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Frequently Asked Questions/Information

What to Pack for Rwanda or Uganda Holiday

What to pack for a Rwanda or Uganda holiday requires a bit more thoughts. It is also important to note that what to pack for your holiday can also determine the quality of experience of the whole tour. This also depends on the demands or nature of your tour activities you’re planning like safari, trekking, hiking, bird watching, cycling, mention it you intend to enjoy. Here are the top things you need to consider while packing for a Rwanda or Uganda tour.

What to pack for Rwanda and Uganda Holiday CLOTHES

  1. Shirts
Long sleeves on a gorilla trek are recommended.
Long sleeved on a gorilla trekking

Activities like gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking require you to pack long sleeved Shirts, Tops and trousers. This is to protect your skin from wild insect bites like bees, wild Ants, tsetse flies among others.

Since it’s a road trip, drives require to pack open light clothing (short sleeved shirts) since its hot during the day time, light clothing saves you from the inconveniences of too much heat.

Take natural and light-colored clothing – avoid the glaring primary and neon colors that get you spotted first. Black garments will get you baking in the sun, while white clothes will create glare and become brownish soon anyway. Camo wear isn’t necessary, just go with neutral tones.

  1. Jumper or Sweater
Jacket on a gorilla trek
Warm jacket on a gorilla trek

Much of Rwanda and Uganda tours have trekking in rain forests of Bwindi and Volcanoes and Kibale national park. Its usual business to rain  in these areas regardless of the wet or dry season. Be prepared for cold weather. Some parts of the country and the parks are located in highlands where nights are cold. Dawn and sunset drives in vehicle can turn quite chilly. We advice to carry a sweater and wind proof parka  shell for such conditions.

Alternatively, activities conducted in parks demand you to mind about the color of your safari clothing. We recommend Khaki, Brown colors, grey, army green among other dull colors that blend with the natural environment. And if you are planning to dive and have a great time in the Mulago hot spring waters, swim in the hotel pool or lake Bunyonyi, don’t forget to carry your swimming costumes.

A warm hat (aka a beanie) – early mornings and evenings can get chilly especially on game drives so take a warm hat.

  1. Water proof rain Jackets
Rain gear while in Volcanoes national park
Rain jacket on Mt Bisoke

In tourists’ destinations like Bwindi forest, Volcanoes national park, Kibale forest national park, you will need a strong water proof rain jacket that can be of help in case it rains while trekking.

A small waterproof pack can also help you protect your important documents while trekking from rain waters.

 

 

 

  1. Shoes

Activities like gorilla trekking, chimp trekking require you to carry light strong outdoor boots to ease movement in the forest jungle while trekking. Closed water proof shoes are comfortable for walking in the bush or in wet conditions. You don’t need Doc Martens or army boots, north face, jack wolfskin and similar outdoor wear brands are better choices. Leave the platforms and high-heels at home.

Gorilla trekking boots
Hiking shoes after a gorilla trek

Open shoes – lightweight, slip-on shoes for around the hotel, at the pool or on the boat.

While of safari, you don’t need closed shoes and boots since we spend most of the time in the vehicle just enjoying the game drive;  slip on shoes or open shoes will be comfortable for the day.

 

 

 

  1. Gloves

The gloves will protect your hands from germs as you try to support yourself on plant trees along the walking trails. They will also protect you from thorns as you try to grab branches for support while on your trek.

Slipping and falling is common on wet conditions while trekking, gloves will protect your palms when they hit the ground.

  1. Sun protection

Sun block; an eco-friendly 30 SPF (or higher) sunscreen.

A safari hat. Avoid the floppy straw hat, as experience has shown that you’ll spend more time clutching onto it than the shade is worth!

Sunglasses are excellent for keeping dust and small flying insects out of your eyes, as well as the blazing African sun.

  1. Back packer

A back Packer bag is significant in carrying your small items like water, lunch boxes, snacks, repellents, few basic toiletries, first Aid kit sanitizers among others. For activities like gorilla trekking, you may choose to hire a porter at $15 to assist you carry your back packer.

  1. A face mask

A face mask is still required with gorilla tracking. Since gorillas are our closest cousins, we share almost 97% of the DNA. This means we can easily infect them with our disease and they we can as well contract diseases to them. In order protect them; a mask will be a must when you draw close to spend an hour with them. Please carry one for their survival.

  1. Medication

Medication: malaria prophylactics are advised and any personal medication (also take your prescription in case of an emergency – your medication gets lost, wet or eaten by a baboon!

  1. Insect repellant

Insect repellent does NOT replace the need for anti-malaria medication! Packing insect repellents is recommended in conjunction with malaria prophylaxis. Not getting bitten and bugged by mosquitoes also makes traveling far more pleasant, but taking anti-malaria medication is the most essential part so check if you need to take precautions well in advance

  1. A pair of binoculars

Binoculars yield better views of big game animals, and allow you to see small creatures that would otherwise remain invisible. In the bush, you will be using them constantly, so please carry one if possible

  1. Camera

Bush Africans may consider cameras regular pieces of the tourist’s everyday dress, just like their own beaded jewelry. They could be right; you may even be tempted to carry a camera to the bathroom! Everything is mesmerizing and every tourist spots a camera. Please don’t forget to ensure you have a good phone camera or a professional one (any brand of your choice) for a photographic record of your safari.

  1.  power bank

Due to consistent use of your phone camera, sometimes the battery is drained in the field making it impossible to capture those great moments. Please carry one if possible

  1. Charger and adjustable plugs

It’s advisable to carry your own phone charger since it might be hard to find one of its make here in Uganda. An adjustable plug will be perfect since some sockets don’t match the plugs.

To mention but a few, the packing list for a Rwanda or Uganda is endless. However, we spotted out some and you can think of a lot I haven’t mentioned above and pack them for that spectacular holiday. Please feel free to contact us for recommendation of what best to put on for a specific activity to avoid over or unnecessary packing.

 

When to go to Gorilla trekking| Choose the best time

Gorilla trekking is undoubtedly the most exciting adventure on every traveler’s bucket list planning to visit Africa. An up-close-and-personal encounter with the mountain gorillas of East Africa is more than a strenuous day hike with great apes for company in the famous Volcanoes national park and Bwindi impenetrable national park. 

Silverback pause on a gorilla trek
Tourists pausing with a silverback on a gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park

For most visitors it is the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition. All the hard work is worthwhile for some time spent observing these gentle giants in their natural habitat. No cages here, just you and the world’s largest primates, deep in the jungle!

Visiting gorillas in the wild is to wind back the clock of human evolution; to look into the mirror, and magically see a 10 million-year-old version of you staring right back! They are 98% genetically identical to humans, after all. The gorillas are some of our closest relatives in the wild, and being in their presence is an honor.

Planning a gorilla trekking tour involves considering the best time to go and have the best of it and this can greatly determine how much you get to enjoy the journey to the gentle giants and this entirely lies on the seasons in Uganda and Rwanda.

Best season to go gorilla trekking.

There are basically 2 seasons in Uganda and Rwanda and these are mainly the wet and dry seasons;

December, January and February -Dry season

March, April and May -Wet season

June, July and August -Dry season

September, October and November –Wet season

Both counties receive 2 dry seasons and 2 wet seasons in a year but the dry season is the most recommended and preferred to many planning for a gorilla tour basing on some reasons.

The Gorilla trekking Experience

Gorilla trekking experience
Gorilla trekking experience

Since its clear that this amazing adventure experience takes place in the thick rain forest just astride the equator, there is even more rain received here than any other areas of the countries. Gorilla trekking isn’t an easy outdoor activity; it involves hiking forested mountains, crossing rivers and very muddy swamps.

With heavy down pours in the wet season, the activity becomes even more challenging; the forest floor is very muddy, the steep slopes become very slippery, lianas and trunks wet with fungus and algae you can’t bear to hold onto, swamps now full beyond the height of your boots and of course rain itself over your head makes it uncomfortable for you and your gadgets.

Many base on these to choose gorilla trekking in the dry season, when there is less rain received in the forest and low expectation however much it’s a rainforest. At this time, the forest floor isn’t so muddy and the slopes aren’t slippery making it easy to walk and hike, the board walk through in the swamps are visible making it easy to cross.

Accessibility to Gorilla trekking Destination 

Driving through Bwindi impenetrable forest
Marram road through Bwindi impenetrable forest

Places like Bwindi impenetrable national park, are found in the remote villages of southwestern Uganda with very poor road network from the well paved roads. This makes accessibility in the wet season quite challenging as you drive through the bumpy, water logged slippery tiny roads on winding on the cliffs of the mountain to the tracking point.

In the dry season, the roads are still bumpy but much easier to drive through even without the need of 4 wheel driving. It’s just a matter of bearing the dusty drives and enjoy the scenery to the home of the great apes.

However, the wet season has got lots of challenges in the trekking park but their advantages that come along if you manage to bear the hardships.

Gorilla trekking Baby boom!

Baby gorilla ridding on the back of his mum in Bwenge family of Rwanda
Female gorilla and her baby in Agasha gorilla family

If you are a fun of animal babies, the wet season is the best time to watch baby gorillas. It has been observed that there are more births in the wet season than in the dry season. During the wet season, mountain gorilla welcome new family members and the number of females in the family will determine the number of babies they will have in the wet season. If you happen to track a family with many females, there are chances of seeing more babies. Imagine watching a one day old baby gorilla!

Many people are always worried about mosquitoes in fear of contracting malaria in the wet season but this is something to less worry about. Bwindi impenetrable national park and Volcanoes national park where mountain gorillas live are on an altitude ranging between 1500 – 2600m ASL.  Such altitude is cold for mosquitoes to breed and live perfectly in numbers. Rare encounters can easy be scared off by a mere insect repellant.

Price comparison 

Yes! Your timing to go gorilla trekking can have an impact on the cost of your gorilla trekking tour.

As earlier mentioned, most people prefer the dry season to go gorilla trekking due to the reasons discussed above. This attracts mass numbers turning up for the activity in the same time creating high demand for accommodations around gorilla trekking destinations. This is the reason why most of these hotels have low season rates (wet season) and high season rates (dry season).

If you are planning for a wet season gorilla trek, you have more chances of saving some dimes than someone planning for a dry season.

Singita Kwitonda Lodge
Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National park

In a nutshell, the best time to go gorilla trekking to many would be in the dry season due to the ease in the trekking part of it but the experience but gorilla trekking can be done in any of the season throughout the year in Uganda and Rwanda provided you’re ready for it.

Once you’ve decided on the convenient month to have your gorilla trek, secure a gorilla permit in time since they are scarce and sold out on first come first serve basis. This will guarantee you that you will have a chance to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures that can’t be found elsewhere in the world but in the thick rush green jungles Rwanda and Uganda.

What are my chances of seeing the Mountain Gorillas?

How much are the chances of seeing the gorillas?

gorilla-trekking-in-rwandaThis is a frequent question asked by many tourists planning to track gorillas. To many, meeting these gentle giants has been on top of their to do list while in Africa; to pause right in front of our close cousins in the thick misty jungles of the Virunga massive.

Such a surreal experience brings a question to many excited to tick off this amazing outdoor adventure activity how lucky they will be to make it face to face with the world’s only remaining mountain gorillas; how sure are you that  will see them?   

The good news we have are that your chances are 90%.

Here is the whole thing;

Gorillas have no permanent home or territory in the forest. They are non-ruminant vegetarians moving throughout the forest feeding on different plants like wild celery, bamboo shoots and others. Everyday, they start their day as soon as the sun rises and start feeding on the move with the whole family. Later in the evening when the sun sets, they will make nests to end their day right there throughout the night. This is their order of the day and this goes on in close monitoring of park rangers and trackers.

As early as 6am, pre-trackers head into the forest to the last GPS location of a Gorilla Family. From there, they follow the tracks left by the gorillas including their discarded food, broken branches and fallen grass. 

Gorillas don’t move very fast like chimpanzees, they actually move less than three kilometers a day. They will follow their movement trail until they find them shortly since they are just starting their day. 

When they find the gorilla family, the GPS location and other references are communicated to park Trailhead where your rangers are. Its at this moment, that the rangers will inform you whether your trek will be long, medium or short according to the information from the pre-trackers. 

