Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas can be seen in two places in southwestern Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Where are Mountain Gorillas in Uganda?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park supports almost half of the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas and is the most popular place to trek the gorillas in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – a UNESCO World Heritage site – rises between 1,160m and 2,607m above sea level.
Buhoma on the northern side of the Forest is the most popular place for tourists. On the southern side of Bwindi, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija also give you access to several gorilla families.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest national Park, measuring just 34 km2. This compact park is home to one gorilla family that moves between Uganda and Rwanda, which makes it more difficult to reliably trek the small gorilla population. Mgahinga is part of the larger Virunga conservation area which incorporates a total of 434 km2 of volcanic mountains that link Uganda with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
How many gorilla families are there to trek in Uganda?
There are many gorilla families in Uganda but only a small number have been habituated for tourist visits. Habituation means the animals have got used to the presence of humans. This is a process that takes a number of years.
Uganda has nine habituated gorilla families (nine in Bwindi and one in Mgahinga) meaning Uganda has a maximum of eighty permits available per day.
There are three habituated families in Buhoma (northern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest). The Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushagura families live in thick tropical forest and trekking can take 3-10 hours. If you’ve ever watched videos of humans encountering gorillas in the grounds of a lodge, then it is most likely in Buhoma.
The Oruzogo and Bitukura families are in the Ruhija southern sector of Bwindi.
In southern Bwindi you will find the Nkuringo family (adjacent to the place of the same name) and the Nshongi, Kahunje, Mishaya and Businge families in Rushaga.
Recently it has become possible to trek the Nyakagezi family, the one habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They regularly moved across the border so viewing was erratic and unpredictable. UPDATE June 2016: the Mgahinga gorillas have been frequent visitors to Uganda for the last two and a half years. The Uganda Wildlife Authority tell us that the Nyakagezi family is one of the most entertaining gorilla families to trek. It has a higher than average number of Silverbacks in the group too.
For gorilla trekking stories and Uganda and Rwanda travel advice, click on the hyperlinks in the Ultimate Guide to Mountain Gorilla Trekking. Still got a question? Contact the Muzungu.