Gorilla trekking is best described as a lifetime experience. Over 12 habituated gorilla families so far are available for tourists to realize their dreams in Uganda, 11 (eleven) of which are in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park while the other is found in Mgahinga National Park. Two families can be accessed for Gorilla Habituation Experience where tourists enjoy a total of 4 hours with a group of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is situated in Southwestern Uganda and it features about 400 gorillas which represent about 36 gorilla groups, 16 solitary males that move around its jungles. About 88 permits are available each day for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and each permit cost $600 per person while those who wish to come for habituation experience, permits are sold at $1500 per person. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park offers refuge to four main tracking sectors each of which comes with gorilla groups. They include Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo sector.
features 3 habituated groups that tourists can track every day in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This sector is famous as the busiest regions of Bwindi especially when it comes to tourism activities and lodges for one to spend a night over after that breathtaking adventure. They include the following;
Mubare aka Mubale group
This is also popular as the M. group. It features as the first habituated family in 1998. Originally there were only 12 group members and when the leader Ruhondeza passed on, it left only five group members. In 2013, four more members joined this group and there are currently 9 members. The ease of trekking with the Mubare differs, they used to be closer Buhoma park headquarters but more and more it takes at least five hours for you to hike through the forest to find a group of these dramatic creatures. When the Mubare was 6 and 5 in total after the death of their leader Ruhondeza silverback gorillas, even tour operators and tourists avoided visiting the group but today the numbers have increased and it has become one of the sought after families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The word Mubare means a place where the family was initially discovered in Bwindi. The advantage with Mubare family is that its members can be trekked around Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
This is also known as the H. Group. It is also one of the anciently habituated families in the Buhoma sector and over the years, it has had thousands of tourists from around the world that have spent an hour with them in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This also can take about full day trek or five hours or more to track this gorilla family. They keep roaming over wide range in the jungles.
This is one of the most challenging families to track. It is a huge family of about 18 members with 2 silverbacks, however the numbers can easily change as more young ones are born and as the old ones die or break off from the group. This family was discovered around the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and hence the name Habinyanja which is derived from the local name for water-Nyanja. Just like humans, these apes also break away from their original families and the Rushegura group also formed in the Buhoma area. The interesting thing is that these two groups and the Mubare group cross each others paths and the meetings are mostly peaceful in nature.
The Rushegura gorilla family
This is also called the R. Group. It is one of the huge families with about 16 members in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and in the Buhoma sector. Tracking this group tends to be shorter since they have lived around the park headquarters sector. This family at times goes out of the protected area. For visitors who are looking for shorter treks then this is best family. Just like most families in the park, the Rushegura group is another splinter family. Buhoma sector is ideally the most interesting region for one to catch a glimpse of these dramatic creatures in their natural habitat.
This is still a growing region especially in terms of lodges. It has 3 gorilla groups that are tracked by visitors, one of which is for research.
The Oruzogo gorilla family
This can be trekked from the Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It is composed of about 22 members. This family has turned famous with visitors not because of the size of the family but because of the playful energy exhibited by the juveniles and toddlers in the family that keep tourists entertained. For tourists who need to have more sleep and rest and less driving, make sure that your tour agent books for you a lodge around Ruhija sector. This group began receiving tourists in 2011 and those who visit simply love it. It is not an extreme trek but you need medium endurance and stamina.
Bitukura gorilla family
This is one of the groups that learnt very fast. It took the group about 15 months to be habituated unlike the usual habituation that takes 2 years. This is comprised of 14 members and a newborn also arrived recently. Mountain gorillas gain and lose members and the Bitukura family initially had 24 members. Compared to other families, the Bitukura gorilla family gets along with one another; there has been peace and harmony in the group and no usual fighting. To trek this group, you have to spend a night around Ruhija region.
Kyaguriro gorilla family
This is also known as Kyaguriro A and B group with a history and with group split. It was habituated around 1995, however it was a group that was not visited by tourists and there were no permits issued for the group. It was therefore set a side for research. This gorilla family had a major tragedy when the leader Rukina was struck dead by lightening on 7th April 2015.
After his death the family was headed by an inexperienced young silverback-Mukiza who was later ambushed by an immigrating adult silverback-Rukara from the Bitukura group this fueled break of from the group into 2-Kyaguriro A-Rukara and Kyaguriro B Mukiza in May 2016. Currently, these 2 groups continue to stay within close proximity of each other which has the potential for a reunion or crossing over of some members. They are most often sighted deep in the forest and do not venture out into the peripheral areas. The A and B families are comprised of Rukara that comes with 10 members, one silverback, 2 black backs, 2 infants, 2 juveniles and the second group Mukiza features 10 members with one silverback, four adult females, one sub adult and four infants.
This is rated as the best sector in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park when it comes to gorilla tracking and the only region where Gorilla Habituation Experience is conducted. The gorilla groups in this sector include the following;
Nshongi gorilla family
This is one of the bigger habituated gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest after the current break off where Mweza family was created there were nearly 18 members in the group. The Nshongi gorilla family was introduced with much fanfare and celebrities from far and wide came in 2009. Currently, things have calmed down and daily there are tourists to Uganda tracking mountain gorillas in this group. This group was named after the Nshongi River. The region where the Nshongi gorilla family is found is a large forested part where you can also view some apes, birdlife, butterflies and many more.
Kahungye gorilla family
This is another incredible group in Rushaga that comes with sizeable number even after the recent break off in the group forming the new Busingye family. Usually we don’t put numbers simply because they can change but while making itinerary we can put the number based on the current changes. This group was opened for tourism in 2011 after habituation process. Kahungye was named from the hill in the Rushaga sector where the gorillas were discovered.
Busingye gorilla family
This is another splinter family from the Kahungye family in August 2012. There are about 9 members and most of them were infants (3) as well as sub adult. This new family has had some excitement in internet forums since it is a new family open for trekking. Currently the family is being followed whether there are any signs of going back to Kahungye family and it looks there is too much bad blood and no sign of reconciliation.
Bweza gorilla family
This is an example of another group feud that leads another new group setting up household in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The family is made of seven members and there are two infants. This family split from the Nshongi family because of too many feuds within the family at the end of 2013. They can now be tracked in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This is good news as this has added the number of gorilla groups for gorilla trekking in the park.
Mishaya gorilla family
This is comprised of seven members but in the world of gorilla groups again like humans, and friendship families the number can change. This group broke off from Nshongi family. By the end of 2015, this family had seven but due to changes others joined as others breakaway. The silverback Mishaya is a renown fighter it is not far that the silverback again fought with un habituated gorilla family and some members were treated for injuries.
Nkuringo gorilla family sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Tracking this group takes a bit more energy and stamina. This is features as one of the toughest trek in Uganda. This family can be the toughest family to track and that has to do with the terrain at the start and end of the trek. The adventure through this gorilla family is breathtaking and for tourists who make it up to this group won’t regret in life. Even a 94 year old woman in 2013 finished her trek and achieved her dream in this gorilla family. This group is one of the huge groups in the southern area and it comes with the stunning scenic views of the Nkuringo.
In conclusion, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is one of the two incredible protected areas where the rare mountain gorillas are inhabited. It is comprised of 11 habituated groups each of which offers distinct story and amazing experiences to tourists.