GORILLAS IN BWINDI'S SOUTHERN SECTOR
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park's Southern Sectors
Experienced travelers, photographers, and adventurous hikers favor the Gorillas in Bwindi Southern Sector. This sector is divided into two parts - Rushaga and Nkuringo Sectors. Both sectors have well-maintained visitor halls, and treks start every morning from these centers. Visitors to Nkuringo Sector can track 3 habituated gorilla groups (24 permits available daily), while the Rushaga Sector offers 7 habituated gorilla families and 1 semi-habituated group. The latter option provides a unique 4-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience (4 permits available daily).
The Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge is conveniently located just a 5-minute walk away from the Nkuringo visitor center. For those looking to visit the Rushaga visitor center, it's only a 45-minute drive from the Lodge.
If you're interested in trekking with the Christmas or Bushago gorilla groups, you can start your journey from the Nkuringo trekking center and venture straight into the jungle. On the other hand, the Nkuringo Gorilla Group trek starts approximately 7 kilometers away from the trekking center, and a 4x4 vehicle is required for transportation. The Nkuringo gorilla family is known for being the toughest troop to trek, similar to Rwanda's Susa Gorilla Group. Experienced trekkers usually opt for this challenging adventure.
Exploring the Nkuringo-Rushaga region and tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi's southern sector can be physically demanding due to the rugged terrain and high altitude, with Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge sitting at an altitude of 2,161 meters (7,090 ft). We recommend physical exercises before checking in at the Lodge to prepare yourself for the challenge.
Nkuringo Gorilla Group - The Most Adventurous & Most Photographed Gorilla Group
In April 2004, Trekking the Nkuringo Gorilla Group was established after eight years of studying and getting the troop accustomed to human presence. The group roamed around the Kashasha River valley, below the Nteko ridge, and often ventured into nearby communities to forage for food. This led to negative consequences, as they would sometimes raid crops and feed on non-native plants like eucalyptus and sweet potato, which could harm their health.
To promote the well-being of both the gorillas and the local villagers, the Human Gorilla Conflict Force was responsible for ensuring the group remained within the boundaries of the national park. However, this proved to be a challenging task. To address this issue, conservationists through the International Gorilla Conservation purchased a 12-kilometer-long and 350-meter-wide strip of public land along the river. This buffer zone would discourage the gorillas from venturing outside the park by implementing planned land usage, such as tea planting, that would not appeal to them.
In the late 90s, researchers discovered the Nkuringo Gorilla Group, led by a gentle Silverback named Nkuringo. He led the group until he passed away at the age of 45 in 2012. At the time of his death, Nkuringo was accompanied by his three Silverback sons, Safari, Rafiki, and Christmas. The brothers stayed together after Nkuringo's passing, with Safari leading the group. However, Safari vanished after a clash with a rival troop, the Bushaho Gorilla Group and his fate remains unknown. Rafiki then took over as the leader of the Nkuringo Gorilla Group and led the family gracefully until his death to a hunter on June 1, 2020.
Rafiki means "friend" in Swahili, and he was indeed a friendly gorilla and a cherished member of the family. Even when his brother Christmas left the group to form his own, he occasionally returned to the Nkuringo Group. Like a prodigal son, Rafiki always welcomed his brother back home.
When Rafiki passed away, there was concern in the conservation community that the Nkuringo Gorilla Group would disintegrate. Fortunately, the oldest son, Rwamutwe, and his brother Tabu stepped up to the challenge. They were blackbacks at 14 years old and now fully grown silverbacks, leading the Nkuringo Gorilla Family members through the daily struggles of surviving in the African jungle.
Left: Silverback Rwamutwe
Down: Rwamutwe showing off his babysitting skills with Furah looking on.
When Rafiki passed away, there was concern in the conservation community that the Nkuringo Gorilla Group would disintegrate. Fortunately, the oldest son, Rwamutwe, and his brother Tabu stepped up to the challenge. They were blackbacks at 14 years old and now fully grown silverbacks, leading the Nkuringo Gorilla Family members through the daily struggles of surviving in the African jungle. Today, the group is 14 members strong.