Incase the family is not reachable or can’t be accessed due to different reasons, he will be informed as well by the pre trackers and no one will not be allocated to such a family.

All families are first sighted by the pre-trackers and confirm to your rangers to continues to the directions where they are as they keep communicating about their movement.

However, sometimes the family may be sighted by pre trackers quite close at the beginning of the tracking trail which means it will be easy but at the end turns difficult as they move in the direction further ahead at a higher speed that yours and at times through terrains. This makes it hard and long!

On the other hand, a family may be sighted by pre-trackers quite far away from the beginning of the trail but they walk toward your starting point. This makes the long trek turn into a short one.

Certificate awarded on a successful gorilla trek

All in all, nature is unpredictable but at the end of the day there will be a big smile mounted on your face to last for generations; one of the greatest wildlife encounter in Africa- Mountain Gorillas trekking

 

Is Gorilla Trekking Difficult or Easy?

This is a common question many planning for gorilla trekking ask, this comes from the mere fact that this lifetime adventure activity is not easy and physical fitness is advised. We draft a picture of the gorilla trekking experience in this article and at the end of it you will realize how this outdoor activity gets easy for some trekkers and quite hard for others.

Tourists taking a break while on a gorilla trek in Bwindi impenetrable national park

For many visitors, the tracking portion of the experience is just as exciting as the actual gorilla viewing. For others, it is a sheer torture. How it goes will depend very much on your physical condition, the weather, and the amount of time you spend hiking. Sometimes gorillas are found within fifteen minutes of entering the forest; a real stroll in the park. On other occasions, gorilla watchers must slog down and up densely vegetated, slippery slopes for more than four hours before making contact, then spend the same amount of time walking out; an utterly exhausting experience. The actual condition of your gorilla tracking session will depend on the luck of the day. All you can do is being prepared physically and mentally for this lifetime adventure.

A black back gorilla looking at tourists while on a gorilla trek

The best advice that makes this tough activity quite easier is to take a porter with you. A porter will be very important in your trekking; carrying your heavy bag full of packed lunch, water and other gadgets or clothing. He/she can help can give you a pull or push in the tough times while sloping or hiking steep slopes and slippery floors.  A porter is paid a minimum of $20 and at the end of it all it’s really worth it. It’s also another way of supporting the community that is surrounding the park hence appreciating tourism activities and the apes.

Tourist start the gorilla trek with a porter carrying her heavy bag

Alternatively, there is a better solution for those who can’t even give a try due to their physical disability; the sedan seat stretcher, famously called the “helicopter” in Bwindi National Park, is a comfortable seat fixed to a metallic platform with handles that is lifted on shoulders by a group of four young and energetic men. The handicapped or elderly person is carried shoulder high to the gorillas and back.

In Rwanda, a well-sawn stretcher is what is used to carry the handicapped or disabled person to the gorillas. Unlike the “helicopter” chair in Uganda that a person sits on and is carried in that sitting posture, the stretcher used with Rwanda gorilla tours is flexible as it allows one to lie-down or seat as you are carried through the trekking.

Aging tourist had his dream to see gorillas on a sketcher

It’s also advisable to inform your tour guide your condition or any challenge you know may hinder your trekking. In most cases, he may try to discuss with the rangers and they try to find the best way to go about it. However, it’s not a guarantee that they can make any change with nature.

In conclusion, a gorilla trek can turn out to be difficult or easy depending on natural factors which no one has control over them. Since gorillas are located in rain forests, rain can’t be predicted regardless of the current season. On the side of the gorillas, they have no permanent homes and keep on moving day by day in quest for better food. When you’re lucky and they are at the beginning of your trail, you will see them in less than an hour and if you’re unfortunate and they have moved quite far away, you will have to trek for hours to find them.

Keep in mind that almost every tracking session is successful in finding the gorillas. Generally, only those who give up miss their viewing.

Gorilla Habituation| Bwindi's unique gorilla experience

Gorilla habituation in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable forest is the only unique and authentic way to experience the life of the gentle giants.

Watching gorillas in the wild can be a captivating experience that can take your breath away and leave you feeling in awe of nature. As majestic primates, gorillas have a certain grace that can be mesmerizing to watch.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park
On a gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park.

Gorillas are often seen in their social groups, engaging in various behaviors like eating, resting, grooming, playing and even defending their territory. There can be many males in a group, and they usually take the lead in the formation of their family units. Some of their members may even form strong bonds with one another, having regular interactions and interactions with other groups of gorillas in their area. As you watch them on your trek, you may also be lucky enough to witness some of their wild antics, such as chest-beating, displaying of teeth and maybe even alarm calls.

The standard or normal gorilla treks give you the chance to spend up to one hour in the company of the gorillas in their natural habitat. This has been made possible by gently introducing the gorillas to human presence, a process that takes between 2 and 4 years. This is essential for the continued research, care and conservation of the gorillas.

Gorillas aren’t always so placid in the presence of people: it takes time and effort to achieve this relaxed, almost nonchalant attitude in a process known as habituation. Bwindi’s exciting new gorilla experience allows you to be part of this process by tracking a group that is only semi-habituated. During habituation, trackers visit wild gorilla groups every day for around three years, gradually getting closer and spending longer in their company. At the semi-habituated stage, the primates are familiar with trackers but not strangers, so this new experience can now help them get used to seeing different people.

Why Gorilla Habituation?

Gorilla habituation is an experience that can only be enjoyed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is the only park in the world that permits habituation visits by tourists. During a gorilla habituation experience, visitors will follow a research team that is observing the group of wild gorillas and helping them become comfortable with human presence. Visitors will learn a great deal about the gorillas, including research facts, behavior, and ecology. The experience typically begins by meeting the trackers at 6am before setting out to find the gorillas. This experience is often described as intimate and awe-inspiring, with visitors feeling a strong connection to the family of gorillas.

Gorilla habituation experience
Trackers collecting samples on a gorilla habituation experience

During a habituation trek, you can spend up to 4 magical hours with these highly intelligent and emotional creatures! It is an incredibly humbling experience, and the habituation process is fundamental to the continued protection of the gorillas.

In traditional encounters, trackers have already found your gorillas and they take you directly to them. Instead, this four-hour experience  on a gorilla habituation starts from where the gorillas were last seen the previous evening. You walk with the trackers, learning the tell-tale signs that eventually lead to the primates’ nests; such as knuckle prints in the mud, bent and broken vegetation and discarded food. Gorillas build new nests each night then move on looking for food: what they leave behind is vital for checking their health and numbers. At the nests, the team collects samples of hair and dung before continuing their search.

Gorilla nest
A gorilla nest with discarded food

It’s only when you find the gorillas that the real challenge begins. The point of habituation is to follow the group and stay in their vision as they move, eventually getting closer to reach that magical 7m cut-off point. But unlike fully habituated groups who mooch around patiently during your permitted hour, these gorillas move fast to feed, dashing through dense rainforest, storming up and down slippery slopes and crawling on knuckles through bushes, with you and the tracker team in hot pursuit. It’s like a rainforest boot camp, and it’s not for the unfit or fainthearted!

The gorillas observed during the habituation experience are less used to humans than those seen on the standard gorilla treks (they are still being ‘habituated’). The experience is still completely safe, and the benefit of spending more time with gorillas is that you can better understand their behaviors and social dynamics, as well as get incredible photographs, without being rushed.

Gorilla habituation experience
Tourist on a gorilla habituation experience

If you are willing to take a more active role in the protection and understanding of these gentle giants, you can book to join the rangers and conservationists in the habituation process of two more gorilla families in the Bwindi impenetrable forest. It is important to note that gorilla habituation requires a special permit and they are very limited, so its advisable to contact us in time to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

 

What is a gorilla permit?

A gorilla permit is a pass that allows you to do the trek to see Gorillas.

This is issued by the park relevant authorities in the respective destinations and that is;  Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for gorilla permits in Uganda – trekking in Bwindi & Mgahinga,  Rwanda Development Authority (RDB) for Rwanda gorilla permits – trekking in  Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park Authority for Congo gorilla permits – trekking in Virunga and Kahuzi Biega. Your pass allows you to see, photograph and watch the Gorillas for up to a maximum of 1 hour in each of these destinations

How to get a gorilla permit?

You need Gorilla permit / pass to be able to take part in Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Uganda, Volcanoes Rwanda or Virunga and Kahuzi Biega for Lowland Gorillas in Congo. So, if you are wondering how to get a Gorilla permit Uganda or Rwanda & Congo Gorilla trekking permit, Gorilla Holidays Uganda Ltd is your ultimate answer! We will book your Gorilla permit immediately when you confirm your safari and provide relevant and accurate information for your trek and general travel information as may be required for the success of your safari. Booking a Gorilla trekking tour with us is a guaranteed way of getting a permit.

Once we secure your permit, trekking with Gorillas will be guaranteed – you will see the Gorillas! It is important to note that Uganda and Rwanda gorilla permits are have a very high demand and quickly sell out most especially during peak / high seasons months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. It is not unusual that permits can sell out several months in advance; for example, some dates in July and August 2018 have already sold out as I write this!

Some ask; what is a Gorilla permit? It is simply a pass that allows you to do the trek to see Gorillas. This is issued by the park relevant authorities in the respective destinations and that is;  Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for gorilla permits in Uganda – trekking in Bwindi & Mgahinga,  Rwanda Development Authority (RDB) for Rwanda gorilla permits – trekking in  Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park Authority for Congo gorilla permits – trekking in Virunga and Kahuzi Biega. Your pass allows you to see, photograph and watch the Gorillas for up to a maximum of 1 hour in each of these destinations.

You may be excited however, to learn about the possibility of watching Gorillas for up to 4 hours on a Gorilla habituation experience! This is only available in Uganda at the moment and only in the southern section of Bwindi called Rushaga for $1500 per person. You can contact us for more about Gorilla habituation experience.

Cost of a gorilla permit? In Uganda, it costs $600 each, $1,500 each in Rwanda and $400 in Congo.

Other options on how to get a gorilla permit include contacting the relevant issuing authorities directly but in many cases, you will be either disappointed or delayed! The issuing offices are always busy and you can call multiple times without anyone answering and you may wait 3 weeks to receive a response to your email!

Even if you won’t take the whole package and only interested in booking a permit and taking care of the rest on your own, we are happy to help. Contact us.

Watching Gorillas in Bwindi Forest

Nothing quite prepares you for the moment when you come upon a gorilla family in the wild. No bars, no windows – you’re a humble guest in their domain. Coming face to face with mountain gorillas is one of life’s great experiences. And we’ll make this happen.

The reward of seeing the gorillas more than makes up for the effort of reaching them.
This epic journey to the dense forest of Bwindi ticked off her bucket list. being with these incredible gentle giants is a truly moving experience. Mesmerizing to watch, your permitted hour flies by as they carry on their daily business of eating, sleeping, preening and playing, usually paying little attention to onlookers. Youngsters chase each other, swing in trees, and laugh and squeal just like children. Mums dote on babies, suckling and cradling them, and big daddy silver back watches over them all.

Gorilla Trekking outstanding lodges in 2023

Gorilla trekking is arguably one of the greatest wildlife encounter in Africa. For most travelers, its a must do once they start planning to go to Africa.

Mountain gorillas are found in two separate locations: the Virunga range of extinct volcanic mountains on the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Here are the most out standing gorilla trekking  lodges many guests have never regretted to book with us for their gorilla trek but rather plan to come back again and endure the tough gorilla trekking with an aim of staying in these little paradise hidden deep in the rush juggles of East Africa which gorillas call home.

Gorilla Trekking outstanding lodges

  1. Wilderness Bisate lodge

Wilderness Bisate in Volcanoes national park
Wilderness Bisate lodge in Volcanoes national park

Located in the Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, Bisate’s pod-like thatched suites blend into the forest with onion dome-esque verve that looks like something out of Dr. Seuss. The luxury level here, though, is no joke: Wilderness Safaris is one of Africa’s finest operators, and they’ve spared no expense in building what’s probably the best base camp for spotting gorillas on the planet.

