Where are gorillas trekked in Uganda? 

Planning a trip to Uganda? You must have probably heard of the famous Uganda gorilla trekking safaris and wonder where gorillas are trekked in Uganda.

Gorilla trekking habitats in Uganda are two of the 10 national parks which are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Both parks are in south western Uganda and managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Parks are both host to several habituated gorilla families that are open to gorilla safaris since 1993 when the first gorilla family was fully habituated and opened for tourism. Here is a detail of where to see gorillas in Uganda;

Where to go gorilla trekking in Uganda/ Where are gorillas trekked in Uganda

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or at times referred to as Bwindi Forest National Park is one of the 10 national parks in Uganda. The park is in southwestern Uganda and part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that is situated at the edge of the Albertine Rift. Covered with both montane and lowland forest, the park is covers about 321 square kilometers or 124 square miles. 

Bwindi forest is about 473.9km by road from Kampala- Uganda’s capital and to access the park one requires a 4×4 safari vehicle. Within the park, you can only move on foot due to the impenetrable forest, this is why the park is said to be accessed only by foot. 

Designated as a world heritage site, Bwindi forest is home to about 19 habituated gorilla families. Each of these families has a different number of mountain gorillas depending on how the family is able to fight and get members from other groups. The aggressiveness of the lead silverback determines the number of members, in case an individual is weak they lose their members.  The habituated gorilla families in Bwindi are found in 4 of the different sectors of the park which are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. 

  • Buhoma sector of Bwindi has to 4 gorilla families and these are Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyaja, and Katwe Gorilla families. 
  • Ruhija sector has 4 habituated gorilla families and these are Kyaguliro, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Gorilla families 
  • Nkuringo sector is home to 1 habituated gorilla family for gorilla safaris in Uganda and this is known as Nkuringo gorilla family. 
  • Rushaga sector has almost the highest number of gorilla families and these are Rwiji, Nshonji, Bweza, Mishaya, Kahunjye, Businjye, Bikyinji and Muchunguzi Gorilla groups.

A sector for your gorilla trek in Uganda is dependent on where your tour operator books for you. Booking is based on availability of the permits for a preferred trekking day and desired accommodation. When you book with the Ugandan gorilla Rwanda safari operators, you will definitely be informed of the sector you will trek before you come for your trip. With the many habituated gorilla families, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is perceived to have over 99% chances of seeing the mountain gorillas and therefore permits are sold out so fast. Early booking is therefore advisable. 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is luckily the only mountain gorilla habitat that offers the gorilla habituation experience.  The Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced mountain gorilla habituation in 2014 to offer an opportunity to those tourists who would want to spend more time with the gorillas and learn about non-fully habituated gorillas. Recently, tourists can go for gorilla habituation safaris in Uganda to the Rushaga sector of Bwindi and spend 4 hours in the presence of the gorillas rather than the 1 hour spent with them during the trek. To have a gorilla habituation experience, you need to purchase a permit that costs US$ 1500 per person.

  • Mgahinga Gorilla National Park 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest (33.7 sq. km)   of all parks in Uganda is situated on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is part of the great Virunga massif that comprises of the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo. It covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes which are Mt. Muhavura, Mt. Gahinga and Mt. Sabinyo. 

Mgahinga National Park is home to 1 mountain gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi gorilla family that is fully habituated for trekking. The family is made10 individuals with 5 silverback gorillas (Mark, Mafia, Rukundo, Ndugutse and Bugingo), 2 adult females (Nshuti and Nyiramwiza) and 3 youngsters (Mutagamba, Nshuti baby and Fred). The Nyakagezi family is led by silverback Mark who took over leadership from his father Bugingo.  Surprisingly, not as it is with several other gorilla families, silverback Bugingo still lives with the family.

Why trek gorillas in Mgahinga National Park

  • This is the only park where the Silverback gorillas co-exist with golden monkeys.  This is reason for the slogan “where gold meets silver”. Golden Monkeys are just like mountain gorillas endemic to this region and specifically the virunga ranges and therefore a perfect chance of seeing both species on a single trip. In case you need to trek golden monkeys, then choose to visit Mgahinga National Park. 
  • Nyakagezi gorilla family is easy to trek since it prefers a narrow range for feeding compared to the Bwindi gorilla population. 
  • The Nyakagezi gorilla family is one of a kind, just like no other. It’s not easy to find a gorilla family that has 4 silverback gorillas surviving in the same gorilla family. The Nyakagezi family seems to display a very high level of social character among them. On top of having 4 silverback gorillas, the former lead silverback still lives within the group even after the other took over power which is a scenario that is rare.

If you are coming into Uganda from Rwanda, Mgahinga is the closest park and a perfect place for a short Uganda gorilla safari.