Gorilla Families

The mountain gorillas are powerful apes which have got common ancestral backgrounds with chimpanzees and the humans. Also unlike their counterparts, the eastern lowland and the western lowland gorillas that stay in the lowland jungles of the democratic republic of Congo and west Africa and west Africa in big numbers, the gorillas only dwell in the Virunga massif and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which also contains 400 out of the 880 mountain gorillas which currently exist in the wild without any member in captivity. These have greatly attracted many people to come for gorilla tracking in Uganda.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has got 18 gorilla families which are habituated purposely for gorilla tracking encounters in the park. The 11 families are also distributed in four regions of Bwindi including Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. Even though these regions have varying terrain and different experiences, they are all accessible and gorilla tracking is carried out harmoniously.

There are 17 habituated gorilla families that can be tracked in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in South Western Uganda. The habituated gorilla families include; Habinyanja, Mubare, and Rushegura found in Buhoma sector. Bitakura, Oruzongo and the Kyaguriro found in the Ruhija, Nshonji, Mishaya, Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye found in Rushaga and the Nkuringo group found in the south. At the moment, 8 gorilla permits are available for buying from Uganda Wildlife Authority. There are 2 gorilla families have been put aside for gorilla habituation. This is the reason why gorilla habituation can only be done in the southern part of the park.

Bwindi’s gorilla families are situated within four sectors and they include;

Buhoma Sector

Buhoma which is in the northern section of Bwindi has got three gorilla families including; Mubare and the Rushegura and is also liked by Travellers on Uganda gorilla safaris due to its closeness to Queen Elizabeth National Park, easy connection from Kampala and the wide range of accommodation facilities.

Buhoma sector has got 3 gorilla groups which include Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura.  The ease to trek for the Mubare gorilla family tends to vary since the mountain gorillas in this group used to live close to the Buhoma Park Headquarters but currently visitors can spend about 5 hours to trek the family. It is advantageous trekking through the Mubare gorilla family because tourists can trek from the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Mubare Group:

This is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Bwindi impenetrable national park. The first habituation stated in 1991 and it received its very first visitors for tracking in 1993. This group Mubare was named since the group was first sighted in the Mubare hills, very deep in the impenetrable forest. By the time of writing the group consists of 8 individuals including one silverback called Ruhondeza who is in charge of any activity taking place in the group. By the time this group was discovered it had 18 members and it was led by a dominant silverback, unfortunately over the years the group lost some of its members due to constant attacks by other wild animals, moving to other groups by some members and loss of babies. The group is now steady and open to visitors under the leadership of Ruhondeza

Habinyanja Group:

The group was name because it was first seen near a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park hence its name Habiyanja. The word comes from a Rukiga work ‘’Njanja’’ meaning “a place with water”. The group was first habituated in 1997 and it was ready for tracking in 1999.

This family requires visitors to spend the whole day (5 hours and beyond) to trek for the mountain gorillas. Some times, Habinyanja requires tourists to drive up to the trail head. The disadvantage with Habinyanja group is that the mountain gorillas tend to roam over wider range in the forest but this does not stop one from tracking this group because there are difficult families that might requires a lot of energy for you to see the mountain gorillas. However, at the end of the gorilla trek you will be compensated with the big size of this family. There are 18 members in the family and there are two 2 silverbacks.

The Habinyanja Group has an interesting history. The group consists of 18 members including two silverbacks, the group initially had a huge group and it was led by two brothers Rwansigazi and Mwirima who shared power but this could not continue, since Rwansigazi was so adventurous who like travelling so much yet Mwirima was so interested to stay at a small range. Due to this, it was inevitable that they could live together anymore; they separated in 2002 without any fight. The group that followed Rwansigazi maintained the name Habinyanja and those that followed Mwirima come to be known as the Rushegura family. These two group still live peacefully and on many occasion they come across each other.

If you are interested in Habinyanja gorilla group, then you have to be at Buhoma entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Rushegura gorilla family

The Rushegura group consists of 19 individuals including 1 silverback, they were seen and habituated in 2000 and it was ready to receive visitors in 2002. Rushegura is the name of place where the separation of this group from the large family of Habinyanja took place in February 2002. This group is among the bigger gorilla families (about sixteen) in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and in the Buhoma sector of the park. On a gorilla trek, visitors can spend a shorter time because the mountain gorillas tend to live around the park headquarters sector. If you are interested in shorter treks, then this is the best gorilla family for you to spend less than 5 hours.

The group started with 12 individuals including 5 females however, due to new birth and new members from other groups its now one of the large habituated gorilla families in Bwindi Forest. Rushegura gorilla group is a calm family and usually stay near buhoma village and sometimes even wander through the gardens of the lodges don’t get surprised to see them near the lodge especially the younger gorillas that are not shy.


Ruhija sector has the following habituated gorilla families

Ruhija which is in the eastern section of Bwindi and it has got two gorilla families including Bitakura and Oruzongo. The research group Kyaguriro also thrves in Ruhija sector.

Oruzogo gorilla group

This is one of the groups with very many family members about 25 individuals including 2 silverbacks and the leader of the group is called Tibirikwata. Oruzogo is located in the Ruhija side of the impenetrable forest national park and it’s the 2nd habituated gorilla family in the area being opened for tourism in mid-2011. Since then it has experienced growth due to very many birth in the group.

