GORILLA TREKKING IN NKURINGO SECTOR
The Nkuringo sector is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest located in the southern part of the park in Kisoro District, Nkuringo sector is among the 4 sectors where gorilla trekking starts in Uganda. This sector is well known as one of the homes of the most popular silverbacks in Bwindi Forest, called Rafiki, Rafiki died at the hands of poachers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 lockdown. It is also known for offering some of the best montane forest birding in Africa and in the world.
The Nkuringo area was the second fully habituated gorilla family open for tourism in 2004, after the Buhoma sector north of the park which is also the park headquarters for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The Nkuringo sector is also one of the most popular sectors among the 4 sectors after Buhoma with some of the most challenging-to-reach and most entertaining gorillas family in Bwindi Forest.
Bwindi forest is home to 65% of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, with many gorilla families living in the thick impenetrable forest far from homestays and human contact, currently as of April 2023 Uganda has 21 fully habituated gorilla families that are available, and open for standard gorilla trekking in this evergreen Bwindi rainforest. All the 21 gorilla families that are open for tourism have gone through a process of what we call the habituation process to make them comfortable in the presence of humans within their natural habitat.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has a total of four gorilla trekking sectors close to where the gorillas feed. These gorilla trekking sectors include Buhoma Sector, Rushaga Sector, Ruhija Sector, and Nkuringo Sector. Only a limited number of 8 people can track each family daily from each of the sectors.
Gorilla Trekking in Nkuringo Sector
The Nkuringo sector offers gorilla tracking experience on daily basis leaving the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices at the Nkuringo sector and heading to the forest to find and spend one full hour with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking remains the number one tourist attraction in this area.
Gorilla tracking starts daily in the morning with a briefing at 7:30 am for rules and regulations to follow while tracking, after a briefing at 08:00 am tourists and other visitors start the walk to the forest.
A well-experienced ranger/guide with 2 other armed rangers for security is assigned to each gorilla family to guide them through this thick Impenetrable forest and help them successfully achieve their dream of seeing mountain gorillas in Africa.
For anyone to be allowed to access the park you must first obtain a tracking permit, the price of a gorilla permit for the Nkuringo sector is $700 per person for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and 250,000 Uganda Shillings ($70) for Nationals and East African residents. The gorilla permit price for Nkuringo is the same as for all sectors.
Nkuringo sector is preferred by many travelers who wish to fly to Kigali Rwanda and track gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Forest because it is only about a 4 to 5 hours drive from Kigali Airport to Nkuringo via Cyanika border in Kisoro.
Gorilla Groups in Nkuringo Sector.
The Nkuringo sector has 3 fully habituated gorilla groups available for trekking, the fourth gorilla family is still under habituation, a process that takes between 2 to 3 years, we are hoping that soon Uganda Wildlife Authority will open it for tourism after a successful intensive habituation process of 3 years. Most tourist who has visited and trekked Bushaho gorilla family in Nkuringo give us very interesting feedback saying that Silverback “Bahati” who is the dominant Silverback enjoys showing off to visitors with his intimidating chest-thumping demeanor which is very interesting to most visitors visit this family because Bahati never disappoints.
Gorilla groups in the Nkuringo sector include;
The Nkuringo family was the first habituated gorilla group in the Bwindi southern sector opened in April 2004 for tourism by Uganda Wildlife Authority, after the family had gone through an intensive habituation process for 4 years
The famous Nkuringo Silverback led the family for 4 years before his death in 2008 when he was 45 years, and after his death, another Silverback called Safari took over the family. Safari did a good job of leading the family until he encountered a deadly attack from the Bushaho family that was living closer to the family, however, up to now the rangers have never found it which left Silverback Rafiki next in line until its death in 2020 killed by porches.
The death news of the silverback Rafiki caught the world’s attention because it was one of the most famous silverback gorillas in Uganda. Rafiki will be missed by the rangers/guides, trackers, and all conservationists in Africa and in the world.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family’s Current Status After the Death of Rafiki
I must say that the family is doing well, when Rafiki died he left other brothers and sisters like Blackback brothers Kamara, Muhoozi, Tabu, and Rwamutwe who were in line to lead the family, in fact immediately after the death of Rafiki, Blackback Rwamutwe proved himself as the dominant and immediately took over the position to lead the family.
