Rushaga, on the southern edge of Bwindi, became Uganda’s newest gorilla tracking site in October 2009. An unusually high profile launch saw a brat pack of young American film stars jet in from America to track Rushaga’s Nshongi gorilla group and make encouraging statements about their experience. The trailhead/ranger station is located directly on the park boundary and tracking groups enter the depths of the forest directly. The Nshongi is by far the largest of Uganda’s habituated gorilla groups with 34 members, including three silverbacks, six blackbucks and eight infants. Their numbers do not; however seem to constrain their movement. Other than gorilla tracking, Rushaga is something of an unknown quantity, even to the staff within the UWA booking office. An obvious candidate for further exploration is the dramatic and deeply incised Ruhezanyenda river valley just outside the park, while a waterfall in the forest is said to be even lovelier than the one near Buhoma.
Habituated Gorilla Families in the Rushaga Area
Nshongi Gorilla Family
The family has 18 members and it was the largest group ever habituated with about 36 gorilla members and was officially introduced in September 2009. It was named after the river Nshongi where the gorilla family was firdt found. Although most gorilla families usually consisting of about 25 members have one or two silverbacks, this was a strange one with 4 silverbacks. Another remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi who is not even the oldest silverback in the family and that the three silverbacks and seven blackbacks lived in harmony with each other and did not make an attempt for leadership. In July 2010, the group split and remained 26 members with the other split forming the present Mishaya Gorilla group. In 2013, the family further split and reduced to 18 with the new split forming the present Bweza Gorilla Group with 10 members. The Nsongi Gorilla Group is in a large forested area where you can also see other primates, birds and butterflies.
Mishaya Gorilla Family
Comprising of 7 members including 1 silverback, this family is located in Rushaga. In July 2010, silverback Mashaya decided to leave the Nshongi Gorilla group with some females and started his own family. He is a typical fighter and was able to gather more females from other non-habituated groups in the area reaching a total group size of 12 gorillas including three infants. Mishaya is the only adult in the group and is known for being a fighter who often starts interactions with other gorilla families. By the end of 2013, the group was 7 gorilla but some gorilla families some times are joined by friends or even acquire more member in successful battles. Visitors normally sett off from the park headquarters at Rushaga. For those who choose to walk it takes approxiamtely 30min to the trailhead. The Silverback Mishaya left the Nshongi Group with 9 others in July 2010 to form the Mishaya Group
Kahungye gorilla family
This family has a size 13 members with 3 silverbacks which are the only ones named. The dominant silverback is called Rumansi followed by the other two old male gorillas named Rwigi and Ruhamuka. The group was opened for visitors and gorilla tracking in 2011, but in less than a year the group split creating the new Busingye Gorilla Family. Before the separation, the family consisted of 27 individuals including 3 silverback. Busingye is one of the newest groups in the park found in the Rushaga sector close to the Nshongi and Mishaya gorilla groups.
Bweza Gorilla Familly
This gorilla family comprises of 7 members including 1 silverback. This family is on Nshongi group that used to be the largest ever habituated in Bwindi. However due to silverback Mishaya’s decision to leave the group and start his own family in 2010, he left with reasonable number of them including the silverback Bweza. Towards the end of 2012, Bweza chose to be independent, he walked away with about 6 other members from the Mishaya gorilla group.
Busingye Gorilla Family
This family comprises of 9 individuals including 1 silverback. Busigye family is another splitter gorilla family having broken away from Kahungye family in 2012. It was silverback Busingye who decided to split and create his own family. Busingye means ‘peace’ which is quite surprising since this ambitious silverback is known for his legendary fights with other gorilla groups. He likes showing his power and whenever encountering a wild family he mercilessly grabs a female to add to his own family. Permits are received from the Bwindi local Uganda Wildlife Authority Office.
The nearby accommodation facilities for visitor overnight stay at Rushaga sector includes Kisoro Travelers’ Resort Inn, Nkuringo safari lodge, Nkuringo gorilla camp or Clouds gorilla lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Ichumbi lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge and many others.
Conclusively, Rushaga region features as one of the most incredible gorilla trailheads in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park that is worth exploring. Its many habituated gorilla families attract large number of trekkers making it one of the most sought after sector not only for gorilla trekking but also for gorilla habituation experience.