Each 91 square meter villa consists of a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and bathroom, all warmed by a central fireplace and with breathtaking views out across your private deck towards Mount Bisoke.

If your goal is spotting gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, this should be your home base.

  1. Singita Kwitonda lodge

Singita Kwitonda Lodge
Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National park

Singita’s debut in Rwanda on the very edge of Volcanoes National Park, makes for a compelling reason to add gorilla-trekking on you to do list while in Africa.

Designed with respect to and in acknowledgment of its remarkable location, Singita Kwitonda Lodge has been built in response to the natural geology of the site. With sustainability as a fundamental design focus, it treads lightly on the land and offers an intimate engagement with the landscape and a sense of solitude within nature.

A stay at Singita Kwitonda Lodge allows guests the unique opportunity to encounter one of Africa’s most majestic creatures in the wild, while immersed in the beauty of their pristine natural habitat. The lodge provides a contemplative, nurturing space in which to appreciate the transformative experience of coming face to face with the forest’s gentle giants.

  1. One and Only Gorilla nest

One and only gorilla nest
One and only gorilla nest in Volcanoes national park

The constant sound of nature and local life is just one of the things that make the One & Only Gorilla Nest a place to experience the wild spirit of Rwanda. Rooms are  styled like tree houses up stilts, and with a design that draws the outside in. Like the wooden decks that look out over the eucalyptus forest around, and the decor in shades of browns with Rwandan imigongo motifs.

The surrounding landscape. This is perhaps why the hotel’s bar, restaurant and spa are all separately dotted down a path that weaves through the grounds: It gives the sense of wandering through a garden while further down the slopes, there are traditional Rwandan villages where the locals still farm the volcanic soil and the chef’s garden. Then, of course, the hotel’s restaurant and bar are places where the chatter is almost wholly gorilla-related after the day’s encounter with the great apesSabinyo silverback lodge

  1. Gorilla heights Lodge

Gorilla heights lodge in Bwindi Impenetrable forest

Gorilla Heights Lodge occupies the axis of Bwindi impenetrable forest‘s Nkuringo sector, a gently sloping hill that soars at cloud level, sitting at 2,100meters above sea level. Whoever stays at this lodge remembers it as the highest vantage point in the Southern wing of Bwindi.

The horizon, as seen from the lodge, hovers over the park’s forest canopy, creating a surprising blend of a blue & green hued skyline. The cherry on the cake is the view of Virunga’s jagged mountain ranges that straddle Uganda’s borders with Congo and Rwanda.

 

  1. Nkuringo Gorilla lodge

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge is a good choice for those looking for a remote experience in the heart of Bwindi impenetrable Forest. Compared to the northern area of the forest, this lodge is set on its own, and has access to Nkuringo and Rushaga gorilla trekking sectors on an 8 minutes and 40 minutes drive respectively.

The lodge is famous for the breathtaking  panoramic views of the majestic volcanoes – the Virunga chain, Bwindi Forest and the escarpment into the Albertine Rift Valley within the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The lodge has a cozy and intimate feel to it, with roaring fireplaces, freshly made food and an inviting dining room with views of the Virunga Volcanoes. The lodge has eight cottages and are located around the main area, overlooking the Bwindi Forest. The lodge has a spa which is the perfect place to restore harmony of mind, body and spirit in the forest.

harmony of mind, body and spirit in the forest.

 

     6. Gahinga lodge

Gahinga lodge in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Gahinga lodge in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

Located at the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, Mgahinga Gorilla national park is just a walk away from Gahinga lodge. This has made the lodge a famous spot to tick off a stunning array of bucket list experiences like gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking and volcanoes hikes.

The bandas are all decorated in the creative spirit of the Bufimbira people and a private butler service is standard for all guests, with your every whim catered to.

Relish delicious meals served al fresco surrounded by rolling mountain ranges or in the dining room. Spend relaxing hours in the comfortable lounge, strolling around the colorful gardens, or reading a good book in the shade of a leafy tree.

7. Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp

Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp
Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp in Bwindi Impenetrable forest

Set on a flat ridge, deep within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s Buhoma sector, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is a remote and atmospheric mountain sanctuary.

The only accommodation know for its gorilla visits in the premises of the camp since its  located within the national park.  The camp boasts an unrivalled location with exceptional wildlife and birdlife viewing opportunities. Eight tents feature queen-sized beds and generous bathtubs that look out onto the forest canopy.

Guests can sample delicious fare or enjoy an evening drink in the cosy bar and dining cottage overlooking the rainforest. In fine weather, meals are served al fresco on a raised natural platform that blends into the surroundings.

Rwanda Gorilla naming ceremony- Kwita Izina 2023

19th Gorilla naming ceremony- Kwita Izina 2023
19th Gorilla naming ceremony- Kwita Izina 2023

Kwita izina is Rwanda’s Gorilla naming ceremony scheduled to take place on the 1st of September 2023.

This will mark the 19th edition of the prominent conservation event which has become a major highlight on Africa’s tourism calendar.

23 baby mountain gorillas born in the last 12 months will be named during the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony. The event will take place on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi, Musanze District, joining the communities living around the home of the endangered mountain gorillas in the ultimate celebration of nature and conservation.

Kwita Izina – A big East Africa tourism event

Gorilla naming place- Kwita Izina
The Gorilla naming place- Kwita Izina at Volcanoes national park

Since the beginning of the naming ceremony first held in 2005, 374 baby gorillas have been named.

According to the statement, this year’s namers will be unveiled closer to the day. They include notable partners, conservationists, international and local personalities, as well as dignitaries and friends of Rwanda.

Today, Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve Rwanda’s natural heritage and further expand the role of tourism in the country’s transformation. As a result of the naming ceremony, Rwandans from all walks of life understand the intrinsic value of gorillas and their contribution to the country’s economic prosperity. Rwandans have become gorilla guardians.

Overall, Rwanda has emerged as a conservation and sustainable tourism leader on the continent. For instance, while in the 2010 Census, there were 480 mountain gorillas, the 2016 Census report indicated 604 individuals in the Virunga Massif. These efforts have contributed to the increase in mountain gorillas worldwide (1,063) and are categorised as no longer critically endangered.

The Chief Executive Officer of RDB, Clare Akamanzi, noted that in 2022, Rwanda’s gorilla tourism was the best performing segment, adding that the trend shows that 2023 is expected to grow further and take the sector beyond recovery and towards national targets.

“This means the communities are benefiting more, tourists are getting enhanced experiences and the gorilla populations are thriving, thanks to all stakeholders who actively participate in their daily conservation,” she said.

While there are reports of decline in ape populations, the mountain gorillas are on the rise. The most recent census conducted in the Virunga Massif, which safeguards Rwanda’s gorillas, reported a rise in the gorilla population to 604 individuals. With a further 459 registered in Bwindi, the population of the mountain gorillas surpassed 1060 individuals and the International Union for Conservation of nature reclassified the species from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’ in 2018.

This positive outcome is the result of the collective efforts of national conservation authorities, supportive local communities residing near the park, and the international community.

Conservation remains a top priority in Rwanda, and the country is engaged in safeguarding wildlife from extinction. Last year, initiated a project to expand Volcanoes National Park by 37.4 sq km, aiming to provide a better habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas. This expansion project, costing a projected US$255 million, intends to increase the park’s size by 25%.

Gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda
Guests at Kwita Izina ceremony

Kwita Izina is a free event. It is operated on a basis of invitations as well as prior registration of interested participants from around the world. In order to take part, you can contact Rwanda development board for more details.

Over the years, the Kwita Izina Ceremony has gained global recognition, attracting thousands of international, regional, and local visitors. Last year’s event, the 18th edition, witnessed a massive of tens of thousands of attendees, including locals, tourists, celebrities, and nobles. The chief namer was Charles, the now crowned king of England.

 

Gorilla Families in Rwanda

Gorilla family is a close-knit and devoted group of gorillas. They live in small family groups and are very protective of each other. The family usually consists of an adult dominant male known as the silverback, several adult females, juveniles and at times new babies.

The silverback is the leader of the group and is responsible for providing food, protection, and guidance. He is also the leader in mating decisions. The female gorillas provide parental care and protection for the young and help to ensure the safety of the group.

The young gorillas are very playful and curious. They learn to climb, forage for food, and develop social skills from their parents. The young gorillas often stay with their parents for several years, until they are old enough to find a mate and form their own family groups.

There are currently 10 wellstudied family groups within the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, including the famous  Susa group, the Habinyanja group, and the Kwitonda group. The majority of these families are fully habituated for gorilla trekking, allowing tourists to enter the park and observe the gorillas in their natural habitat.

In this article, we bring you all the gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.

Susa Family 

The biggest gorilla family in Rwanda

The Susa group, made famous by the zoologist Dian Fossey and her research activities, is one of the most preferred gorilla groups by visitors. The group now contains 28 members including 3 silverbacks. The name “Susa” in Kinyarwanda was borrowed from the nearby Susa river. The gorilla group initially had 42 members before it broke into two because of a feud. This gorilla family tends to live high up in the mountains and hence the most difficult to track – sometimes taking a whole day. Park rangers always know their location but on days when they wander too far away, tourists may not be allowed access to them. The famous playful young twins Byishimo and Impano make this gorilla group full of activity and exciting to watch. Then there is Poppy, one of the oldest habituated gorillas. If you are adventurous and fit, this might just be the gorilla family for you.

 

Karisimbi Family 

Karisimbi is one of the gorilla families in Volcanoes national park

This gorilla group has 15 members and is usually found on the slopes of the Karisimbi volcano. This is the gorilla family that split from Susa (Susa-A) after a long feud and hence the name Susa-B or more commonly Karisimbi. Tracking this gorilla group is difficult and if they wander too far on a particular day, gorilla tracking activities can be cancelled. The trackers usually go ahead of the visitors to confirm the location of the gorilla family and then relay this information to colleagues leading the tourists. If you are in great shape and can endure the long trek up the Karisimbi volcano slopes, get ready to be rewarded with beautiful scenery that makes the whole experience worth every penny.

 

 

Sabinyo Family

Guhonda from sabinyo family is the largest silverback in Rwanda.

This is a small gorilla group of about 8 members led by the powerful silverback Guhonda. At 220kgs, Guhonda is perhaps the largest silverback in the park. The group derives its name from the Sabyinyo “Old man’s teeth” Volcano around which they live. Guhonda has kept his family together by excluding and relegating his rival silverback Ryango to a loner outside the group. The group contains playful juveniles and is easy to spot because they stay near the park’s edge.

 

 

 

 

Amahoro Family

The Amahoro gorilla family contains 17 members led by Ubumbwe

The Amahoro gorilla family contains 17 members led by Ubumbwe. The group name means “peaceful” and Ubumbwe the dominant silverback has always demonstrated this quality while leading the group. Ubumbwe remains calm and peaceful even after losing a few group members to Charles, another silverback formerly with the group. Charles took advantage of Ubumbwes calmness to steal some females and to form the Umubano group. The Amahoro gorilla family lives on the slopes of Mount Visoke. Though reaching the group involves climbing a steep slope, visitors love this group because of their juveniles, predictability and calmness.

 

 

 

Umubano Family 

Umubano means living together

Umubano means “living together”. The Umubano group was once part of the Amahoro family until Charles the leader broke away from Ubumbwe, the Amahoro dominant silverback. As he grew older he started undermining the calm Amahoro group leader. After constant confrontation with Ubumbwe, Charles decided to make off with some females from the Amahoro family to start his own. The gorilla family contains 11 individuals with 6 youngsters and lives in the area near the Amahoro family. This gorilla group is visited by many tourists because of the less effort required to reach them as well as the unique personality of the group.

 

Agashya  Family

Agasha is also known as group 13

This group was known as “Group 13” and led by Nyakarima before Agashya challenged him to a deadly fight after which he made off with the entire family up the volcano. This complete takeover was the first to be observed by gorilla researchers. After moving as far away as possible from Nyakairima, Agashya continued increasing his family number by stealing members from other groups and taking on loners. The group lives near the Sabyinyo gorilla group. Whenever he senses trouble for the group, Agashya gathers all members and flees to his favorite safety spot on top of the volcano. Because of this, the gorilla group can be difficult to track. The group has now grown from 13 to about 25 members.

