Uganda Gorilla Trekking Regions & Gorilla Families Guide

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Mountain Gorilla Family

Uganda Gorilla Trekking Regions & Gorilla Families

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Parks are the two regions for trekking gorillas in Uganda.

Coming up close to endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda’s rainforest jungles is a thrilling lifetime experience. Gorillas live in families of usually 5 to 30 individuals. Bwindi is a proud home of 22 habituated gorilla families.

One habituated gorilla family lives in Mgahinga. Each gorilla family has something special to offer in terms of character, size, and more. All gorilla families in Uganda are known by name.

They have been given names to identify them.

The Bwindi Gorilla Families are found in the 4 different sections of the park. And each sector functions as a self-standing gorilla trekking destination.

Also each section has its own set of accommodation options and a variety of tourist attractions.

And it is reached by a different approach road from the other location. With several habituated gorilla families located in different regions, it can become confusing to understand the exact logistics of your trek.

This guide is intended to explain the Uganda gorilla trekking Regions, gorilla families, and other useful information.

Bwindi National Park

Uganda has more than half of the total mountain gorillas left in the world. About 459 of them reside in the 321km2 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi is the by far the most popular place for trekking gorillas in Uganda.

The park is situated in the Southwestern Uganda. It is also one of the most biologically diverse forest national parks in Africa.

Bwindi is divided into 4 sectors, named after the surrounding villages:

  1. Buhoma Sector
  2. Ruhija Sector
  3. Rushaga Sector
  4. Nkuringo Sector

Gorilla trekking Sectors in Bwindi

1. Buhoma (Northern Bwindi)

Buhoma is the most visited area of Bwindi National Park.

It is the largest of the 4 sectors and has a large range of accommodation of different levels – Budget, mid-range and luxury.

As the first section of the park to open to visitors, this was where the first gorilla family (Mubare) in Bwindi was habituated in 1992. Currently, there are 6 gorilla family groups in Buhoma Area.

Visitors can also tour the neighboring communities, bird watch and hike some of the most spectacular forest trails in Africa.

Gorilla Families In Buhoma

  • Rushegura Family: 13 members with 1 silverback
  • Habinyanja Family: 19 members with 1 silverback
  • Mubare Family: 9 individuals with 1 silverback
  • Katwe Family: 9 individuals with 1 silverback
  • Muyambi Family: 8 individuals with 1 silverback
  • Binyiindo Family: 7 members with 1 silverback
  • On final stages of habituation process

2. Ruhija (Eastern Bwindi)

Ruhija is usually accessed from Buhoma area.

The sector offers mainly mid-range and budget accommodation options. The drive is about 1½ to 2 hours, depending upon the road conditions and weather. Ruhija is the second most visited area after Buhoma.

There are currently 4 families in the area. Besides gorilla trekking, avid hikers can aim for the top of Rwamunyonyi Peak (“the hill of many birds”).

It’s the highest point in Bwindi that offers extraordinary views. As the name suggests, the forests around Rwamunyonyi offer some of the best birding in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

You can also take a tour into the surrounding local communities to meet some of the Batwa Pygmy Tribe – the original inhabitants of Bwindi Forest.

On offer are demonstrations of the use of medicinal plants found in the forest and other ancient survival skills practiced by their people for over 1000 years.

While elephant sightings in Bwindi Forest are infrequent, Ruhija Section offers the best chance of spotting one of these shy grey ghosts.

Ruhija Gorilla Families

  • Kyaguliro Family: 10 members with 1 silverback
  • Mukiza Family: 16 members with 1 silverback
  • Bitukura Family: 13 members with 2 Silverbacks
  • Oruzogo (Kasumali) Family: 11 members with 3 silverbacks

3. Rushaga (Southern Bwindi)

Rushaga has 9 gorilla families, including Kahungye – the largest of all the gorilla families in Bwindi. There are also a variety of lodges in the area.

Lodges in Rushaga are situated in varying distances from the gorilla trekking point, about 30 minutes up to 2 hours.

They range from budget, mid-range to luxury.

The major drawcard of this region is that a gorilla habituation experience is offered for Bikyingi Gorilla Family, which allows tourists to spend up to 4 hours with the group, rather than the standard 1 hour.

