Anyone who has ever tracked mountain gorillas from Uganda especially Bwindi Impenetrable National park might have observed/discovered that the Buhooma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National park is the most preferred region/sector for mountain gorillas trekking safaris. The question always asked by intending gorilla trekkers is “why is Buhooma sector the most preferred?” Therefore, this article will answer your question and solve the puzzle.
Buhooma sector located in the Southern side of Bwindi is the busiest of all sectors. It is not as if there are more gorilla groups, but there is more to why the sector receives more gorilla trekkers than meets the eye. First of all, this sector was the first sector to be opened to visitors hence it was the genesis of gorilla tourism in Uganda. The first gorilla group (Mubare group) was first opened for tracking in 1993 two years after the Park was gazzeted and 1993 was also the beginning of the most talked about gorilla tourism in Uganda. As the saying goes, “old is gold”. Buhooma is the oldest sector and offers the best gorilla trekking experience to tourists. Only 24 gorilla permits are available per day for this sector, which means tourists have to book at least 6 months in advance in order to achieve your dreams of seeing the mountain gorillas.
Mubare Gorilla Family
This was the first group to be habituated for tracking, the habituation started in 1991 and this group was named after the stunning Mubare Hills in which this group was discovered. It has a family size of 9 members including 1 silverback located Buhoma. The group started with 12 family members led by the dominant silverback ‘Ruhondeza’. In a few years the group grew to 18 individuals. Unfortunately, due to fights with other wild groups, it lost several members including the one Ruhondeza who used to take care of everyone else in the party. The group remained 5 members for several years until march 2013 when 4 other members including a new dominant silverback joined and its now an interesting group to visit.
Rushegura Gorilla Family
Rushegura Group was habituated in 2000 for tracking and received tourists in 2002. It is a huge group within the Buhoma area. It comprises 19 members including 1 silverback located in Buhoma. They started with 12 individuals including 5 females. This ‘Habinyanya 2 group’ quickly received a new name that derives from ‘Ebishegura’. A tree specie that was abundant in the home area of the new family. The Rushegura group is a calm family. In the past they used to cross the border and venture in the neighbor DRC every now and then but returned and have always been in Buhoma village and sometimes even wander through the gardens of Gorilla Forest Camp.
Bitukura Group is among the newest groups in the forest. It is found and roams the verdant forest within the Ruhija area. This family comprises of 14 members including 4 silverbacks located in Ruhija. The Bitukula group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The habituation that started in July 2007 was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already be visited by tourists within 15 months after the start. Bitukura is a peaceful family including 4 silverbacks and some playful juveniles. They share a close bond and often have ‘group meeting’ or get together. Originally, the group had 24 members but due to disputes within the family, some gorillas simply chose to leave the group and were probably recruited other families. To visit this family, it is advisable to stay in the Ruhija area.
Kyaguriro Gorilla Familly
The group has a size of 15 members including Kyaguriro is another habituated gorilla group that is not visited by tourists and has been reserved for reserved for research and other studies.
Oruzogo Gorilla Family
This family comprises of 16 members including 1 silverback located in Ruhija sector. The Oruzongo group one of the recent gorilla families opened for visitor access in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. this family is situated between Ruhija area and is led by a dominant silverback ‘Tibirikwata’. It’s the latest habituated gorilla family and was opened for Tourism in 2011. This increased the great opportunity for more visitors to track the gorillas in Bwindi. Its one of the most popular families with tourists not just because of the size but the playful and energetic juveniles and toddlers in the group. The only problem in the Ruhija area of Bwindi where the group is found is that there are a few lodging options especially budget ones. Yet it’s possible but not advisable for visitors to sleep in Buhoma area which is over an hour drive away then drive to Ruhija area for a pre-tracking orientation.
WHY BUHOMA SECTOR IS THE MOST PREFERRED FOR GORILLA TREKKING IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
There are more reasons why this sector is preferred by tour operators and tourists and they include;
Easier to Connect from Buhooma to Other Sectors/Regions of Bwindi
One of the reasons why most tourists and tour operators prefer Buhooma sector is that it is easier to connect to other sectors. For instance, it is very convenient to connect to Ruhija sector which is found in the eastern side of Buhoma sector. It is easier to spend overnight in Buhoma and track mountain gorillas from Ruhija sector or vise versa which is just 2 hours’ drive away, making Buhooma a preferred sector by tourists. Not only that, the Southern sector of Nkuringo can be accessed by transversing through the forest through a popular trail known as the “Nkuringo walk trail” that takes only 3 hours.
Numerous Accommodation Facilities within the Sector
Of all the sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable National park, it is Buhooma that is thronged with accommodation facilities ranging from budget to luxury, offering tourists with a wide range of options to choose from. Some of the popular accommodation facilities within this sector include Buhooma Community Rest camp, Gorilla Friends Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, CTPH Gorilla Conservation Camp and Buhooma Guesthouse among others for the budget option, Engagi Lodge and Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp among others for midrange options, Buhooma Lodge, Mahogany Springs Camp, Silverback Lodge and Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp among others for Luxury options.
Easier to access from Kampala
Ease of accessibility to the National Park for an activity is always an important consideration by tourists and the Buhooma sector offers exactly that. This sector is easier to reach and access compared to other sectors, ands takes from 6-8 hours from Kampala and many routes exist to each the sector. The most commonly and easiest route is Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Ntungamo-Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhooma.
Buhooma Sector is closer to other National Parks in Western Uganda
It is easier to connect to other National parks in western Uganda through Buhooma sector than it is with other sector. The Southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park-Ishasha sectors can only be accessed through Buhooma sector which is not possible with other sectors of Bwindi. While at Ishasha, tourists can enjoy the popular tree climbing lions and other mammals species such as elephants, Uganda Kobs and Buffaloes among others. Buhooma sector is still the most convenient sector to reach Rwenzori Mountains National Park for the popular mountain climbing to the snow-capped peaks and Kibale Forest National Park for Chimpanzee tracking.
Diversity of Volunteer and Conservation Projects
Unlike other sectors of Bwindi, Buhooma sector has more Volunteer and Conservation project mainly because it was the first sector to be opened for tourism. This drew so many projects which include Conservation through Public Health (CTPH), Bwindi Hospital, the Human, Gorilla Conflict Organization (HUGO) and a number of schools where tourists can visit and make donations or to explore the their traditional learning methods.
Countless Activities to Participate In Addition to Gorilla Trekking
In addition to mountain gorilla tracking, tourists who visit Buhooma sector can engage in a wide range of activities that include Nature walks/hiking to encounter fascinating waterfalls, primate species, unique tree species, bird species and butterfly species through one of the 6 fascinating hiking trails that include the Mubwindi Swamp Trail, Muzabajiro Loop trail, the Ivy River Trail, the Habinyanja or Railegh trail, Munyanga waterfall trail and Rushura Hill trail. You can also enjoy the Buhoma Village Walk and Mountain biking when you visit the Buhooma sector.
In conclusion, the puzzle of why Buhooma is the most preferred region for Gorilla trekking has been solved, which is due to the fact that it was the first sector to be opened for tourism, it is the easiest to access of all the sectors, is a home to numerous tourist activities, there are more conservation and volunteer projects in Buhooma than it is for other sectors, it is easier to connect to other sectors and other National parks, and has the most number of accommodation facilities. With all these reasons, it is undeniable that Buhooma is the most preferred sector by tour operators and tourists alike.