 

Kwitonda Family

Kwitonda means humble. The family has 18 members.

With 18 individuals that include two silverbacks, this is a difficult group to track. Led by Kwitonda “humble one in Kinyarwanda”, this group originated from Gorilla groups in Congo. They live around the slopes of Mount Muhabura but tend to move within a wide geographical area that makes tracking cumbersome but exciting.

 

 

 

 

Hirwa Family

Hirwa means lucky one

This is a relatively new group that was created when some individuals from Group 13 and the Sabyinyo family came together to form their own group. They are found on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo led by a dominant and very protective silverback. The Hirwa name means “lucky one” because the group was lucky to have more individuals join them voluntarily. This unusual group formation was witnessed in 2006 and now has 16 members including twins. Locating this group can be difficult on certain days.

 

 

Bwenge Family

Bwenge means wisdom and member of this family featured in the movie “Gorilla in the mist”

Bwenge means “wisdom”. Some of the gorilla group members featured in the drama “Gorillas in the Mist”. The group was formed in 2007 by Bwenge, the dominant silverback after leaving his group of birth and being joined by female members from other families. The family contains 11 individuals but reaching them is difficult as they live up a steep and sometimes muddy hill on the slopes of Karisoke Volcano.

 

 

 

 

The Ugenda group

The Ugenda group lives around the Karisimbi area and contains 11 members including 2 silverbacks. Ugenda means “being on the move” in Kinyarwanda and was used in reference to the roving nature of the group. Because of their wandering habit, tracking them can be very difficult on some days.

 

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda & Uganda

Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda-Uganda

Chimpanzees trekking may get much less hype in the travel media  compared to gorilla trekking but it’s arguably one of the most amazing adventure experiences while in Africa. Tracking our closest relative through the African jungle is in fact one of the world’s most thrilling wildlife encounters. Although there are around 300,000 chimpanzees left in the equatorial forests of Africa, observing them in their natural habitat is a rare treat.

Chimpanzee family in Kibale national park
A chimpanzee family in Kibale National park.

Gorillas may be Rwanda and Uganda’s star attraction, but coming face-to-face with a wild chimpanzee is every bit as breathlessly exhilarating. In fact, this experience is arguably better, because the terrain is much easier, the forest less dense, the chimpanzees easier to find, and the price significantly cheaper; costing a fraction of visiting the larger cousins- the gorillas.

There are very many good reasons why you need to consider putting chimps right at the top of your must-see list while in Africa.

Why do Chimpanzee trekking?

Easy

Chimpanzees don’t survive in higher altitudes like gorillas. They reside in the thick jungles with no tough terrains which makes it easy to walk, not hiking as it’s the case with gorillas. On a chimpanzee trek, a steady walk will lead to the chimps

Affordable

Chimpanzee trekking is relatively affordable compared to Gorilla trekking. In Uganda’s Kibale national park, a chimpanzee permit costs $200 per person for a normal trek and for chimpanzee habituation $250 per person. Other places such as the Kyambura gorge and Kalizu forest in Queen Elizabeth national park cost only $50 per person.

In Rwanda’s Nyungwe national park, a chimpanzee permit costs $90 per person

The experience

Chimpanzees are known for their very active behavior throughout the day unlike the silent and calm behavior of the gorillas. On a trek, you can find them very busy jumping from branches and climbing back, screaming when they find food as a sign of happiness, mating in one of the happiest ways ever.

On a chimpanzee trek, be ready to move as fast as they are in order to watch them carry on their daily activity in the forest unlike the gorillas that just stay seated eating.

Chimpanzee feeding on figs
Chimpanzees feeding on figs

Chimpanzees live in communities of up to 150 members, which are divided into smaller subgroups and led by an alpha male.  They’ll typically spend much of their day high up in the treetops, grooming, sleeping, and feeding on fruit, leaves and bark. However, it’s when they descend from the canopy that you’ll have your best chance of getting close to them.

Today we know that chimpanzees are humans’ closest genetic relatives – sharing around 98% of our DNA – but it was the celebrated primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall who first observed their astonishing human-like behavior where she was able to prove that chimpanzees kill and eat small mammals, and can make and use tools, ideas that were completely unknown at the time.

By spending time with the chimps she eventually taught them to accept her – a process known as habituation which is not only fantastic for scientists, but also opens up the opportunity for ordinary visitors to get almost within touching distance of these incredible creatures.

Fruits lead their list of food items. These are supplemented by a wide range of other plants, as well as honey, termites and insect larvae.
In rare cases, chimps are fond of meat; piglets, colobus monkeys and young baboons are preyed on during cooperative hunts.
It’s amazing how chimps get more intelligent with time; they use tools in their life just like humans. Grass stems are used to fish termites from their nests, while sticks are brandished to intimidate rivals during aggressive display.

Where to go chimpanzee trekking?

Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest National Park

On a chimpanzee trek in Kibale national park
Tourists with their ranger in the forest on a chimp trek

Kibale Forest national park  in Uganda also known as the primate capital, is home to around 1500 chimpanzees living in 13 communities. Of these, various groups have been successfully habituated; some for scientific study and others, such as the Kanyanchu group, are used for tracking.

The Kanyanchu group, made up of more than 120 individuals, is led by an alpha male named Totti (after an Italian footballer) who took the top job in 2016 after a two-year battle with the previous alpha, Magezi. Visits to the group take place in the mornings and afternoons and typically last 3-4 hours with up to one hour spent with the chimps. The cost of the tracking permit is $200 per person for a normal trek and this can either be a morning or afternoon trek. Both options provide plenty of time to find the chimps and enjoy a thrilling hour in their company.

Kibale forest national park also offers one of the most amazing chimpanzee experiences called chimpanzee habituation. If an hour isn’t enough for you, then the park also offers a habituation experience, where you’ll spend a full day (US$220) following one of two communities currently undergoing the two-year habituation process. You’ll need to be prepared for a fair bit of brisk walking as chimps can move fast but it will be worth it for the rewards of a more intimate encounter.

 Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National park

Uwinka visitor center of Nyungwe national park
Uwinka visitor center of Nyungwe national park

Nyungwe national park in Rwanda has two habituated chimpanzee groups ready for trekking. One found around Uwinka and the other big group found in the Cyamudongo fragmented forest.

Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe national park starts in the morning hour on both starting points of Uwanika and Cyamudongo.

A chimpanzee trekking permit at Nyungwe national park costs $90 per person.

Rwanda has another chimpanzee trekking place in its new national park called Gishwati Mukura National park which also has a big number of fully habituated chimpanzee families ready for trekking.

Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest

Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest

The 2002 census in Uganda determined that about 5000 chimpanzees remain in twelve forest blocks and the Budongo central forest reserve is home to about 880 chimpanzees.

Budongo forest is now famous as one of the most reliable chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda. With chances now almost 70%,  guides are skilled in the art of chimpanzee tracking. They will take you through the briefing of chimpanzee trekking; the dos and don’ts while in the forest.

A chimpanzee trekking permit in Budongo forest costs $120 per person for either a morning or afternoon chimpanzee trek.

Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura gorge
Kyambura gorge

Kyambura gorge is one of the most amazing chimpanzee trekking destinations found in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth national park. The Gorge is inhabited by approximately 20 chimpanzees according to the last census and these are fully habituated for chimpanzee trekking.

What makes Kyambura gorge a unique chimpanzee trekking is the scenery of the gorge even before going down into the gorge; the breathtaking scene of a rainforest in the middle of an open savannah!

The Kyambura gorge was named after the Kyambura river which flows on the floor of the gorge with schools of hippos. Elephants, giant forest hogs and leopards can be sighted while on the chimpanzee trek.

A chimpanzee trek in Kyambura gorge costs only $50 per person and this can be done either on a morning or afternoon trek.

Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest

Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest
Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest

Kalinzu forest is one of the most famous places in Queen Elizabeth national park mainly for chimpanzee trekking. The forest has over 50 chimpanzees fully habituated and ready for chimpanzee trekking and it costs $50 per person for either a morning or afternoon trek.

Kalinzu forest has been known as one of the reliable chimpanzee trekking options after Kibale national park though nature is unpredictable.

All chimpanzee trekking in different places starts with a briefing, during which you’ll learn a little about the animals you’re about to see, as well as being given some dos and don’ts.

Rules for Chimpanzee trekking

1.       Top of the list; Avoid getting too close. Not only for your own safety, but also for theirs as our colds, viruses and diseases can easily spread to them due to shared DNA.

2.       Don’t not imitate chimpanzee calls. While it might seem fun to mimic them, if you’re not careful you might accidentally end up recreating a battle cry and bring 120 angry chimpanzees down upon you.

3.       While in the forest, always follow your guide. Do not leave the guide even in case of a short call. It’s wise to communicate with him and he will give advice.

4.       Do not smoke in the forest. This puts the forest at a fire outbreak risk and the chimpanzee’s health.

5.       Flash light while taking photos is prohibited. This light frightens the chimpanzee and they may react in a way you may not like at the end. Make sure it’s off even before the trek.

6.       In case you have any cough or flu, it’s not allowed to trek the chimpanzees since they can easily contract it making it hard to treat them.

7.       A nose mask is a must while close to the chimpanzee. The ranger will let you know when you are close to putting on your mask.

8.       Children below 14 yrs of age are not allowed to go for chimpanzee trekking.

9.       Avoid unnecessary breaking of plants while in the forest.

10.   Do not litter in the forest. Kindly carry your rubbish out of the forest and dump it in the right place.

On a chimpanzee trek
On a chimpanzee trek

Once you’ve been briefed, you’re separated into groups of up to eight each accompanied by a guide, who is armed in case you encounter forest elephants and buffaloes that are very dangerous. And later it’s time to head into the forest.

Pushing through the tangled undergrowth, ducking under low branches and watching your step for twisted roots, you’ll hike in the direction of where the animals were last seen, all the time listening for their cries in the trees above. With a bit of luck you’ll soon hear them: that harsh, high-pitched screeching that rises to a crescendo and then fades away again as the family members call to one another. It’s an eerie, thrilling sound, and one that you know means you’re about to meet the stars of the show.

As you follow the direction of the cacophony, you should soon find one of the family’s sub-groups. They may be high up in the treetops, feasting on figs, grooming or playing. But if you’re lucky, some will have come down to the ground, and that’s when the real magic happens.

No matter how prepared you are, nothing beats that first, up-close, chimpanzee encounter. That intense buzz of being no more than a few feet away from these completely wild creatures. The thrill of seeing how intelligent they are, with their poses, expressions and interactions that could be almost human. The way they look right at you with their bright eyes, and even pose for your camera, you may wonder if they’re enjoying the interaction even more than you are.

What to carry for Chimpanzee trekking

1.       Shirts

Chimpanzee trekking requires you to pack long sleeved Shirts, Tops and trousers. This is to protect your skin from wild insect bites like bees, wild Ants, tsetse flies among others.

2.       Rain gear

Chimpanzee live in tropical rainforests and this obviously implies that raining is common and unpredictable. A rain jacket, pants or poncho will protect you and your equipment from the rain.

3.       Shoes

Chimpanzee trekking requires you to carry light strong outdoor boots to ease movement in the forest jungle while trekking. Closed water proof shoes are comfortable for walking in the bush or in wet conditions. You don’t need Doc Martens or army boots, north face, jack wolfskin and similar outdoor wear brands are better choices.

There are even more remarkable and amazing behaviors of these unique creatures you can easily observe when you go for a chimpanzee trek. Book or plan one for your next adventure.

4.       Gloves

The gloves will protect your hands from germs as you try to support yourself on plant trees along the walking trails. They will also protect you from thorns as you try to grab branches for support while on your trek.

Slipping and falling is common on wet conditions while trekking, gloves will protect your palms when they hit the ground

5.       Sun protection

Sun block; an eco-friendly 30 SPF (or higher) sunscreen.

6.       A safari hat.

Avoid the floppy straw hat, as experience has shown that you’ll spend more time clutching onto it than the shade is worth!

Sunglasses are excellent for keeping dust and small flying insects out of your eyes, as well as the blazing African sun.

