The gorillas in Uganda can be seen in two national parks – Mgahinga and Bwindi. Uganda has the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world. There are about 550 individuals and 18 gorilla groups are now habituated. Because of the high number of mountain gorillas, Uganda is arguably the best country for filming gorillas in the wild. There are more choices of gorilla groups to film in Uganda. Film crews also have a choice of going to Mgahinga or Bwindi. Mgahinga National Park has only one large gorilla group but with more than 3 silverbacks.
Mountain gorilla filming in Uganda is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and needs to be booked in advance (At least 4 months before the filming tour) to allow for better planning. The Authority is also responsible for all game parks in Uganda. However, the first step is to apply for a media card (Media Accreditation) from the Uganda Media Centre. This is a separate government entity from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Every member of the filming crew needs to fill in the form from the Uganda Media Centre. They will want to know your names, a copy of your passport, your passport photos, address, nationality, purpose of visit and how many days you intend to stay in Uganda. Approval of the Media card takes between 3 to 5 days. A gorilla tour company can help you get this media form and guide you on how to complete filling it in correctly.
After that you need to write a letter to the Uganda Wildlife Authority with information about the filming company, the purpose of the filming project, intended date of filming and the national park you would be going to. You will also need to state how the country will benefit from the documentary. After all the information has been received (scanned and sent back), the filming company/crew will enter into a written agreement/contract with the Uganda Wildlife Authority before they can be given a permit to document the gorillas. A tour company can help you obtain the official form from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The tour company will send the form back to the Uganda Wildlife Authority who will them come up with the correct cost of the gorilla filming safari. The Authority will require a letter from you indicating that you have chosen the tour Company to help you with processing the permit.
On arrival in Uganda, the gorilla filming crew must also have their equipment cleared at the airport in Entebbe. Staff at the airport will check out the item name, serial number, weight and value. If you are planning to use drones or do any Arial shooting, you need to get a separate approval from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority. Using drones for gorilla trekking is generally not allowed.
What is the cost of gorilla filming in Uganda? Gorilla filming for commercial purposes costs $4,200 dollars per hour with the gorillas. This price excludes the $700 for gorilla permits. The filming crew must pay for 8 gorilla permits regardless of how many individuals are in the team. There is also a separate additional fee charged for environmental effects, research and monitoring which equals to 5% of the gorilla filming fee. Not more than 8 people are allowed to film gorillas. Finally, the Uganda Wildlife Authority will require a deposit of $1000 which will be refunded once a copy of the film is shared with the authority in DVD format. The Uganda Wildlife Authority will use the DVD for educational purposes. The overall cost of gorilla filming in Uganda is about $11,000. This excludes accommodation, meals, transport within the country, clearances with the airport, Uganda Media Centre and other governmental bodies.
Note: It is important to discuss with your tour company or the Uganda Wildlife Authority in advance about all the logistics and other hidden costs so that you come prepared.