Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest, it is not only covered with the gorilla families but also several scenic trails and a diverse number of species of wildlife. Other primates resident in the Bwindi forest include chimpanzee, black-andwhite colobus monkey, red colobus monkey, gray-cheeked mangabey, L’Hoest’s monkey and blue monkey. Elephant, giant forest hog and duiker can also be found.
For birdwatchers, Bwindi is one of the most exciting destinations with over 360 bird species including 23 of 24 Albertine Rift endemics and several endangered species to include the African green broad bill. Among the 360 species of birds recorded are the great blue turaco, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Lühder’s bushshrike, vanga flycatcher, black-faced rufous-warbler, black-throated apalis, and elusive green broadbill.
The major attraction of the 127-square-mile (330-km2) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the population of over 340 gorillas known to inhabit the park. As of 2022, there are 5 groups that may be visited by up to 8 tourists per day that are accessed by accommodations in Buhoma in the northern part of the park, and 4 from the southern (Kisoro) side of the park. And as of the year 2022, the group makeups are as follows — but keep in mind that changes occur on a regular basis.
The park headquarters are located in Buhoma in Kabale on the northern side of the park, and Nkuringo in Kisoro on the Southern side. Due to Bwindi’s location near the Rwandan border, travelers should consider also trekking in Volcanoes National Park as well. At the park headquarters is where gorilla visits commence with briefing and all information on the park and gorilla trekking can be accessed. Because trekkers must be at the park by 8:30 am, it is necessary to overnight near National Park Headquarters.
Gorilla Permits to track the great apes in Bwindi cost USD 700 per person and are booked at The Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala but you are advised to book your permits through a reputable Uganda Tour Operator. The permit fees which are among the highest in Africa, go toward the preservation of these magnificent, endangered creatures. The demand for gorilla permits exceeds the supply most of the year with special emphasis on the months December to February and July to September. During May to April and October to November, permits can easily be acquired on short notice although booking in advance of 3 months to your trekking date is always advised.
Gorilla Families in Bwindi Impenetreble Forest
There are four different gorilla trekking sections in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda but we recommend Ruhija and Buhoma. Much as Rushaga has the most gorilla families, it is the furthest family while Buhoma and Ruhija arethe nearest to track.
Northern Section of Bwindi — Buhoma Area: Mubare Group (Group M) – 5 members, including 1 silverback. Rushegura Group (Group R) – 21 members, including 1 silverback. Habinyanja Group (Group H) – 17 members, including 1 silverback. There are 24 gorilla permits per day available for booking in this sector which contributes to the wide range of accommodations that serve Buhoma. This also the most trekked gorilla sector
Northern Section of Bwindi — Ruhija Area (a 1-hour drive from Buhoma): Bitukura Group (Group B) has about 13 members, including 1 silverback and 3 sub-silverbacks. Oruzogo Group (Group O) has about 23 members, including 1 silverback and 1 sub-silverback.
Southern Section of Bwindi (near Kisoro town): Nkuringo Group (Group Nku) has about 17 members, including 1 silverback and 3 sub-silverbacks. Nshongi Group (Group Nhs) has about 21 members, including 1 silverback and 2 sub-silverbacks. Mishaya Group (Group Mis) has about 7 members, including 1 silverback Kahungye (Group K) has about 24 members, including 1 silverback and 2 sub-silverbacks. Bwindi gorilla treks to Nkuringo are very tough going since you have to climb 600m down a valley before getting to the gorillas. Make sure you are in good shape.
Southern Section of Bwindi: Rushaga Group
Bwindi Gorilla Trekking
Bwindi Gorilla Tours start at 8:30 from the park headquarters after a briefing by the Rangers and guides, ensure to report to the by 7:00am. Each group of visitors is usually led by a park ranger, two trackers and two armed personnel. A maximum of 8 visitors is allocated to a single gorilla family. Porters may be hired (for US $20.00 as of this writing) to carry lunch, drinks, etc., and to assist anyone who may wish to return early. The search often involves climbing down into gullies, then pulling yourself up steep hills by holding onto vines and bamboo. Even though the pace is slow, you must be in good condition to keep up; the search may take you to altitudes of 3,800 to over 6,500 feet (1,160 to 1,982 m) or more. While this sounds difficult, almost anyone in good physical condition can do it.
The guide looks for nests used the night before, and then tracks them from that spot. Once the gorilla group has been located, he then calms them by making low grunting sounds and imitates them by picking and chewing bits of foliage. Juvenile gorillas are often found playing and tend to approach their human guests. The guide will do his best to keep you the required distance (primarily to help ensure the gorillas do not catch any communicable human diseases) of 22 feet (7 m). For the Ugandan Wildlife Authority’s “Gorilla rules” brochure, visit Adult females are a little more cautious than the juveniles.
The dominant male, called a silverback because of the silvery-grey hair on his back, usually keeps a bit further from his human visitors. In terms of sensitivity toward the great primates and to afford you the best chances of a close and relaxed encounter, simple gorilla-viewing “etiquette” is critical. Never make eye contact with a silverback. If a silverback begins to act aggressively, look down immediately and take a submissive posture by squatting or sitting, or he may take your staring as aggression and charge. The key is to follow the directions of your well-trained guide.
Gorillas are herbivores (vegetarians) and will generally not attack a human unless provoked. Your guides will instruct you not to touch the gorillas because they are susceptible to catching human colds and diseases. For photography, bring a camera that either does not have a flash or one that can be turned off, as flash photography is not allowed. Videos and digital cameras are excellent for photography as gorillas are often found in the shadow of the forest in low-light conditions.
If you are using film, use 800 ASA or higher to get enough light. Bring extra data cards or several rolls of film on the trek — you very well may need them! Be sure you do not spend all your time looking through your camera lens as you will miss most of the experience. After spending up to 60 minutes visiting with these magnificent animals, visitors descend to a more open area for a picnic lunch.
What to Pack for Gorilla Trekking Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mornings in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park are almost always cool and misty; even if it doesn’t rain, you will undoubtedly get wet from hiking and crawling around wet vegetation. Wear a waterproof jacket or poncho (preferably of a fabric like Gortex that “breathes”), leather gloves to protect your hands from stinging nettles, waterproof light-or medium-weight hiking boots, to give you traction on muddy slopes and to keep your feet dry, and a hat. Bring a waterproof pouch for your camera, water bottles and snacks. Do not wear bright clothes, perfumes, colognes or jewelry, because these distractions may excite the gorillas. Visiting the gorillas is one of the most rewarding safaris in Africa.