7.       Backpacker

A backPacker bag is significant in carrying your small items like water, lunch boxes, snacks, repellents, few basic toiletries, first Aid kit sanitizers among others. For activities like gorilla trekking, you may choose to hire a porter at $15 to assist you carry your back packer.

8.       A face mask

The outbreak of Covid 19 made wearing of the face mask even more empathized than before. Since chimpanzees are our closest cousins, we share almost 97% of the DNA. This means we can easily infect them with our disease and then we can contract diseases to them. In order to protect them; a mask will be a must when you draw close to spend an hour with them. Please carry one for their survival.

9.       Insect repellant

Insect repellent does NOT replace the need for anti-malaria medication! Packing insect repellents is recommended in conjunction with malaria prophylaxis. Not getting bitten and bugged by mosquitoes also makes traveling far more pleasant but there are also other insects sometimes not dangerous but they make you uncomfortable on the trek since they are strange to you.

There is alot to imagine how it will be right infront of these amazing creatures but to make all that come true, book or plan a chimpanzee trek today.

 

Gorillas| Africa's best wildlife encounter.

Gorillas| Africa’s best wildlife encounter

Gorillas in Volcanoes national park
A Gorilla family in Volcanoes national park.

What are Gorillas?

Gorillas are the largest anthropoid (human-like) apes. The shape and face of the gorilla are as unmistakable as its scientific name Gorilla gorilla. Its believed that the name gorilla was derived from the ancient Greek tribe of hairy women called gorillai.

There are three subspecies. The most common is the Western lowland gorilla found in the equatorial forests of Africa’s Atlantic coast. This is the variety most familiar with zoo goers, for virtually all gorillas in captivity are western lowland gorillas. Separated by hundreds of miles from the western animals is the range of Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri). Between 2,500 and 4,500 of these live in the forests of eastern Zaire . Rarest of the  mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei). These can only be found in only three countries in the whole world; In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, DR Congo’s Virunga national park and the highest number  of over 50% found in Uganda’s famous Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla park.

The difference between the mountain and the eastern lowland subspecies are not easily recognizable. Both have long blackish fur, which at least distinguishes from the western types, whose fur is shorter and browner. The mountain gorilla has a higher crowned head, which makes it seem larger than the eastern lowland variety.

Considerable differences exist between sexes. Females reach a maximum size of about 5 feet in height. They weigh from 15 to 240 pounds. Males reach just under 6 feet in height, and may weigh up to 440 pounds. Males of this imposing size are called silverbacks because of the distinguishing gray mantle they develop at maturity.

Gorillas live in family groups. These consist of a dominant silverback male, his females with their dependent offspring, and juveniles of both sexes. Lowland gorilla groups tend to be small, while bands of mountain gorillas may number up to thirty animals. Such large groups may contain several fully mature silverbacks.

Life in a group is a peaceful one. Gorillas wake early and begin snacking off the foliage around their nest, generally not getting into serious foraging before 8am. It then takes a couple of hours of determined eating to fill their large bellies, after which they rest for several hours. They resume activity in mid-afternoon, feeding and roaming until settling down before dusk. Each individual makes its own simple nest, folding underneath itself any leaves and branches that are conveniently within reach. Young up to about three years old sleep in the mother’s nest.  These gorillas make their nests on the ground, with only the odd juveniles bedding down in the lower branches of the trees. New nesting sites are used each night.

What do Gorillas eat?
Gorilla eating
Gorilla feeding on branches in Bwindi forest- Uganda

Gorillas are vegetarians. They eat a wide range of plants including leaves, shoots, barks, roots and fruits. In the Virungas, they are especially fond of wild celery (it looks like the stuff you buy in the market), purple-flowering vernonia shrub, nettles, and tender bamboo shoots. Gorillas do not have to drink water. They get all they need from the enormous quantities of juicy plants they consume.

Females give birth at intervals of four years. Infants are quite helpless; the females have to carry their clutching charges everywhere. By six months, the young can scramble around on their own while the group is feeding or resting. They remain dependent on their mother up till about age four.

Female gorilla and her baby in Agasha gorilla family

A dominant silverback is the leader and protector of his group. He will share females sexually with other mature males in his own group, but if strange males try to steal them, there may be serious fighting.  Young females frequently transfer out to new groups in that way. If the dominant silverback weakens through age or disease and becomes unable to defend his family, the females will be taken over by neighboring males. When a silverback dies, all females are taken by rivals, unless there is another fully mature silverback already in the group who can defend it. One the females are gone, all that remains of the group will be the juvenile males who stay together. One day they will try to abduct females for themselves. When the silverback succeeds in taking a new female, he kills her newborn offspring.  This infanticide causes the female to come into estrus again as soon as possible, thus giving the silverback an early chance to reproduce.

Hirwa Gorilla family in Volcanoes national park
Silverback of the Hirwa gorilla family in Volcanoes national park

Most days gorillas do not move great distances, often not more than a kilometer or two. They travel single file, walking on all fours. They sometimes climb as high as the zone of the giant senecios, but most remain lower down in the hagenia forest. When new shoots are plentiful, gorillas spend a lot of time feeding in the bamboo groves.

Gorillas rarely walk bipedally. Walking on two feet is reserved for shot distances only, and is often associated with threat displays. Chest beating is practiced by males from a very young age. Among silverbacks, chest beating is a means of communicating to rival groups. The popping sound can be heard at a distance, so direct confrontation can be diplomatically avoided. The chest beat is also a dramatic part of the silverback’s threat charge.

Gorilla enemies

Gorilla killed by humans These great apes have few enemies, although leopards have been reported for taking babies. The chief cause of death among mountain gorillas are respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

Humans are the major threat to mountain gorillas. Poaching is the most publicized problem because it produces grisly photographs of  animals with several heads and missing hands. The activity gets a lot of press attention, and is usually blamed on the tourists’ insatiable demand for souvenirs. In fact, most gorillas killed in profit hunting schemes die because poachers are seeking young animals for sale to zoos and private collectors. To get to the young, poachers must kill both the silverback and the mother. Whole groups can be destroyed to obtain infants, which usually die before they reach their place of ultimate captivity.

Incidental poaching is a serious threat; some Batwa people who used to reside in the forest are conservative and tend to look for bush meat which they used to enjoy while in the forest. They often set snare traps in the park hoping to catch small antelopes for the pot. Unfortunately, snares don’t discriminate. If a gorilla catches its hand in the wire, it may suffer terrible lacerations struggling to free itself. The wounds often infect and lead to crippling disfigurement or death.

In July 2020, a poacher by the name of Byabakama speared and killed a famous silverback known as Rafiki in Bwindi impenetrable national park. He admitted to the UWA previously that he, and three others had gone to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with the intention of hunting smaller animals and that he killed Rafiki in self-defence when he was attacked.

The Late Rafiki and the killer
The Late Rafiki and the killer on the right

The silverback, believed to be around 25-years-old when he died, was the leader of a group of 17 mountain gorillas.

Although poaching is the most visible threat to gorillas, it actually runs a poor second to habitat destruction. As long as the ape’ s available living space continues to shrink, its numbers will decline.

 On the other hand, the very success of conservation through tourism raised new concerns about the welfare of the gorillas. Some fear that the great apes may succumb to infectious disease; this was witnessed in 2020 when Uganda wildlife Authority closed the primate parks Bwindi impenetrable national park, Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Kibale national park in fear the endangered species and close relative to humans would contract COVID-19 virus. The reports of the low land gorilla in a zoo in America stirred fear in the authorities hence a good move to close the parks from access of tourists.

Authorities are now strict with the SOPs while trekking the gorilla; trekkers’ feet are disinfected and hands sanitized right at the entry of the briefing point. Before drawing close to the primates, they are sanitized again and a mask is a must.

gorilla-trekking-in-rwanda
Gorilla trekking with a mask on

Such measures depict a clear future of these great apes and it will give more people a chance to catch a glimpse of the unique creatures generations to come.

 

 

Wildlife to see in Uganda.

Wildlife to see in Uganda is what comes to everyone’s mind  planning an adventure holiday in Uganda. From the forest treks and hikes to game drive and walking safari. Some looking forward for the famous big five on their safaris, others concentrating more on primates in the thick jungles of Uganda.

Burchnell zebra in Uganda's Lake Mburo National park
Burchnell zebra and Rothschild giraffe in Uganda’s Lake Mburo National park

The official checklist of mammals found in Uganda numbers 345 species with both West and East African mammals being well represented. Using the same distinction between small and large mammals as that of the checklist, 132 of the species recorded in Uganda can be classified as large mammals and the remainder are small animals, as latter grouping comprising 94 bat species, 70 rat and mice, 33 shrews and otter, 8 gerbils, 4 elephant shrews and a solitary golden mole.

Primates in Uganda.

Primates are exceptionally well represented in Uganda. There is a wide spread disagreement about the taxonomical status of many primate species and subspecies, but the present checklist includes 13 diurnal and six nocturnal species. Six of the diurnal primates found in Uganda are guenon monkey, member of the taxonomically controversial family cercopithecus. The vervet monkey and blue guenon monkeys for instance are both widespread African species known by at least five different common names and both have over 20 recognized races, some of while are considered by some authorities to be separate species. Having been forced to try to make sense of this taxonomical maze in order to work out what is what, I might as well save you the effort and provide details of local races where they are known to me.

Apes of Uganda

The great apes of the family Pongidae are closely related to humans that a very partial observer might well place them in the same family as us.  Its though that chimpanzee is more closely related to human than it is to any other ape.

There are four apes species, of which two are found in Uganda.

The gorillas

Gorillas are the bulkiest member of the primate family; an adult gorilla may grow up to 1.8m high athough they seldom stand fully upright and weigh up to 210kg. Three subspecies of gorilla are recognized. The most common race, the western lowland gorilla (G.g.gorilla)  is not present in Uganda, but an estimate of 40,000 live in the rainforest of west and central Africa. The endangered east lowland gorilla (G.g.gaueri) is restricted to patches of the forest in eastern Congo, where there is an estimate of 4,000 animals. The most threatened race of gorillas is the mountain gorilla (G.g.beringei). in 1993, their number was estimated to be 640 but now there is an increase to 1063 due to conservation boost.

Mountain gorilla and baby in Bwindi impenetrable national park

In Uganda, mountain gorillas are residents of Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla Park and they regularly visit Mgahinga gorilla national park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chimpanzees.

Chips (Pan troglodytes) is a distinctive black coated ape, more closely related to human than any other living creature. Chimps live in loosely-bonded troops of between 10 and 120 animals, normally based around a of related males with an internal hierarchy topped by an alpha male. Females are generally less strongly bonded to their core group than are males; emigrating between communities is not unusual. Mother-child bonds are strong. Daughters normally leave their mother only after they reach maturity, at which point relations between them may be served.

Mother-son relations have been known to survive for over 40 years. A troop has a well defined core territory which is fiercely defended by regular boundary patrols.

Chimpanzee in Budongo forest
Chimpanzee in Budongo forest

Chimpanzees are primarily frugivorous(fruit eating) but they do not eat meat on occasion; young baboons, various types of monkeys, small antelopes and bush pigs. Most kills are opportunistic, but stalking of prey is not unusual. Cannibalism has also been observed. The first recorded instance of chimp using a tool was at Gombe stream in Tanzania, where they regularly use modified sticks to fish in termite mounds. I n west Africa, they have been observed cracking nuts open using a stone and anvil.

Chimpanzees are amongst  the most intelligent  of animals; in language studies in the USA , they have been taught to communicate in American sign language, and have demonstrated their understanding in some instances by even creating compound words for new objects (such as rock-berry to describe a nut)

Chimpanzee are typical animals of the rainforest and woodland form Guinea to western Uganda. Their behavior has been studied since 1960 by Jane Goodall and others at Gombe stream (Tanzania) and their sites across Africa, including the Budongo and Kibale forest in Uganda. Chimpanzee live in most of these forests in western Uganda and they have been habituated for tourists in areas of Kibale forest national park, Kyambura gorge and Kalinzu forest of Queen Elizabeth national park, Bugoma forest and Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi forests in Murchison falls national park.

