BWINDI GORILLA TREKKING SECTORS
Bwindi Gorilla trekking sectors are the locations or zones in Bwindi Impenetrable national park where mountain gorilla tracking is done they include Buhoma sector, Ruhija sector, Rushaga sector and Nkuringo sector.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is well known for mountain gorilla trekking where by half of the world’s mountain gorilla population live in this forest. This park was gazzetted in 1991 and from then a number of gorilla families have been habituated for tourism but these can be accessed from the different sectors of the park.
All the Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors carry out gorilla trekking in a similar way for example same gorilla permits costing USD 700 and only one hour allowed with the gorillas but they differ in the number of families habituated, the location and the ease of access.
Buhoma sector is found in the northern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park in Kanungu district. This is one of the 4 Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors that was opened in 1991. The Buhoma sector has the first and oldest habituated gorilla family known as Mubare that was opened for tracking in 1993 and this family was named after the Mubare hills where it was sighted first. This gorilla group started with 12 members led by the dominant silverback called Ruhondeza at the time of habituation. Currently mubale gorilla family has 9 members, Ruhondeza died in 2013 after a fight with a black back.
As the oldest among the four Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors, Buhoma is the most visited sector in Bwindi because of its history, the ease of tracking since gorillas usually come near the starting point in buhoma and being the first to be opened for gorilla trekking. Buhoma sector has 3 habituated families meaning it sells 24 permits per day given that each family is visited by 8 people for an hour each day. Most visitors always ask for availability of permits in buhoma when booking therefor the demand is very high and buhoma gorilla permits sell first.
Gorilla Families in Buhoma Sector
- Habinyanja family, This gorilla group was habituated in 1997 having 18 members, by 1999 when the group was opened for tracking, it had group to 30 members led by Mugurusi the dominant silverback whose death led to separation of the group. The two brothers Mwirima and Rwansigazi separated with Mwirima forming a new group called Rushegura and Rwansigazi taking over Habinyanja. Tracking this group takes approximately 5 hours to a full day.
- Rushegura family; The Rushegura gorilla group was habituated in year 2000 with 19 members after having split from Habinyanja family led by Mwirima. After Mwirima’s death in 2014, the family is now lead by Kabukojo the dominant silver back with 16 members. Trekking this gorilla group started in 2002 and the trek takes approximately 3-5 hours in total.
- Mubare family is the oldest gorilla family habituated in 1991. It was opened for trekking in 1993 led by Ruhondeza. Mubare family started with 18 members but after the death of Ruhondeza in 2013, the group separated and only 5 members remained which were later joined by 4 other gorillas to making the current of 9 members.
Buhoma sector is the easiest to access compared to all other sectors of Bwindi impenetrable national park as one comes from Queen Elizabeth national park or directly from Kampala city. It’s about 550km from Kampala city taking approximately 8-9hours by road.
This sector can also be accessed by air from Entebbe to Kihihi airstrip which is an hour drive to Buhoma sector. Visitors can also connect to other parks like Queen Elizabeth national park and Kibale national park from buhoma sector to undertake other activities like game drive in Ishasha, boat cruise on Kazinga channel and chimpanzee tracking.
Other activities that can be done in Buhoma apart from gorilla trekking are; Nature walks leading to waterfalls, Birding and Batwa cultural experience.
Accommodation in Buhoma area ranges from luxury to budget, catering for all classes of visitors. These accommodation places have the best services that make your stay comfortable. Buhoma can be accessed by other sectors of the park so people can still stay in buhoma and go track other gorilla families in other sectors like Ruhija. Some of the lodges in this sector are Buhoma lodge, mahogany springs lodge, Bwindi forest lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla forest Camp, Buhoma Haven lodge and many more.
Map of 4 gorilla trekking sectors in Bwindi impenetrable National Park Uganda
Ruhija sector is located in the eastern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park bordering Buhoma sector and Rubanda District making it so accessible. The Ruhija sector has 4 gorilla habituated families that are available for trekking, meaning there are 32 gorilla permits available every day in this part of the park.
