1.    Gorillas in Uganda

About Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas

Uganda Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in south western Uganda. Bwindi has half the number of mountains gorillas remaining in the whole world. Bwindi is the only national park in the world where chimps co-exist with mountain Gorillas. To visit Uganda gorillas, one needs a gorilla permit that costs USD700.00 per trek.

Mgahinga National Park is the other park where ugand gorillas are found. It is one of the parks in the Virunga rnges shared between Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.

Gorilla tracking is a captivation and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Bwindi has thirteen habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by tourists. 3 of these are in the vicinity of Buhoma and one at Nkuringo. Uganda gorillas can also be visited in Ruhija and Rushaga regions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla Habituation experience is another way of spending more time with Uganda gorillas. Gorilla Habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an initiative aimed at giving more time with gorillas to those who can afford. Gorilla Habituation permits cos USD1500.00 per trek in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and each gorilla family under habituation is visited by a maximum number of 4 people. Contact us


Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is derived from a local Kikiga word,”Omubwndi and as the world suggests, the forest is almost impassable and is regarded as one of the oldest and unspoilt tropical forest dating back as 25,000 years. According to the latest mountain gorilla census, it was established that half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas live in bwindi. The number of mountsinn gorillas out of this, 400 are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and this park is the only one where gorillas co-exist with wild chimpanzees although there is no trekking chimps since no community has been habituated.

UNESCO World Heritage Because of its importance in protecting given bio diversities, Bwindi Impenetrable forest was recognized and upgraded to a status of being a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1994. Due to its location, attitude and influence of local winds, Bwindi National Park receives approximately 1500mm of rain evey year and almost all the time. Its attitude ranges between 1,106 to 2,607 with thw lowest point located in the North (Buhoma) and the highest point in the southern section Bwindi in Rushaga and Nkuringo.

Bwindi can be cold especially in the morning and at the night, the annual average temperature range is 70C-200C with the coldest period being in June and July. Warm clothing is required plus wet weather gear since Bwindi receives up to 2390mm of rain/year. This is concentrated during two wet seasons, short rains in March-May and heavy rains in September-November. Instead of short tropical deluges, rain in Bwindi often fails as long hours of soft drizzle.

For those planning to do a gorilla tracking safari in Uganda, the following information would apply;

Before departing for Gorilla Tracking

  1. In Uganda a maximum of tourists may visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. This is done to ensure minimal behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
  2. Make sure that you wash your hands before your tracking exercise.

On the way to the Uganda gorillas

  1. Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
  2. You will be taken to where the guides observed the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail to find them. Look out for the gorillas’s nesting sites along the way.
  3. Do Not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you.
  4. When you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will inform you to get ready.

Important Gorilla Trekking Rules

  • A 7 meter (21 feet) distance should be observed at all times when you’re with the gorillas which makes the gorillas feel relaxed and at ease.
  • You must stay in tight group when your near the group
  • Do not drink, eat or smoke when your near the gorillas because it can inevitably increase the risk of diseases if food or drink droplets fall
  • Always keep your voices low when you’re with the gorillas and keep voices low till your 200 meters away from the gorillas.
  • Flash photography is not permitted! Take photos and movements slowly
  • Do not touch the gorillas
  • Do not attempt to run when gorillas charge because it may be dangerous for you
  • The maximum time to be with the gorillas is 1 hour but sometimes the gorillas might get agitated and if they do the guide will end the finish the visit early.


General Healthy Rules

Mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them;

  • Follow and respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day which minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • When coughing or sneezing near the gorillas kindly turn away and cover your nose and mouth in order to prevent the spread of bacteria or virus.
  • When you’ve a contagious disease kindly volunteer to stay behind
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest kindly ask the guide to dig a hole with his panga. The hole has to be 30cm deep and fill it in when you are finished.
  • Do not leave any rubbish e.g. food, wrappers in the forest to prevent any contamination with the gorillas.


2.   Gorilla Families

About 80 mountain gorillas are located in Mgahinga National Park, all under one gorilla group that inhabits the area. Currently these gorilla families are habituated for tracking. Gorilla habituation is a process that takes 2 years and involves training gorilla mountains to get used to Humans as they continue their day to day activities in their wild nature environment. A number of 8 people are allowed to visit a particular gorilla family per day.

