GORILLA TRACKING IN THE BUHOMA GORILLA SECTOR
There are several gorilla sections where gorilla trekking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Buhoma gorilla sector is one of them. This gorilla sector is found in Kanungu District. Buhoma gorilla sector is famous to tourists since it was the first place in the history of Uganda’s tourism where gorilla trekking was first launched and started in Uganda. A group of tourists did gorilla trekking in Uganda in the Buhoma gorilla sector of Bwindi National Park in 1993. In the whole Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Buhoma gorilla sector has the eldest habituated gorilla family in Bwindi which is known as the Mubare gorilla group/family. Currently, the family comprises 9 individuals this factor is highly ascribed to the Late Ruhondeza who died in 2013. This Ruhondeza became too old and he could not adequately protect the family resulting to break ways that later loosened the group/family.
Towards Ruhondeza’s death, the group/family had remained with only four (4) individuals but later, there was a new silverback who went ahead aggressively to campaign. And this has been observed as the group has been seen capturing some members from other groups/families to a total of nine individuals. With much confidence, it is trusted that with the intentions of the new silverback, the group/family will grow and increase the number of its individuals.
Gorilla tracking in the Buhoma gorilla sector: Compared to other gorilla sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Buhoma gorilla Sector is easy to access and reach since it is approximately 550 km from the capital city of Uganda Kampala, and a car drive takes almost 8-9 hours from Kampala to Buhoma.
The Buhoma gorilla sector is next to Queen Elizabeth National Park mainly the southern part commonly known as Ishasha. Therefore it is easier for someone from gorilla trekking, to take 2 hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park in the Ishasha Sector to have an opportunity to see different wildlife species including the famous tree-climbing Lions, and a 4 hour’s drive to the Mweya part of Queen Elizabeth National Park for the most amazing boat cruise on Kazinga channel that has been credited for being with the most hippo concentration worldwide, and more than 600 bird species and this is the best place for seeing much other wildlife as they gather at the channel for water.
Buhoma gorilla sector has a concentration of several accommodations in regard to other gorilla sections of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. For high-quality Lodges, one can use Gorilla Forest Camp, Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Volcano Lodge, or Mahogany Springs. For Mid-Range lodges, one can use Silverback Lodge, Engagi Lodge, and Gorilla Resort while for decent accommodation, one can use Buhoma Community Rest Camp.
With Kisoro Tours Uganda, from the Buhoma gorilla sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, one is able to connect the eastern part of the park to the Ruhija gorilla sector. Therefore this implies that it is possible for one to spend a night in Buhoma and trek gorilla families in the Ruhija sector which is approximately 2-3 hours driving from the Buhoma sector to the Ruhija sector. In the same way, one can possibly access the southern part of Bwindi and access the Nkuringo gorilla sector.
To the fact that Buhoma was the first place where gorilla trekking commenced, it has fascinated many projects that are attractive to several people to support the efforts of gorilla conservation. As many conservationists and Volunteers, work with the Human Gorilla Conflict Organization (HUGO), conservation through Public health (CTPH), Bwindi Hospital, Schools, and even some spare time with the Batwa famously known as Pygmies who stayed in the forest for a long time before it was gazetted as a protected area by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
In the Buhoma gorilla sector, after gorilla trekking you can enjoy a forest walk following the walking trails that can lead you into the forest to see the different waterfalls, identify several butterfly species, birds, trees, other primates, and many others. These nature walks are guided and worth trying if you save some time after gorilla trekking. Also, you can go for the famous Buhoma Village walk to interact with the local people.
Still talking about gorilla tracking in the Buhoma gorilla sector: gorilla trekking is not only done in Buhoma but also in the other 3 sectors which include; the Nkuringo sector which is in the south, the Rushaga sector which is in the south, and the Ruhija sector which is in the east.
The Buhoma gorilla sector provides a home to five fully habituated gorilla groups/families namely;
In the Buhoma gorilla sector, the Mubare gorilla family is the oldest family and it was the first gorilla family to be trekked by tourists in 1993 after going through a full habituation process. During habituation, the Mubare family had 12 members and the family was headed by Silverback Ruhondeza who died due to old age in June 2012, the family was then headed by Silverback Kanyonyi. Kanyonyi later became weak after falling down from the tree which sustained his injuries and could not fight for and defend his family. Then the family went under the leadership of Silverback Malaya who was the next in lineage. The Mubare gorilla family is currently comprised of nine (9) members and are Malaya the dominant silverback, four (4) females namely Karungi, Twesiime, Nyampazi, Buzinza, and four (4) babies.
The Habinyanja gorilla family was fully opened to tourists for trekking in 1996 after the habituation exercise. It was named after the Rukiga word Nyanja meaning a place with water. The family was initially composed of 25 members during the habituation process and was influenced by Mugurusi Silverback who later died due to age factor. His death caused succession misunderstandings as the silverbacks Mwirima, Rwansigazi, and Makara confronted for leadership. Rwansigazi and Mwirima shared leadership and led the group/family upto 2002 when they got divided and 12 individuals including two (2) silverbacks, two (2) blackbucks, three (3) adult females, three (3) sub-adults and two (2) juveniles went Rwansigazi and kept the name Habinyanja as the rest followed Mwirima and obtained the Name Rushegura gorilla family.