Gorilla Families in Ruhija Sector
- Bitukura family, Bitukura gorilla family has 14 members led by the dominant silverback called Ndahura. This group is known to be the friendliest group with its members often entertaining visitors. It took only one and a half years to be habituated.
- Oruzogo family, This gorilla family was habituated in 2010 and opened for trekking in 2012. It has 23 members with the dominant silverback called Bakwate and its members are the most active so it’s an interesting gorilla family to track.
- Mukiza family; This family of gorillas formed after splitting from Kyaguriro family. Mukiza family has 10 members.
- Kyaguriro family has 15 members with Rukara as the leader. This family had 20 members before it split to form Mukiza family. Kyaguriro family was reserved for research but it was later opened for trekking with permission from Uganda wildlife Authority. The group was habituated in 1999.
Bwindi forest is the best birding destination in Africa continent, with Ruhija sector being the best birdwatching spot within the park. Some of the birds that can be spotted include Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, Grauers warbler, African green broadbill among others. You can carry some binoculars to easily do the bird watching activity.
More activities that can be done in and around Ruhija are; Forest walk so as to get in touch with nature and explore the forest on foot. You can still visit Community and interact with the Batwa who are the first inhabitants of the park before being evicted in 1991 and learn their traditional way of living.
Accommodation in Ruhija favors everyone depending on your choice and budget, there are a number of lodges to choose from namely Ruhija Gorilla Mist Camp, Bakiga lodge, Ruhija community rest camp, Ruhija Gorilla Safari lodge to mention but a few. Ruhija is the coldest area in Bwindi being at an elevation of 2350 m above sea level, most of the lodges will light up afire to keep you warm in the evenings or give you hot water bottles for warmth as you sleep.
Ruhija as one of Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors in the east of the park can be accessed by road and air. By road through Kampala, Mbarara Kabale then Ruhija or from Queen Elizabeth national park through Ishasha then Ruhija. By flight there are chartered flights from Entebbe airport to Kihihi airstrip when you can connect to Ruhija by road since the flight doesn’t reach Ruhija direct.
Nkuringo is located in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable forest neighboring Buhoma sector and Rushaga sector. The gorilla families here are the most strenuous to trek needing enough fitness to climb up the hills in search of gorillas. The trek is so rewarding with amazing views of mount Nyiragongo and mount Nyamuragira in Virunga national park of Congo. Visitors who love adventurous activities will need to try the gorilla trek here. Nkuringo sector has three habituated gorilla families that are available for tracking meaning there are 24 gorilla permits every day.
Gorilla Families in Nkuringo Sector
- Nkuringo Gorilla family, was the first to be habituated in Nkuringo sector in 1997. The group was led by Nkuringo silverback which later died in 2008. The group was named after the ‘rolling hills’ known as Nkuringo where the gorillas were first sighted. Currently the family has 13 members with two silverbacks’ Safari and Rafiki. The group is led by a dominant silverback called Rafiki. This group was the first to receive twin gorillas in December 2004.
- Bushaho family, was habituated in 2012 after some members of Nkuringo family led by a silverback known as Bahati left the group and formed Bushaho. Then Bushaho family has 8 members led by the dominant silverback Bahati.
- Christmas Gorilla family, is the newest group that has been habituated in Nkuringo sector. The family was named after the dominant silverback which was born on Christmas day. There are 9 individuals in this group.
Nkuringo has other activities that one can engage in after gorilla trekking and these are Batwa cultural trail, forest walks, birding mostly done on Lake Mutanda and so many more.
Accommodation while in Nkuringo sector can be got in the various lodging facilities in the area. The lodges include Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla lodge, Nkuringo campsite and many more.
Nkuringo sector can be accessed by road and air transport. By road it can be reached from both Kampala taking 8-10 hours and Kigali driving for 3-5 hours. Nkuringo can be accessed by air with every day charter flights from Entebbe to Kisoro airstrip from where you drive a few hours to reach Nkuringo sector.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest Uganda
Rushaga Sector is located in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable national park bordering Ruhija and Nkuringo. Along the way to Rushaga sector you get the best views of Volcanic mountains such as Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo and the beautiful scenery of Kisoro together with the amazing topography of the area mainly the hills and valleys.
