Gorilla Trekking Regions in Bwindi: Bwindi forest Park is a UNESCO world heritage site that is located in the South Western Uganda in Kanungu district. Bwindi Impenetrable is a home to the endangered mountain gorillas and has over 400 mountain gorillas this makes the mountain gorillas being the major attraction and gorilla trekking the major activity of the park since the park harbors half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The park I also a home to 120 mammals, 324 tree species, 200 butterfly species, 360 bird species. Gorilla trekking is the primary activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and this refers to the hiking in the tropical rainforests to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitants. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi can be done all year around and this happens in the different gorilla trekking regions.
Gorilla trekking regions in Bwindi impenetrable National park. Bwindi has four sectors and it is in these four sectors where gorilla trekking happen from and each sector has a number of gorilla families to offer for trekking. The gorilla trekking families include; Buhoma sector which is the first sector to be opened up with the oldest gorilla habituated family, Rushaga sector with majority of the gorilla families, Ruhija sector with the least gorilla families and Nkuringo sector.
Buhoma sector is situated in the North western part of Bwindi Impenetrable national park. This sector is the first sector to be opened up in 1993 after the reserve (Bwindi) was gazeted as a park in 1991 this means that this sector has the oldest gorilla family to be habituated and first to be launched and visited In Bwindi Impenetrable National park. Buhoma sector is the best desirable sector for gorilla trekking because of its history therefore there is a point of failing to get gorilla permits since they are issued first come first serve they are easily and fast sold out. Gorilla trekking in Buhoma takes starts very early in the morning after the briefing at the headquarters about the dos and don’ts during trekking. Trekkers are escorted with the guide, 2 armed rangers, porters While in the jungle tracking the gorillas once a gorilla family is found trekkers are only given one hour to stay with the gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Buhoma is carried out after one getting a trekking permit and this permit is issued out by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Gorilla trekking permit costs 600dollars to the East African citizens and 700dollars to the foreign non residents. One should visit Buhoma for gorilla trekking during the peak season which is the dry season and this takes up months of December, January, February, June, July, August and early September. During these months there is no rainfall or if it rains its less since its a rainforest there is no guarantee it won’t rain therefore the roads and trails are passable. But one can carry out trekking since it is open any time.
There are five fully habituated gorilla families available for trekking in Buhoma sector and these include Mubare gorilla family which is the oldest and first gorilla family to be habituated and visited in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mubare family has 11 members. It started with 12 members under leadership of silverback Ruhondeza when he died silverback Kanyonyi joined the group. Habinyanja gorilla family habituated in 1997 and was discovered around the swamp areas. It had 25 members but due to power struggles between silverback Rwansigazi and Mwirima after the death of Mugurusi who was the head led to the splitting of the group. Mwirima later left the group to form Rushegura family. Habinyanja family has 17members. Rushegura gorilla family was came about as a result of Habinyanja splitting and it started with 12 members and tracking this gorilla family takes short time therefore those who want a short trek should opt for this gorilla family. This group got its name from the tree specie(Ebishegura) where the were first sighted that was in plenty. The Rushegura family has 17 memebers 4black backs, 4 adult females, 4 juveniles, 4 infants and 1 silverback Kabukojo the head. Katwe gorilla family having 7 members. This is anew habituated family in Buhoma region and was opened for trekking in 2018. Muyambi gorilla family has 7 members headed by silverback Muyambi. Still one of the new habituated gorilla families. Muyambi was a silverback the walked out of the Mubare family. There are only a group eight people allowed to trek a particular gorilla family in Buhoma therefore about 40permits per day.
Buhoma can be accessed to by use of both Road and Air transport. Trekking trails in Buhoma trekking region. Bwindi Impenetrable national park had different trails and some of those in the Buhoma region are Munyaga River trail which is the easiest tail to use and it takes you via the valley length ways Bizenga creek linking Munyaga River and you will be able to see primates and birds as possible on this trail. Rushura hill trail takes 3 to 4 hours to complete this trail which starts from Buhoma park office taking you to Rushura hill. While you hike this trails you will fin forest and terraced fields as you get on top of the park you I’ll have a a magnificent view of the Virunga mountains and the Western Rift Valley. Waterfall trail takes 3hours of completion and it’s the most popular in Buhoma and Bwindi as a whole. While on this trek you will be able to see bird species and butterflies plus the vegetation. River Ivy trail takes eight hours of completion and is the longest trekking trail in Buhoma having 14km and it goes through the southern parts of Buhoma leading to Mukempunu a place known for wild pigs and expect to see many bird species, primates while on this trail which latter follows the old road through the forest. Muzabajiro loop trail which is 6km and while on this trail expect to see primates, Virunga mountains and the fresh vegetation.
