Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Gorilla Park
Gorilla trekking is the most popular tourist activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were you get a chance to trek one of the few habituated gorilla families in the forest. Depending on which region of Bwindi you are holding permits, experienced guides and trackers will accompany your party on an early morning trek into the dense rain forest on the mountain slopes. The journey, through dense foliage and up steep climbs, is abundantly rewarded with the lifetime experience of viewing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. With Uganda Tours and Safari, you will have an opportunity to be within metres of these magnificent apes, sharing in their daily lives and experiencing their day-to-day activities. Mountain gorillas are extremely rare with only an estimated 700 remaining in the wild. This is an experience you won’t soon forget! Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However viewing success rates are over 90%.
It is located in the southwestern part of Uganda in East Africa. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It comprises 331 square kilometers of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the richest ecosystems in Africa and the diversity of species is a feature of the park. The park provides habitat for some 120species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. The park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds eg hornbills and turacos. It is perhaps most notable for the 340. Bwindi gorillas, half the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. There are four habituated mountain gorilla groups open to tourism: Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura near Buhoma and the Nkuringo group at Nkuringo.
The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover indigenous people i.e. Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
UGANDA SAFARI DESTINATION
HOME TO HALF OF WORLD’S GORILLAS
Gorilla & Chimp Safaris Uganda Limited
Padre Pio House,Plot 32,Uganda.
Telephone: +256 705 497 677
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The Park at a Glance
Altitude: 1,160m – 2,607m above sea level.
Bwindi was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994.
The Mubare gorilla group of mountain gorillas was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Nine groups are now habituated for tourism, and one for research.
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Southwestern Uganda: 8-9 hours by Road from Entebbe Airport
Bwindi Gorilla Groups
MUBARE GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 9 members including 1 silverback Location: Buhoma Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda. It was found in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest, and was fully habituated in 1998. The group started with 12 family members, led by the dominant silverback “Ruhondeza”. In a few years the group grew to 18 individuals. Unfortunately, due to fights with other wild gorilla groups, it lost several members including the one Ruhondeza who used to take care of everyone esle in the party. The group remained 5 members for several years untill March 2013 when 4 other members including a new dominant silverback joined and it’s now an interesting group to visit. Due to its convenient location with the Queen Elizabeth Park and with limited tracking hike, Mubare gorilla permits are now priority for many tour operators and tourist.
RUSHEGURA GORILLA FAMILY
size: 19 members including 1 silverback Location: Buhoma The Rushegura gorilla family was brought together in 2002, after one of the silverbacks from the Habinyanja group decided to break away. They started with 12 individuals including 5 females. This “Habinyanya 2 group” quickly received a new name that derives from “Ebishegura” – treespecies that was abundant in the home area of the new family. The Rushegura group is a calm family. In the past they used to cross the border and venture in the neighboring DRC every now and then but returned and have always been in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They are usually not far from Buhoma village and sometimes even wander through the gardens.
ORUZOGO GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 23 members including 1 silverback Location: Ruhija Sector The Oruzogo group one of the recent gorilla families opened for visitor access in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This family is situated between Ruhija areas and is led by a dominant Silverback “Tibirikwata”. It’s the latest habituated gorilla family and was opened for tourism on 20th June 2011. This increased the great opportunity for more visitors to track the gorillas in Bwindi national park. It’s one of the most popular families with tourists not just because of the size but the playful and energetic juveniles and toddlers in the group.
NSHONGI GORILLA FAMILY
Nshongi Gorilla Family Family size: 18 members Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park Nshongi was the largest group ever habituated with about 36 gorilla members and was officially introduced in September 2009. It was named after the river Nshongi, where the gorilla family was first found. Although most gorilla families usually consisting of about 25 members have one or two Silverbacks, this was a strange one with 4 Silverbacks. Another remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest Silverback in the family and that the three silverbacks and seven blackbacks lived in harmony with each other and did not make an attempt for leadership. In July 2010 however, the group split and remained 26 members with the other split forming the present Mishaya Gorilla Group. In 2013 the family further split and reduced to 18, with the new split forming the present Bweza Gorilla Group with 10 members. The Nsongi Gorilla Group is in a large forested area where you can also see other primates, birds and butterflies.