For those who don’t know a blackback is a teenage male gorilla that has not yet grown silver hair on its back, as it is in humans when full-grown gorillas grow silver hair on their back. However some of the family members never trusted the leadership of Rwamutwe so he was forced to leave the family and joined another neighboring family where he impressively retained his well-celebrated legacy of leadership as of today 19th April 2023, the Nkuringo gorilla family is under the leadership of Rwamutwe with 12 individual members in the group.
This family Bushaho is the best group to visit in Nkuringo Sector, Bushaho family is under the leadership of Bahati the Dominant Silverback in the family.
Bushaho gorilla family is currently (as of April 2023) composed of 12 individual members, including;
This family is one of the entertaining gorilla groups in the Nkuringo Sector because of the way Bahati shows off when he sees tourists and other visitors he starts showing off his physical power and when he noticed that people are giving him the audience he does different things like standing upright, pretending to make very aggressive charges towards tourists, the impressive pounding of his big chest and throwing sticks to tourists as he makes frightening roar, in general, he is very calm silverback, he does all those displays to impress and entertain visitors.
This Christmas gorilla family is one of the new gorilla groups in the Nkuringo sector which was opened for tourism in 2018, the reason why this group was named Christmas is that its leader the dominant silverback was born on Christmas, and the silverback itself is called Christmas.
The Christmas gorilla family currently (As of April 2023) has 11 members though only 6 members can be seen, including:
This gorilla family is also located in the Nkuringo sector and it is not yet open for tourism because it is still under the habituation process which takes between 2 to 3 years for it to get used to human presence so that it can be opened for tourism
Currently, this Posho family is led by the current dominant Silverback called Magara.
One can reach Nkuringo by road or by air, Nkuringo is located in Kisoro District, Nkuringo is also part of Bwindi Forest found on the southern side of the park, Nkuringo can also be easily accessed from Rwanda and DR-Congo, for example, it is just about one and half hour drive from Cyanika border of Rwanda to Nkuringo.
By Road with driver/guides from Kisoro Tours Uganda
The drive from Kampala or Entebbe airport to Nkuringo sector in Bwindi Forest takes about 9 to 10 hours drive, the drive takes you through different towns and villages which include Masaka, Mbarara, and Kabale among others. For those who want to use public transport to Nkuringo in Bwindi Forest, the only public transport that goes near Nkuringo stops in Kisoro town and in Kabale then from there you get a taxi to Nkuringo.
Accessing Nkuringo by Air
Yes, it is very much possible you can easily fly to Kisoro Airstrip then from there you get a taxi to Nkuringo. There is a daily domestic scheduled flight from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airstrip, and from Kisoro airstrip by car to Nkuringo is between one and half-hour drive to two hours drive.
By Walking/Hiking from Buhoma to Nkuringo
One can as well walk from Buhoma to Nkuringo across the Bwindi forest, for those who love walking there is an interesting walking trail that connects Buhoma and Nkuringo. The walk t across the Bwindi forest is not just the avoidance of a long drive between two sectors but also a reward for walking in the world’s top impenetrable forest.
Bwindi forest is one of the places one can go above all others when one needs to relax, it is an amazing feeling of walking between African old trees and other plants are amazing, and visitors who have taken part in this walk always come out of the forest tired but with no regrets.
Walking/hiking trail from Kisoro – Lake Mutanda to Nkuringo sector
For those who love walking and hiking, the Kisoro-Lake Mutanda-Nkuringo walking trail is highly recommended, the walking trail starts from Kisoro town then to Lake Mutanda and continues to Nkuringo, this trail takes you through homesteads and different village settlements and enjoys the warm welcome from the local villagers.
From Kisoro the trail takes you up in the hills and down in the valleys, and through beautifully cultivated village gardens with amazing views of Lake Mutanda on a clear day you will have a good view of Virunga volcanoes in the backdrop. When you reach Lake Mutanda you use a dugout canoe to cross the other side of the lake from where you will find your driver. From here you can choose to drive to Nkuringo or if you still have the energy you can continue with the walk for about another 2 hours.