Rushaga is located in the Southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable. This sector has the highest number of gorilla families and its one of the sectors where gorilla habituation experience occurs. The sector has 8 fully habituated gorilla families that are ready for trekking and one gorilla family under habituation. For one to carry out gorilla trekking in the Rushaga sector has to be of 15 years of age and above, must-have attained the gorilla permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority which costs 600dollars by the East African community citizens and 700dollars by the foreigners. Very early in the morning at the park headquarters visitors are first briefed and then around 8am trekking commences. In the jungle when a particular gorilla family is tracked trekkers spend only one hour with them. A group of eight people are allowed to trek a particular gorilla group this mean that 64 gorilla permits are sold and available per day. Habituated gorilla families in Rushaga trekking region. Rushaga has eight gorilla families available to trekking and these are Nshongi gorilla family having 10 memebers headed by Bweza. Initially it had 32 members and go its name after the River Nshongi where it was first seen. Led by the oldest silverback Nshongi had 4 silverbacks and 7 black backs. In 2010 the group split and remained with 28 members forming Mishaya and in 2013 the group further split and reduced to 18 forming Bweza family. Bikingi gorilla family has 15 members 1 silverback, 5 adult females, 2 sub adults, 2 juveniles and 5 infants. This was formed as a result of Nshongi splitting. Bweza gorilla family comes from the Nshongi when silverback Mishaya chose to leave the Nshongi family. Bweza has 12 members 2 silverbacks, 4 black backs, 3 adult females, 1 sub adult and 2infants. Mishaya gorilla family has 12 members and was formed as a result of Mishaya deciding to leave Nshongi group in 2010 with some females and started the Mishaya continued to gather other females from non habituated gorillas. Unfortunately in 2014 Mishaya died which greatly left the group in griefs and this affected it leading to some members joining the Bweza and Bikingi family. Kahungye gorilla family with 17 members and headed b Rumanzi. This family gets its name from the Kahungye hill where the gorillas where first seen. At first after being launched it had 29 members but due to the intra male fission the group separated thus creating the Busingye. Busingye gorilla family having 9 members headed by Busingye the founder who split from the Kahungye group. Mucunguzi gorilla family has eight members and it split from the Bweza gorilla group. Rwigi gorilla family has ten members headed by Rwigi silverback and it’s the newest habituated family. Rwigi broke from the Kahungye family after a misunderstanding with other silverbacks.
Rushaga gorilla trekking region can be accessed easily from Rwanda than it is for other gorilla trekking regions. This will be a three to four hours drive to reach the region. If one uses air transport book a flight at Kigali International airport and connect to Rushaga by road. By road drive from Entebbe or Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale and then drive to Rushaga.
Ruhija sector is a gorilla trekking region in Bwindi located in the Eastern part of the park. This sector can easily be accessed from either Buhoma or Kabale. Ruhija a gorilla trekking region in Bwindi has four habituated gorilla families ready for trekking. Apart from gorilla trekking Ruhija sector is also a best eco tourism site since it harbors many of the bird species. Gorilla trekking in Ruhija region starts very early in the morning after a short briefing at the park headquarters just like it is in other gorilla trekking regions. And before on goes for gorilla trekking in Ruhija he must have bought a trekking permit from the UWA offices which should be booked 3 months prior the trekking day. This permit is sold at 600 dollars and 700dollars per person. For one to go on trekking must be of 15 years and above, must be fit and disease free. A guide together with the trekkers are accompanied by 2 armed UWA rangers and once a gorilla family is tracked and traced in its natural habitant the time to spend with it is just one hour. This is so because the gorillas might become uncomfortable with the visitors long stay. A group of eight people are supposed to trek the gorillas therefore this means that 32 gorilla permits are available in this trekking region per day. The following are the four habituated gorilla families in the Ruhija gorilla trekking region. Bitukura gorilla family with 13 members inclusive of the 4 silverbacks, 4 adult females, 2 juveniles, 3 infants and its headed by Ndahura. This group got its name from a River where they were first seen in July 2007. This group split up due to the disputes amongst and it had 24 members initially. The Bitukura family likes to forage around Ruhija tourism station and sometimes along the forest edges in the area. Oruzogo gorilla family with 17 members including the 2 silverbacks, 2 black backs, 5 adult females , 2 sub adults, 1 juvenile and 5 infants headed by Bakwate. It got its name from the Oruzogo vegetation they feed. And this group was opened up in 2011 and became famous in 2013 when it a set of twins and also known for being playful and joyful. Kyaguliro gorilla family with a size of 10 members headed by Rukara silverback. This group is mainly used for Research. Kyaguliro is known for spending most of its time in the inner forest. Following the sudden death of its head Rukina Kyaguliro was later headed by a young silverback Mukiza who was ambushed by silverback Rukara from the Bitukura family and later in 2016 the group split into two Kyaguliro A by Rukara and Kyaguliro B under Mukiza. Mukiza gorilla family is as result of the separation of Kyaguliro. It has 10 family members under leadership of Mukiza and has 4 adult females, 4 infants, 1 sub adult.
