Thursday, 29 January 2015

AN INSIGHT INTO GORILLA TRACKING IN UGANDA




If  you asked anybody what they know about Uganda, the answer will absolutely be the Mountain Gorillas. However many tourists who have visited Uganda have got more than Gorillas. At some point Winston Churchill named Uganda “The Pearl of Africa”. Uganda is one of the few places in Africa that habours the endangered mountain Gorillas. 

The Bwindi Forest impenetrable national park about 331sq.kms is a rainforest that hobours half of the remaining Mountain Gorillas. Uganda also shares a group of mountain gorillas with Rwanda in the mghahinga national park on the extreme end south of the country. This group sometimes crosses to Rwanda side and then later comes back.

The Bwindi forest national park habours half of the 880 remaining endangered mountain gorillas in the world. Yes, there are wild gorillas and habituated gorillas. Visitors are only allowed to visit the habituated groups in this park. There are Four groups in Uganda and each group has got families.
The Buhoma group consists of three(3) families and these are the pioneer families to be tracked.
  • Mubare, seven members including one silverback. Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda. They were found in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest, and fully habituated in 1993.
  • Habinyanja, 15 members including two silverbacks. The Habinyanja group was first visited by tourists in 1999. The name comes 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.
  • Rushegura, 19 members including one silverback. The Rushegura gorilla family was brought together in 2002, after one of the silverbacks from the Habinyanja group decided to break away. The Gorilla permits for this group are always on high demand and the permits are usually bought out so fast. If you intend to visit this group, consider booking months earlier. Auto Rental Uganda self drive and car rental can actually help you reserve these permits for you. Buhoma community rest camp , The havens lodge are a good accommodation options here.


The Ruhijja Group also has three(3) families as well and these are the second to be tracked in the gorilla tracking records.
  • Oruzogo are 16 members, available for trekking since 2012.
  • Bitukura are 12 members including four silverbacks. The Bitukura group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The habituation process started in 2000.
  • Kyaguriro gorilla group located in Ruhija is for research but can be tracked on  request.
These permits as well need a pre-booking if you intend to visit this group. This group is situated on the northern side of the park and along the route that connects to ishasha. Gift Of Nature lodge and Bakiga Lodge are good options around here.
The Rushaga Group is the biggest group to be tracked with over Five(5) families to be tracked.
  • Nshongi, 25 members including two silverbacks and six infants. Nshongi is 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.
  • Mishaya, 17 members including two silverbacks and four infants.
  • Kahungye, 15 members including  two silverbacksand three  infants.
  • Busingye and Bweza groups are also for research but also available for tracking by visitors on request.
This is the newest entrants into the bwindi gorilla tracking records. These gorillas are located in the southern end of the park and are a good connection to mutanda lake and kisoro districts. It has been said to be the most friendliest group to be tracked. Nkuringo gorilla camp and Nsongi gorilla resort are good accommodation options. Nkuringo Gorilla Camp and Gorilla safari Lodge are good options here.

The Nkuringo Group is said to be the newest entrants into the Bwindi Gorilla tracking records. Consisting of 19 members, including four silverbacks and five infants  This group is said to be as much friendly as the rushaga. They also have tendencies of touching visitors and tapping their shoulders. They tend to get close to visitors and lick the knees. The tracking trails are abit steep and require good hikers. Nkuringo Gorilla camp is the best accommodation suggest around this nteko ridge. 

The Mgahinga Group is located in the mgahinga national park, located in the virunga volcanoes. These volcanoes are extinct. Uganda actually shares these gorillas with Rwanda. They sometimes cross to Rwanda and then come back at some point. There is only one family to be tracked here. These are in bamboo trees unlike the bwindi forest national park. Golden monkey guest house or travellers rest hotel are good accommodation options around here.
A maximum of 8 people are allowed to visit a specific family. This is done to avoid overcrowding these great apes and a control measure to conserve the endangered apes. Because we share 97.8% DNA with these great apes, there is likely chances of disease transmition. Therefore a minimum number required to visit each family.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority is the government body responsible for issuing out the permits. It requires A pre-booking in full payment of USD $600 per person in advance which Auto rental Uganda can do for you. The UWA body also gives discounts on these permits in the months of Apirl, May and November at a discounted rate of USD $350 for non-residents.

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