Gorilla Filming in Africa : Mountain gorillas are the most visited of the four gorilla subspecies in Africa making Gorilla trekking a very popular wildlife activity in Africa. Each year thousands of tourists around the world visit Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the sole intention of observing the amazing primates in the wild. Gorilla tours bring in over 30 million United States dollars to the economy of the 3 countries. During standard gorilla tracking, tourists are allowed one hour with the primates at a cost of US $700 per person in Uganda, US $1,500 per person in Rwanda and US $400 per person in Congo. In that one hour, they may take photos and videos of the primates without any extra charges. Gorilla trekking in Uganda even goes an extra mile to offer tourists Gorilla Habituation experience where tourists go through the habituation process with the researchers at a fee of US $1,500 per person.
However, some travellers visit the mountain gorillas with the sole intention of filming, making documentaries or videos of the primates. These gorilla documentaries or films are more detailed and of higher quality than those taken by tourists during gorilla trekking. The filming is done by professional content creators and wildlife documentary companies or foreign press. Filming mountain gorillas is allowed in all three countries because it one way of developing tourism and raising resources for conservation. Gorilla documentaries also help create global awareness about the status of the endangered primates. A gorilla filming tour often requires more time and can be more expensive than the standard gorilla trekking, Gorilla Filming in Africa. It’s a different experience from gorilla trekking because the filming crew do not mix with other travellers except for the park guides. In order to film the mountain gorillas, the crew needs to have the required documents. The three countries have slightly different policies and requirements but with a lot of similarities as shown below;
Filming mountain gorillas in Uganda – Mgahinga national park and Bwindi impenetrable National Park
The mountain gorillas in Uganda can be seen in two national parks of Mgahinga national park and Bwindi impenetrable national park. Uganda has the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world with about 550 individuals and 18 groups are now habituated. Because of the high number of mountain gorillas, Uganda is arguably the best country for filming gorillas in the wild. Film crews also have a choice of going to Mgahinga national park or Bwindi impenetrable national park, Gorilla Filming in Africa.
Mountain gorilla filming in Uganda is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and needs to be booked in advance at least 5 months before the filming tour to allow for better planning.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority is also responsible for all national park and game reserves 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. However, the use of drones is not allowed in Uganda.
Gorilla filming for commercial purposes costs US $4,200 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.
Gorilla filming in Rwanda
The mountain gorillas can be seen in the Volcanoes National Park. The park has over 350 mountain gorillas of which about 10 groups are habituated. The government authority responsible for managing the park is the Rwanda Development Board. It is also the authority responsible for approving filming tours, Gorilla Filming in Africa. Filming gorillas in Rwanda costs US $ 5,000 excluding gorilla permits, transportation, meals and accommodation. The activity requires that you buy permits of 8 given that it is the required number of gorilla trekking in a group for an entire group of gorillas. Gorilla permit in Rwanda cost $1500 each and on a normal day 8 people track a particular group. The cost of 8 permits is $12,000. It is important to note that the Rwanda Development Board will require that you pay an additional but refundable cost of $2000. This implies that you need to budget for $19,000 as overall cost for making a gorilla documentary in Rwanda. The $2000 will be refunded once you share a copy of the film/documentary.
After taking into account the expenses of filming the gorillas, you also have to consider the cost of transportation, accommodation and clearance of equipment with customs at the airport. A tour company can help you with these bookings and also with the procedures of getting the approvals. Gorilla filming tours need to be booked at least 4 months in advance so that the park authorities are prepared and a gorilla group reserved.
Gorilla filming in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Virunga national park and Kahuzi Biega national park
In Congo gorilla filming is done in Virunga National Park (mountain gorillas) and Kahuzi Biega National Park (Eastern Lowland gorillas). It is also possible to film Eastern lowland gorillas in Maiko National Park, Tayna Gorilla Reserve, Itombwe Massig and the Usala forest. Congo has about 300 mountain gorillas and about 3,500 Eastern lowland gorillas. Gorilla filming in Congo is very special because the parks receive less visitors enabling you to enjoy the pristine wilderness in privacy while also encountering wildlife seen nowhere else on earth. Moreover, making documentaries of gorillas in Congo is less expensive compared to Rwanda and Uganda.
There is no established system for authorizing gorilla filming in Congo. You simply apply to the specific national park and wait for communication. All applications are handled on a case by case basis. Despite the absence of an established system for approving gorilla documentaries, it is important to note that unauthorized filming of military installations, government buildings and border points could result in the confiscation of your equipment or an arrest. Like Rwanda and Uganda, gorilla filming equipment need to be cleared and permits booked in advance. You can contact the national parks or a good tour operator to help you with arranging the filming trip, Gorilla Filming in Africa.
It is important to note that all the gorilla parks are located in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This area is still prone to civil wars and unrest. However, the national parks are heavily guarded by both government troops and park Rangers. Expect heavy security deployments and several armed Rangers escorting you to see the primates. If you are starting to think twice about going to Congo, then remember that thousands of tourists visit the country each year and leave safely with some of the best wildlife experiences in Africa. In order to have more time with gorillas, we encourage tourists to go for the gorilla habituation experience. This experience takes the entire day and offers travellers 4 hours with the gorillas. This will give you all the time you need to film the gorillas unlike the standard gorilla trekking. The gorilla habituation experience permit costs $1500 per person and can only be done in Bwindi Impenetrable forest of Uganda.
Additional information about making gorilla documentaries
The packing list for gorilla filming is similar to that of gorilla trekking. Apart from high quality cameras, all crew members need to have proper hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts, hand gloves, rain-coats, sunglasses, a hat and walking sticks. Porters are available for hire at a cost of about US $15, Gorilla Filming in Africa. The porters will help you carry any heavy equipment and bags. You need to be 15 years and above to take part in gorilla filming. While with the gorillas, ensure that you maintain a distance of about 7 meters. Do not use flash cameras to avoid a gorilla charging at you. Ensure that all your gadgets are silent while in operation. Littering the pack while making gorilla documentaries is prohibited as is smoking, eating and drinking. Gorillas are very prone to human diseases like cough and flu. For that reason, you may be expected to have a face mask.