Gorilla families at Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda

At Bwindi Forest National Park there are 14 habituated Gorilla Groups that are tracked and these are distributed into four sectors i.e Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga sectors.

The Buhoma Sector; three Groups i.e Mubare, Habimanya and Rushegura

Mubare Gorilla group

This was the first group to be habituated for tracking in 1991.It is also referred to as the M-Group. The visitors/ tourists that tracked it first came in 1993 and the group was named after the Mubare Hills since these primates were first spotted around the hills. The group has eight members with a leading silverback called Ruhondeza though before, the group consisted of 18 members. Unfortunately, the number started reducing hence leaving only five members in 2012 due to constant relocation of the members to other groups, loss of lives in battles etc.

The group was confronted by an untamed gorilla group who over threw Rohondeza and captures some of his females in March 2012. Ruhondeza who was aged at the time decided to take a retreat in the nearby forest and later lost his life in sleep on 27th June 2012. Fortunately, with time Ruhondeza was succeeded by Kanyonyi who enlarged the family hence reaching the number of eight individuals with an infant gorilla called Kashundwe.

Habinyanja Group

this was habituated for tracking in 1997 and was visited in 1999. It was initially a very big group with 17 members including two silver backs that is Rwansigazi and Mwirima who had different tastes and preferences decided to separate peacefully. Rwansigazi remained the dominant ruling silver back of the Habinyanja group where as Silver back Mwirima left and formed the Rushegura Gorilla group.

In the mean time silver back Rwansigazi gave up power to Makara who is the ruling silverback of the group to date. The word “Habinyanja” means a place of water hence reason enough for the group to be called so since these Gorillas were first spotted around a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Despite what happened, both can co-exist and work with each other in good terms.

Rushegura Group

After separating from Habinyanja group in 2000, the group was habituated for gorilla tracking and was visited in 2002. The group consists of 19 members with a lead silverback called Rushegura a name that means break away since silver back Mwirima broke away from the Habinyanja group with 12 members including 5 females. The members increased to 19 by April 2010.

Mwirima has been the only dominant silverback in the group who is never challenged fro he is ever demonstrating his strength in fights with wild gorilla family groups. It is a calm family usually in the vicinity of Buhoma Village since they are always roaming around the lodges and gardens due to curiosity with the infants always staring at visitors boldly.

The Ruhija sector; three groups i.e Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro.

Bitukura Group

his gorilla family was named after River Bitukura. This is a very calm and peaceful group which took only fifteen months to be habituated and was opened for tracking in October 2008. The family had 24 members who reduced to 14 individuals including four silverbacks in which the second youngest silverback “Ndahura” is the leading silverback who took over power from an elderly dominant silverback called Karamuzi who had ruled for over forty years.

Adult females like Ruhara who produced an infant gorilla, Young gorillas, juveniles which are safeguarded by Ndahura and co exist with the Kyaguliro gorilla family hence easier to be tracked since they are usually found by the UWA rangers.

Oruzogo Group

This is also found in the Ruhija sector with 23 members under the rule of Silverback Tibirikwata and was launched for tracking in June 2011. The group kept on increasing in number and adult females namely; Ntamurungi produced in June 2011 and Musi produced in October 2011.

The group triumphed when an adult female called Kakoba gave birth to twin infants in March 2012. Other family members include Busungu gorilla whose name means “short temper”, Kaganga “giant” and Bwoba “coward”.

Kyaguriro Group

This was habituated in 1999 as a group dedicated to research. When one stays around this group, they will learn more about Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park especially when specifying the differences they have with those from the Virungas. Take an example like maturity where the black backs (young gorillas) found in the Virungas grow up more quickly into silver backs as compared to those of Bwindi.

