Gorilla Trekking in Uganda at Bwindi Forest & Mgahinga National Park

Mountain Gorillas are a preserve of Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. They are truly special animals, rare, gentle like us yet, yet different. Tracking gorillas is an experience of a life time – It leads you into a strange land to meet one of the world’s most endangered species, in their own denizens. This is an experience, which is humbling as it is thrilling.

Gorilla tracking is an exciting but an energy sapping experience. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and unique behaviour, along the way.

In this section, we provide much needed facts about gorillas, relevant both to Mgahinga and Bwindi. In the fore-mentioned parks, specific groups of gorillas have become acclimatized to seeing people. The composition of any group changes as individuals born, die, or transfer, so your guide will be able to give you up-to-date details.

Groups are invariably named after the area in which they range. Therefore, your guide will tell you which group you will visit.

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations to Follow

  • Do not surround the gorillas but remain in a tight group and follow the guide’s instruction.
  • While with gorillas you strictly allowed staying in a distance of about 10 meters from these giants, if they approach you move back slowly.
  • Flash photography is strictly forbidden as this will scare away gorillas or charge on you.
  • Bury all human faeces in a hole dug at least 30cm deep and ensure that it is properly filled in afterwards.
  • Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you. DO NOT leave rubbish in the park.
  • No person under 15years of age is allowed to track the gorillas
  • In case gorillas charge, Follow the guides example (squat down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not attempt to run away because that will increase the risk.
  • When with the gorillas avoid making sudden movements or making loud noises
  • Maximum of 8 visitors per group are allowed to watch gorillas and you are strictly allowed staying with for only one hour
  • For your protection and that of gorillas no one with signs of communicable disease like cough, flu, or any air born disease will be allowed to track.
  • If you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking At Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)

 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park provides outstanding gorilla tracking experiences and acts as refuge to various wildlife species like the chimpanzee, monkeys, elephants, various small antelope and birds. We recommend you book a Uganda safari and include trekking Gorillas so as not to miss out on an opportunity to watch the rare and threatened mountain gorillas.

Gorilla families at Bwindi

The Gorilla families at Bwindi are distributed into four various sectors i.e Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga sectors.

The Buhoma Sector; has three Gorilla family groups i.e Mubare, Habimanya and Rushegura.

Mubare Gorilla group; this was the first group to be habituated for tracking in 1991.It is also referred to as the M-Group. The visitors/ tourists that tracked it first came in 1993 and the group was named after the Mubare Hills since these primates were first spotted around the hills. The group has eight members with a leading silverback called Ruhondeza though before, the group consisted of 18 members. Unfortunately, the number started reducing hence leaving only five members in 2012 due to constant relocation of the members to other groups, loss of lives in battles etc. The group was confronted by an untamed gorilla group who over threw Rohondeza and captures some of his females in March 2012. Ruhondeza who was aged at the time decided to take a retreat in the nearby forest and later lost his life in sleep on 27th June 2012. Fortunately, with time Ruhondeza was succeeded by Kanyonyi who enlarged the family hence reaching the number of eight individuals with an infant gorilla called Kashundwe.

Habinyanja Group; this was habituated for tracking in 1997 and was visited in 1999. It was initially a very big group with 17 members including two silver backs that is Rwansigazi and Mwirima who had different tastes and preferences decided to separate peacefully. Rwansigazi remained the dominant ruling silver back of the Habinyanja group where as Silver back Mwirima left and formed the Rushegura Gorilla group. In the mean time silver back Rwansigazi gave up power to Makara who is the ruling silverback of the group to date. The word “Habinyanja” means a place of water hence reason enough for the group to be called so since these Gorillas were first spotted around a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Despite what happened, both can co-exist and work with each other in good terms.

Rushegura Group; after separating from Habinyanja group in 2000, the group was habituated for gorilla tracking and was visited in 2002. The group consists of 19 members with a lead silverback called Rushegura a name that means break away since silver back Mwirima broke away from the Habinyanja group with 12 members including 5 females. The members increased to 19 by April 2010. Mwirima has been the only dominant silverback in the group who is never challenged fro he is ever demonstrating his strength in fights with wild gorilla family groups. It is a calm family usually in the vicinity of Buhoma Village since they are always roaming around the lodges and gardens due to curiosity with the infants always staring at visitors boldly.

The Ruhija sector; this has three family groups which include Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro.

The Bitukura Group; this gorilla family was named after River Bitukura. This is a very calm and peaceful group which took only fifteen months to be habituated and was opened for tracking in October 2008. The family had 24 members who reduced to 14 individuals including four silverbacks in which the second youngest silverback “Ndahura” is the leading silverback who took over power from an elderly dominant silverback called Karamuzi who had ruled for over forty years, adult females like Ruhara who produced an infant gorilla, Young gorillas, juveniles which are safeguarded by Ndahura and co exist with the Kyaguliro gorilla family hence easier to be tracked since they are usually found by the UWA rangers.

The Oruzogo group; this is also found in the Ruhija sector with 23 members under the rule of Silverback Tibirikwata and was launched for tracking in June 2011. The group kept on increasing in number and adult females namely; Ntamurungi produced in June 2011 and Musi produced in October 2011. The group triumphed when an adult female called Kakoba gave birth to twin infants in March 2012. Other family members include Busungu gorilla whose name means “short temper”, Kaganga “giant” and Bwoba “coward”.