Uganda has 11 gorilla groups of families habituated for trekking while one is for research. Gorilla Families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park include;


Rushegura Gorilla Family

Is one of the families with 19 memebers in total and lead by a silverback called Mwirima in his late 20s and a brother from the Habinyanja group called Rwansigazi. The group is named after a place where two brothers separated to form their own independent groups. It was brought together in 2002 silver back from the Habinyanja group decided to break away and form his own family with a number of 12 members including 5 females. By 2010 the number increased to 19 members and the family is known to be the calmest and friendly family in Bwindi. This group always crosses to congo but always returned. It’s known for wandering in nearby villages and lodges making it the calmest family in Buhoma and the entire Bwindi.

Habinyanja Gorilla Family

The family started in 1997 although it was visited by tourists in 1999. The word Habinyanja comes from a local word ‘Nyanja’ meaning water, from the swamps where the family was found. The family consists of 17 members with 2 silver backs and the time the family was habituated. It was led by one dominate sliver back called Mungurusi a local word meaning ‘old man’ who passed away due to old age.  After Mungurusi’ passing he was inherited by his brothers Mwirima and Rwansigazi who took power to lead the family but later on the two did not agree on ruling the family. The family is found in Buhoma.

Mubare Gorilla Family

The family was found in the forest in Mubare hills which means stone in the local language. It has 8 members with 1 silver back. Mubare group was opened I 1992 and started with 18 members and Ruhondenza was the leader. During the time of its Habituation, the group faced a misfortune of raids by Mountain Gorilla Family Kidnappers which caused death within the family.

Ruhondenza their leader tried to fight the kidnappers but due to his old age he was overpowered. History has it that it died in its sleep due to too much unbearable sadness it carried around after the death of its members and its grave can be visited by tourists. The group remained with 5 members and they have increased to 8 members led by the Alpha called Kanyonyi

Bitukura Gorilla Family

Bitukura gorilla family has 14 members and was first sighted in 2007. Originally it had 24 members near the river. The habituation of this family took a period of 2 years and this family has a special bond together with the Kyaguriro family.

It’s a famil known to be peaceful, playful which makes it easier to be closer and build togetherness with other members although it has 4 silverback. Interestingly the family is led by the second youngest silverback Ndahura who inherited and took over power from Karumazi who is aged and could no longer fight for the family, Bitukura family has new members and it’s found in Ruhija sector.

Oruzongo Family

With 25, members, this is a large group by usual standards. It is the second family in the Ruhija area and includes two silverbacks. Tibirikwata leads the group that first opened to visitors in 2011. 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).

Kyaguriro Family Group

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 Gorilla Families and Congo Gorilla Families

Nyakagezi Gorilla Family

There is only one habituated gorilla groups in Mgahinga National Park. The group is unpredictable and often migrates to Rwanda and Congo led by Mark the dominant Silverback. Apart from Mark, there are 2 other silverbacks in a group of 10. Because of their unpredictable movements, viewing the family can be difficult. Although they have currently settled in Uganda, you need to contact the authorities through your tour operator to know their exact location.

Nkuringo Gorilla Family

Nkuringo the great silverback initially led this group that now includes 19 individuals. After his death in 2008, he left two silverbacks Rafiki and Safari. Safari, his son took over from him. The group was first spotted near a round hill hence the name “Nkuringo” in Rukiga. Because the group lived near the villages outside the park, they had frequent encounters with humans and often sneaked to eat crops hence having creating conflicts. It was decided to habituate the group in 2008 to allow the community gain from tourism and see the conservation of gorillas as bringing economic opportunities to them.

Nshongi Gorilla Family

At the time the group was opened to visitors and tourists in 2009, the Nshongi family had 37 individuals – the largest ever habituated. It currently has 26 individuals and 4 silverbacks. The family was first seen near a river hence the name Nshongi (referring to the deep honey-like color of the river). When it was opened for tourism in September 2009, the family was unique due to its large size. Before they split in 2010, the family lived in harmony despite the many silverbacks. The Nshongi group under the dominant silverback Nshongi remained with 26 individuals while silverback Mishaya moved away with 10 individuals. Nshongi Gorilla Family is found in Rushaga side

Mishaya Gorilla Family

When Mishaya left Nshongi in 2010, he developed a reputation of starting fights with other gorilla families not only to protect his own, but to also steal females from neighbors. He succeeded in gathering a few females but was wounded in one of the fights with a wild gorilla family (not habituated). Luckily he was treated by gorilla conservation doctors nearby. The group now has 12 individuals with Mishaya the only dominant silverback and found in Rushaga side of Bwindi.

