The A – Z of Uganda Gorillas
The endangered Mountain Gorillas in Uganda don’t live in any zoo across the planet since they cannot survive in detention and thus there aren’t any known mountain gorillas surviving within zoos. These can only be found and seen in Africa, in just three countries including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Uganda now has a total of 14 habituated groups with 12 of these available for tracking and 1 for research purposes. The 2012 Gorilla Census by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildllife and Antiquities found a total number of 480 gorillas with 400 gorillas in Bwindi with 36 families and 16 solitary males and 80 in Mgahinga National Park.
CONTACT US FOR GORILLA PERMITS AND SAFARIS
There are 11 habituated families in Bwindi and 1 habituated family in Mgahinga. There are 96 permits in total available per day: 88 in Bwindi and 8 in Mgahinga. The maximum number of permits per group per day is 8.
Habituation is a process which involves guides spending ample time with the family to get the gorillas accustomed to human presence. Habituated gorillas are thus comfortable a secure enough to continue with their daily routines while being observed. The habituation process takes two years and also involves the exciting phase of naming the gorillas and the family group.
The cost of a Mountain Gorilla Permit is USD600* each. Discounted rates are available for Ugandan citizens and residents. One must be above 15 years of age and in good physical condition to track. The Permits can be got for the 2 parks – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park plus Mgahinga Gorilla Park. The USD 600 may appear a lot, however upon finishing, absolutely nothing can compare to the satisfaction of having encountered these glorious and uncommon giants.
There are clear rules and regulations that apply to trackers in the park including keeping a seven-metre distance from the gorillas at any one time, no smoking or eating in the presence of gorillas, no flashes on digital cameras, persons with infectious diseases are not permitted to track among others. The rules are always explained in detail to all trackers at the pre-tracking briefing.*Rates are subject to change
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The four areas in Bwindi where tracking which are:
1.BUHOMA – BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NORTHERN SECTOR
Buhoma is where the park headquarters are located and was the first area to have gorilla tracking. The families here are:
i. Mubare Group – Group M:
The Mubare Gorilla Family was the first habituated gorilla group in 1991. The family was named after the stunning Mubare Hills in which this group was discovered. Originally there were 12 family members and when the leader, the silverback Ruhondeza died it left only 5 family members. In 2013 four other gorillas have joined the Mubare gorilla family and there are now nine family members as members of other groups have become part of the Mubare group recently.
The ease of tracking with the Mubare group varies – they used to be closer to the Buhoma Park Headquarters, but it now takes an over 5 hour round-trip to track the group.ii. Habinyanja Gorilla Group – Group H
The Habinyanja Gorilla Family was one of the first habituated groups in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in 1997. The name Habinyanja comes from the local name for water “Nyanja” because the group was first seen near a swampy area. Habinyanja loosely translates to “beings of the water”. The group has been visited by numerous trackers from across the world over the past decades.
Gorilla Families often split up after fights or when a black back turns silver or when there are feuds within the families. The Rushegura family also found in the Buhoma area split off from Habinyanja a few years back to form its own family. The three families in the Buhoma area meet and cross each other’s paths but live in peaceful co-existence.
The group size is 18 but can vary due to deaths and births. Group H are quite nomadic and traverse large areas in the forest. It can thus take between five to eight hours to track group H.iii. Rushegura Gorilla Group – Group R
The Rushegura Gorilla Group is a large 17 strong group in the Buhoma area of the park which was habituated in 2000. Group R was created when the silverback split from group H. An exciting group with playful juveniles, blackbacks and one silverback. Tracking time for this group tends to be shorter in recent times since they have stayed around the park headquarters area and have even been found right outside the lodges by some of our guests.This group is ideal for those who opt for a shorter trek as it has taken less than four hours on our last visits. However, there is no guarantee to that as the gorillas may choose to venture off and it will take a longer time to track them. 2. NKURINGO AREA – BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST SOUTHERN SECTOR
i. Nkuringo Gorilla Group
This is the toughest group to track and normally takes a full day. However, this challenge was even though tough was once undertaken by a 94 year old woman in 2013 albeit with porters who carried her into the forest.