The group was under the leadership of Silver back Zeus a name that means lord/master as to the Greeks and this was a sign that he was master of all gorilla members in his family. Unfortunately, there was a war/battle between him and another silver back who fought him to victory which later on led to his expulsion into the forest where he died after some time

The Rushaga sector (Kisoro); five groups i.e Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza

Nshongi Group

This group took long to be habituated in 2009. It was named after River Nshongi due to the fact that these were first spotted along the banks of the Nshongi River. The word Nshongi means “honey” and this was due to the dark color at the bottom of the River. It was the largest group with about 36 members including 3 silverbacks and 7 black backs that lived peacefully with each other and didn’t fight over power since these were under the leadership of Silverback Nshongi who was not the oldest in the group.

Unfortunately in July 2010, the group separated into two parts which reduced the number to 26 individuals in the Nshongi group with 4 silverbacks. Mishaya left with ten members and formed his group called the Mishaya Gorilla group.

Mishaya Group

This was founded by Mishaya who had broken off from the Nshongi gorilla group in July 2010 with 12 members. The group was referred to as this due to the fact that it was first spotted around the Mishaya Village. Silverback Mishaya is known to be very tough for he usually begins interrelations with other gorilla families in which he grabs many females so as to enlarge his group.

For example, he fought with a certain non habituated gorilla group in April 2011 and this did not go well for he got seriously wounded and a juvenile of 2 years old from his group. Fortunately, he was treated and became well.

Kahungye Group

This was habituated in 2009 with 13 members including three silver backs. It was established for tracking in October 2011 and is among the recently habituated Mountain Gorilla families in the park. Unfortunately, the group separated after a serious battle over power amongst the three silverbacks thereby forming an initial gorilla group called Busingye group.

Before the split the family comprised of 27 members including 3 silverbacks and today it is under the lead of a dominant silverback called Gwigi meaning a “door” in the local language.

Busingye Group

With 9 members and a silverback the group was founded and habituated in 2011 though separated from Kahungye in June 2012 when Silverback Busingye decided to leave with some members to create his own group. The word Busingye means “peace” though doesnot reflect on Silverback Busingye’s character for he is a very ambitious Gorilla who has started fights with other Gorilla groups for members to add into his group.

He takes pleasure in demonstrating the power he has through grabbing a female form the wild Gorilla group he battles with.

Bweza Group

This group consists of 9 individuals including 1 silverback called Bweza who once belonged to the Nshongi Gorilla group. He and Mishaya decided to leave to go on and create their own families despite the fact that Mishaya left before Bweza in July 2010. It was launched for tourism in December 2012 despite being thought of getting back together to the Nshongi Gorilla group which was unfortunate.

 The Nkuringo Group

This group has 19 members including 2 silverbacks and this was habituated in 2004. It was referred to as this because the group was first spotted around Nkuringo hill and outside the park roaming around the villages. These fed on people’s crops like bananas, sweet potatoes hence the main reason for their habituation hence opening them for tourism which benefitted the local communities as well as the country.

Originally Silverback Nkuringo led the group but died in April 2008 leaving power in the hands of two silverbacks that is Safari and Rafiki. Safari Nkuringo’s son took over power and after seven months, the group received twins from mother Kwitonda and these were named Katungi and Muhozi. Unfortunately, Katungi lost his life at the age of 1.5 years after a long period of sickness.

Essential Questions about Gorilla Trekking

All about Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking is a very exceptional safari adventure Tour to experience by all kinds of travelers from all over the globe interested in watching the mighty gigantic primates in their natural forest vegetation habitat.  The Trekking process involves transferring to the Park headquarters for briefing on the Dos and Don’ts around the Gorillas then later in groups of 8 with a skilled ranger guide to inform you all about the Gorillas, their habitat, food etc penetrate the forest to track the Gorillas for a period of 3-5 hours from one point to another in the forest.

En-route, have views of the green forest vegetation, birds and other primates can be enjoyed then later after finding the Gorillas, an hour is allowed to stay in their presence taking numerous photos to keep for memories.

Gorillas are subdivided into groups and these include the Mountain Gorillas that are prominently found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eastern Lowland Gorillas that are common in the DR Congo at Kahuzi Biega National Park, Western Lowland Gorillas in DR Congo at Maiko National Park and other safari destinations in Angola, Cameroon and Central African Republic.