Members of the Nkuringo Gorilla Group
According to the latest report from the Nkuringo Sector in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Nkuringo Gorilla Group has 13 members, including 2 silverbacks, 2 blackbacks, 5 adult females, 1 sub-adult, and 2 babies, all under the powerful leadership of Silverback Rwamutwe. Silverback Tabu serves as the second-in-command.
- Rwamutwe (Dominant Silverback) — translates as "one with a big ego" - leader since June 2020
- Tabu (Second in command silverback) — translates as "one who is trouble.'
- Kwitonda (adult female & mother) — translates as 'the humble one.'
- Kuhirwa (adult female & mother) — The Lucky one
- Furaha (adult female & mother) — The happy one
- Kiiza (adult female & mother) — One who follows the twins
- Nderema (adult female & mother) — One who fails to take care of self
- Kamara (Blackback) — The dispute settler
- Muhoozi (Blackback) — The tax collector
- Guma (Juvenile) — Be strong
- Owamani (Juvenile) — One with strength
- And two unnamed infants.
The Nkuringo Group is renowned for its adventurous and photographic nature. The gorillas have permanently moved out of the thick, misty Bwindi Jungle and now mostly feed in the park's boundary. To reach them, trackers take a rugged hour-long walk down the Kashasha Valley, which offers outstanding views of the steamy jungle. Once there, guests are delighted to find the most beautiful family of gorillas waiting. Each tracker returns with amazing photos of this group, which has made the Nkuringo Gorilla Group famous. Our business has grown from this essence, and we take pride in seeing the joy on our guests' faces as they flip through their gorilla trek images while staying at Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.
Posho Gorilla Family (14 Members)
The Posho gorilla family is currently going through the habituation process in the Nkuringo Sector, led by the dominant Silverback Magara and consisting of 14 members. Sources within UWA have revealed that the group will soon be available for the Habituation Experience in Nkuringo Sector, which is highly anticipated as this experience is only available in the Rushaga sector.
Christmas Gorilla Family (8 members)
In the Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi, there is a gorilla group called Christmas. This group is named after its dominant silverback, born on Christmas day in the Nkuringo Group. The Christmas Gorilla family consists of 8 members as of July 2021. The group did not need to go through the habituation process because all its members were from a fully habituated family. Among the members are 1 Silverback named Christmas, 2 adult females named Kiza, 1 sub-adult female named Guma, 2 juveniles named Owamani and an unnamed member, and 2 infants. One of the adult females and her juvenile son recently joined the group from the wild. Although they are not fully habituated to humans, they stay at a shy distance from the rest of the family when tourists visit. Kiza, who joined from Nkuringo Group after Rafiki's death on May 16, 2022, gave birth to a new baby.
Bushaho Gorilla Family (12 members)
The Bushaho Gorilla Family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has 12 members led by Silverback Bahati. They formed after gorillas dispersed from the Nkuringo group and were later habituated and named after their foraging locality. Currently, the Bushaho Gorilla Family is still under habituation and comprises 12 individuals, including one Silverback, one Blackback, five adult females, one sub-adult female, two juveniles, and two infants. This group is known to be one of the most entertaining gorilla families in Bwindi, with Bahati often showing off his impressive physical power during performances for audiences. Despite his displays of power, Bahati is generally calm and non-aggressive unless physically threatened.
Rushaga Gorilla Groups
Gorilla tourism started at Rushaga, some 17 km from our Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, in April 2009. The habituation of the first group, the Nshongi Gorilla Family, had started only 2 years earlier, with the largest group ever habituated by Uganda Wildlife Authority and led by the alpha male Nshongi, providing an opportunity for the first tourist visits in April 2009. The official opening of the group was celebrated in September 2009 with an all-star list of celebrity visitors and festivities in the locality of Rushaga and at UWA headquarters in Kampala.
1. Shongi Gorilla Group (11 members)
The Shongi Gorilla Group in the Rushaga Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is currently led by Silverback Bweza. The group used to be much larger, consisting of 34 members, including multiple males. However, due to internal male conflicts, some males left the group, which led to fissions. In July 2010, the Shongi group split to create the Mishaya group, which later split again in August 2012 to form the Bweza group. Presently, the Shongi group has 11 members, including 1 Silverback, 1 Blackback, 5 Adult females, 2 Juveniles, and 2 Infants.