The group consists of 19 members and is preferred by those who enjoy hiking into the depth of Bwindi’s jungles.3. RUSHAGA – BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST SOUTHERN SECTOR
Rushaga has five habituated families and other unhabituated families.i. Nshongi Gorilla Group
The Nshongi Gorilla family is one of the larger habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with about 13 gorillas. The group was named after the Nshongi River where the group was first seen.
The group was opened up for tracking in 2009 with much fanfare as celebrities from far came to visit. tracking this group can take anywhere between 6 to 9 hours as they leave in the depth of the southern forest of Bwindi.ii. Mishaya Gorilla Group
The Mishaya group comprises of 7 members but is an interesting family that stands it ground and protects its own.
The leader of the Mishaya gorilla group is Mishaya and he is quite a fighter – not too long ago the gorilla family was in a battle with another un-habituated gorilla group and some members of the group were treated for injuries.iii. Kahungye Gorilla Group
The Kahungye Gorilla Group is sizeable family. A new group recently split off kahungye to create the Busingye Gorilla Group but kahungye numbers still remain high.
The group was opened for visitors and gorilla tracking in 2011. The Name Kahungye comes from a hill in the Rushaga area where the gorillas were discovered.iv. Busingye Gorilla Group
The Busingye Gorilla Family is a splinter group from the Kahungye Gorilla Group – an event that happened in August of 2012. At the last check the group consisted of 9 members and among them were three infants and what is called a sub-adult – gorilla teen.
This new group has created some excitement in Internet forums since it is a new group open for tracking. Presently the group is being observed whether there are any signs of a return to the Kahungye Gorilla Group and it seems there is too much bad blood and no sign of reconciliation. Meaning 8 more permits in the Rushaga Area of the park. Again due to the fluidity of the situation, at the present time permits for the Busingye Gorilla Group are being handled at the local Uganda Wildlife Authority Office in Rushaga – that will most like change in the near future.
v. Bweza Gorilla Group
The group is 7 member strong and there are two infants. This group broke away from the Nshongi Family group because of too many feuds within the group at the end of 2013. Now in 2013 they can be tracked in the Rushaga area of the park. This is exciting news as the summer months approach which normally mean a scarcity of permits.4. RUHIJA – BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST SOUTHERN SECTOR
The Ruhija area is not as developed when it comes to lodges and other activities besides gorilla tracking besides, nature walks, hikes, birding, but each year new lodges are coming of line that appeal to various sized pocket books.i. The Oruzogo Gorilla Group:
The Oruzogo Gorilla Family can be tracked from the Ruhija area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – it is a larger group of 22 gorillas. The Oruzogo group has become popular with tourists not just because of the size of the group, but because the the playful energy exhibited by the juveniles and toddlers in the group that keep visitors entertained to say the least.
If you want more sleep and rest and less driving, you ask your tour operator to book you into a lodge in the Ruhija area and not in the Buhoma which is an hour drive time from Ruhija and that would mean leaving your lodging at 6:00 to 6:30 am in order to reach Ruhija at the right time for the gorilla tracking orientation.
The Oruzogo Gorilla Family started to receive visitors in 2011 and those who came to visit them simply love this group. It is not an extreme trek, but you need medium endurance and stamina.ii. Bitukura Gorilla Group:
The Bitukura Gorilla group originally consisted of 24 members but owing to splits, the numbers reduced to 14. A new born was however added to the family recently.
Gorilla groups gain and lose members and the Bitukura group originally consisted of 24 gorillas however other groups recruit, in the gorilla family there are feuds and some gorillas simply leave rather than fight.
Tracking time of Bitukura group is relatively shorter as they dwell in areas near Ruhija. tracking can thus take anywhere between 4 to 6 hours.MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
i. Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga Gorilla National park. This 9 member group has the migratory spirit and traverse to areas as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. They returned to Mgahinga Gorilla Park in 2012 and this time have stayed awhile. This group has to be confirmed that it will be in the park 24 hours before scheduled tracking.
Please note gorilla group numbers fluctuate due to births and deaths.
The Tourist Centre looks forward to exploring the forested hills with you to enjoy this breathtaking once, twice or even thrice in a lifetime experience. Contact us for gorilla permits and gorilla safaris