The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a giant primate or great ape that is only found in East and Central Africa. It is the world’s largest living primate. It is larger and more powerful than other gorilla species, with thicker, longer fur that allows it to survive only in harsh environments at high altitudes and extreme cold.
Mountain gorilla nose prints are unique to each individual, just like human thumbprints. The mountain gorilla is the most endangered species and the only gorilla species found in Uganda. The Virunga Mountains slopes in Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda are home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in southwestern Uganda is home to the largest number of Uganda gorillas. Bwindi is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Furthermore, Bwindi is the only national park in the world where chimps coexist with mountain gorillas. To visit the Uganda gorillas, a gorilla permit is required, which costs $600 per trek for foreign residents, $700 for foreign non-residents, and UGX 250,000 for Ugandan citizens. Gorilla permits in Uganda can be booked directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority by visiting their head offices in Kampala. On the contrary, you can book a Uganda gorilla permit through a reputable tour operator. Please note that due to the high demand for Uganda gorilla permits, they ought to be booked for a few months for one’s Uganda gorilla trekking safari.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the other park in Uganda where you can see gorillas in Uganda. It is one of the parks in the Virunga ranges, which are shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Gorilla trekking is an enthralling and unforgettable experience that more than compensates for the effort required to reach Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and trek through the forest. Tourists can trek 22 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi. These groups are distributed across the Park’s four sectors for gorilla trekking: Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhija. Uganda gorillas can also be seen in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s Ruhija and Rushaga regions.
Another way to spend more time with Uganda gorillas is to participate in a gorilla habituation experience. The gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an initiative aimed at giving those who can afford it more time with gorillas. Gorilla habituation experience permits cost USD1500 per trek in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and each habituated gorilla family is visited by a maximum of four people.
Visitors on Uganda Safaris or Uganda gorilla safari tours have a good chance of seeing the famous mountain gorillas in Uganda. Some of these Ugandan gorilla families have become habituated to human interactions. The gorillas are known for being social and living in small groups that are presented as a family. They used to be afraid of humans before these habituated gorilla families in Bwindi were allowed to be visited. However, during the first habituation process, which lasted over two years, they began to become accustomed to human presence. Gorillas are the largest primate in Uganda, and they can be aggressive to various threats. Gorillas can fight to protect their family members.
They are shy when compared to other primates in that they hide when they see a human. This is why these primates go through the habituation process to ensure that they are close enough to meet these hikers.
Uganda habituated the first gorilla group in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in 1991, making it the first country to do so. Today, Uganda has habituated 22 gorilla families that are ready for trekking from the two well-known gorilla parks, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mubare Gorilla Family
Mubare group was habituated in 1991 and was Uganda’s first habituated group. The group was officially opened for trekkers in 1993 in the Buhoma Sector, which is the most popular sector for trekkers. Buhoma sector is the most accessible sector for trekkers who do not want to spend a long time trekking. The gorillas are occasionally found in the compound of some lodges in the Buhoma sector. When some members of the Mubare gorilla group died, the group split into other groups, which caused some difficulties.
Habunyanja Gorilla family group
The Habunyanja group was established in 1997 and opened for trekking in 1999. The group is led by a dominant silverback named Makara, who succeeded Rwansigazi, who is no longer alive in the family. The family name Habunyanja was derived from a Rukiga language spoken by community members in the park. The “Habunyanja” means “a place with water”. This group has lost members due to death, but it has also added newborn gorillas to form a large family.
Rushengura Gorilla Family
The Rushengura family descended from the Habinyanja tribe, which split when their silverback Mugurusi died of natural causes. Rwansigazi and Mwirima were the brothers who attempted to share power after their silverback’s death but failed to lead together. They split up as brothers and formed their groups to lead; Mwirima founded the Rushengura group, while Rwansigazi remained a silverback in the Habinyanja group. Rushengura, which is located in the Buhoma Sector, was fully habituated in 2002 and began receiving trekkers immediately. Rushengura is one of the oldest gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the entire Buhoma Sector.
Oruzogo Gorilla Family Group.
The Oruzogo family became accustomed to and welcomed its first trekkers in 2011 in Bwindi’s Ruhijja Sector. After a year of habituation, this family received a pair of twin gorillas from Kabobe, a female member of the family. This family is thought to have the most members in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, with names like Busungu, Kaganga, and Bwoba.
Katwe Gorilla Family Group
The Katwe family became accustomed in 2018 and began receiving trekkers in the same year. This is one of the most recently habituated families in Uganda, and it is one of four currently found in Buhoma Sector in Bwindi. Until now, this gorilla family has been led by a silverback named Katwe.
Bitukura Gorillas Family
The Bitukura family had been habituated for 15 months and was ready to trek in early 2007. This family got their name from the river Butikura, which was home to the first gorilla group seen in the area. The Bitukura family is led by four silverbacks who are very peaceful and live in harmony with one another with no internal conflicts. They can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s Ruhijja Sector.