 The Kyaguriro group; this was habituated in 1999 as a group dedicated to research. When one stays around this group, they will learn more about Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park especially when specifying the differences they have with those from the Virungas. Take an example like maturity where the black backs (young gorillas) found in the Virungas grow up more quickly into silver backs as compared to those of Bwindi. The group was under the leadership of Silver back Zeus a name that means lord/master as to the Greeks and this was a sign that he was master of all gorilla members in his family. Unfortunately, there was a war/battle between him and another silver back who fought him to victory which later on led to his expulsion into the forest where he died after some time

The Rushaga sector (Kisoro); this has five family groups which Include Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza

Nshongi Group; this group took long to be habituated in 2009. It was named after River Nshongi due to the fact that these were first spotted along the banks of the Nshongi River. The word Nshongi means “honey” and this was due to the dark color at the bottom of the River. It was the largest group with about 36 members including 3 silverbacks and 7 black backs that lived peacefully with each other and didn’t fight over power since these were under the leadership of Silverback Nshongi who was not the oldest in the group. Unfortunately in July 2010, the group separated into two parts which reduced the number to 26 individuals in the Nshongi group with 4 silverbacks. Mishaya left with ten members and formed his group called the Mishaya Gorilla group.

Mishaya Group; this was founded by Mishaya who had broken off from the Nshongi gorilla group in July 2010 with 12 members. The group was referred to as this due to the fact that it was first spotted around the Mishaya Village. Silverback Mishaya is known to be very tough for he usually begins interrelations with other gorilla families in which he grabs many females so as to enlarge his group. For example, he fought with a certain non habituated gorilla group in April 2011 and this did not go well for he got seriously wounded and a juvenile of 2 years old from his group. Fortunately, he was treated and became well.

Kahungye Group; this was habituated in 2009 with 13 members including three silver backs. It was established for tracking in October 2011 and is among the recently habituated Mountain Gorilla families in the park. Unfortunately, the group separated after a serious battle over power amongst the three silverbacks thereby forming an initial gorilla group called Busingye group. Before the split the family comprised of 27 members including 3 silverbacks and today it is under the lead of a dominant silverback called Gwigi meaning a “door” in the local language.

Busingye Group; with 9 members and a silverback the group was founded and habituated in 2011 though separated from Kahungye in June 2012 when Silverback Busingye decided to leave with some members to create his own group. The word Busingye means “peace” though doesnot reflect on Silverback Busingye’s character for he is a very ambitious Gorilla who has started fights with other Gorilla groups for members to add into his group. He takes pleasure in demonstrating the power he has through grabbing a female form the wild Gorilla group he battles with.

Bweza Group; this group consists of 9 individuals including 1 silverback called Bweza who once belonged to the Nshongi Gorilla group. He and Mishaya decided to leave to go on and create their own families despite the fact that Mishaya left before Bweza in July 2010. It was launched for tourism in December 2012 despite being thought of getting back together to the Nshongi Gorilla group which was unfortunate.

 The Nkuringo Group; this group has 19 members including 2 silverbacks and this was habituated in 2004. It was referred to as this because the group was first spotted around Nkuringo hill and outside the park roaming around the villages. These fed on people’s crops like bananas, sweet potatoes hence the main reason for their habituation hence opening them for tourism which benefitted the local communities as well as the country. Originally Silverback Nkuringo led the group but died in April 2008 leaving power in the hands of two silverbacks that is Safari and Rafiki. Safari Nkuringo’s son took over power and after seven months, the group received twins from mother Kwitonda and these were named Katungi and Muhozi. Unfortunately, Katungi lost his life at the age of 1.5 years after a long period of sickness.

Gorilla Trekking at Mgahinga National park

Mgahinga National park is situated in the south western part of Uganda along the border with Congo and Rwanda. The park occupies an area of about 33.7 sq kilometers and a habitat for man’s closest, the Mountain gorillas which relocate from one place to another within the forest searching for food like vegetables, fruits and small insects. It is among the few places in the world where the endangered mountain gorillas live and attract people from different countries to come on a Uganda Gorilla Safari. This therefore makes Mgahinga National park one of the leading tourism destinations in Uganda due to the fact that it harbors these primates. Here, we have only one gorilla group called the Nyakagezi Gorilla family group which is easily tracked since these are always playing, feeding in the nearby thick rainforests of Mgahinga.

The Nyakagezi Group; this group consists of 10 Gorilla members including 3 silverbacks. The group is led by a dominant Silverback called Mark who enjoys transferring from one place to another across boundaries in Uganda, DRC and Rwanda. These have finally settled in Uganda at Mgahinga National park since November 2012. The group increased to 10 individuals in May 2013 after the birth of a new born infant gorilla. Trekking this group begins during the day and includes travelling through the thick forest vegetation of Mgahinga National Park with a well trained and skilled guide who will inform you about the attributes and behaviors of these primates. You will start from Ntebeko Entrance gate t at 8:00am in the morning every day within 2-4 hours. Interacting with the Gorilla group will take only an hour so one should use their time appropriately.

Note: Gorilla permits for trekking this group is done direct at the park headquarters of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The Best Time to go for Gorilla Trekking.

If one wishes to encounter a remarkable experience while in Uganda, they should visit the country in the dry season in the months of June, July, August, September and partially October. Though, due to global warming, it is difficult to predict the state of the weather since sometimes it rains unexpectedly hence making it hard and challenging since the trails become very slippery and dangerous to trek on. Additionally, the vegetation also usually grows hence reducing visibility and clear photography.