Mountain Gorilla Safari Information

What are Mountain Gorillas?

A trip in Africa more so in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo is not complete until you visit the land of these incredible creatures. Mountain Gorillas are the major tourist attraction that Uganda depends on most as for the moment. They are giant genus of primates’ black in colour, the male gorillas have silverbacks up to the hips and normally lead the family. The Gorillas are classified into the Eastern and Western gorillas, Western gorillas are found in the central West Africa countries and Eastern gorillas are also known as MOUNTAIN GORILLAS which almost half of them are found in Uganda and some are found in the DRC and Rwanda.

These gentle giants are so close to human beings almost like humans because they also give birth to young ones like humans, their gestation period is 8.5 months and Gorilla Mother give birth to baby once in four years sad of it 30% don’t survive their first year due to Diseases and accidents, life spans of 35-40 years though the oldest gorilla is in 50’s.The Male Gorillas weigh up to 140-180kg and female weigh 68-110kg.

Where to find the Mountain Gorillas?

These Endangered Mountain gorillas cannot survive in captivity and that’s why are never seen in the Zoos always in Parks and only three countries Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, And in four National parks, Uganda being the home of almost half of the remaining Mountain Gorillas in the world are found in two parks Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that’s in the south western direction. Rwanda are found in Volcanoes National Park in North West and Democratic Republic of Congo in Virunga National Park in Eastern side.

Mountain Gorilla Families,

 About 400 Mountain Gorillas of the world’s population that’s more than a half of them live in the impenetrable forests of Uganda thus making Uganda home of the Mountain Gorillas and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park having many of them that makes it UNESCO World Heritage Site and fashionable Tourist destination in Africa at large and a small number found on slopes of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Uganda has 11 habituated Gorilla Families which is open to Tourist and each family receives a maximum of 8 visitors pay day for conservation purposes and are found in four regions, there is only one family which is under research.

Buhoma Region,

  •  MUBARE Gorilla Familys:  This is the oldest gorilla families with 9 members with 1 silverback. Got its name from Mubare hills deep in Bwindi Forest where these group first seen and was opened in 1993. It started with 12 members led by a silverback Ruhondeza growing to 18 members in just few years but due to instant fights with the wild group of Gorillas many died including the Ruhondeza and was succeeded by Kanyonyi in 2014 who managed to expend the family now it’s an interesting family.
  • HABINYANJA Gorilla Family: This is the first visited by tourist  in 1999 having 18 members and 1 silverback called Mugurisi meaning old man, The group got  its name from the local word Nyanja referring to swamp/water place in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where were first seen. The family had a lot of drama since it was led by two silverbacks (Rwansigazi and Mwarima) who took over power after the death of their father, But in 2002 the 2 silverbacks decided to separate peacefully forming a new gorilla family, Rwansigazi group remained with the name Habinyanja and latter he gave up leadership to Makara who is now the dominant silverback of the family and Mwarima group became Rushengura Family. But these two Gorilla families live peacefully up now.
  • RUSHEGURA Gorilla Family: This family has 19 members with 1 silverback. It was brought together in 2002 after the separation of 1 silverback from Habinyanja family and this family started with 12 members including 5 females.  It quickly got a name from Ebishegura the abundant tree species in home area of that newly formed family. Rushegura is a very calm family and are always in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and sometimes meander through the Gorillas Forest Camp.

Ruhija Region

  • BITUKURA Gorilla Family: This family has 14 members with 4 silverbacks. It was named after a river where this family was first seen and started in July 2007. Initially the group had 24 members but later split due to conflicts among themselves, some left to other families. It is a peaceful Gorilla family with four silverbacks under leadership of the second youngest silverback Ndahura who took role  from  former silverback Karamuzi who stay up to 40 years and retired.   
  • ORUZOGO Gorilla Family: It is the recently opened family for tourists on 20th June 2011 with 23 members with 1 silverback known as TIBIRIKWATA. It is the most popular visited family by tourist because the members are playful and energetic juveniles. The only problem in the area where this family is found is that there are few lodging options especially the budget ones.

Nkuringo Region

  • NKURINGO Gorilla Family: This family has 19 members with 2 silverbacks. Nkuringo means round hills in Rukiga where the group was first seen and was opened in 2004 after habituation process. The 1 silverback Nkuringo died in April 2008, 2 silverbacks Safari and Rafiki remind, Safari son to Nkuringo took over the leadership of the family. Nkuringo is the toughest family to trek in Uganda. This family used to visit surrounding area of Nkuringo village and eat sweat potetoes, banana and other crops which caused problems between Gorillas and the local communities and this was the very reason why this family was habituated and open to tourism for direct benefit of both Gorillas as in being protected and local communities from revenue.

