Gorilla families in Uganda

Uganda Gorilla Groups/Families – Bwindi National Park

Uganda, the Pearl of Africa is home to the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world. 18 gorilla families have been habituated for trekking 17 of which live in Bwindi forest while 1 lives in Mgahinga Gorilla National park. Gorilla families in Bwindi are split into four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhilja, Rushaga and Nkuringo, which make up Bwindi forest National Park. Interestingly, each gorilla family is unique in its own kind in terms of location, members and how it was formed Engagi Safaris brings you a full list of gorilla families in Uganda.

Buhoma Sector (NORTH)
Mubare Group: This Mubare group was the very first group to actually be habituated for tracking by tourists. Mubare group is actually named after the stunning Mubare Hill in which this group was discovered. It is the most popular tracked area because of its terrain.
Habiyanja Group: This group was habituated in 1997 for tracking, the group was first discovered near a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable the name Habinyanja comes from the local name for water “Nyanja”. 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.
However, a family was split from it named the Rushegura Group. These two group became rivals but they now co-exist peacefully.

Rushegura Group: This Rushegura Group was in 2000 habituated for tracking and received tourists in the year 2002. It is a huge group within the Buhoma area of Bwindi Forest. 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 go far and it may be a long trek to catch up with them. The Rushegura Gorilla Family is led by Kabukojo the silverback, 4 black backs, 4 adult females, 3 juveniles, 4 infants making it a total of 16.

Ruhija Sector (EAST)
Bitukura Gorilla Group: This Bitukura group is among the newest group in Bwindi Forest. The Bitukura Gorilla Family is led by Ndahura and is made up of 4 silverbacks, 4 adult females, 2 juveniles and 3 infants – It is unusual to have this many Silverbacks in one group but they get along. There is so much peace and harmony in this family. It has been so easy to habituate this group compared to others.

Oruzogo gorilla family: It is composed of playful energetic juveniles and toddlers in the group that keeps visitors entertained. 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 endurance, steadiness
The Oruzogo Gorilla Family is led by the Bakwate and there is 1 other silverback, 2 black backs, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 1 juvenile, and 5 infants

Kyaguliro family: 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. After the death the of their leader or family head Rukina 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. However, these groups are suspected to re-unite in the future since they leave just approximately near each other. The A&B groups are made up of Rukara which is composed of 10 individuals; 1 silverback, 2 black backs, 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 sub-adult and 4 infants.
The area can accommodate 18 trackers per day.

Rushaga Sector (SOUTH)
Nshongi Group: 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 Nshongi group is headed by the Silverback Bweza and there is only one Silverback, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile, and 1 infant.
This currently is the biggest habituated gorilla family in Uganda with 25 group members, at the opening of the group for visitors after habituation it comprises of 25, and 10 left to form another family called the Mishaya group.

Mishaya Group: A family dispute occurred the Mishaya Gorilla Family split from the then biggest Gorilla Group in Bwindi Forest –Nshongi Gorilla family. 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.

Kahungye Group: The Name Kahungye comes from a hill in the Rushaga area where the gorillas were discovered. The Kahungye Gorilla Family is led by Rumanzi and there are a total of 17 individuals that includes 3 silverbacks, 3 black backs, 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.

Busingye gorilla group: The Busingye Gorilla Family split group from the Kahungye Gorilla Group 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. However, there are speculations that this group could return back to Kahungye.

Bweza Group: This group broke away from the Nshongi Family group because of too many disputes within the group at the end of 2013. The Bweza Gorilla family is led by the Silverback Kakono and is made up of 12 individuals including; 2 silverbacks, 4 black backs, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, and two infants.

Nkuringo Sector (SOUTH)
Nkuringo Group: The Nkuringo Group led by the Silverback Rafiki is made up of 12 individuals; 2 silverbacks, 1 black back, 2 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 3 juveniles, and two infants, Nkuringo Group may be the toughest to track due to the tough terrain, however, it is an experience that is worth it.

Mgahinga National Park
The park is found in southwestern Uganda, Kisoro District. The park has Virunga Volcanoes that includes the Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga.

Nyakagezi Group: This is the only habituated group in the lowlands of Mgahinga National Park. They derive their name from the area where they live within Mgahinga called Nyakagezi. It comprises of 9 members: 4 silverbacks, 2 infants, 2 adult females and 1 juvenile who are known for their migratory behaviors from Uganda to Rwanda and Congo. However, they are said to have settled in Uganda since 2012 so it is easier for the tourists to track them.

Comparison between gorilla trekking experience in Uganda Rwanda and Congo
The cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda is lower than that of Rwanda although it has been increased by $100 with effect from July 2020 the price will be US $ 700. In case you are threatened by the price look at it in this point of view that you are contributing to the conservation of mountain gorillas and as a form of thank you. Gorilla permits within Rwanda were recently increased up to $1500 per individual and Congo Gorilla permit is lower compared to the 2 countries; $400 in dry season and $350 during the rainy season. Uganda has more gorillas compared to Rwanda and Congo.
A gorilla permit is acquired prior to tracking date, 8 people are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day and tracking involves hiking for the 3 countries.

Gorilla tracking packaging list
• Wear comfortable hiking shoes because of the steep muddy slopes during the hike..
• Carry packed lunch and enough drinking water.
• Carry rain gear, long-sleeved shirt, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellent.
• Carry a camera however flashlight is not allowed.
• Insect repellant, rain jacket because of the weather in the forest changes frequently.

Rules and Regulations of Gorilla tracking
• Ensure that you maintain a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas.
• A maximum of eight people can visit a group of habituated gorillas in a day.
• No camera flash is allowed in the presence of mountain gorillas and you will be told by the guide when to take the photos.
• Eating, drinking and smoking while you are near the Gorillas is prohibited
• Tourists with cough or flu will not be allowed to track mountain gorillas because the Gorillas can easily catch human diseases.
• Littering in the park is prohibited. You are expected to carry back whatever you came with.
• Noise is not permitted during the activity however after spending 1 hour with the gorillas, you are advised to keep your voice low until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas.