Uganda’s Gorilla Families Habituation Experience Groups
Uganda’s gorilla families as of June 2016, there are 14 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda which are for tourism purposes. Of these 14 groups, 13 are within different locations in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and 01 in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These are the groups where the tourists visit on a daily basis. A maximum of 8 persons can visit each of the 14 gorilla groups per day spending a maximum one hour each visit. The Bwindi gorilla groups are organized according to the location; Buhoma area currently having 3 groups, Ruhija area currently having 3 groups, Nkuringo area group having 2 Gorilla groups (One group for habituation experience only) and Rushaga area having 5 groups (One group for habituation experience only). The two groups under Gorilla Habituation Experience have a special arrangement where one can visit these groups for habituation experience spending a maximum four hours in each visit. There is only one gorilla group available for tourism in Mgahinga gorilla National Park.
The 3 Habituated Gorilla Families in the Buhoma Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:
1. Mubare aka Mubale Gorilla Group also called the M-Group (Location: Buhoma Group size: 11)
The Mubare Gorilla Family was the first habituated gorilla group in 1998. Originally there were 12 family members and when the leader, the silverback Ruhondeza died it left only 5 family members. Gorilla Families are like human families with all kinds of dynamics, for Gorilla families that meet new additions through birth, through conquest and fights with other groups, At the beginning of 2018 there are 11 members of theMubare family led by the Silverback Kanyonyi – Beside him, there are 6 Adult Females,, 1 Sub-Adult (Gorilla Teenager) and 3 Infants – Toddlers.
The ease of tracking with the Mubare group varies – they used to be closer to the Buhoma Park Headquarters but more and more it takes an over 5-hour round-trip to track the group. The word Mubare refers to the area where the group was first discovered in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Habinyanja Gorilla Group also called H-Group (Location: Buhoma Group size: 17)
The Habinyanja Gorilla Family was one of the earlier habituated groups in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and over the years has had thousands of visitors from around the world that have spent an hour with them in the ancient forest. It normally takes a full day – five hours or more to track the Habinyanja Group. They daily move and roam over a wide range in the forest. Nevertheless, there are harder groups to track that take a bit more energy. It is a larger group of 17 led by Makara the lead Silverback. There are also 1 black-back, 5 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 3 juveniles and 6 infants. Please note that such figures change as gorilla babies arrive, old members, die or move to another group and other factors.
The group was first discovered near a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable the name Habinyanja comes from the local name for water “Nyanja”
The Rushegura Gorilla Group also referred to as the R Group: (Location: Buhoma Group size: 16)
The Rushegura Gorilla Group is one of the larger groups (16) in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and in the Buhoma area of the park. Tracking time for this group tends to be shorter in recent times since they have stayed around the park headquarters area. This group at times ventured out of the park and we had a group on safari who had this group outside of their tent during the night until the next morning to their delight. They were simply amazed, to say the least.
Two different recent clients insisted on staying three nights at Gorilla Forest Camp because they were both hoping that the visit with the American photographer they saw on YouTube just might be replicated and they would see the gorilla group there. Those wanting a shorter Trek should note that this large gorilla group can be often tracked in a shorter time than 5 hours. There is, however, no guarantee that the gorillas may choose to venture off and it will take a longer time to track them.
The Rushegura Gorilla Family is led by Kabukojo the silverback, 4 blackbacks, 4 adult females, 3 juveniles, 4 infants making it a total of 16
The 3 Habituated Gorilla Families in the Ruhija Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:
The Ruhija area is a growing area with the choice of lodging from budget to upmarket, there are no luxury lodges in the area at this time but that may soon change.
The Oruzogo Gorilla Group: (Location: Ruhija, Group size: 17)
The Oruzogo Gorilla Family can be tracked from the Ruhija area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – it is a larger group of 17 gorillas. The Oruzogo group has become popular with tourists not just because of the size of the group, but because of the playful energy exhibited by the juveniles and toddlers in the group that keeps visitors entertained, to say the least. If you want more sleep and rest and less driving, you ask your tour operator to book you into a lodge in the Ruhija area and not in the Buhoma which is an hour drive time from Ruhija and that would mean leaving your lodging at 6:00 to 6:30 am in order to reach Ruhija at the right time for the gorilla tracking orientation.
The Oruzogo Gorilla Family started to receive visitors in 2011 and those who came to visit them simply love this group. It is not an extreme trek but you need medium endurance and stamina. The Oruzogo Gorilla Family is led by the Bakwate and there is 1 other silverbacks, 2 black backs, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 1 juvenile and 5 infants.
Bitukura Gorilla Group: (Location: Ruhija Group size: 13)
The Bitukura Gorilla group family learns quickly. Normally it takes two years of habituation training but this group was ready for visitors in 15 months. There are 14 members and a newborn arrived recently on the scene. Gorilla groups gain and lose members and the Bitukura group originally consisted of 24 gorillas however other groups recruit, in the gorilla family there are feuds and some gorillas simply leave rather than fight.
Unlike some other groups, the Bitukura Gorilla Group gets along with one another, there has been peace and harmony in the group and no usual infighting that is found in other groups. The Bitukura Gorilla Family is led by Ndahura and is made up of 4 silverbacks, 4 adult females, 2 juveniles and 3 infants
Nshongi Gorilla Group: (Location: Rushaga Group size: 7)
The Nshongi Gorilla Family is one of the larger habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest after the recent split with where Mweza group was formed there are about 18 gorillas in the family. The Nshongi Gorilla Group was introduced with much fanfare and celebrities from far and wide came in 2009.
