There are two National Parks in Uganda where you can visit the Mountain Gorilla i.e Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park and Mgahinga National Park. Different Uganda Mountain Gorilla groups are found in different parts of the park e.g in Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija which are all in Bwindi.
Uganda Mountain Gorilla Groups
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
There is one family of habituated gorillas here the – Nyakagezi group. This group which was made up of 7 members fled to Rwanda but returned to Uganda in November 2012 with 2 additional members making a total of 9 members:4 Silverback, 2 Adult Females, 1 Juveniles, 2 Infants / babies. After the return of the group, it is now open for Gorilla tracking but confirmation about the presence of the gorillas has to be done with the UWA Kisoro office at least a night before tracking. This is because their territory includes Congo and Rwanda and at times moves there for feeding.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest Park
The park is located in South-western Uganda, covering parts of Rukungiri, Kisoro, and Kabale Districts. It is situated in a mountainous countryside, which, together with some remnant lowland forest outside the boundary, constitutes an important water catchments area for many rivers, supplying the agricultural land of the surrounding region. This is the richest forest in Uganda, in terms of the number of plant species, as the area is one of the few large expanses of forest in East Africa where lowland and montane communities merge. The valley bottoms contain a dense ground cover of herbs, vines, and shrubs with only a few trees hence its name, the impenetrable forest. This is one of the richest fauna communities in East Africa. There exists about one half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas. Most tourists who are going for a Uganda Safari come here for the amazing gorillas. There are also several endangered species of birds with limited ranges. Gorilla tracking began on 1st April 1993. It is advisable to make reservations at least 3-6 months before your intended date of visit. There are three areas of gorilla trekking – Buhoma which is the most popular and frequently used site and has access to three habituated groups. Nkuringo which is at the far Western end of the park and accessed from Kisoro side. Access for trekking here is more difficult with a long steep hill that can only be walked, not driven, for access. Ruhija which is about 1.5 – 2 hours drive from Buhoma area and in one of the highest altitude areas of the park. The Mountain Gorilla groups are allowed 8 visitors per day for a period of up to one hour.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family – size 14 members
The Nkuringo group was named after the Rukiga word for “round hill” and was launched in 2004. One of the most important reasons for their habituation were problems they created for the local communities by destroying crops and other products. By opening up the gorilla family for visitors, the community could directly benefit from tourism and it formed a protection for the gorillas as well. The family was led by the silverback Nkuringo who died in 2008, leaving behind 2 silverbacks in the group. In November 2008, the Nkuringo family expanded thanks to the special birth of a twin – Katungi and Muhozi – though Katungi unfortunately died at the age of 1.5 years. Currently, the group has 4 silverbacks, 2 black backs, 3 Adult females and 3 infants.
Nshongi Gorilla Family – Family size 7 Individuals.
Located in Rushaga area on the Nkuringo side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Nshongi was the largest group ever habituated and was officially launched in September 2009. It was named after the river Nshongi, close to the place where the gorilla family was first seen. One remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest silverback in the family. Because of its huge size and the increasing number of silver backs, around mid 2012 the group which consisted of 18 members broke to form the Bweza group. The original Nshongi remained with 7 members only- 1 silver back, 4 black backs and 2 Adult females.
Mishaya Gorilla Family – Family size 7 Individuals including 1 Silverback
In July 2010, silverback Mishaya decided to leave the Nshongi group with some females and start his own family. He was able to gather more females from other groups in the area, reaching a total group size of 7 gorillas, including 1 silver back, 3 Adult females, 2 infants and 1 sub adult. Mishaya is the only adult in the group and is known for being a fighter who often starts interactions with other gorilla families.
Kahungye Gorilla Family – Family size 18 individuals including 2 silverbacks
Kahungye is named after the hill with the same name which is in the home range of this gorilla family. Since October 2011 the group became available for tourism. With 26 members that are very active and full of life, the family is lead by Silverback Gwigi, which means “door” in the local language. The whole group has 2 silver backs, 3 black backs, 4 Adult females, 1 sub adult, 3 Juveniles and 5 Infants.