The Rushaga Sector includes Lake Mutanda, so visitors can set out on a canoe ride for an entirely different perspective of the spectacular scenery.

It can be accessed from a variety of lodges in the Rushaga/Mutanda/Kisoro (southern) side of Bwindi. All access will be by vehicle along the mountain murrum roads of the area.

Gorilla Families In Rushaga

  • Shongi Family: 12 members with 1 silverback
  • Bweza Family: 14 members with 3 silverbacks
  • Kahungye Family: 25 members with 3 silverbacks
  • Busingye Family: 10 members with 1 silverback
  • Mishaya Family: 7 members with 1 silverback
  • Kutu Family: 20 members with 2 silverbacks
  • Mucunguzi Family: 13 members with 1 silverback
  • Posho Family: 13 members with 1 silverback
  • Bikyingi Family: 11 members with 1 silverback

4. Nkuringo (Western Bwindi)

Nkuringo is arguably the most scenic area to visit in Bwindi.

The dramatic topography and break-taking views of the Virunga volcanoes do come at a physical cost: this particular region is better suited to more physically active visitors.

The trekking terrain of the Nkuringo families is a tough hike, particularly the uphill trek to return to the trail head after viewing the gorillas.

With three families in Nkuringo Section, access is from a variety of budget, mid-range and luxury lodges in Nkuringo/Lake Mutanda areas.

Driving time is usually between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours.

Gorilla Families In Nkuringo

  • Nkuringo Family: 12 members – Blackback currently in charge
  • Bushaho Family: 11 members with 1 silverback
  • Christmas Family: 7 members with 1 silverback

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga is separate from Bwindi and borders Rwanda and Congo (DRC), though the gorilla family is on the Uganda side of the Virunga Mountain Range.

There is just one family in this area and it is generally an easily accessible family. This park also offers the only opportunity for golden monkey trekking in Uganda.

There are a number of nearby lodges of varying levels, in the Mgahinga National Park region, or Kisoro/Lake Mutanda area with driving times between 15 min and 1.5 hours, depending upon which is utilized.

Nyakagezi Gorilla Family: 10 members with 3 silverbacks

Useful Information

You need a permit to trek gorillas in Uganda.

Uganda Gorilla Permits are available for purchase, up to two years in advance.

You buy the permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) who is responsible for Uganda’s wildlife within the National Parks.

You are advised to buy your gorilla permit through registered Uganda Tour Operators. Gorilla permits may be bought for any of the above regions/sectors.

You have to stipulate in which region you would want to trek gorillas.

Once a date and region for the gorilla trek is determined, & availability confirmed, a non-refundable deposit of 30% is needed to be paid to secure your permit.

Your Uganda gorilla trekking permit is held with Uganda Wildlife Authority until such time as it is been paid in full.

Current regulations dictate that the latest this can be done is one month prior to the trek date. Only 8 guests may trek one gorilla family, at a time.

And only one trek per day, per gorilla family, is permitted.

Guests are divided at the pre-trek briefing into suitable groups for trekking each family of gorillas. This is arranged by UWA.

A special request may be made to see a certain mountain gorilla family, or if you wish for a close family or short walk, but cannot be guaranteed.

Please be sure you advise your tour guide of these requests. They will liaise with Uganda Wildlife Authority on your behalf. Gorilla families are territorial.

And the briefing guide will discuss where each family has been roaming ‘recently’. As such hopefully, you will be given an indication of how long they anticipate the hike to locate them, but this is not always the case.

Gorilla trekking is managed fully by Uganda Wildlife Authority staff.

You’ll be accompanied by ranger guide, security personnel and trackers, with optional porters – who walk with you until a gorilla family is located.

Once you find gorillas, the rangers only take you closer to the gorillas. And your viewing time commences – which is a maximum of one hour.

Porters are from the local communities, rotated for revenue sharing which goes directly to them. We highly recommended at least one porter per person trekking.

Porter fees are usually additional to your tour, and paid direct.

Your Tulambule Uganda safaris guide does NOT accompany you on the gorilla trek, unless you have arranged and would like to pre-purchase him a permit.

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