit availability issues. Commercial Gorilla filming in Bwindi and Mgahinga parks in Uganda costs USD 4,200 per hour while with the gorillas excluding the normal gorilla trekking permit fees. There’s is a 5 % fee for monitoring and research which is included on the cost of filming.
Gorilla trekking permit is separately purchased at USD 600 per person.Gorilla filming fees depend on the number of people involved in the activity as per the guidelines of commercial filming and photography by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Uganda Wildlife Authority welcomes prior discussions with gorilla filmmakers about logistics, activities possible at an early stage to determine the real costs.
All gorilla filming requests must be sent in at least 3 weeks before the actual filming date; application forms should be filled and submitted to Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters in Kamwokya -Kampala.
Volcanoes National Park is found in Northwest of Rwanda covering about 125 sq km of montane rain forests mixed with large tracts of bamboo forests which are quite easier to film gorillas than the thick and impenetrable Bwindi forests in Uganda. Volcanoes National park is very close to Kigali Airport giving it a quick and easy access to the trekking point within 2 hours.
Over 400 gorillas live in the forest and about 10 gorilla groups have been habituated and available for filming and trekking. The Rwandan Development Board is the main body in charge of the park and gorilla filming.
The overall cost of filming gorillas in Rwanda is at 3000 USD which includes the cost of application fees for filming permits, clearance of equipment, transportation and film friendly lodges near the park headquarters at Kinigi in Musanze district.
As required by the filming rules in Rwanda, all filming companies or individuals must book filming permits in advance 4 months time, filming equipment must also be cleared at Kigali International Airport customs. This helps to determine process of filming including cost of permits, transportation of equipment and the numbers of days to be spent shooting films in the wild. This gives an impression that gorilla filming is an expensive activity as good as the well established conservation and tourism industry which reflects Rwanda’s peace and stability and rapid economic development for last 15 years.
Virunga Mountain National Park in DRC covers about 7,800 sq km making it Africa’s pristine montane rain forest with a diversity of flora and fauna. About 300 mountain gorillas live in the forests. filming gorillas in the park is a good adventure because of few number of tourists visiting the area hence chances are high of filming gorillas with your guides and rangers.
Eastern DRC although has been characterized by civil wars in the last 10 years, the DRC government increased security and relative political stability, the park can be visited safely. Treks into the jungle are always accompanied by armed rangers.
The DRC photography and films production services and other local based agents to organize transportation to and from the filming locations, clearance of equipment and booking of permits of which this should be done in advance.