The Gorilla Trekking Booking Process

Planning to transfer to Africa to experience amazing Gorilla Trekking Adventures, we recommend you to Book your safari Adventure through contacting a valid Tour Operator Agency or direct through the authentic Tourism Organizations.

For example, in Uganda the Permits can be obtained through contacting/ emailing the Uganda Wildlife Authority where as in Rwanda the Rwanda Development Board and in DR Congo the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. These make your booking so flexible and easy enabling you enjoy your tracking Adventure on Tour.

Procedures followed to obtain your Gorilla Trekking permit in Uganda

  1. You contact a valid Tour Operator Agency to Book you a Gorilla Trekking Permit
  2. They will contact UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and send your permit money/ payment to UWA.
  3. You are offered a receipt with evidence that you have paid for the Gorilla Trekking Permit.
  4. After payment, the Gorilla Trekking Permits are availed/ printed a week before the Gorilla Trekking Date in the Park.

Note: The Permits are printed  a week before to enable flexibility in case of re-scheduling where a Client/ traveler is no longer interested in trekking the Gorillas, or has postponed their adventure. This makes it easier to re-schedule hence preventing losses and inconveniences to be made by the Uganda Wildlife Authority as well as the Tour Operator Agency.

  1. After receiving your Gorilla Trekking Permit, you transfer to the Park headquarters for briefing on the Dos and Don’ts around the Mountain Gorillas. After briefing, travelers are distributed to track a Gorilla group depending on their Physical fitness by a skilled Park Ranger. Older and not physically fit hikers are allocated a less challenging Gorilla Group to track.
  2. After allocation of a Gorilla Group, transfer with a skilled Park Ranger into the Forest with walking sticks, Porters to track your allocated Gorilla Group for a period of 3-5 hours depending on the Gorillas current location and when your meet them, only an hour is allowed in their presence taking numerous photos to keep for memories.
  3. After tracking the Mountain Gorillas, proceed back to the Park headquarters to take a nap then later you are provided with your Gorilla Trekking Certificate to keep for memories about your Gorilla Adventure Tour in Uganda.

Hints to follow as you Track the Gorillas in their Habitat

To enjoy Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, there are hints that trackers follow to make the whole process very flexible and enjoyable. These are left behind by the Gorillas as they transfer through the forest hence making the trackers; job very easy. Hints Include;

  • Gorilla Poo that is dropped along their trails.
  • They leave foot prints in the ground due to the fact that they transfer on land.
  • They can be tracked by following the bugs that usually stay along their bodies in the fur. These are dropped along the trail making it easier to track them.
  • They can also be tracked following their initially built nests to spend the nights.

Gorilla Habituation Experience.

Gorilla Habituation is another prominent safari activity travelers interested in watching the Gorillas can take on. This is prominently done in Uganda, Rwanda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The experience requires visitors to stay in the presence of the Gorillas for a period of 4 hours compared to the one hour allowed to those tracking the Gorillas. This offers you a longer time with the Gorillas getting to learn and know about them as well as their natural habitat from the researchers.

In Uganda, this occurs at the thick Bwindi Forest National Park taking a period of 4 hours to stay around the habituated Mountain Gorilla Groups. These are habituated to be approached by the visitors offering remarkable adventures to all interested as they watch them play, copulate, lead, feed, breast feed and communicate with each other.

Gorilla Habituation in Bwindi Forest is carried out in the Southern Region of Rushaga and only 4 Permits are provided daily for those interested due to the existence of only one Gorilla Group undergoing the Habituation experience. The Gorilla Habituation Experience Permit costs US $1500 per person interested in staying longer with the Gorillas.

To enjoy the Gorilla Habituation Experience in Bwindi Forest National park at Rushaga, you are required to register for your habituation experience the Day before in the evening then wake up very early the next morning to transfer to the headquarters for briefing then with an experienced Park ranger penetrate the forest to enjoy habituating the Mountain Gorillas.