Kyaguriro Gorilla Group
After putting their research on hold, the Kyaguriro family was first habituated in 1999 and later received its trekkers. This clan is located in the Ruhijja Sector and is led by a dominant silverback named Rukara.
The Nshongi family
The Nshongi family was fully habituated in 2009 and later received trekkers in the same year. This name was inspired by River Nsongi, which was derived from “Omushongi Gwoboki,” which means “honey” and usually refers to the deep color of the water/river. The Rushagga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to the Nshongi gorilla family, which is the most enjoyable group to trek with. This family was used to having 36 members, but they have now reduced to 25 members due to some group conflicts and the natural deaths of some gorillas.
Mishaya Gorilla Family Group
After its habituation in the Rushaga sector in 2010, the Mishaya family split from the Nshongi family. This family is so peaceful and enjoyable to trek with, but it only has a few family members in the entire sector because it was formed recently, and it welcomes new members who want to join. A silverback leads this group. Mishaya is a well-known fighter of this group who recently won a fight against a group of unaccustomed fighters.
Kahungye Gorilla Family
In 2011, the Kahungye family was habituated with a small number of gorillas and received trekkers later that year. Following habituation, this group added more gorillas to the group but later split to form the Busingye gorilla family. Gwigi, whose name means “door” in some local Ugandan languages near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, leads the Kahungye family.
Busingye Gorilla Family
After a few conflicts, the Busingye family separated from the Kahungye family. This group was formed in 2015 to promote group peace. Their family name was derived from a local language that meant “peace,” and this group always welcomes members from other groups, even if it is sometimes forced to do so. The family began with more than seven gorillas and has grown to include more than ten members.
Bweza Gorilla Family Group
Bweza family was habituated in 2013 and began receiving trekkers later that year. This is one of the families that broke away from the Nshongi clan in 2010 to form their clan, led by a silverback named Kakono.
Bikingi Gorilla Family
The Bikingi family had some isolated individuals in the Rushaga Sector who slowed the habituation process in this family. It became habituated and began to receive trekkers later on. This group came from Mishaya in 2012 with a few members to start the group, and they eventually grew to over 15 members, led by a dominant silverback named Bikingi.
Rwigi Gorilla Family Group
The Rwigi family is one of the new gorilla families that has settled in the Rushaga Sector of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This group’s first trekkers arrived in 2019 with a family of five members led by a dominant silverback named Rwigi. This gorilla family can be reached via the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s Rushaga or Nkuringo sectors.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family Group
The Nkuringo family is one of the habituated gorilla families, having received its first trekkers in 2004 in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s Nkuringo Sector. Before the habituation process began in this group, they destroyed crops in the surrounding community, forcing the forest controllers to habituate their group. The family name was derived from the hill on which they were primarily located, and it is led by a dominant silverback named Rafiki. According to the history of how this group was habituated, it is regarded as a difficult and powerful family when compared to other gorilla families.
Bushaho Gorilla Family Group
The Bushaho family is one of the habituated families in the Buhoma Sector of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, descended from the Nkuringo family. This family is led by a silverback named Bahati, who was observed for some time before discovering that it was a silverback in the Bushoho gorilla family who was responsible for the family’s habituation.
Group of Mukiza Gorilla Family
The Mukiza family descended from the habituated Kyaguriro gorilla family, which began receiving trekkers a few months later. This group is known as Kyaguriro B and is located in the Ruhija Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The split is said to have occurred in 2016, and the group is led by a silverback named Mukiza.
Kutu Gorilla Family
The Kutu family is one of the habituated families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s Rushaga sector. This group was allowed by trekkers after it became habituated, and it is led by a single silverback.
Mucunguzi Gorilla Family
The Mucunguzi family, which consisted of eight members, was discovered in the Rushaga Sector of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This group is dominated by females and is led by a female-dominant silverback. The Mucunguzi family came from Bweza, where they had a serious fight that caused them to split up.
Gorillas in Mgahinga Forest National
Mgahinga is home to only one of the habituated gorilla families. This gorilla family group is completely accustomed to human visitation and interaction. Guests on Uganda Rwanda Safaris, or even on Uganda safaris to see mountain gorillas, can visit these habituated gorilla families in Mgahinga.
The Nyakagezi Gorilla family
The Nyakagezi family is found in the Forest of Mgahinga National Park and is the only gorilla group there that is worth trekking with. This group is led by four silverbacks, including the oldest, Bugingo, who is still a silverback with great joy when you look at him. Bugingo is thought to be over 54 years old, while the other dominant silverback is known as Mark, and the other two are Mathew and Mafia. Despite having only 9 family members, this group is fully habituated and permitted to trek with it.
The Nyakagezi family is a rare gorilla family in which a silverback was overthrown but remained in the group, whereas in other gorilla families, once the silverback is overthrown, the members tend to leave the family and form their own. When a silverback is overthrown, he is sometimes banished to seek refuge from other families or even die in the jungle. When a Kanyonyi overthrew Ruhondeza, a silverback in the Mubare group, Ruhondeza left the group and lived alone in the forest until he died.
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