Bwindi impenetrable national park - The Gorilla families explained!
Bwindi impenetrable national park
There are 3 gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable forest which have been habituated for gorilla trekking in Uganda. The process of habituation is undertaken by scientists who gradually gain the confidence of the gorilla families by continous contact over a period of approximately 2 years. These three gorilla families are the Mubare group, Habinyanja Group and Rushegura Group,
The gorilla families of Bwindi impenetrable national park
Mubare gorilla group (currently 5 individuals)
This was the first gorilla family in Bwindi Forest to be habituated by scientists. The habituation started in 1991 and the family 'received' its first tourists in 1993. What an absolute thrill it must have been for those first gorilla trekking tourists to walk through the thick primary forest of Bwindi and suddenly be surrounded by a beautiful gorilla family. Very few people new about gorilla trekking at that time and Uganda only received a trickle of international tourists. The gorilla family was originally found in the beautiful Mubare hills and this is the reason they were given that name. The number of gorillas within the Mubare group has changed dramatically over the years; its maximum size was 18 gorillas and now there are only 5. That sounds like a real disaster for the family but it does not paint the true picture of gorilla family dynamics. Although some gorillas can be killed due to territorial fights and the loss of small baby gorillas is not uncommon, the biggest single factor which reduces the size of a gorilla family is the splitting of a group when they decide to follow another silverback gorilla. This can happen when an intruder who is physically stronger than the incumbant silverback arrrives on the scene, or it can happen from within when a younger male silverback goes his own way and takes some of the female gorillas with him. Just because the size of a gorilla family is small don't let that put you off gorilla trekking with them, as the reality is in Bwindi impenetrable national park, where the forest can be very dense, you often only view and photograph gorillas in small seperate groups.
Habinyanja gorilla group (currently 19 individuals)
This was the largest group of gorillas to be habituated in Bwindi impenetrable national park, with a huge group of 30 gorillas found by scientists back in 1997 and made available for gorilla trekking by 1999. Can you imagine the excitment for scientists and tourists alike to be 'surrounded' by this super group of gorillas. The history, especially that of the various dominant silverbacks who led the group over the years, is equally exciting. The silverback Mukurusi was in charge when the Habinyanja group was first discovered, but after his death this two sons, Rwansigazi and Mwirima, vied for position to control the group. Eventually this joint leadership - each wanting to take the gorilla family to different locations for food and secuirty within the Bwindi impenetrable national park - broke down and the largest gorilla family in Bwindi Forest split into two. Mwirima left taking with him seven members of the family and gave birth to what we now know as the Rushegura gorilla group. Later Rwansigazi lost control of the Habinyanja group to a rival silverback called Makara; who currently reigns as the dominant silverback controlling a group of 19 individual gorillas. The Habinyanja group has one of the largest home ranges of the habituated gorillas in Bwindi National Park and although gorilla treks often start from the ranger station at Buhoma, it can be advantegeous to have your own vehicle; if due to their location a different starting point for the gorilla trekking is chosen.
Rushegura gorilla Group (currently 19 individuals)
Currently the joint largest gorilla family living in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. It's origins were explained above as a consequence of a group of gorillas splitting from the Habinyanja group and since 2002 it has been available for gorilla trekking. In many ways this is the most exciting gorilla family in Bwindi and Buhoma due to their range including the many wildlife lodges at Buhoma which overlook Bwindi forest. Although there are many you tube videos out there showing gorilla families walking through the ground of lodges such as Gorilla Forest Camp and the nearby Volcanoes lodge property, sightings are still relatively rare and certainly cannot be guaranteed. We get the odd enquiry from clients who don't want the physical excersion of gorilla trekking and hope that by just staying at one of Buhoma's 'gorilla lodges' they will get to see the gorillas without sweat and tears; but that is rarely the case. That said, the last time we visited Bwindi impenetrable national park, we walked from Buhoma to the Nteko ridge to go gorilla trekking with the Nkuringo family and en route we missed a silverback charge/encounter (with a park guard!) by about 5 minutes; just a few minutes out of the main group of wildlife lodges.
If reading this you are inspired to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and would like to visit either the Mubare, Habinyanja or Rushegura gorilla familes in Bwindi Forest, then can we suggest you take a look at these two short gorilla safaris to Uganda. We have a 3 day fly-in gorilla trek or a 5 day road trip to Bwindi Impenetrable forest, stopping at Queen Elizabeth national park and Lake Mburo national park. Or you can contact us at [email protected] and we can design and customise your ideal gorilla trekking safari in Uganda or Rwanda.
PLEASE NOTE: The actual number of individuals in the gorilla families above are changing constantly so only use this as a rough guide when gorilla trekking in Uganda.