This is another larger family composed of 22 mountain gorillas and it is an ideal group to find the playful juveniles and toddlers. It is fun being in this group and getting here doesn’t need extreme hike but a little of endurance and stamina. It is one of the group families where a set of twins births are recorded in March 2012 and the mother is called Kakoba.

Bitukura gorilla family

This group is regarded as one of the newest introduced habituated gorilla family in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. This is the only group that got used human presence as quickly as possible, just after 15 months the tourists were already visiting the group. The habituation process started in 2007 and they were ready to be tracked in 2008, hence the habituation process lasted for only 15 months which is significant, since the habituation process normally lasts 2 years.

The group originally had 24 mountain gorillas and it is one of the unique gorilla families in Bwindi unlike other gorilla families, the Bitukura tends to get along with one another. The group today consists of 14 members including 4 silverbacks where the second youngest silverback Ndahura is the leader. The group normally found and roams the lush forest within the Ruhija area and it was named after a river where the group was first sighted.

Kyaguriro Gorilla Family

This family is located in Ruhija side of Bwindi impenetrable national park, it houses 15 individuals including 2 silverbacks, ever since this group was habituated, it’s not visited by trackers, and it’s put a side for research only. Due to research conducted under this group, many conservationists have been able to learn a lot about the mountain gorillas of bwindi, including some remarkable differences with the mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga Volcanoes.


Gorilla Families in the Rushaga Sector

Rushaga sector is regarded as the perfect sector in Bwindi for gorilla trekking and it is also the only sector where tourists can go for gorilla habituation experience. While here, you can trek the Nshongi gorilla group with about 18 mountain gorillas. Tracking Nshongi gorilla family is fascinating as it gets you not just the mountain gorillas alone but also other primate species, birds and butterflies. Other gorilla families include; Mishaya gorilla group and Kahungye gorilla family (this is a newly introduced gorilla group in Rushanga), Bweza gorilla family.

Nshongi Group

This habituated gorilla family was named after the river Nshongi close to the place where the gorilla family was first sighted. The group was officially opened to tourism in September 2009. The group had 36 members before it separated in 2011where a new group Mishaya and Bweza started their family, and by the time of writing the group has 26 members including 4 silverbacks and seven black back, several females and infants. This group is currently regarded as the biggest habituated gorilla family in Uganda.

Mishaya Group

This group was initially part of the Nshongi gorilla family but it decided to create its own family in July 2010. He was able to gather females from other groups and he expanded his group to by now 12 individuals including one silverback 5 females 3 black backs and 3 infants. these two gorilla family still live within the Rushage. The leader of this group is known as a fighter who often stage wars with other gorilla families. In April 2011 he conflicted again with a non-habituated gorilla family, which resulted into serious injuries for himself and a 2-year old infant. However, the injuries were treated by veterinarians from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

Bweza Gorilla Group

This was originally part of the Nshongi gorilla members that used to be the largest ever habituated gorilla family in Bwindi national park, however a silverback Mishaya decided to leave the group and two years later bweza another silverback also separated from Mishaya and started his own family, apparently the group live with 9 members including one silverback. Rangers from Uganda wildlife authority thought that the group will return back to mishaya gorilla family but since then they live as a group and it was opened for tourism in 2012.

Kahungye Gorilla Family

This group is located in Rushaga area of the park and 13 individuals live in this family. It’s the most recent habituated gorilla families in Bwindi since it was opened to tourism in October 2011, unfortunately this group did not last for long together, in less than a year it had separated creating a new gorilla family called Busingye. Before it separated it had 27 individuals among which included 3 silverbacks. The group now live with 13 individuals including 3 silverbacks led by a dominant silverback Gwigi locally means ‘’door’’

Busingye Gorilla Family

Rushage is where this group is located it’s a family of 9 individuals including 1 leading silverback, silverback busingye split away from the Kahungye gorilla family in June 2012 and established his own family. Busingye is a Rukiga word which means ‘’peace’’, however, this silverback doesn’t live to its name since this aspiring silverback is known for his fabled fights with other gorilla groups. He likes showing his power and whenever encountering a wild family he hardheartedly grabs a female to add to his own family.

Nkuringo sector

This group has two habitauted gorilla groups called Nkuringo. This gorilla group is one of the few gorilla families in Bwindi that requires a bit of energy and stamina. It is regarded as the hardest to track in Uganda. However, visitors to this group have not complained as the hike suggests due to the absolute experiences offered in the Nkuringo gorilla group.

Nkuringo Group

This gorilla habituation family consists of 16 members including two silverbacks. It derives its name from the Rukiga word for ‘’round hill’’ referring to the hill where the group was first established. The group was opened to visitors in 2004. The group was majorly found in the vicinity of the local communities and they caused problems to the local communities by destroying their crops and other product. It was majorly for this reason that the group was habituated.

The community was protected and they directly benefited from the tourism and the gorillas too were protected by opening up the gorilla family for visitor. The leader of the group Nkuringo died in 2008, although left two silverbacks, the group expanded and later a special birth of twins were announced Katungi and Muhozi unfortunately Katungi died at the age of 1-5 years. This gorilla family is regarded as of the most challenging hikes in Uganda although it’s the most pleasing.