Given the fact that the hike is a strenuous adventure, it is important that you keep at your pace or ask the guide to slow down. While in your trek, your expectations shouldn’t rely only on mountain gorillas, there are also some unique, primates, forest birds and flowering plants that will come on your way.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Located in Southwestern Uganda is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park one of the only four national parks in the world where the critically endangered mountain gorillas are protected. With less than 900 mountain gorillas that are still thriving in the world, over 480 of them are inhabited in this park.
Bwindi impenetrable forest has got 4 sectors and all are open for gorilla trekking to tourists. These include:
Ruhija sector is located in the Eastern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National park and has three gorilla families which include Bitukura gorilla family, Oruzogo Gorilla group and Kyaguriro group which is for research. This therefore means that 16 gorilla permits are available every day and sometimes the research group is also trekked if you formally ask permission from UWA. Only 6 people instead of 8 people are allowed to view Kyaguriro research group. Due to the fact that, there few families in Ruhija, there is less congestion as compared to Buhoma which is more touristic in nature so Ruhija offers a more ecotourism experience compared to Buhoma.
Rihija can be accessed from several angels. If you are coming from Kampala/Entebbe, it’s better to go through Kabale town and then proceed to Ruhija.
Others coming from Kampala can branch off at Ntungamo to Rukungiri, kihihi, Butogota then drive another two hours to Ruhija.
All these routes requires a Four wheel drive car as some sections of the road is rough, bumpy, dusty and during rainy seasons, they tend to get muddy.
There no direct flights to Ruhija so the only option is to fly via Kihihi which ideally is on Buhoma side and then drive two hours to Ruhija.
You can as well land in Kabale town using charter flights and then drive to Ruhija.
Ruhija section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is popular for bird watching you might not find in other regions. The sector is also known for the Black and White Colobus monkeys that play all over the tree branches.
Some of the accommodation facilities in the sector include Gift of Nature Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp and Bakiga lodge among other lodges.
This sector is a pioneer of the gorilla trekking activity in Bwindi forest and Uganda in general. The sector was the first to host the first group of gorilla trekkers when Mubare gorilla family was opened for tracking in 1993.
Gorilla families habituated for tracking in this sector include; Rushegura, Mubare and Habinyanja.
It is in this sector where other walks have been developed including; the Munyaga River Trails in the valley of Buhoma, which is a short walk for viewing birds and primates along the forest edge. The waterfall trail which passes beneath tree ferns, epiphytic ferns as well as orchids to visit three dazzling waterfalls. The Rushura Hill Trail, Muzabajiro Loop Trail and the River Ivi Trail, of which the latter follows an old road through the forest, emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the impenetrable forest. The Buhoma community walk and cultural performances which takes up to three hours visiting a typical homestead, the traditional healer and a banana beer brewery is organized by the local community. Of recent, the Batwa cultural experience has been developed in this section of the park.
It is very easy to trek gorillas in the Buhoma sector. The drive takes you through Ntungamo and Rukungiri before connecting to Butogota and eventually Buhoma.
The accommodation facilities range from the top notch Gorilla Forest Camp, the luxury Buhoma lodge; Mid-range Silverback lodge and the Budget Buhoma Community Rest Camp.
The Nkuringo sector is found in the southern sector of the Bwindi Impenetrable national park and the home to the famous Nkuringo gorilla family group which is believed to be the most interesting group to visit with 19 gorilla family members and yet the most strenuous group to trek while in Uganda. A visit to the Nkuringo sector of the park, rewards visitors with great views of the magnificent scenery, landscapes of Kabale as well as the Nyiragongo and Nyimuragira of Congo. Nkuringo also allows only 8 visitors to its gorilla family group in a day. The Nkuringo gorilla family group is neighboured by the Nshongi gorilla family group near the Rushaga area of the park.
Nkuringo is about 45 kilo meters from the sign-posted junction on Kabale to Kisoro road and it’s usually 3 hours from Kabale. Moving from Kampala, Nkuringo can be accessed via the Kabale –Kisoro road using a bus and this lasts between 11- 12 hours. At Kisoro you can opt to hire a private vehicle to the Nkuringo sector of the forest.
Nkuringo sector can be reached via the Buhoma via Kihihi or Butogota on the daily bus from Kampala. It is necessary to take a private hire taxi from either Kihihi or Butogota to Buhoma. And in the morning, enjoy a forest nature walk through the park to the Nkuringo sector which may last between 5 and 7 hours.
Apart from Mountain gorilla tracking in this sector, you will enjoy a Forest Nature Walk normally done in the morning hours to and from the Nkuringo and Buhoma sectors of the Bwindi forest via the Ivy and Kashasha rivers bringing you to the Buhoma area by lunch time.
You can also visit the Batwa Pygmies, discovering more about their ways of life and their diverse cultural practices like hunting, fishing within the forest. They also entertain visitors with their traditional music and dance, storytelling etc.
While at this sector, visitors a treated to the best scenic and birding sights where they will have a ride on Lake Mutanda using the dugout wooden canoe to the other side enjoying the beautiful sights of bird species with in the forest at the same time viewing the scenic views of the Virunga Volcanoes Lying on the Uganda – Rwanda border.
Rushaga region is located in the southern section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is located in Kisoro District together with Nkuringo Region. It has several gorilla families which include Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza.
The Rushaga sector boasts the highest number of gorilla families and lies between Kabale and Nkuringo coming from either Ruhija or Kampala.
The region is dominated by high hills and because of this, habituated gorilla families have kept on separating and subdividing to take up different hills in the region. Because of these hills, tourists who trek gorillas from Rushaga tend to enjoy great scenic views and at some points, you can as well see the Virunga ranges in Rwanda and Uganda that include Mgahinga, Muhavura, Sabinyo, Karusimbi, and Bisoke among others. There is Lake Mutanda which is one of the only two lava damned lakes in Uganda. You can enjoy a canoe ride on the lake before or after your gorilla trek.
Accommodation for those interested in trekking Rushaga Gorilla Families can be booked include Rushaga Gorilla Havens, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp or even Clouds Gorilla Lodge.