Rushaga sector has 8 Gorilla families, the highest number of habituated gorilla families in Bwindi forest. These families include Nshongi, Mishaya, Bweza, Kahungye, Busingye, Bikingi, Mucunguzi and Rwigi. The Rushaga gorilla trekking sector is the only place where Gorilla Habituation Experience (GHE) takes place which allows you to spend 4 hours with gorillas escorted by the park rangers. The gorilla habituation Experience permit cost USD 1500 in Uganda unlike the normal gorilla trekking permit that costs USD 700. In this sector, two gorilla families called Bikingi and Bushaho have been selected for this habituation experience. Therefore, Rushaga sells 8 gorilla habituation permits and 64 gorilla trekking permits per day with 4 people visiting each family for gorilla habituation experience and 8 people undertaking normal gorilla trekking.
Gorilla Families in Rushaga
- Nshongi family is the largest gorilla family which at the time of habituation in 2009 had 36 members but as time passed, it split creating more families such as Bweza and Mishaya. It has 25 members now with Nshongi silverback as a leader and other 3 silver backs. This gorilla family got its name from Nshongi River where it was first seen at the time of habituation.
- Mishaya family split from Nshongi group in 2010 led by silverback called Mishaya which was well known for fighting. The family has 12 gorillas but continues to increase due to continued fights which ends up winning new members to the group. Mishaya silverback later died in 2014 and was succeeded by Mwine silverback.
- Kahungye group has 3 silverbacks and 13 members with the dominant silverback being Rumanzi. It was opened for trekking in 2011 with 27 members but later split to form Busingye gorilla family and Rwigi family.
- Busingye family was formed after splitting from kahungye group in 2012 led by a peaceful silverback known as Busingye which is good at fighting and attracting other females from other groups it encounters.
- Bweza family also split from Nshongi group with 12 members, 2 silverbacks, 4 black backs, 3 females and 3 infants. It’s headed by silverback Kakono who challenged Bweza in Nshongi families. It was habituated in 2013.
- Rwigi family split from Kahungye group with 6 members led by a dominant silverback called Rwigi. It’s a new group opened for trekking.
- Bikingi family has 15 members and is commonly visited by people undertaking Gorilla Habituation Experience
- Mucunguzi family with its name literally meaning savior was formed after splitting from Bweza family
Other activities to be carried out in Rushaga are cultural visits to the batwa community in Kisoro, bird watching, going for canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi and forest walks.
Rushaga as one of the Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors can be accessed by road from Kampala to Rushaga approximately 9hours or from Kigali to Rushaga through Cyanika border taking 3 hours. It can also be accessed by air, there are daily flights to Kisoro airstrip from Entebbe where you can connect by road to Rushaga.
Accommodation in Rushaga ranges from budget to midrange and then luxury so it all depends on your preference and budget. Some lodges in Rushaga include Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Chameleon hill lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Safari lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Haven lodge, Nshongi Camp, Wagtail Safari Camp and so many more.
- Please note that the members of each of the above mentioned families keep changing due to the continued splitting and movement of gorillas. The gorilla families in the four sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable national park also keep increasing with the continued habituation of new gorilla families.
- The same gorilla rules set by Uganda Wildlife Authority apply in all the sectors of the park, so keep in mind that you have to follow them despite where you’re tracking. In each sector there is always a briefing before heading out for gorilla trekking each morning on the Do’s and Don’ts while on the trek.
- The gorilla permits cost same amount of money for all the available permits in the sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. This gorilla permit allows you one hour with one gorilla family in one of the four sectors your choose in a day. Each normal gorilla trekking permit costs USD 700 and a gorilla habituation permit costs USD 1500 that allows you 4 hours with gorillas on one trek in Uganda.(2020 – 2022 UWA Tarif sheet)
- The terrain of Bwindi Impenetrable is generally hilly and mountainous so the place is sometimes chilly. The parking list regardless of the sector in which you’re tracking is the same. Check the packing list for a gorilla trekking Safari.
- The gorilla permits are sold on first come first served basis so you need to book your permit at least 6 months in advance so that you get to track in your preferred family in the sector of your choice.