Why Go for the Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda.

  • Gorilla Habituation Experience offers you more time with the Mountain Gorillas i.e 4 hours compared to 1 for tracking.
  • The Experience takes the whole day in the forest.
  • You are involved in the habituation experience compared to Gorilla Trekking where you track and view the Mountain Gorillas.
  • You are fewer i.e 4 as you go for the experience compared to Gorilla Trekking where you are 8 in number.
  • It offers you an opportunity to learn the habits of the Mountain Gorillas as you are informed by the Rangers and Researchers.
  • The Rushaga Sector of the Park is close to Rwanda making accessibility to the Park easier.


Volcanoes National Park lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Just a short two hour drive from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring some distinctly Rwandan experiences.

While a visit to the mountain gorillas is often at the top of visitor, the dramatic landscape also offers thrilling hiking and visits to the fascinating golden monkeys. The national park is known as a haven for the mountain gorilla. Virunga Mountains of East Africa are a chain of Volcanoes that are located on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo.

You can book gorilla permit through your tour operator. A gorilla is priced at 750 per individual for a single trek. You will be briefed at RDB tourism and conservation offices located at the area offices within Kinigi by 7:00 am.

The RDB tourism and conservation today has English and French speaking skilled guides plus a team of about 88 trained gorilla trackers with majority of them speaking French or English.

There are particular clothes that tourists must avoid when tracking the mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda. The regular questions always asked by the visitors are; what must I wear when tracking gorillas? What must I take on a gorilla adventure or trip? And all these are answered below;

Visitors are recommended to wear their strongest walking or hiking shoes, heavy trousers and as a long sleeved shirt for safety against biting nettles. Gorillas trip are conducted in cold areas for that reason it’s a wise decision to bring a sweat shirt.

Chances are higher of dirtying your clothes as you track the Rwanda gorillas. Because of whether changes, it is good to bring a water proof bag to protect you against the rain and a raincoat, a hut, sun glasses, insect repellent plus drinking water whatever time of the year.

For guest planning to carry additional gear plus water or food, it is recommended to hire porters who are always inside the park with the expectation of getting some work at small fee at $15 for each trek. The money you pay them enables them to look after their local communities and benefiting from Rwanda tourism.

The briefing just after 7:00 am is given by the English guide who explains about the park and the gorilla family that will be visited. You meet the other members of your group at this time.

You then drive to the site where you start the hike and the group re- gathers in front of a group of porters who help carry backers. In addition, porters help stabilize you at slippery or sleep points on the hike, sometimes pushing or pulling guest as necessary.

A second briefing on interaction with gorillas is provided in the park, or forest, the trail shaded and muddy. A tracker with a gun joins the group to protect against the slim chance of encountering a water buffalo or elephant while hiking. Each gorilla family has a set of trackers who stay with them until night fall.

They check for each gorilla, daily, remove any traps in the area, and go out early to locate the families. This ensures that the vast majority of groups do see the family to whom they have been assigned too.

The hike may take 2 to 6 or more hours according to the movement of these families. The guide maintains contact with these trackers during the hike to gather instructions and to update the trackers on the hikers’ progress. A strict 1 hour is allocated for the visit and during this time, trackers under the guide’s direction hack down plants to establish paths for better viewing.

You are not allowed to go with in 7 meters, but gorilla’s especially juvenile ones may try to play with visitors. The guide and trackers discourage too much interaction, although these gorillas are habituated to their trackers and the daily visitors.

Each visitor permit cost $750 as gorilla viewing is the main reason for Rwandan Tourism. The strict control of maximum numbers that are allowed to visit and the high cost have been used by the government to reduce poaching by 90% as tourism for this activity has become a major income for the country. The experience is truly a once in a lifetime one that should not be missed.

Home of the Mountain Gorillas

Volcanoes national park is situated in a small town of Musanze and only 12km from Kinigi, the base of the entrance of the park. Visitors can reach Musanze by public transport from Gisenyi, Kigali or from the international airport.