The Rushegura gorilla family branched from the Haninyanja gorilla family around 2002 with the influence of silverback Mwirima who was strong and broke off from the Habinyanja gorilla family with seven (7) members and by 2010, the group number had risen to nineteen 19 members including two (2) silverbacks, three (3) blackbuck, six (6) adult females, one (1) sub-adult, three (3) juveniles, and four (4) infants. Silverback Mwirima died and currently, the group is under the leadership of a black back.
The Katwe gorilla family in Bwindi was the fourth gorilla group to be fully habituated and opened for tourism in the Buhoma gorilla sector. Katwe gorilla group has nine (9) members and these are; one (1) silverback, four (4) adult females, two (2) blackbacks, and two (2) infants.
Muyambi gorilla group is the current gorilla group in the Buhoma gorilla sector, it was opened for trekking in 2019 after full habituation with its six (6) members. The Muyambi gorilla group was once combined with the Mubare gorilla group/family the first gorilla family in the Buhoma gorilla sector and sundered from the group to form its own.
The activity starts with orientation in the morning, you will be assembled into groups of 8 people and each group shall be directed by a habituated gorilla family to trek rangers, and one experienced park guide who is well-informed about following gorilla trekking trails. Gorilla trekking in the Buhoma gorilla sector extends from 30 minutes to 7 hours contingent on where the gorillas are detected since they like to relocate from place to place searching for food and water. In the process of trekking, you shall be advantageous to see relevant primates, plants, and different tree species, and listen to sweet melodies of bird species mention them. After finding the gorillas, you will be given one hour with them in their natural domain where you will more about their conduct and behaviors, see them carry out their daily ventures/activities, take photo shoots with them, and record the amazing breathtaking instants and moments to show people back home after the. Tour with Kisoro Tours Uganda and enjoy your life moments.
Gorilla trekking permits at Buhoma gorilla sector in Bwindi impenetrable Forest national park, costs differently to different people for example, permits cost $700 for every foreign non-resident, $600 for every foreign resident, and 250,000 UGX for every East African citizen.
Gorilla tracking in the Buhoma gorilla sector can be done all year around but the best time is the months of June to September and December to February during the dry season. The period is commonly known as “the peak season”. In the high/peak season, it is much to access the parks and also the walking trails and roads in the forest are easily accessed because they are dry which makes it easy to walk on the trekking trails of Bwindi Impenetrable rainforest during gorilla trekking compared to the other months of rain when the trails are muddy and slippery which may hinder the trekking process.
There are a variety of places in the Buhoma gorilla sector where you can find accommodation facilities during your gorilla trekking safari. The accommodations range from a little budget to midrange and even luxury. Different lodges include; Mahogany springs lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Sanctuary gorilla forest camp, Silverback Lodge, Engangi Lodge, Bwindi forest lodge, Buhoma haven lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, CPTH Gorilla Conservation Camp, Trackers Safari Lodge, Buhoma community rest camp, Crested crane Bwindi and many more.
By Air: With Kisoro Tours Uganda, one can reach the Buhoma gorilla sector by air which is quicker and tireless. Aerolink is a domestic airline offering both scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kihihi Airstrip from where you connect to the Buhoma gorilla sector. From Kihihi airstrip you will be picked up by Kisoro Tours Uganda’s senior guide/driver or you can hire a private car. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach your hotel room. We always find it important to note that aero links baggage is only 15 kilograms for every person and excess baggage is charged $3 for every extra kilogram.
By Road: From Entebbe international airport, the Buhoma gorilla sector can be reached by road with Kisoro Tours Uganda and this takes approximately takes 8-9 hours. You will pass via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kabale towns and continue to Buhoma.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is accessible by tourists from Kigali/Rwanda which takes approximately 4-5 hours from the Katuna border.
Long-sleeved shirts can help protect your hands from receding tree branches or irritating plants, thorns, biting insects, and others. Nevertheless, one can be with short-sleeved shirts for tranquility and relaxation during warm days most especially at your safari lodge.
Not similar to game drives in the savanna grassland regions, mountain gorilla trekking is an arduous experience and majorly involves hiking/walking via the thick Bwindi forest and gentle and steep slopes looking out for a gorilla. It is an exigent experience and in regards to the season, you can even run into muddy areas especially if it rains. In order to hike agreeably, you need nice lightweight hiking boots.
The only way to keep these great memories with the great apes in their natural habitats is through photography at that great moment which everyone wants, after a long walk all over the forest and steep slopes then you crash into the family you were assigned. In order to have the best memories and nice pictures with these primates, one needs a camera with a nice shoot but with no flashlights, and in case it has you are advised to remove them before taking pictures. Other than that, in order not to be interrupted in the midst of the activity, one is advised to carry extra batteries that will substitute the original battery in case they run short of power.
This is the most essential and most valuable because it is not debatable, without a gorilla permit one cannot access the park for gorilla trekking. There at Kisoro Tours Uganda, we advise our clients to keep their permits Kinley or even keep them on their behalf.
Some more items that shouldn’t be forgotten include local currency, a hat, a walking stick, insect repellants, toiletries, a rain jacket, a first aid kit, a waterproof day pack, sunglasses, toilet paper, binoculars, password, bottled water, gardening gloves, snacks, visa a mention but a few.
For more details about gorilla tracking in the Buhoma gorilla sector, you can reach out to us via email at info@kisorotoursuganda or call us at +256785790925 on also on WhatsApp.