Since Ruhija gorilla trekking region is situated between Buhoma gorilla trekking region in the North and Kabale town in the South, one can access the region from not points. By road if your coming from Kampala or Entebbe the route is Kampala via Masala, Mbarara then Kabale and proceed to Ruhija. The best vehicle to use should be 4×4whee drive. Another rout would be Kampala then branch of from Ntungamo head to Rukungiri, Kihihi, Butogota and drive to Ruhija takes up about to 2hours drive. By Air transport u can book a flight from Kajjansi domestic airport with the Aero link to Kihihi airport and drive for 2hours to Ruhija. If your coming from Kigali it would take you about 7hours. Ruhija gorilla trekking region is also birders spot since it has a range of bird species. Therefore bird watching or bird in can also be carried out in Ruhija gorilla trekking region apart from gorilla trekking. This is done with a an experienced guide in the areas of bamboo zones and swampy(Mubwindi) Birds like Slender billed Greenbul, Striking Handsome Francolin, Great bout turaco, Carruthers Cisticola, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Brown chested Alethe, Black bee eater, Grauers, Dusky crimson wing, Red faced woodland warbler among others can be spotted.
Nkuringo gorilla trekking region is found in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National park and it had four gorilla families three are the fully habituated ones that are ready for gorilla trekking and one that is the Posho gorilla family that is still under the habituation process. Just like the other gorilla trekking regions, Nkuringo region also offers gorilla trekking. The best time to come in Nkuringo is during the dry season reason being there is no rainfall or if it does rain since it’s a rainforest it is little rainfall therefore the roads and trails are dry and passable the vegetation is short which makes trekking simple and easy unlike during the wet season when the trails are muddy, slippery the vegetation is overgrown which makes trekking challenging. The dry season is normally the peak season this means that there are very many tourists in the park. And one is advised to book the trekking permit in advance since they are on a high demand are quickly sold out. And these permits are sold at 600dollars and 700dollars. Nkuringo region also offers gorilla habituation experience and the permits are sold at 1500dollars to the foreign non residents, 1000dollars to the foreign residents and 750000 to the East African citizens. The number of people allowed to trek a particular gorilla family is 8people per day and a group of 4 people are allowed to go for gorilla habituation experience. This there fore means that the number of gorilla permits available per day are 21 permits and for habituation permits are 4permits. The following are the gorilla groups that are in the Nkuringo gorilla trekking region. Nkuringo gorilla family has 12 members and the family is headed by Rwamutwe a black back. This gorilla family got its name from the Nkuringo hill where they were seen first. This group was the first to be habituated in 2004 and led by Nkuringo who died in 2008 leaving the two silverbacks Rafiki and Safari. Rafiki was killed in 2020 by the poachers. Bushaho gorilla family has 12 members including silverback Bahati, 1 black back, 5 adult females, 1 sub adult, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. This family is one of the most entertaining gorilla families in Bwindi and its as result of those who walked away from Nkuringo group inclusive of the silver Bahati. Christmas gorilla family has 9 members but 6 of them are the only ones that are seen during trekking for some reasons including 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 infant and 1 black back. Gorilla trekking in Nkuringo region takes about 2 to 6 hours.