Rushaga Area

  • NSHONGI Gorilla Family: This group has 18 members. It was opened in September 2009 and got its name after river Nshongi were these gorillas was first sighted. Officially had 36 members and 4 silverbacks, the family was led by Nshongi who was not even old but they lived in peace thus never fought for leadership but later split forming Mishaya family in July 2010 and further more in 2013 split forming the Bweza family and reduced to 18 members. This family is found in a large area where you can see other primates and birds .It was the largest habituated Gorilla Family.
  • MISHAYA Gorilla Family: This family has 7 members with 1 silverback. In July 2010 decided to leave Nshongi with some female and were joined by other members from other groups up to total of 12 gorillas with 3 infants and known for being a typical fighter but by the end of 2013 the group was 7.
  • KAHUNGYE Gorilla Family: This family has 13 members with 3 silverbacks dominated by silverback known as RUMANSI followed by RWIGI and RUHAMUKA. It was opened for tracking gorillas by tourists in 2011 but in less than a year split forming Busingye but before split had 27 members with 3 silverbacks.
  • BWEZA Gorilla Family: This family had 7 members with 1 silverback. It is one of the Nshongi group that used to be large but in 2012, Bweza walked away with 6 others members from Mishaya choosing to be independent.
  • BUSINGYE Gorilla Family: This family has 9 silverback. This group split from Kahungye in June 2012 Busingye decided to create own family. Locally Busingye means PEACE but is known for his legendary fights. Then in January 2014 the group was 9 members with 3 infants, 2 adult females and others were youth.
  • NYAKAGEZI Gorilla Family:  It is located in Mgahinga area and is the only group in Mgahinga National Park. The family has 10 members with 1 silverback known as Mark and is the one leading the group. Mark likes travelling and keeps on crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda and DRC but are trying to settle on Ugandan side. In 2013 May when new born gorilla came the group increased to 10 members.
  • Kyaguriro Gorilla Family: It is found in Ruhija Region with 15 members and 2 silverback even if it has been habituated its not open to tourist its still under research getting to know more about the Mountain Gorillas closely and a lot has been noticed between Gorillas of Bwindi and Those in the Virunga Volcanoes,The family has been lead by aging silverback called Zeus

                  GORILLA FAMILIES IN RWANDA

                SUSA Gorilla Family: Has 41 gorilla members makes it largest and hardest to trek as they live                                             

                 High in the Mountain.

                 Sabyinyo Gorilla Family: It is easily accessible amongst other families and lead by a powerful

                 Silverback Guhonda.

                 Amahoro Gorilla Family: Meaning peaceful of all with 17 members and to reach them you to

                  Climb a bit.

                  Group 13: The group was habituated with 13 members and now has approximately 25

                  Member.

                  Kwitonda: This group migrated from DRC with 18-member. 

                 Umubano : Has 11 member broke away from Amahoro family

                 Hirwa: This was the recent to be formed from different families like Group 13 and Sabyinyo.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking Rules and what to cry,

Gorilla Trekking Rules

How to trek the Mountain Gorillas

For those planning to do a mountain gorilla safari, the following briefing information applies, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority‘s ‘Gorilla Rules’

Before departing on your gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking tour

  1. A maximum number of 8 visitors may trek to visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas per day. This minimizes behavioural disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
  2. Always wash your hands before you go gorilla trekking.

En route to trekking the gorillas

  1. Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
  2. DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest on your gorilla safari should be carried back out with you.
  3. You will be taken to where the guides have observed the Mountain Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail. Look out for the gorillas’ nesting sites along the way!
  4. As you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will alert you.

When you are with the gorillas

  1. A 7 meter (21 feet) distance from the gorillas should be observed at all times. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
  2. You must stay in a tight group when you are near the gorillas.
  3. Keep your voices down at all times but feel free to ask your ranger guide questions.
  4. Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking will inevitably increase the risk of morsels of food or droplets of drink being left behind. Even the tiniest leftovers could increase the risk of transmission of disease to the gorillas.
  5. Move slowly and carefully. Do not point or wave your arms.
  6. Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
  7. Occasionally the gorillas charge. Don’t panic. Follow your ranger guide’s example: crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes; wait for the animals to pass. Do not attempt to run away.
  8. Your subjects are black animals in dim light so use the right camera settings. Flash photography is not permitted under any circumstances.
  9. The maximum time you can spend with these wonderful animals is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may decide to finish the visit early. This is for your safety and for the safety of the gorillas.
  10. After the visit, you are bound to be excited! but please keep your voices down until you are 200 metres away from the gorillas.

Gorilla trekking safaris and General Health Rules

Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them:

  • Respect the limits imposed on the daily number of visitors allowed with the mountain gorillas. These limits minimize the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate gorilla trekking opportunity will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded the cost of your gorilla permit.
  • If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
  • Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
  • Do not leave any rubbish (such as food wrappers or drink bottles) in the park; foreign items can harbour diseases or other contaminants.
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the ranger guide to dig you a hole. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep. Please ensure the hole is filled after you are finished.

What to bring on your gorilla trekking safari

  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction, suitable for climbing steep muddy slopes.
  • Carry a packed lunch and plenty of drinking water.
  • The weather can be unpredictable so carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion and a hat.
  • Wear or pack insect repellent.
  • Bring binoculars – or hire a pair from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park.
  • Bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your digital camera. Using your camera flashlight is not permitted. If you are photographing using film, we recommend using 400-800 ASA film.

If you have any questions about gorilla trekking, please don’t hesitate to contact Great Lakes Safaris!

·         What do our clients say?

I. Gorchilina, Russia

The trip was amazing and I’m officially in love with Uganda and gorillas. It is really once in a lifetime experience and defenitely worth doing it. Everything was organized excellent, accommodation was really decent, people are really nice in Uganda, scenery is stunning, gorillas are just like us or we are like them!

Read more ….

·         Did you know?

The buffalo is one of the most abundant of Africa’s large herbivores. It depends on water and does not live in regions with less than 10 inches of rain a year.

·         Wild Facts

Baboon

  • Scientific Name: Olive baboon (Papiocynocephalus anubis); yellow baboon (Papio ynocephalus cynocephalus)
  • Size: 14 to 30 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 50 to 100 pounds
  • Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
  • Habitat: Savannas and woodlands
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Gestation: 6 months
  • Predators: Humans, leopards, cheetahs

Mountain Gorilla Map.

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