This is a sponsored guest post by Kerry-Anne Smith.
There are only a few places in the world to see mountain gorillas in the wild and one of the best countries for gorilla trekking is Uganda in East Africa. Home to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas can be found, Uganda offers excellent opportunities to go face to face with the giants. For a peek into the region’s wildlife, you can also partake in gorilla safaris in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Gorillas and their habitats
Mountain gorillas live in families, or ‘bands’, and are usually made up of between three and thirty individuals. Every family has one silverback: the mature, dominant male whose role is to protect the family and make its decisions. There is also one subordinate silverback who often helps in this role of protector as well as several adult females. The rest of the band is made up of a number of younger males, juveniles and infants. Research and observation has shown that there are tender bonds within the gorilla families, especially between the mothers and children.
In the Bwindi Forest, there are six gorilla families that can be tracked by tourists on a gorilla safari. Only eight trackers can purchase a permit allowing you to spend one hour watching one gorilla family, which means there are only a maximum of 48 trackers per day in this location.
There are three sections of the forest: Bwindi South – home to the Nkuringo and Nshongi gorilla bands; Ruhija – homebase of the Ruhija gorilla group; and Buhoma, where there are three families – Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura. The gorillas live high in the mountains and most people on luxury safari holidays in Uganda stay just outside the forest, coming in for a day of trekking.
If you’re looking for the chance to get a little more contact though, there are other options; Camps like the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp are located within the Bwindi National Park and provide the best access to the local gorillas, for example the Rushegura gorilla family often visit the grounds of the Sanctuary camp.
The Rushegura gorilla family
This family is a relatively new band, formed on 14th February 2002 when Mwirama and eleven other gorillas broke away from the Habinyanja group (also of the Buhoma area). Like all good bands, they have a former name, originally known as Habinyanja Two. After finding their own home in the forest, the band met up with their founders about a year after their original departure, and after a week of peaceful interaction, they decided to separate again. At this time, they became known as Rushegura and after a short time living in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008 and again in 2009, they once again call Uganda home.
Regularly sighted around Buhoma’s waterfall trail and park offices they also often visit Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Mwirama, an imposing silverback of 25 years of age is the dominant member of the family. He and the other members of the band including Kibande, Buzinza, Karungyi, Kirinyi (the dominant female and older sister of Mwirama), Nyamunwa, Kabukonzo, Nyampazi, Kafuruka, Kalembezi and Ruterano have all, on occasion, been seen strolling outside the dining lodge with guests and staff in awe of the opportunity to see this family during their afternoon play time.
For a chance to see these gorilla bands, sign up for a gorilla safari in Bwindi National Park to get upclose and personal.