Busingye Mountain Gorilla Family.
This is a break way family from Kahungye Mountain Gorilla Family. In early 2012, this family formed its own group. It is made up of 1 silverback, 4 Adult females, 1 Sub adult and 3 infants.
Bweza Mountain Gorilla Family.
Around mid 2012, Bweza Mountain gorilla family broke away from the Nshongi gorilla family. It was easy for the UWA rangers to habituate the group since it broke away from a formerly habituated family. This was because of the huge size of the Nshongi group and the increasing number of silverbacks that were trying to struggle for power. It is made up of 1 silver back, 3 Adult females, 1 juvenile and 2 infants.
At Buhoma, in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, there are three Mountain Gorilla groups i.e Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura groups.
Mubare Gorilla Family
This group consists of 7 individuals. The group has been the longest habituated at Bwindi and traditionally has been the favoured group to trek for viewing. However, in the last couple of years this group has quite often been quite far away from the start of the trekking point with many visitors walking up to 8 hours in order to view these magnificent animals. The group started with 12 family members, led by the dominant silverback Ruhondeza who unfortunately passed away in July 2012 after a vigorous fight with an unhabituated group of wild mountain Gorillas. Ruhondeza had the zeal of building a big family in that at one time, the group totalled to 18 individuals. Unluckily, due to fights with wild Gorilla groups and loss of members, Mubare reduced to a family of 5 individuals and after the death of Ruhondeza, only 4 members remained. Fortunately, his successor has managed to grab more 3 members from a wild Gorilla family to make 7 members. Apparently, the group has 1 silverback, 1 black back, 1 adult female, 1 sub-adult, 3 infants.
Habinyanja Gorilla Family
This group consists of 19 individuals – 1Silverbacks, 5 Adult females, 4 sub- Adult, 3 Juveniles and 6 infants. This group is headed by a silverback named Rwatsigazi who was a dominant male in the original group and the adult females are led by the shrewd alpha female called Kisho. In history, the original Habinyanja group before separation had never ranged outside the Park. But after separation, Habinyanja A went outside the Park in Kasarabandwa DRC and was chased. This group derives its name from “Nyanja” which is the local word for ‘body of water’. It refers to the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the group was first sighted. Habinyanja is a fascinating family with a lot of drama and commotion.
Rushegura Gorilla Family
This group consists of 16 individuals – 1 Silverback, 3 Adult Females, 2 Black back, 4 Juveniles, 5 Infants and 1 Sub adult. This group is headed by the silverback named Mwirima, who was not a dominant male in the original Habinyanja group. Two of the juveniles have just turned into Black backs. This group has good reproductive potential, with five adult females been observed mating several times.
Bitukura Gorilla Family
This group consists of 11 individuals, 4 silverbacks, 1 sub-adult, 3 females, 1 Black-backs, 2 juveniles and 1 infant. The Bitukura group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The habituation that started in July 2007 was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already frequently encountered by the UWA rangers. Although the habituation process normally takes a minimum of two years, this group could already be visited by tourists within 15 months after the start. Bitukura is a peaceful family including 4 silverbacks and some playful juveniles. They share a close bond and often have ‘group meetings’ or gettogethers. The family can be found in the Ruhija area which is about a one and a half hours drive from Buhoma.
Oruzogo Gorilla Family
This group consists of 22 individuals with 1 dominant silverback The Oruzogo group is one of the newest gorilla families that opened up for tourism in Bwindi National Park. This family is situated between Buhoma and Ruhija and is lead by the dominant Silverback Tibirikwata. The group consists of 22 individuals including two babies that were recently born. This family is located in Ruhija which approximately two and half hour’s drive from Buhoma. The entire group is made up of 1 silverback, 6 black backs, 5 Adult females, 6 juveniles and 4 infants.