Some tourists normally ask, “which is the easier gorilla group to trek?” and of course they deserve an answer. Ever since Rwanda increased its gorilla permits to USD 1,500, tourists now pay to trek closer and easier to find gorillas.
Some tourists have however been wrongly advised that in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that some gorilla families are difficult to find compared to others. Yet there are instances where tourists go for trekking and within an hour, they meet with the gorillas while other occasions, tourists spend over three quarters of the day trekking to locate the gorillas and by the time they find them, they are already worn out. Basing on that instance, tourists on sharing their experiences on feedback platforms like trip advisor inform other tending tourists about how they shouldn’t trek a certain group of gorillas because they are difficult to trek.
However the factual truth is that these mountain gorillas are wild primates and given the different factors such as food, threats from poacher and fights with other families, they tend to move from place to place and with this you can not tell their directions and movements at any time. Implying that you can not see the same gorilla group in the same location as the previous tourists who trekked it a day before, they can either come closer or move further in the forest. For instance, Rushegura Gorilla group commonly referred as R-Group has been recorded as the easiest group to trek because of the fact that their territory is just within Buhoma yet still Buhoma is the start trekking point for those trekking in Buhoma sector. With this, most of the tourists have opted to trek specially this gorilla group however this is seasonal given the fact that they can also move very long distances and be difficult to trek down. Therefore purchasing a gorilla permit for Rushegura group does not promise an easy trek.
In some situations, tourists purchase their gorilla permits in locations that do not relate to their booked accommodations. This then requires them to ensure that they are awake as early as 5am, had their breakfast and then drive to where you will be trekking from. So to say, Bwindi has four gorilla trekking sections including; Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija.
It is therefore advised that if you booked a gorilla permit for gorilla group in Rushaga, ensure your accommodation is a well booked in Rushaga. As a result of this arrangement, you will be reducing on the distance covered to reach the starting point. While it is also impossible to trek a gorilla group in Ruhija and book a lodge in Buhoma, and so is trekking in Buhoma and staying in Ruhija. Therefore this must be strictly prevented to a enjoy your gorilla safari as it avoids complaints like travelling long distances to reach the staring point.
Uganda currently has twelve gorilla groups, 1 to be trekked in Mgahinga Gorilla national park and the remaining 11 in Bwindi these divided into 3 sections including Buhoma with about 4 families that is Rushegura, Mubare and Habinyanja. Ruhija with also about 3 families that is Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro, Rushaga with about 4 families that is Nshongi, Kahungye, Mishaya and the newly Busingye group that separated from Kahungye group, Nkuringo has Nkuringo gorilla group.
Another frequently asked question is “why book a hard gorilla family?” The above mentioned factors answer this similar question. However as a tourist you can request the ranger guides allocate you a family that could be identified closer with reasons based on your ability and health issues, this should be requested after briefing from your guide.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is the best option for those yearning for a spectacle of wildlife display. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the best place you can see gorillas in Uganda. This is an old rain forest so the trekking can be a little tougher than in Rwanda.
The fact that Uganda has diversity of wildlife, the forest itself is more dramatic than it would in Rwanda, and although the park is harder to get to by road, most times requiring an overnight stop from the capital Kampala or Entebbe, it is more than worth the effort travelling through some exhilarating scenery en-route.
If you want to make better use of your time in Uganda, there are several excellent domestic flights services available. Just as Rwanda, gorilla trekking here is done on steeply hills and muddy paths. It is not so humid because of the altitude.
Usually you are only allowed to spend just one hour with the Gorillas, although there is now an option to gain access to these wonderful creatures with gorilla researchers and therefore spend several hours in their company.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park portrays great diversity. It is ranked among the most biologically diverse places. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has 9 habituated families. The mountain gorillas here live in a very thick tropical rain-forest, which makes it hard to track them compared to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Volcanoes National Park Rwanda.
With steeper hillsides, it can take a tourist up to six hours before locating the gorillas. However, this should worry you less as guests are often divided into groups for easy, moderate and difficult treks all basing on the mobility of gorilla families for that particular day.
There are currently a total of 11 families in Uganda.
The Mubare Family
- 11 members including 1 silverback
- Habituated between 1991 and 1993 the family were named after the Mubare Hills, where they were first spotted
- Mubare is the oldest habituated group in Uganda
- Kanyonyi is current group leader. Took over following the death of his father, Ruhondeza, in June 2012
The Habinyanja Family
- 17 members
- Meaning ‘body of water’, this family was habituated in 1997
- Makara is the sole dominant leader of the group.
- The family has a stubborn prodigal member, Maraya, who left family in August 2011 but often comes to cause chaos in the family then moves back to solitary life.
The Oruzogo Family
- 17 members including 2 silverbacks.
- The group was named after the local name of a common plant in the home range of this family
- Bakwate has been the dominant silverback since habituation in 2008
- Kagaanga – a young silverback is second in command
The Bitukara Family
- 14 members including 4 silverbacks
- The family was named after the Bitukura River
- Their habituation started in 2007 and tracking began in 2008
- The family has four Silverbacks peacefully coexisting. The retired Karamuzi and two others (Rukumu and Mugisha) who are all submissive to Ndahura
The Rushegura Family
- 15 members with 1 silverback
- Kabukojo is current leader following the death of predecess or Mwirima in March 2014
- Their name is taken from a tree species that grows in their home area, Ebishegura
- They are a calm group and often visit the Bwindi Lodge gardens
- Kabukojo has a younger brother – Kalembezi – who helps him co-lead the family
The Nkuringo Family
- 12 members with 2 silverbacks
- Named after the Nkuringo Hill where the group was first spotted
- Originally habituated in 2004 after destroying the crops of local farmers. Now farmers benefit from the tourism they provide
- Rafiki has been the dominant silverback for almost a decade.
The Nshongi Family
- 7 members
- Named after the river close to where they were first sighted.
- It was the largest group to be habituated now fractured to form several new families.
The Kyaguliro Family
- 20 members
- Currently under contentious leadership of young Mukiza, whose authority is being contested by an immigrant silverback from Bitukura family.
The Bweza Family
- 12 members
- Kakano is the silverback of the group
- The group was formed after a dispute in the Nshongi family, at which point they split off and became a separate family
The Kahungye Family
- 18 members including 3 silverbacks
- The group was named after the Kahungye Hills and are newly habituated
- The family has three silverbacks but two, Rwigyi (the oldest) and Ruzika (the youngest) are loyal to the dominant one (Rumanzi)
- Rumanzi has been dominant since habituation
The Nyakagezi Family
- 10 members, including 5 silverbacks – the highest number in a single group
- The group is very nomadic, crossing the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC
- Mark is the dominant silverback. He took over form Bigingo, who is still alive but the oldest family member
choice. To avoid this make sure you acquire your gorilla permit way in advance-5 months in advance to enable you make a choice.
In conclusion, gorilla tracking can sometimes be strenuous and a certain level of fitness is required. If you have this level of fitness and your prime goal is to trek gorillas, then the above complaints should not arise.