Monkeys

All the monkey found in Uganda are members of the family Cercopithecidae (old world monkey). They fall into five genera; colobus (closely related to the leafy-eating monkeys of Asia) cercopithecus (guenons), papio (baboons), erythrocebus (patas) and cercocebus (mangabeys).

Baboons (Papio spp) are heavily-built terrestrial primates, easily distinguished from any other monkey found in Uganda by their large size and distinctive dog-like head. They live in large troops with a complex and rigid social structure held together by matriarchal lineages. Males frequently move between troops in their search for social dominance. Baboons are omnivorous and highly adaptable, for which reason they are the most widespread primate in Africa. Four types of baboon live in sub-Saharan Africa. The olive baboon, the only type found in Uganda, is accorded full species status(P.anubis) by some authorities and is regarded as a race of the savannah baboon (P. cyanocephalus) by other. Baboon are widespread and common in Uganda: they occur in all but the three montane nationa parks and frequently seen on the fringes of forest reserves and even along the roadside elsewhere in the country.

The patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas) is another terrestrial primate, restricted to the dry savannah of north-central Africa. The patas  could be confused with the vervet monkey, but it has a light reddish- brown coat and a black stripe above the eyes (the vervet is  greyer and has a black face mask). In Uganda, patas monkey is restricted to the extreme north, where it can be seen in Kidepo and Murchison falls national parks. It is also known as the hussar monkey. The race found in Uganda is the Nile patas or nisras (E. p. pyrrhonotus)

The vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) is a light grey guenon readily identified by its black face and the distinctive blue genitals of the male. The vervet is associated with a wide variety of habitats; it is the only guenon you are likely to see outside  of the forest and it is thought to be the most numerous monkey species in the world. The vervet monkey is also know as the green, tantalus, savannah and grivet monkey.

More than 20 races are recognized, and some authorities group these races into four distinct species. At least four races are found in Uganda: C.a. centralis (black-faced vervet) C.a.callidus (Naivasha vervet) C.a.marrensis(Jebel Mara tantalus) and C.a. stuhlmanni (Stuhlmann’s green monkey). Vervet monkeys are widespread and common in Uganda,  absent only from forest interiors and afro-alpine habitats.

The blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) is the most widespread forest-dwelling guenon in East Africa. It is a uniform dark blue-grey colour expect for its white throat and chest patch, with thick fur and backward-projecting hair on its forehead. The blue monkey is common in most Ugandan forests, where it lives in troops of between four and 12 animals and frequently associated with other primates. It is also known as the diademed guenon, samango monkey, skyke’s monkey and white- throated guenon. Over 20 races are identified, of which three are found in Uganda, including the so-called golden monkey, which in Uganda is restricted to Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Blue monkeys occur in all but two of Uganda’s national park (Murchison falls and Lake Mburo being the exceptions) and in practically every other forest in the country.

The red tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascinius) is another widespread forest guenon, brownish in appearance with white cheek whiskers, a red tail and a distinctive white, heart-shaped patch on its nose. The red tailed monkey is normally seen singly, in pair or in small family groups, but it frequently associates with other monkeys and has been known to accumulate in groups of up to 200. It is also know as the black-cheeked white-nosed monkey. The race found in Uganda is C.a.schmidti. The confussion over guenon taxonomy is further complicated by the fact that red-tailed and blue monkeys regularly interbreed in the Kibale forest. Red tailed monkeys occur in Kibale forest, Bwindi, Semliki and Queen Elizabeth national parks, as well as in the Budongo and several other forest reserves.

DeBrazza’s monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus) is a thickset guenon with a realatively short tail. It has a hairy face with a reddish-brown patch around its eyes, a white band across its brow and a distinctive white moustache and beard.

DeBrazza’s  monkey is primarily a west African species and it is very localized in East Africa, where it is most likely to be seen in the vicinity of Mount Elgon and Semuliki national park.

L’Hoest’s monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti) is less well known and more difficult to see than most guenons, largely due to its preference for dense secondary forest and its terrestrial habits. It has a black face and backward projecting whisker which partially covers its ears, and it is the only guenon which habitually carries its tail in an upright position. In Uganda, L’Hoest’s monkey is most likely to be seen in Kibale forest, but it also occurs in Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth and possibly Rwenzori mountain national park.

Grey cheeked mangabey (Cercocebus algigena) is a grayish-black monkey with few distinguished features. It has baboon-like mannerisms, a shaggier appearance than any guenon, light grey cheeks, and a slight mane. Grey cheeked mangabeys live in  lowland and mid-altitude forests. In Uganda, the are most likely to be seen in the Kibale forest, where they are common, though they are also known to occur in Semuliki national park. The race found here in Uganda is also known as the Johnstone’s mangabey (C.a. johnstoni).

Black and white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza)  is a beautifully-marked and distinctive animal with a black body, white facial markings, long white tail and in some races, a white side stripe. The black and white colobus lives in small groups and it is almost exclusively arboreal. An adult is capable of jumping up to 30 metres, a spectacular sight with its white tail streaming behind. This is probably the most common and widespread forest monkey in Uganda, occurring in most sizable forest patchesand even in well developed riparian woodland. The Rwenzori race of the closely related Angola colobus (Colobus angolensis) occur alongside the black and white colobus in the forested parts of Rwenzori national park.

Red colobus monkey (Colobus badius) is relatively large reddish-grey monkey with few distinguishing features, though in some races the crown is slightly tufted. It is highly sociable and normally lives in scattered troops of 50 0r more animals. About 15 races of red colobus are recognized, many of which are considered by some authorities to be distinct species. In Uganda, red colobus monkey are now restricted to Kibale forest national parkand its environs, though they formally occurred in semuliki national park.

Nocturnal primates.

Bush babies or galagos are small, nocturnal primates, distantly related to their lemurs of Madagascar and widespread in all woodland habitats in sub-saharan Africa. The bushbaby’s piercing cry is one of the distinctive sounds of the African night. If you want to see a bushbaby, trace the cry to tree, then shine a torch into it and you should easily pick out its large round eyes. Five bushbaby species are found in Uganda, of which the lesser bushbaby (galago senegalensis)is the most common.

An insectivorous creature only 17 cm long excluding its tail, the lesser bushbaby is a creature of the woodland as opposed to true forest, and it has been recorded in all Uganda’s savanna reserves. The eastern  needled-clawed bushbaby  (G.inustus), Thomas’s bushbaby (G. Thomas) and dwarf bush baby (G.demidovii) all occur in the Kibale and Bwindi forests and the dwarf bushbaby has also been recorded in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth national parks. There claims of sightings  the Matschie’s bush baby  (C. matschiei) but distribution is not yet confirmed.

The potto (Perodicticus potto) is reasonably larger, sloth-like creature which live in the forest interiors, where it spends the nights foraging upside down from tree branches. It can sometimes be located at night by shinning a spotlight into the forest. Pottos occur in Kibale, Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth national parks, and are most likely to be seen in guided night walks in Kibale forest.

CANIVORES

A total of 38 carnivores have been recorded in Uganda; five canine species, seven felines three hyenas, ten mangooses, six mustelids (otters,badgers and weasels) and seven viverrids (civets and genets)

Felines

The lion (Panthera leo)  is the largest African carnivore, and the one animal that everyone wants to see when on safari. Lions are the most sociable of the large cats, living in loosely structured family  groups known as prides which typically consists of between five and fifteen animals. They normally hunt at night taking advantage of their good sight in the dark than their prey. However, they are also very capable of hunting during day. Their favorite prey is a medium-to-large antelope such as wildebeest, gazelle and impala. Females working in a team of up to eight animals are responsible for most hunts. Rivalry between male lions is intense: prides may have more than one dominant male working in collaboration to prevent a take-over and young males are forced out of their home pride at about 3 years of age. Pride takeover are often fought to the death ; after a successful one, it is not unusual for all the male cubs to be killed. Lions are not very active during the day, they most often seen lying in the shade looking the picture of regal indolence. They occur naturally  in most woodland and grassland habitats, but due to heavy poaching,  they are now throughout Uganda and are residents in only 3 national parks; Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo valley national park.

The leopard (Pantera pardus) is well know for its solitary nature. They hunt using stealth and power often getting within 5m  of their intended prey before pouncing, and they habitually store their kill in a tree to keep it from being poached by other large predators and most commonly hyenas. They can be distinguished from cheetahs by their rosette-shaped spots and more powerful build as well as by their preference for wooded or rocky habitats. Leopard are found in habitats that can offer them adequate cover, and are present in 4 savanna national parks; Kidepo valley, Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo national park.

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) though superficially similar to the leopard, its is the most diurnal of africa’s cat species and it hunts using speed as opposed to stealth. Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals. Capable of running up to 70km /hr in short bursts. Male cheetahs are strongly territorial and in some areas they commonly defend their territory in pairs or trios. Cheetahs are the least powerful of the large predators; they are chased from a high percentage of their kill and 50% of cheetah cubs are killed by other predators before they reach three months of age. Like leopards, cheetahs are heavily-spotted and solitary in their habitats, but their greyhound-like build, distinctive black tear-marks and preference for grassland and savannah habitats precludes confusion. In Uganda, cheetahs are present in the Pian Upe game reserve and Kidepo valley national park.

The Caracal (Felis caracal) is a medium sized cat found in open habitats and easily identified by its uniform reddish-brown coat and tufted ears. In Uganda, it occurs only in kidepo valley national park. The slightly larger serval (Felis serval) has pale spotted coat, making it possible to confuse it with some genet species. It favours moister habitats than the caracal, ranging from woodland to forest and it is wide spread in Uganda. The African golden cat (Felis aurata) is a rarely seen creature of the west African forest; it is wide spresd in western Uganda, where it has been recoeded in every forested national park except Semuliki. The African wild cat (Felis silvestris) is reminiscent of the domestic tabby, with which it has been known to interbreed successfully and it is found in most savannah habitats in Uganda.

Canines

The most widespread canine in Uganda is the side-stripped jackal (Canis adustus) which occurs in all the savannah parks as well as Bwindi and Mgahinga. The only other canine species which is definitely found in Uganda are Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) both of which of which are restricted to Kidepo valley national park and else where in the dry northeast.

The golden jackal (Canis aureus) appear on the Ugandan checklist but has not been recorded in any national park and its presumably a vagrant.

The African hunting dog  (Lycaon pictus) is an endangered animal which lives in pack of ten or more and can be distinguished by its cryptic black, brown and cfream coat. Hunting dogs are widely distributed in sub-saharan Africa; but despite being highly effective pack hunters, they are threatened with extinction due to their susceptibility to canines diseases. They were probably extinct in Uganda until a pair was re-introduced at CTC conservation center a year back. However, there were unconfirmed records in kidepo valley national park some years back.

Other carnivores;

The civet (Civetticus civetta) is a bulky, long-haired cat-like viverrid, which has been kept in captivity for thousands of years (its anal secretions were found in making perfumes until a synthetic replacement was found. Surprisingly, little is know about their habitat in the wild. Civets are widespread and common in most wooded habitats and they have been recorded in most of Uganda’s national parks but they are seen very rarely due to their secretive, nocturnal habitats .

Genets are a closely related group of cat-like viverrids characterized by spotted coats and extraordinally long tails. They are secretive and little known scientifically but as they are attracted to human waste, they are often seen slinking around camp sites and lodges after dark. The servaline genet (genetta tigrina), large spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) and small spotted genet (Genetta genetta) are all widespread in Uganda, with the latter two generally occurring in more lightly wooded areas than the former. A west African species, the giant forest genet (Genetta victiriae), has been recorded in forest in the Queen Elizabeth national park.

The spotted hyena  (Crocuta crocuta) is the most common member of the hyena familyin Uganda. Although dog-like in appearance, hyenas are more closely related to mongooses and cats than they are to dogs. Despite its image as a scavenger, the spotted hyena is an adept hunter capable of killing an animal as large as a hartebeest. In the ancient times, the spotted hyena was thought to be hermaphrodite; the female’s vagina is blocked by a false but remarkably realistic-looking scrotum and penis. Most hyena species live in loosely structured clans of around 10 animals.