The Nshongi gorilla family group is named after the Nshongi River where they were first found where this group was discovered some years back. The area where the Nshongi gorilla is usually found is a large forested area where you can also see other primates, birds, butterflies in the rich, thick rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.
The Nhongi group is headed by the Silverback Bweza and there is only one Silverback, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile and 1 infant.
Mishaya Gorilla Group: (Location: Rushaga Group size: 12)
The Mishaya Gorilla Family is another one of those gorilla groups putting the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on the map of gorilla trekking since it gives the area an ever-increasing number of gorilla families. Presently there are 12 family members led by Mishaya with 1 dominant silverback but in the world of gorilla families again like in our human families and friendship groups that number can change. Silverbacks – there is one here will bring in other females into their groups or be joined by break-away members of other groups.
The Mishaya Gorilla Family Group is a breakaway group that was originally a part of the Nshongi Gorilla Family Group. By the end of 2015, the group was 7 gorilla but like we noticed earlier, gorilla families sometimes are joined by friends or even acquire more member in successful battles.
The leader of the Mishaya gorilla group is Mishaya and he is a fighter – not too long ago the gorilla family was in a battle with another un-habituated gorilla group and some members of the group were treated for injuries.
Kahungye Gorilla Group (Location: Rushaga Group size: 17)
The Kahungye Gorilla Group is another Rushaga are gorilla family sizeable in number even after a recent split in the Family creating the new Busingye Gorilla Group. The Kahungye Gorilla Family is led by Rumanzi and there are a total of 17 individuals that includes 3 silverbacks, 3 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 3 sub-adult, 3 juveniles and two infants.
The group was opened for visitors and gorilla tracking in 2011 after being habituated, a process that takes over two years. Once again we note that the size of families changes, they split, divorce, have feuds and runoff in a huff, while the males may raid another group and grab a few females to come along.
The Name Kahungye comes from a hill in the Rushaga area where the gorillas were discovered. Once again, you cannot get permits for a particular group ahead of time, but the group you trek is determined with your input.
Busingye Gorilla Group (Location: Rushaga Group size: 9)
The Busingye Gorilla Family is a splinter group from the Kahungye Gorilla Group – an event that happened in August of 2012. At the last check, the group consisted of 9 members and among them were three infants and what is called a sub-adult – gorilla teen. This new group has created some excitement in Internet forums since it is a new group open for tracking. Presently the group is being observed whether there are any signs of a return to the Kahungye Gorilla Group and it seems there is too much bad blood and no sign of reconciliation.
Bweza Gorilla Group: (Location: Rushaga Group size: 12)
The Bweza Gorilla Family is an example of another family feud that leads another new gorilla family setting up household in the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The Bweza Gorilla family is led by the Silverback Kakono and is made up of 12 individuals including; 2 silverbacks, 4 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, and two infants. This group broke away from the Nshongi Family group because of too many feuds within the group at the end of 2013. Now they can be tracked in the Rushaga area of the park.
Kyaguliro Gorilla Group: (Location: Ruhija Group size: 20)
The Kyaguliro A&B Group is a family with a history and with a family split. It was originally habituated beginning in 1995, however, it was a family that was not visited by tourists and there were no permits issued for the Gorilla Group. It was set aside as a Research Group studied by the German Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology.
The group had a major tragedy when the leader or family head Rukina was struck dead by lightning on April 7th, 2015. After his death the group was led by an inexperienced young Silverback (Mukiza) who was later ambushed by an immigrating Adult Silverback (Rukara) from the Bitukura family, this fueled a split of the family into two – (Kyaguliro A -Rukara and Kyaguliro B -Mukiza) in May of 2016.
By the time you arrive, things may change again. Presently the two families continue to stay within close proximity of each other which has the potential for a reunion or crossing over of some family members. They are most often found deep in the forest and do not venture out into the peripheral areas.
he A&B groups are made up of Rukara which is composed of 10 individuals; 1 silverback, 2 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants, while the second group, Mukiza is also made up of 10 individuals who include; 1 silverback, 4 adult females, 1 subadult and 4 infants.
The Habituated Gorilla Family in the Nkuringo Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:
Nkuringo Gorilla Group: (Location: Rushaga Group size: 12)
Tracking the Nkuringo Gorilla Group takes a bit more energy and stamina. This is probably the toughest trek in Uganda. The group may be the toughest group to trek and that has to do with the terrain at the beginning and end of the trek. Yet there are not many complaints about being exhausted. A better word would be exhilarated after the experience of a lifetime.
The Nkuringo Group led by the Silverback Rafiki is made up of 12 individuals; 2 silverbacks, 1 blackback, 2 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 3 juveniles and two infants
The Habituated Gorilla Family in Mgahinga Gorilla Park:
Nyakagezi Gorilla Group: (Location: Mgahinga Gorilla Park Group size: 10)
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. There are over 80 Mountain Gorillas found in Mgahinga National Park. This 10 member group has the migratory spirit within them and they think that they are frequent travelers, taking off for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Fortunately they have not done so in recent years. They returned to Mgahinga Gorilla Park in 2012 and this time they seem to have discovered home – the Mgahinga National Parks as their home once again.
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is led by the Silverback Mark and composed of 10 individuals; 5 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 1 infant.