BUSINGYE GORILLA FAMILY
Group size: 9 individuals including 1 silverback Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park Busingye Gorilla Group is another splitter gorilla family having broken away from Kahungye Family back in June 2012. It was Silverback Busingye who decided to split and create his own family. Busingye is a local language word for ‘peace’ which is quite surprising since this ambitious Silverback is known for his legendary fights with other gorilla groups. He likes showing his power and whenever encountering a wild family he mercilessly grabs a female to add to his own family. In January 2014, the group was 9 members including 3 infants, 2 adult female and other were youths or young teens. Since 2013, Busingye Group tracking permits are handled at the Bwindi local Uganda Wildlife Authority Office – Rushaga.
HABINYANJA GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 18 members including 2 silverbacks Location: Buhoma The Habinyanja group was first visited by tourists in 1999. The name comes from a local word “Nyanja” which means body of water. It refers to the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the group was first sighted. Habinyanja is a fascinating family with a lot of drama and commotion. This is caused by the power struggles between the dominant silverbacks and fights for the family leadership. It’s not strange for such large families to split. – the split forms a new gorilla family and sometimes can be joined by members rejected by other families or other solitary gorillas and even when they do, gorillas retain the brotherhood and don’t fight against former family members if they meet.Visitors tracking this family need about 3 – 8 hours and its makes sense if they stay at a lodging in the Buhoma area of Bwindi. The adult females are led by the shrewd alpha female called Kisho.
BITUKURA GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 14 members including 4 silverbacks Location: Ruhija area The Bitukura group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The habituation that started in July 2007 was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already frequently encountered by the UWA rangers. Although the habituation process normally takes a minimum of two years, this group could already be visited by tourists within 15 months after the start. Bitukura is a peaceful family including 4 silverbacks and some playful juveniles. They share a close bond and often have “group meetings” or get-togethers. Originally, the group was 24 members but due to disputes within the family, some gorillas simply chose to leave the group and were probably recruited other families. The group has a newborn that arrived in early 2013. To visit this family, its advisable to stay in the Ruhija area of Bwindi park but you can also stay in Buhoma though you have to leave very early to catch the pre-track orientation.
NKURINGO GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 19 members including 2 silverbacks Location: Nkuringo area Nkuringo is a local word meaning “round hill” It’s a word from the Rukiga language, referring to the hill where the group was first sighted Nkuringo group was launched in 2004 after the 2 year habituation process. One of the reasons for their habituation was their continued venturure into the local communities’ gardens feeding on bananas, sweet potatoes and other crops. By opening up the group for visitors, the community could directly benefit from tourism and it formed a protection for the gorillas as well. The family was led by one Silverback Nkuringo who died in April 2008, leaving behind 2 Silverbacks Safari and Rafiki. Safari took over the leadership and same year in November, newborn twin baby gorillas Katungi and Muhozi arrived and expanded the family further. Unfortunately, Katungi died at the age of 1½ years due to illness Tracking the Nkuringo Group takes a bit more energy and stamina. This is probably the toughest trek in Uganda. Yet there is not many complaining about being exhausted. A better word would be exhilarated after the experience of a lifetime. Nkuringo Family is a large group in the southern, scenic area of Nkuringo and not to be forgotten experience.
BWEZA GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 7 members including 1 Silverback Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park Bweza Gorilla Family is one of Nshongi Group that used to be the largest ever habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. However, due to the July 2010 Silverback Mishaya decision to leave the group and start his own family, he left with reasonable number of them including the Silverback Bweza. Towards the end of 2012, Bweza chose to be independent; he walked away with about 6 other members from the Mishaya Gorilla Group. Early in 2013, there were speculations by the UWA park management that the Bweza split would return and re-bond with Mishaya but this never came to pass and was later introduced for tracking. Now in 2014, they can be tracked in Rushaga area of Bwindi Park. This is good news as the summer months approach which normally mean a scarcity of gorilla tracking permits.
MISHAYA GORILLA FAMILY
Family size: 7 members including 1 Silverback Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park In July 2010, Silverback Mishaya decided to leave the Nshongi Gorilla Group with some females and started his own family. He is a typical fighter and was able to gather more females from other non-habituated groups in the area, reaching a total group size of 12 gorillas, including three infants. Mishaya is the only adult in the group and is known for being a fighter who often starts interactions with other gorilla families. By the end of 2013, the group was 7 gorillas but like we noticed earlier, gorilla families some time are joined by friends or even acquire more members in successful battles.