Clans are led by female, which are stronger and larger than males. The spotted hyena is bulky with a sloping back, light brown coat marked with dark brown spots and an exceptionally powerful jaw which enables it to crack open bones and slices through the thickest hide. The spotted hyena is found in all of Uganda’s savanna national parks.

The secretive stripped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and the insectivorous aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) are dry country hyenas which in Uganda are more or less restricted to kidepo valley national park.

Of the various mustelid species found in Uganda, the most remarkable is the ratel of honey badger (Mellivora capensis). The honey badger has a puppy-like head, black sides and underparts and a greyish-white back. It is an adaptable creature eating whatever comes its way (Ever heard a story that a honey badger killed a buffalo by running underneath it and biting off its testicles! Which, if its true, is certainly taking opportunism to a wasteful extreme). When they are not bobbiting bovines, honey badgers occasionally indulge in symbiotic relationship with a bird called the great honeyguide; the honey guide takes the honey badger to a bee hive, which the honey badger then tears open, allowing the honey guide to feed on the scraps. According to some sources, the honey badger fumigates the bee hive with its anal secretions. Honey badgers are wide spread in Uganda, but uncommon and rarely seen. Other mustelids found in uganda include three types of otters, the zorilla (striped polecat) and striped weasel.

Of the ten mongooses recorded in uganda, five are widespread and common enough to have been recorded in atleast half the national parks. They are the marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus) Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon)  slender mongoose (Herpestes sanguineus),  white-tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) and banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) quite very common.

 

Antelope.

A total of 29 antelopes species are included on the checklist for Uganda. Of these, eight fall in the category of large antelopes, having a shoulder height of above 120cm (roughly the height of a zebra), eight are in the category of the medium sized antelopes having a shoulder height of 75cm and 90cm, and the remainder are small antelopes, with a shoulder height of 30cm and 60cm.

Large antelopes

The world’s largest antelope is the eland, of which there are two species, the widespread common eland (Tragelaphus oryx) and the localized and endangered Derby’s eland (Taurotragus derbianus)

The common eland can measure over 180cm in height, and it has a rather bovine appearance. It is fawn-brown in colour, with a large dewlap and short spiralled horns and in some cases light white stripes on its sides. The common eland occur in open and often relatively arid habitats throughout East and southern Africa. In Uganda, it is common in Lake Mburo national park.

Derby’s eland is locally extinct in Uganda. They used to occur only in the savannah habitats west of the of the Albert Nile, and it wasn’t recorded in any of Uganda’s national parks.

The greater Kudu  (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is another ver large antelope, measuring up to 150cm in height. It is strikingly handsome creature, with a grey-brown coat marked by thin white side-stripes. The male has a small dewlap and large spiraling horns. Greater kudu live in small groups in woodland habitats. In Uganda, they are found only in Kidepo valley national park.

The hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) is an ungainly-looking, tan-coloured antelope with large shoulders, a sloping back and relatively small horn. It lives in small herds in lightly wooded and open savannah habitats. The typical hartebeest of Uganda is Jackson’s hartebeest (A.b.jacksoni). The closely related and similarly built topi (Damaliscus lunatu) has much darker coat than the hartebeest and distinctive blue-black marking above its knees. Jackson’s hartebeest is most frequently seen in Murchison falls national park, Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park, Kidepo valley and Lake Mburo national park.

The Defasa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsyprymnus)is a shaggy-looking animal with a grey-brown coat and a white rump. The male has large curved horns. It is considered by some authorities to be a distinct species K.defasa (the common waterbuck found east of the rift valley has a white ring on its rump), but the two races interbreed where they overlap. Defasa waterbuck live in small herds and are most often seen grazing near water. They are found in suitable habitats in all four of the savannah national parks.

The roan antelope (Hippotragus equines) is a handsome animal with a light reddish-brown coat, short backward-curving horns and a small mane on the back of the neck. It is currently only present in Kidepo valley national park.

The oryx (Oryx gazelle) is a regal-looking antelope, ash-grey in colour and with distinctive scimitar-shaped horns. Oryx are associated with semi desert and dry acacia woodland; in Uganda, the Beisa Oryx is present in Kidepo valley national park.

Medium sized antelopes

The Uganda Kob (Kobus kob) is uganda’s national animal. It is generally associated with grassy  flood plains and open vegetation near water. Although closely related to waterbuck and reedbucks, the kob is reddish-brown in colour and resembles an impala, but is bulkier in appearance and lacks the impala’s black side stripe. Uganda kob live in herds  of up to 40 animals in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls, Lake Mburo and Kidepo valley national park.

Possibly, the most wide spread antelope in Uganda is the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), which lives I the forest and riverine  woodland. The male bushbuck has a dark chestnut coat marked with white spots and stripes. The female is lighter in colour vaguely resembles a large duiker. The bushbuck is secretive and elusive, but it is abundant in suitable habitats. It is present in most forests and national parks in Uganda.

The related Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) is a semi-aquatic antelope similar I appearance to a bushbuck, but the male is larger with shaggier coat and both sexes are stripped. The statunga lives in papyrus swamps and although rarely seen, it is found in suitable habitats throughout Uganda, including six national parks.

Also related to the bushbuck, the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis) is a dry country antelope, similar in appearance to the great kudu, but much smaller and more heavily stripped (great kudu have between 6 to 10 stripes; lesser kudu have 11 or more). Lesser kudu are present in Kidepo valley national park.

The impala (Aepyceros melampus) is a slender, handsome antelope, superficially similar to gazelle, but belonging to a separate family. The impala can be distinguished from any gazelle by its chestnut colouring, sleek appearance and the male’s distinctive lyre shaped horns. An adult impala can jump for over 10m.  impala live in herds of between 20 and a few hundred animals. They favour well-wooded savannah and woodland fringes, and are often abundant in such habitats. In Uganda, impalas are only found in Lake Mburo national park.

Small antelopes.

Nine of the small antelope species present in Uganda are duikers, a family of closely related antelopes which are generally characterized by their small size, sloping back, and preference of thickly forested habitats. Between 16 and 19 duiker species are recognized, many of them extremely localized in their distribution.

The grey duiker (Sylvicapra gimmia), also known as the common or bush duiker, is an atypical member of its family, in that it generally occurs in woodland and savannah habitats. It has a grey-brown coat with a vaguely speckled appearance. The grey duiker is wide spread in East and southern  Africa, and it occurs in all four of Uganda’s savannah national parks as well as Mount Elgon and Rwenzori national parks.

Of the more typical duiker species, Harvey’s red duiker (Cephalophus harveyi) is a tiny chestnut-brown antelope found in the forested parts of Queen Elizabeth national park and in Kibale forest. The Blue duiker (C.monticola) is even smaller, with a grey-blue coat. It is known to occur in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls, Kibale and Bwindi impenetrable national park. Peter’s duiker (C.callipygus) has been recorded in Bwindi, Kibale and Queen Elizabeth national park, the black-fronted duiker (C. nigrifrons) in Mgahinga and Bwindi and there has been unconfirmed sighting of the white-bellied duiker (C.leucogaster) for Bwindi and Semuliki.

Of the other small antelope recorded in Uganda, the most distinctive is the Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) which has a dark-grey, bristly coat and an almost speckled appearance. It has goat-like habits and is invariably found in the vicinity of koppies or cliffs (the name klipspringer means rock jumper in Afrikaans). Klipspringer are very rare and  live in pairs in suitable habitats in Kidepo valley national park.

The oribi (Ourebia ourebi)n is an endearing gazelle-like antelope with a reddish-brown back, white under parts and a diagnostic black scent gland under its ears. It is one of the largest small antelopes in Africa elephant (Loxodonta Africana) is the world’s largest land mammal, and it is also one of the worls’s most intelligent and entertaining to watch. A fully grown elephant is about 3.5m high and weighs around 6,000kg. Female elephants live in closely-knit clans in which the eldest female takes a matriarchal role over her sisters, daughters and granddaughters. Mother-daughter bond are strong and may exist up to 50 years. Males generally leave the family group at around 12 years, after which they either roam around on their own or form a bachelor herd. Under normal circumstances, elephants range widely in search of food and water, but, when concentrated populations are forced to live in conservation areas, their habit of uprooting trees can cause serious environmental damage.

Two races of elephants are recognized in Uganda. The savannah elephant of east and southern Africa(Loxodonta.a.africana) and the smaller and slightly hairier forest elephant of west African rainforest (L.a.cylotis). the two races  are thought to interbreed in parts of western Uganda. Despite severe poaching, elephants occur in all savannah national parks accept Lake Mburo national park. They are more likely to be seen in Murchison falls national park and Queen Elizabeth national park.

 

17 Best Gorilla Families in Bwindi Impenetrable national park

Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley.  Only fully habituated gorillas are accessible by tourists, a process that take 2 to 4 years to make them used to human presence making it safe to be in close proximity while watching these great apes.

Bwindi impenetrable national park is divided into 4 tracking sectors; Buhoma and Ruhija sectors in the north of the park have different gorilla families and Rushaga and Nkuringo in the south of the park have different habituated gorilla families that are allowed for travelers to track them.

Buhoma  sector Gorilla families 

Mubale Gorilla family one of the gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Mubale Gorilla family visits Buhoma lodge in Buhoma gorilla trekking sector
  1. Mubale gorilla family

Because of their location, this is the easiest family to track in Bwindi. The name Mubare originated from the first gorilla trackers in the area. The group currently contains 8 members led by Kanyonyi.  This is the oldest gorilla group in Uganda and opened back in 1993. Initially under the leadership of Ruhondeza, the group has decreased in number over the years from 18 members when first sighted. Infighting, death and member migration to other groups left about 5 by 2012.

Ruhondeza’s leadership ended when another group attacked and took away his females in 2012. Ruhondeza lived for over 50 years and continued to be monitored by researches till his death. His grave is marked and can be located by a guide.

  1. Habinyanja gorilla family

The once a 25 member 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. The group had several strong males which caused power struggles between the dominant silverbacks fighting for family leadership which led to  spliting into two families – causing the creation of Rushegura family.

It’s normal 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. The 17 members are; 1 silverback, 1 blackback, 5 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 3 juveniles and 6 infants. Visitors tracking this family need about 3 – 8 hours and it make sense if they stay at a lodging in the Buhoma area of Bwindi. The family is headed by the shrewd alpha female called Makara.

  1. Rushegura gorilla family

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” – a tree species that was abundant in the home area of the new family.

They are usually not far from Buhoma village and sometimes even wander through the gardens Gorilla Forest Camp. Those wanting a shorter trek should note that this large gorilla group can be often tracked in a shorter time than 5 hours.  There is, however, no guarantee that the gorillas may choose to venture off and it will take a longer time to track them.

  1. Katwe gorilla family

Katwe gorilla group is one of the gorilla families found in Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is headed by the dominant Silverback “Mahaane”. Close monitoring of Katwe group started in January 2018 following the death of the Silverback “Kanyonyi” of Mubare group (in November 2017). Kanyonyi’s death resulted into disintegration of the group members to initially unknown locations.

Upon discovering that some fully habituated members of Mubare group, for example adult females “Kashundwe” and “Malaika” had joined Katwe group, the group’s habituation began in order to maintain continuous close monitoring of the habituated individuals and their new counterparts in Katwe group.  The group name is derived from the topo-name of the hilltop/locality where initial habituation of the group kicked-off from. Katwe group is composed of 9 members including 2 Silverbacks, 3 Adult females, 2 Sub-adults and 2 Juveniles.

Ruhija sector Gorilla families 

Mukiza Gorilla family one of the gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Mukiza Gorilla family in Ruhija gorilla trekking sector
  1. Bitukura gorilla family

The Bitukura Family has 14 individuals from its original 24. The group is led by Ndahura who took over from the now retired Karamuzi. The group that also has three other silverbacks was named after a river near their territory. Whereas the habituation process for mountain gorillas takes 2 or more years, it took only 15 months with this family. Visitors where first allowed in October 2008 but the group had already had frequent encounters with park rangers whenever they mixed with the already habituated Kyaguriro family.