This region can be accessed by use of both road and Air transport. Those coming from Entebbe or Kampala by road can use the route of Entebbe – Kampala via Masaka, Kabale, Muko, Nkuringo. Here you will have to branch off from Muko and drive to Nkuringo which is 38km on a rough road. This route takes about 10 hours roughly. Then there is a different route you can use From Entebbe, Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro, Mutanda then Nkuringo covering about 527km from Mutanda to Nkuringo you take a rough road which is 34km. And this roughly takes about 11hours roughly and it’s longer than the first route. Those coming from Rwanda that is Kigali via Cyanika border u I’ll drive and join the route from Kisoro and those using the Katuna border from Rwanda will drive 24km on a smooth road to Kabale Kisoro road and turn off at Muko to join 38km dirt road to Nkuringo and those from DRC via West Bunagana border to Kisoro town then the sector. Both border points are entry points and they are about 19km from Kisoro town. Those coming from Queen Elizabeth National park Ishasha sector can drive through Kihihi via Kanungu, and join Kabale Kisoro highway at Rubanda continue up to Muko where you branch off the highway to Nkuringo. This route is 160km and takes about 5hours.
Since there are four gorilla trekking regions for one to choose a place to stay will depend on the area of interest with regards to the regions. Since each trekking region has a vast of accommodation facilities catering for all classes that is from luxury, midrange, budget accommodation offering good services. These accommodation facilities are shortcuts to the gorilla trekking headquarters which makes it easier for travelers to catch up with the morning briefing. And this is a list of the places to stay in the different gorilla trekking regions. In Buhoma we have Buhoma lodge, Gorilla forest Camp, Mahogany springs Camp, Bwindi Volcano lodge, Silverback lodge, Bwindi view Banda’s, Buhoma Community Rest camp, Engagi lodge, Sanctuary gorilla Camp, Haven lodge, Lake Kitandira, CTPH gorilla Conservation Camp. In Rushaga we have Gorilla Hills Eco lodge, Bwindi Guest House, Lake Muhele gorilla lodge, Bwindi Cultural Center, Rushaga gorilla lodge, Ichumbi lodge, Rushaga gorilla safari lodge, Rushaga gorilla Camp, Wagtail safari lodge. In Ruhija gorilla trekking region we have Ruhija gorilla safari lodge, Trekkers Tavern Cottages, Broadbill forest Camp, Gift of nature lodge, Bakiga lodge, Ruhija safari Hotel, Ruhija community Rest Camp, Ruhija gorilla mist Camp, Ruhija friends Resort and Campsite. In Nkuringo region there is accommodation like; Nkuringo Bwindi gorilla lodge, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort, Chameleon Hill lodge, Gorilla Heights lodge. There are several facilities to stay in the gorilla trekking regions.
Apart from gorilla trekking that happens in these gorilla trekking regions, there are other activities that can be carried out in these regions. Primate tracking and viewing. Since Bwindi has 11 primate species like the chimpanzees, olive baboons, bush babies, Red tailed monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys, Potto, L’Hoests monkeys, blue monkeys, Vervets among others. Bird watching or Birding. The gorilla trekking regions of Bwindi have different bird species including the 24 Albertine Rift Endemics. Birding can be done around areas of Bamboo zone, swampy areas.. This can be carried out using the Birding trails which takes up to 2 to 6 hours and the Waterfall trails takes 4hours of completion. Some of the birds to be seen include; Bar tailed trogon, African wood Owl, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Green Tinker bird, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, , black billed Turaco, African black ducks, Great blue turaco, African Emerald Cuckoo, black faced rufous warblers, Western green tinker bird, Grauers Warbler, Yellow eyed flycatchers among others.
Forest and nature walks. These involves walking through the forest. And tourists are able to view the different attractions in the park like the different bird species, tree species, butterfly species, animals like forest elephants, warthogs, giant forest hog, leopards, buffaloes, duikers, Civet, bush pigs, waterfalls, different beautiful scenic views of the park.
Cultural tours and village walks. These give visitors a chance to interact with the locals, visiting different homes of the locals, gardens and plantations, schools and the Batwa people. This brings the visitors closer to the locals the learning an exploring about their cultures, norms and lifestyles. Other activities that can be involved in include mountain biking, boat riding or canoeing, game drives, hiking, Camping.