2. Bweeza Gorilla Family (15 Members)
The Bweza Gorilla Group is currently led by the dominant Silverback Kakono. Initially, the members of the Bweza group were habituated as the Shongi Group. However, in early 2013, they detached and formed a new group under Silverback Kakono's leadership. The Bweza group prefers to forage on community land adjacent to the park, where vegetation is more disturbed, rather than in the intact forest areas. The group comprises 15 members, including three Silverbacks, five adult females, one sub-adult, two juveniles, and four infants.
3. Busingye Gorilla Family (12 Members)
The Busingye gorilla group is led by Silverback Busingye in the Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They split from the Kahungye group in 2012 and today consist of 12 individuals: one Silverback, one Blackback, five adult females, three juveniles, and two infants. They forage deep within the forest and have limited access to the park edges.
4. Mishaya Gorilla Group (8 members)
The Mishaya Gorilla Group was formed in 2010 led by Silverback Mishaya. After his death in 2014, the group dispersed, but some members were rediscovered in 2018 under the leadership of Silverback Tinfayo. The current group has 8 members, including 1 Silverback, 5 adult females, 1 juvenile, and 1 infant.
5. Rwigi Gorilla Family (8 Members)
There is a new gorilla family called Rwigi that recently separated from the Bweza gorilla family. The name comes from the dominant Silverback's name, meaning "entrance" or "door" in the local dialect. All members in the Rwigi group were previously fully habituated in Bweza, so they didn't need to go through another habituation process. However, UWA closely monitors their movements. The Rwiigi group can be visited for gorilla trekking in the Rushaga sector. Currently, the group has 7 members, including 1 Silverback, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 2 infants.
6. Bikingi Gorilla Family (10 Members)
The Bikingi group is located in the Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is currently led by a former solitary male, also named Bikingi, after the dominant Silverback Bikingi was killed by a wild silverback in June 2018. The group dispersed after the death of their leader, but a search found 9 members loyal to the unnamed Silverback. The group now consists of 11 individuals, including 2 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 1 juvenile, and 4 infants. The group was habituated in early 2012 after the Mishaya group disintegrated, and several members were found to be living alongside non-habituated members.
7. Kahungye Gorilla Family (13 Members)
The Kahungye group, led by Silverback Ruziika, has 13 members. Gorilla families often break up when Silverbacks reach maturity and want to keep females to themselves. In 2008, the Uganda Wildlife Authority began habituating the group of 29, including three Silverbacks. In 2012, Silverback Busingye split off with 19 members, and Silverback Rwiigi started his own troop. Kahungye remains a popular gorilla group to observe with 13 members.
8. Mucunguzi Gorilla Family (12 Members)
The Mucunguzi gorilla family is named after its leader, Silverback Mucunguzi, whose name translates to 'redeemer' in the local language. Silverback Mucunguzi left the Bweza family when he matured and wandered alone in the jungle for a few years. Eventually, he attacked the Bikingi gorilla family and took enough females to start his own family. Today, the Mucunguzi gorilla group has 12 members and is open for gorilla trekking in the Rushaga sector.
9. Tindatine (8 Members)
Tindatine is a splitter group from the Khungye gorilla family.
Gorilla Habituation Experience in Rushaga, Southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Introduced in 2015 and available for a very limited duration of only 2-3 years, the gorilla habituation experience in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is only done in Rushaga southern sector and currently only a single gorilla group is available for the experience with only 4 gorilla habituation permits issued out per day. Another new group is under observation and once the Bikingye Gorilla family is semi-habituated this will be opened for the Habituation Experience.
In order to become habituated to the presence of tourists, each gorilla group has undergone an extremely delicate process, lasting around five years, gradually getting accustomed to the presence of humans. Park rangers start off by spending a short period of time with the gorillas every day, at a certain distance that represents the limit of the gorillas’ comfort zone. As the years go by, they gradually increase the time and reduce the distance until they deem the gorillas ready for paying clients to visit them.
The gorilla habituation experience for the first time allows paying clients to participate in this process. It is limited to two gorilla families in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Bikingye and Bushaho, in the Rushaga sector of the park. Due to the steep terrain, dense vegetation and high altitudes a high level of fitness is required.
The cost for gorilla habituation experience permit is US$1,500 per person.