Kahungye Gorilla Family

This group contains 13 members including 3 silverbacks led by Rumansi. Ruhamuka and Rwigi are the other old males. The group was only recently (2011) opened for visitors. The group had 27 members when habituated but split shortly after creating another group Busingye. The Kahungye group is led by “Gwigi” (door in the local dialect) and found in Rushaga side of Bwindi

Bweza Gorilla Family

This group was opened to visitors in 2012. The group evolves from the Nshongi gorilla family which was the largest family ever habituated in Bwindi. When Silverback Mishaya separated from Nshongi in 2010, Bweza left him two years later (2012) with six members. The group contains 9 individuals still led by Bweza.

Busingye Gorilla Family

This group was opened to visitors in 2013. Busingye leads this group of 9 members after splitting away from the Kahungye family in 2012. Though his name means peace, Busingye is known for frequent fights and stealing females from neighboring Gorilla groups. He is very ambitious, dominant and uses every opportunity to show his power.

3.  When is the Best time to visit to go Mountain Gorilla Trekking?

Debates and opinions have been voiced in different avenues’ including online forums such as trip advisor, lonely planet among others about the best time to visit Gorillas. The fact is that gorillas in Uganda can be tracked throughout the year and tourists almost get the same satisfaction. This is because clients tend to avoid rainy seasons forgetting that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in an Equatorial Forest where chances of rain are very high daily.

Formally the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda is during the drier months of July, June, August and early September. During these months, the rain is less compared to months such as April, May and November. It’s during these months people prefer booking their gorilla treks making it so competitive. Gorilla permits tend to sell out first so anyone who could wish to trek in these months has to book their permits in advance to be precise 3 months to your trekking date. For more info contact Gorilla and Chimp Luxury Safaris

4.   Gorilla Habituation Experience

Gorilla Habituation experience can simply be known as the act of training wild gorillas to become used to the sight of people. It involves different groups of people like the trackers, conservationists, researchers and rangers among others who take a period of about 2 to 3 years completing this habituation experience. It’s a learning experience that has just recently become a stable activity presented by Uganda Wildlife Authority. This experience restricts a maximum of 4 people each day thus bookings for this kind of activity are to be done 12 months prior to the actual habituation day specifically during the months of December all through to March and July to October.

Unlike Gorilla trekking that limits ones interaction with the gorillas to only an hour, Gorilla Habituation allows a person 4 hours in the company of the gorillas. Also, one spends a little bit more USD1500.00 for each person needing to do the habituation experience dissimilar from the USD1200.00 paid for gorilla tracking. Since this kind of experience is hardly existent in Rwanda and or the Democratic Republic of Congo, one can only find it inside the Ugandan borders at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Gorilla and Chimp Luxury Safaris can organize both road and driving safaris to Bwindi Impenetrable National park for gorilla habituation experience or fly in safaris to the same National Park. We have trips to Bwindi National park for gorilla habituation experience that range from 3 days to 7 days of gorilla habituation experience. For more details about our gorilla habituation safaris, do contact one of our safari consultants.

As part of our services, we do book gorilla habituation permits just as we do for gorilla trekking permits. As soon as you pick interest in Gorilla Habituation experience safaris, kindly do contact Gorilla and Chimp Luxury Safaris for availability of space in Rushaga which is located on the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Once there is space, we will request you to provide all your passport details which are required before gorilla habituation permits are issued out. We also book accommodation in Rushaga depending on your budget and interest.