The drive to the park is only 2 hours unless when you make stopovers which can go from 2 to 3 hours and it is very possible for one to gorilla tracking the same day and drive back to Kigali for overnight. But tourists planning to use public transport to the park should note that there isn’t provision of public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi.

Gorilla trekking starts at the park headquarters at 7:00am. There is tea and coffee served in the main shelter and some days there is a dance presentation given by the local cultural centre.

The park guides will place individuals into trekking group of 8 people basing on the ability and preference for which group to visit. This process takes 30 to 40 minutes during which you can walk around the grounds or relaxing in the main shelter.

After the signs are made by your driver or guide will direct you to a location on the way where your trekking group will assemble, then the park guide will give you an introduction to the group you will be visiting along with showing you or diagram of the gorilla group’s family tree. Once this introduction is complete, you will find your driver and proceed to the starting point for your trek.

The Gorilla trek:

Once you have reached the entry point parking lot, your trekking group will reassemble with your park guide and secondary guide, additional instructions will be given and you will be offered a walking stick for the trek and in case of heavy bags or equipment as the hike can be long steep or through difficult terrain.

The porters are all wearing the same blue coveralls and there is a defined order in which they are selected and at the end of the trek a porter has to be paid. It is also an important way to support the local economy and help and conservation.

Your starting point will be outside the park and depending on the starting position you may have to hike up to an hour or hours to actually get to the park boundary which is marked with a stone wall. Once you reach the park boundary, additional instructions will be given about how to behave around the primates such as on eating, drinking, smoking and bathrooms breaks.

The trek inside the park boundary varies depending on the location of your group and may include steep climbs, movements through a bamboo forest.

Viewing the primates:

At this point you will need to leave all bags and walking sticks with the porters but will be allowed to take cameras with you so that you can experience the gentle apes playing, eating, sleeping, swinging from one tree to another, watching them breast feed while taking pictures and videos of them.

After the one hour visit, you return to the staging area where you left your belonging and prepare to hike out to the starting point and pay your porters. Finally, you can return to the park headquarters of Kinigi where you will be awarded a certificate indicating that you have completed a visit with your specific gorilla family. The certificate includes the name of the family visited.

Equipment needed when going for trekking

When you are tracking through the Virunga forest of Rwanda, it requires you some basic equipment to ensure you can protect yourself from the flora and fauna and can be safe.

  • Long sleeve shirt and long pants
  • Insect repellent
  • Hiking shoes or boots
  • A wearable bag to carry water, snacks and camera
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat
  • Utility gloves among others



In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park has an amazing tourism view and you will actually enjoy nature at its best. As you adventure with the gorillas, trekking will be done in the volcanoes adjacent to the border of Rwanda along with the democratic republic of Congo.

So early in the morning after your breakfast, you head out to the park’s headquarters in Kinigi village for briefing about the rules and regulations that govern gorilla trekking. After you are then assigned a gorilla group to track by the ranges, then you move to the forest.

It is quite strenuous although rewarding when you come across the gorillas, silverback playing with its young ones, other resting and mothers feeding their young ones. Some even come closer to you as a way of appreciating your visit; the whole experience is just amazing.

You must be physically fit to track gorillas:   

As you plan your gorilla trek you have to be fit. It is the only way you will enjoy the hike as you move through the forest in search for the gorillas. As you hike there are breaks given along the walk to enable you catching a breath. When you feel that you aren’t fit, you may hire a porter at a fee. Some gorilla groups are close, so you may see them within 1 hour.

But this depends on the one assigned to you by the ranger. During the wet season, gorillas relocate down the mountains, so the hike becomes challenging because you have to walk on the steep slopes for some good time. But all this can be forgotten once you get in the presence of the gorillas.

The best time to take photos:  

A camera is a must carry and make sure it is fully charged and you must have extra batteries because everyone who comes to track gorillas want to remain with good memories of them. You are kindly reminded to switch off your flash light; gorilla may decide to walk away. It is possible to take videos by capturing every moment in the jungle.