  1. Oruzogo gorilla family

The group is the second with 25 members headed by the dominant Silverback Tibirikwata . Oruzugo group is fondly known for foraging and feeding on vegetation dominated by ‘Alchornea hitela’ – a plant locally known as Oruzogo upon which the group’s name originates. Feeding on this plant species makes Oruzogo group so unique from other gorilla families  because other gorilla groups rarely feed on the same.

The group has grown and is much loved by visitors because of its playful youngsters resulting from several births from the females Ntamurungi (June 2011), Musi (October 2011), and Kakoba (March 2012)

  1. Kyaguriro Gorilla Family

The Kyaguriro group contains 15 members led by Rukina who grabbed power from the old Zeus. The gorilla group has been set apart for research by conservationists and limited access is given to visitors. Researchers have come up with interesting findings from this group. Their findings show some differences in behavioral tendencies between Uganda’s Gorilla families, Rwanda’s Gorilla families and  Congo Gorilla familes.

  1. Mukiza gorilla family

Mukiza group one of the gorilla families formerly called Kyaguliro B is found in Ruhija tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is led by the dominant Silverback Mukiza.  The group was formed in May 2016 after the split of the main Kyaguliro group.  Mukiza group is also dedicated for gorilla research by Manx Planc Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology. MPI researches mainly on the group’s behavioural ecology and conducts daily monitoring visits to the group.

Just like Rukara group, Mukiza group is known for spending almost all its time in the inner forest and very rarely gets close to the forest’s peripherals. Following the birth of two new babies in 2021, the group is currently composed of 15 individuals including 1 Silverback, 7 Adult females, 1 Sub-adult, 1 Juvenile and 5 Infants.

Rushaga sector Gorilla families 

Bweza Gorilla family one of the gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bweza Gorilla family in Rushaga gorilla trekking sector
  1. Nsongi gorilla family

Nshongi gorilla group is found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and is headed by the dominant Silverback Bweza.  The family was first seen near a river hence the name Nshongi (referring to the deep honey-like color of the river).

Initially, Shongi group size was as large as 34 members including multi-males but over time intra-male rivalry caused notable dispersals of individual males as well as fissions. In July 2010, Shongi group split to form Mishaya group and later-on split again to form Bweza group in August 2012. Today Shongi group is composed of 11 members including 1 Silverback, 1 Blackback, 5 Adult females, 2 Juveniles and 2 Infants.

  1. Mishaya gorilla family

Mishaya gorilla group is a new group found in Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is led by dominant Silverback Tinfayo. The initial birth of Mishaya group occurred in July 2010 when Shongi group split into two with a splinter section led by Silverback Mishaya.

On 3rd February 2014 Mishaya group received a tough blow when its sole leader ‘Mishaya’ died from an obstruction of the intestinal gut hence forth resulting into a dispersal of the remnant group members as they had no other adult male to exercise leadership.

Some of the members ended up joining Bweza group, others joined Bikingi group while the whereabouts of more others was not immediately known until May 2018 when they were re-discovered under the leadership of Silverback “Tinfayo” – a former member of Shongi group who left his former family around 2012 with one adult female (Shida) and her infant (Rotary).

Re-habituation of the group became inevitable to beef-up close monitoring of the already habituated members.  Mishaya (New) group is composed of 8 members including 1 Silverback, 5 Adult females, 1 Juvenile and 1 Infant.

  1. Bweza gorilla family

Bweza group is found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is currently led by the dominant Silverback Kakono. Bweza group members were initially habituated as Shongi group until early 2013 when they detached and split from Shongi to form a new group led by Silverback Kakono. Bweza group likes to forage on community land adjacent to the park (where vegetation is more disturbed) than in the intact forest areas. Bweza group is currently composed of 15 members including 3 Silverbacks, 5 Adult females, 1 Sub-adult, 2 Juveniles and 4 Infants.

  1. Kahungye gorilla family

Kahungye group is found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is headed by the dominant Silverback Ruziika. The habituation of this group started in 2008 with about 29 individuals including 3 adult males (Silverbacks – Riziika, Busingye and Rwiigi) who catalysed frequent intra-male rivalry.

In March 2012, the Silverback Busingye led a fission that split the group into two. Kahungye group has continued growing and births have been registered. Currently, Kahungye group is composed of 25 members including 5 Silverbacks, 2 Blackbacks, 7 Adult females, 3 Sub-adults, 2 Juveniles and 6 Infants.

  1. Busingye gorilla family

Busingye group one of the gorilla families in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is led by the founder Silverback Busingye.  Members of Busingye gorilla group were initially habituated in Kahungye gorilla group in 2008. In March 2012 the Silverback Busingye led a splinter from Kahungye henceforth forming the Busingye group. This group was named after its leader “Busingye” Silverback.  Busingye group is fondly known for foraging within the inner forest with very rare access to the park edges. Busingye is now composed of 9 individuals including 1 Silverback, 1 Black back, 3 Adult females, 2 Juveniles and 3 Infants.

  1. Kutu gorilla family

Kutu group is also one of the gorilla families found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. It is one of the newly habituated groups and is led by the dominant Silverback Kutu. Kutu group is composed of 20 members including 1 Silverback, 1 Blackback, 8 Adult females, 1 Sub-adult, 2 Juveniles and 7 Infants.

  1. Bikingi gorilla family

Bikingi group one of the gorilla families in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The group is currently led by Bikingi a former solitary male following the death of the dominant Silverback Bikingi on 9th June 2018.

According to Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area Chief Park Warden-Nelson Guma, the unknown wild Silverback that killed the lead Silverback and took over leadership was as well named Bikingi to keep the group’s identity that derived its name from the original Bikingi Silverback. Bikingi died after a fight with a solitary male in Bikingi area.

The duo had had a series of fights before and this was the climax of them. Rangers suspect that the solitary male had interest in the leadership of the group. After the death of the dominant Silverback Bikingi all the group members dispersed and some joined other groups, for instance, about 7 individuals joined Kahungye group. However, a close search was done and 9 members including the solitary male were found.  Since then, the group has registered births bringing the number of individuals to 11, these include 2 Silverbacks, 5 Adult females, 1 Juvenile and 4 Infants.

Habituation of Bikingi gorilla group commenced in early 2012 as a follow-up exercise of the dispersing members of the disintegrated Mishaya group. Indeed, several members of the former Mishaya group were located in the group alongside other non-habituated members and later-on declared for habituation to keep close monitoring of the formerly habituated members.

Nkuringo  sector Gorilla families 

Rafiki the famous fallen silverback gorilla of Nkuringo family
Rafiki the famous fallen silverback gorilla of Nkuringo family
  1. Nkuringo gorilla family

Nkuringo group is found in Nkuringo tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is headed by black back Rwamutwe.  Nkuringo was the first gorilla group to be habituated in the entire southern sector of BINP since 1997. Initially, the group had 17 members but over time a couple of group dynamics have taken place including dispersal of some members, births, and deaths too. The group faced a very sad incidence where the then dominant Silverback Rafiki was murdered by poachers. Since then, black back Rwamutwe has undertaken leadership.

The group is currently composed of 12 members including 4 Black backs, 4 Adult females and 4 Infants.  Nkuringo group is also the first gorilla group to record the birth of twins in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in December 2004. The group is famously known for foraging outside the park in the buffer zone for up to 98% of their time.

This practice led to the displacement of the former local human settlers in the frontline villages in Nkuringo sector to create a buffer zone to minimize human-wildlife interface. This displacement followed an outbreak of Scabies in the Nkuringo group in December 2000.

  1. Bushaho gorilla family

Bushaho group is found in Nkuringo tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is led by the dominant Silverback Bahati. Following a number of individual gorilla dispersals from Nkuringo group, a search for their whereabouts was launched in early 2012. It was discovered that one of the former Silverbacks of Nkuringo group, Bahati who had disappeared earlier was leading a parallel group. Some of the members in this group were former members of Nkuringo group among other non-habituated members.

What started as a follow-up exercise later led to close monitoring of the behavior of the parallel group. The group was later habituated and named ‘Bushaho’ after the topo-name of the locality where the group forages most. Bushaho group is still under habituation. The group is currently composed of 10 individuals including 1 Silverback, 1 Blackback, 3 Adult females, 2 Sub-adult females, and 3 Infants.

In the dense jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the intricate lives of gorilla families unfold in remarkable ways. As new generations are welcomed into the fold, the families grow and thrive, with playful babies bringing joy and vitality to their tight-knit communities. Yet, with growth comes change, and the increasing number of offspring often leads to the splitting of families into smaller units.

This natural process ensures the sustainability and resilience of the gorilla population, allowing for diverse social dynamics to evolve. Across the park’s various sectors, each family finds its unique rhythm and habitat, adapting to the ever-changing landscape with resilience and grace.

Witnessing these intimate glimpses into the lives of Bwindi’s gorilla families is a privilege, reminding us of the delicate balance between preservation and progress in this precious ecosystem.

 

Gorilla Trekking sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable national park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.

This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.                                                            

Gorilla trekking is done in four sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable national park with each sector harboring different gorilla families. The current recorded number of gorilla families in Bwindi is 40 of which 21 families are not habituated and are aggressive to humans while 19 are habituated and friendly.

Buhoma sector

Buhoma is the most developed sector in Bwindi. It is located in the northern region of the park and the most familiar sector to the visitors to Uganda. Buhoma Gorilla trekking is on high demand with the permits selling out quickly as compared to other sectors.

Buhoma was the first sector to be opened for gorilla tourism in 1993. There are 3 habituated gorilla families in this section namely; the Mubare family, Habinyanja family and Rushegura gorilla family.

Eight people per group are allowed to visit a particular group of gorillas per day meaning 24 gorilla trekking permits are available in a day. Make sure you book you book your trekking permit in time to avoid inconveniences

Ruhija sector

The Ruhija sector is situated in the Eastern side of Bwindi Impenetrable national park and it harbors three gorilla families namely; the Bitukura Gorilla family, Oruzogo family and Kyaguriro family.

Only 8 healthy right aged trekkers with valid permits are allowed to trek a particular family in a day with 24 permits available every day. Ruhija is not as busy as Buhoma and so trekking here will give the visitors ample time to do other activities like bird watching. The Bitukura gorilla family is believed the friendliest family and took the shortest time to be habituated to humans.

Though Ruhija is not as developed and has fewer gorilla families and few lodging options  than Buhoma, the region offers more ecotourism experience due to its location.

Rushaga sector

Rushaga sector is the most highly blessed sector with the highest number of gorilla families compared to other sectors. It is situated in the southern part of Bwindi in Kisoro district. Booking for a gorilla trekking permit should be done earlier so as to avoid interruptions during the trek with 40 trekking permits available every day at $700 throughout the year.

This sector harbors 5 gorilla families namely; Nshongi , Busingye, Kayungye, Bweza and Mishaya families. Trekking is done by 8 right aged healthy visitors in a group for a given gorilla family and one hour is spent with the apes minus the time taken to search for them.

Rushaga is well situated for gorilla trekking via Kigali, Rwanda through Chanika border. This is the greatest opportunity to trek gorilla in Uganda via Rwanda at a cheaper cost of $700 compared to Rwanda’s $1500 for a trekking permit.

Nkuringo Sector

Nkuringo Sector is one of the gorilla trekking sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable national park in southern Bwindi harboring three gorilla habituated families. Nkuringo is well situated for the spectacular views of the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira in Virunga National park of Democratic Republic Of Congo. This sector is also difficult to hike due to the rugged terrain and so physically fit trekkers are encourage to trek in this breathtaking view sector that cannot be fully described by words but experience.

The Nkuringo family which was named after the ‘rolling hills’ where the first sighted group and they have been proved by the visitors to be the most wonderful group to interact with. The family is composed of 12 members under the leadership of a silverback, Rufiki  who broke up from the Nshongi  family in Rushaga sector to form his own crew. The family was habituated in 2009 and that’s when it first received visitors

Other gorilla families in Nkuringo include the Bushaho and the Bikingi gorilla families. These groups are still trekked by 8 visitors per day and health status is valued as well as the age of the trekkers.

Gorilla habituation also takes place in Rushaga where two gorilla families are being trained to friendly to humans and visitors pay $1500 for the activity and spend 4 hours with the apes unlike the one hour spent with the gorillas during trekking.