Gorilla habituation experience safaris

Whether you what to spend 3 days or more than that, we are able to organize either road trips or fly in safaris to gorilla habituation experience. For more details, please contact Gorilla and Chimp Luxury Safaris. Kindly note that at the moment, gorilla habituation permits cost USD1500.00 per permit and it allows one to spend four hours with a group of mountain gorillas under habituation. Maximum numbers allowed per family is 4 people and each must be 15 years and above. For more details kindly read our frequently asked questions about gorilla habituation experience. Gorilla and Chimp Luxury Safaris was the first company to take tourists for gorilla habituation experience and please do take advantage of our vast experience in organizing gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation safaris

5.   What should you pack for gorilla trekking trip?

You have already paid for your gorilla tour, gorilla permits, transport and accommodation. The next very important thing is to make sure that you have packed the right gorilla trekking gear for your gorilla safari. Gorilla trekking clothes are the same for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park as well as Volcanoes National Park So, the next question to be answered is what to pack for a gorilla trek. What we have advised below is for gorilla trekking but if your gorilla tour combined with wildlife safaris you might need more. Please contact Encounter Africa Safaris for more details.

Hiking Boots

One of the most important items that should be included in your gorilla trekking gear are hiking boots. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Volcanoes National Park involves trekking/hiking in search for the endangered mountain gorillas. Because of the nature of the forest plus the altitude and terrain, you need light weight hiking boots for this activity. Hiking boots are must as you decide on what to pack for your gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwanda’s volcanoes National Park.

Garden Gloves

You will be required gloves to protect your hands during your gorilla trek. As you move in this forest, remember that it can get slippery and somehow you need to hold on something just in case such happens. If you happen to touch some itching plants, trees or even climbing trees, you may be harmed. These gloves will therefore protect you from germs and other items that may scratch your hands. Consider including Garden Gloves in your gorilla trekking packing list.

Rain Jacket

Consider including a rain jacket or poncho in your gorilla trekking packing list as it is very crucial in as far as gorilla trekking gear is concerned.  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a tropical rain forest and as such, rain is received throughout the whole year. You will never tell when it is going to rain so you need a rain jacket in order to be protected from rain. Many clients prefer traveling in drier months of June, July, August and beginning of September and try to avoid rainy seasons of March, April and May but being a tropical rain forest, it can rain any time. When deciding on what to pack for your gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Volcanoes National Park, a Rain jacket or Poncho should be included.

Long Sleeved Shirts/Blouse/

You are required to have long sleeved trousers/shirts/blouse for your gorilla trekking. Please ensure that you tack in your trousers in your hiking boots to avoid insects such as safari ants entering your trousers. Jeans and Kachi trousers can do this better.

Energy giving snacks

Gorilla trekking can take from 30 minutes to eight or so hours and that’s why a certain level of fitness is required. To add on that, we advise that you carry some energy giving snacks as supplements. Before departing from your lodge, you need to carry your packed lunch and lots of drinking water as you never know when you will return. Energy giving foods can be bought in Uganda or Rwanda so contact or ask your guide to take you to a nearby super market.

Cameras and extra batteries

Photography is an important component of your safari and thus make sure that you have your camera ready, charge your batteries very well and if necessary, carry extra batteries as you will need to take as many photographs in the one hour you will have with the gorillas. Please make sure that you switch off your flash while taking gorilla photographs.

Hat and Sun Glasses

If it is hot, please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays. You may also need to carry some sun glasses too. These are extra optionals.

Pair of Binoculars

Don’t forget that you are on safari and you want to have clear views of everything. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is home to over 350 birds, chimpanzees, black and white colubus monkeys among other primates, forest elephants and buffaloes so during your trek in search for the rare mountain gorillas, you will have a chance to spot some of the above.

Porters for your gorilla trek

This is an extra optional item and we advise all our clients to take a porter for their gorilla trekking. As earlier noted, gorilla trekking can be strenuous and thus you will need someone to give you a push or a pull on the way to the gorillas. These porters go for a fee but it is worth it. Remember that these porters are actually school going students either in their vacation or have been chased out of school due to school fees. By paying some money to have a porter with you, you will have contributed to community development indirectly.

6.    Gorilla Trekking Rules

Mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them;

  • Follow and respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day which minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • When coughing or sneezing near the gorillas kindly turn away and cover your nose and mouth in order to prevent the spread of bacteria or virus.
  • When you’ve a contagious disease kindly volunteer to stay behind
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest kindly ask the guide to dig a hole with his panga. The hole has to be 30cm deep and fill it in when you are finished.
  • Do not leave any rubbish e.g. food, wrappers in the forest to prevent any contamination with the gorillas.