KAHUNGYE GORILLA FAMILY
Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park The size of this group is 13 members with 3 silverbacks which are the only ones named. The dominant Silverback is called Rumansi followed by the other two old male gorillas named Rwigi and Ruhamuka. The group was opened for visitors and gorilla tracking in 2011 but in less than a year the group split, creating the new Busingye Gorilla Family. Before the separation, the family consisted of 27 individuals including 3 silverbacks. Busingye is one of the newest groups in the park found in the Rushaga sector close to the Nshongi and Mishayagorilla groups.
ACCESSING BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be accessed by air as Aerolink operates daily flights from Entebbe to Kihihi Airstrip for the northern and eastern side and to Kisoro airstrip for the southern parts of Rushaga and Nkuringo. The drive time from Kihihi or Kisoro to nearby lodges is approximately 1-2 hours. When driving from Entebbe to the northern part of Buhoma, it may take up to 9 hours and 10 hours if one is driving to Nkuringo or Rushaga. One can use the MasakaMbarara, Ntungamo, kihihi, Butogota and then to Buhoma or He can path through Mbarara to Bushenyi, follow the ishasha road to Kihihi and then Butogota to Buhoma. For those going to the south, they drive through Kabale to Kisoro and to respective regions.
WALKING SAFARI THROUGH BWINDI
Visitors have an opportunity for a guided nature walk between Nkuringo in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to Buhoma on the opposite side of the park. This three to four hour guided hike provides a leisurely opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest, view the native wildlife, and learn about the many animal and plant species present in the park. You may meet the gorillas on your way through the forest. This walk can start from Buhoma to Nkuringo or from Nkuringo to Buhoma.
THE RUIZI RIVER TRAIL
So far the longest in the park will occupy you for a full day. It is highly recommended for bird watchers. The Trail in YOUR CAR… Visitors with their own 4 -wheel drive transport should consider crossing the rugged centre of the park through Ruhija. This transect affords the visitor with Uganda’s finest vistas of deep undisturbed forests. While on this Uganda safari, watch out for duikers, primates and both forest and grassland bird species. In Ruhija, visitors can take the three-hour scenery packed hike to the Mubwindi swamp. You may also walk to the Bamboo zone (the only such area in the park).
VILLAGE COMMUNITY WALK IN BWINDI
You can participate in any of the community walks through the local villages surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Optional activities include visits to a traditional home, local orphanage or school, banana brewing demonstrations and even meeting traditional medicinal healers. This three to four hour walk is easily tailored to your individual schedule and interests. Village walks are popular in Buhoma, Rushaga and Nkuringo. Forest Walks in Bwindi
THE MUNYANGA RIVER TRAIL
Is an ideal short walk for visitors with little time to spare. Here you can see birds and primates of the forest edge. The popular waterfall trail provides an attractive feature of the forest with a profusion of tree ferns, epithetic ferns, orchids and Bwindi’scolourfularray of butterflies. This trail which leads to 3 delightful crystal clear waterfalls typifies your impression of a tropical rain forest.
For the visitor who has 2 or 3 days in Bwindi the park has 4 fantastic hiking trails. On all these trails, you have opportunities to see and learn about primates, many species of birds, butterflies, trees, and other organisms. Arrange at the reception for a guide. The guide’s company is obligatory and yet affords you an excellent understanding of nature’s system at work in the park.
THE MUZABAJIRRO TRAIL
Offer breath taking views of Bwindi Forest. Western Rift Valley and the Virungas. On the way, you witness hundreds of pre-historic tree ferns. The top of this trail is a great place for a picnic lunch.
THE BAMBOO TRAIL
The Bamboo trail offers 14 vegetation types and is one of the areas of highest diversity in the park. At the top of this trail, you witness panoramic views encompassing Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga Forest.
In the evenings, participate in captivating traditional performances presented by Women’s groups. Proceeds from these go directly to improve the welfare of families around the park.
THE RUSHURRA TRAIL
Commands expansive views across the western rift valley floor. To the west, Congo’s ParcNationale des Virungas provides a spectacular backdrop, and on clear das Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountain are visible.