What to pack for your gorilla tour:

In order to enjoy your gorilla trek, is by packing the right safari clothes. Among these clothes jeans, long and short sleeved shirts, walking boots, sandals, rain jacket, sweater, socks and a safari hat, strong hiking books.

When to secure gorilla permits:

 Gorilla permits are secured months earlier before your trip. You can contact a reliable tour company who will arrange for you a wonderful safari in advance. Permits costs $750 and only 80 permits are issued each day for the different gorilla groups. The money seems a lot but rewarding you to see the gorillas.



A passport is a very essential travel document that provides authorized access and entry into various countries worldwide. Whenever one is planning to travel around the globe to any destination of their choice, they must carry a valid passport so as to get entry other than that, they won’t be able to get in. This applies at borders, airports and other travel means with Car Rental Options that range from Land Cruisers, Rav4s.

Yellow Fever Card

The Yellow fever card is a very important while travelling to any country for you can be denied entry because of this. The document is obtained after taking on checkups for the yellow fever illness through vaccination so as to cross flexibly from one country to another via different borders. After vaccination, you will be given an International Certificate of Vaccination as proof that you don’t have yellow fever and this is done earlier like a month before travel. In order to transfer from one country to another flexibly across boundaries, carry this card.

National Identity Card

A National Identity Card refers to a valid document that is given to every citizen of a specific country to give them access and entry to neighboring states/ countries. In order for one to transfer to any neighboring state/ country conveniently, they should have a valid National ID to take them to any destination of their choice but this is interstate.


A Visa refers to an approval on a passport showing that the holder is authorized to enter, leave, or stay in the country for a specified period of time. In order for one to enter a certain country of their choice, a passport with a valid visa is very vital.

Types of Visas

Congo Tourist Visa; this refers to a document that permits tourists/ visitors to get entry into the country via different ports along the borders, airports, harbor stations. The Congo tourist visa is provided for a period of 3 months (90 days) allowing multiple entries and is provided after presenting the reasons for the visit, purpose and where you are going to stay/ accommodation and your final destination as well as when you will depart.

Business Visa; this refers to a document released for various purposes like making feasibility studies, establishing professional and business contacts as well as making arrangements for investments in the Republic of Congo. This is provided for a period of one month (30 days) that cannot be surpassed. However, if one wants to have a longer stay carrying out business in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they should stretch their visa at the next Immigration office.


In order to access the Democratic Republic of Congo one should have a Congo Tourist Visa and to get one they should have the following requirements.

  • Two fully completed visa application forms
  • Two copies of the visa application form fully filled and signed
  • Two passport color photographs- Photos must be 2inches×2inches (51 *51 mm in size), colored, have a white background, and show a full front view of the face. These photos must have been taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance.
  • A valid passport for the next 6 months
  • An Invitation letter/ hotel reservation for the tourist visa
  • A business letter- business visa and this should be type written indicating the kind of business you want to do, the name and address of a reference to be contacted in the Republic of Congo. The invitation letter must be addressed to the Embassy of the Republic of Congo, Visa section. No business visa will be granted without an official business letter.
  • Copy of airline tickets or itinerary- showing clear arrival and departure dates in the country.
  • A prepaid envelope; a prepaid USPS, UPS or Fedex envelope with a TRACKING NUMBER to allow for the return of your passport. Unfortunately, the Embassy is no longer able to accept any prepaid envelopes without any tracking number. Canadian Postal Prepaid Envelopes or Mexican Postal Prepaid envelopes are not accepted under any circumstances.

Emergency travel Certificate

The Emergency travel Certificate applies to all residents of the East African Community i.e Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda since these don’t need visas to transfer to other neighboring states/ countries. If you are not from any country in East Africa, you can’t have this document hence you will use valid visas.

 Immigration Departure/Entry card

The Departure/Entry card is a document you are required to fill in valid information like your name, contact details, purpose and duration of visit before you get entry into another country especially among those in East Africa. This can be got at all ports of entry whether you are departing or entering.