Gorilla Safari

Gorilla Trekking with AA Adventures

We take you for safaris and tours to Uganda and Rwanda, our passion is lies in the jungle deep rain forest of Africa where you find the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda.


Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda

Despite Uganda having a rich culture and being abundantly gifted with nature, the country predominantly popular for being a haven of Gorilla Mountains. The only 720 gorillas that are remaining are residing in the border regions of Uganda, Rwanda, DRC and Congo. More than half the existing population is staying in the National Park of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Currently the Mountain Gorilla is the largest existing primate which unfortunately is facing extinction.

On reading the information below that detail you about the gorillas, you will discover exciting facts about these apes and know how you can get to visit them physically. Alternatively you could opt to go for a gorilla safari to catch sight of these gorillas during our exciting gorilla tracking packages inclusive of your safari.
What is unique about this voyage is that it will give you a chance to participate in the Friend a
Gorilla campaign. This campaign is aimed at conserving the endangered Mountain Gorilla Species and shelters them from being extinct. It also gives you the opportunity to befriend a gorilla in this country. The tactically placed cameras in the Impenetrable National Park stream video recording of the gorillas thus enabling you to track them in the comfort of your living room. In order to befriend a gorilla of your own pick, visit the website of Friend a Gorilla.

Habitat of the Mountain Gorillas

The ape family which comprises of Orangutan and the Chimpanzee has the Gorillas as the largest members of this family. e These Gorillas are subdivided into 3 subspecies and these are:

Western Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla gorilla)

This type is commonly found in zoos. A total population of approximately 50,000 West Lowland Gorillas is found in Western parts of Central Africa.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla graueri)

It’s estimated that there are round 25,000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas residing the large wide wild. These can also be sighted in the eastern region of the Congolese Rainforest.
Mountain Gorilla (gorilla gorilla beringei)
There is a total of just 720 gorillas of this kind remaining in the whole world. These majorly live in the afro-montane forests in eastern DRC, northwestern Rwanda and South West Uganda.

Apparently the most extinct species of the Ape family is the Mountain Gorilla. You can never come across a Mountain Gorilla residing in the zoo, this is simply because they cannot stay in confinement.
Deep in the impenetrable regions of East Africa’s tropical forests reside these Mountain gorillas. The world’s total population is scattered out in only two places that is: one section occupies the Virunga Volcanoes’ slopes which extend outwards from the border regions of Congo up to Rwanda, and the remaining section which comprises of an estimated total of 340 of these Gorillas dwells in the Bwindi National Park located in Uganda, covering an expanse of 330 sq kilometers. For that reason therefore the Bwindi is the sole forest in the whole of Africa having Mountain Gorillas and Chimps cohabiting.

Lifestyle of the Gorilla

It was discovered that Gorillas stay in groups comprising of 20-35 gorillas. The group has a head male with numerous females in the company of their young ones.
A newly born baby gorilla is born with a total body weight of approximately 2.5 kg which is almost half that of a human baby. But surprisingly, these babies develop at a fast rate which is twice that of humans. In about 40 weeks it begins walking and on its third birthday, it gradually becomes independent. They reach a height of close to 1.2 meters on making six years and their body weight is about 70 kg. at 6 years the female gorilla is fully mature although it continues to increase in weight for the following four years. On the other hand, the males reach maturity at 10 years of age, when their black backs evidently gradually turn grey indicating that it’s the moment for them to separate from their parental group. These either join other single males or wander off alone not until they attract females and start their own groups.
The rate at which gorillas reproduce is very slow, and this explains why their global population is not speedily increasing. Almost similar to humans, their gestation periods last for about eight and a half years before the mother gives birth to its young one, which it does once in four years. On a sad note, a minimum of 30% of these babies don’t live to see their second birthday due to accidents or diseases. Another common cause of death among the babies of this species is the death of their father and having another silver back heading the group. The new male usually kills all newly born young ones belonging to its forerunner, thus protecting its own genes in the group.
Chain of command is very important among gorilla families. The commanding silver black holds the topmost rank, while the adult females lead their young ones. Similar to other animal species, gorilla males attain their top rank basing on their physical size. A fully grown male mountain Gorilla weighs about 200 kilograms with a height of nearly 1.7 meters when it stands upright. It is the responsibility of the dominant male to protect its group from any intruders.

The origin of the name –silverback still remains unknown. But notably is that the males at the age of twelve grow light grey colored hair on their backs, thus giving them a characteristic ‘silver back’

Gorillas and human beings

Despite the Chimpanzees being our closest existing creatures on this planet, they bear a resemblance to us in many ways. Their feet and hands are so similar to ours and most of the times are on the ground and as a result gorillas can walk. And the most unique feature about them is that 98% of their DNA is similar to that of humans.
Mountain gorillas are characterized by good social traits and for that reason therefore hold relationships among their families very dearly. They have the capability of expressing their emotional feeling such as love, hate, jealousy and shame, using a minimum of 20 different vocalizations which have different meaning. In addition Gorillas beat their chests as a mode of communication. This is commonly done by the silverback to illustrate power, as well as intimidate others.
Aggression is not a common habit among gorillas. Despite their imposing look, gorillas are exceeding peaceful and loving as well as gentle. In instances of danger, they stand out to defend their weaker members. Vigorous fights only occur when 2 leaders from dissimilar groups meet.

A day in the life of the Gorilla

A common day in a Mountain Gorilla’s life begins at dawn about 6 am. When they wake up the begin searching for food and this activity goes on for most of their mornings. Basing on a general point of view a gorilla takes about 30% of its time feeding, the other 30% traveling while the remaining 40 is spent resting. To differentiate it from other primate, the Mountain Gorilla spends most of its time on the ground. They can at most travel a distance of one kilometer in a day but remaining within the vicinity of their territory, which vicinity can extend to as far as 20 sq km.
Although they are once in a while seen feeding on ants or other insects, Gorilla are renowned vegetarians. Their daily food is comprised of leaves, shrubs, a variety of herbs, roots, vines, stems and fruits. During particular months, most of their meals are characterized with bamboo shoots which supplement the diet. For a wale grown male, it can eat as much as 20 kilograms in a single day. Gorillas are rarely seen sipping at water, and this is because the major component of their vegetable meals is water.
They usually spend their evenings playing & resting. Playing is a very vital component in the life of a gorilla, particularly the young as it is from this that they will be able to way they will mix in the parental group. They are often seen hugging one another, hitting, wrestling or even biting not until one is pulled to the ground.
When the day comes to an end right before sunset, these apes usually build a shell where they will rest for the nights. With the exception of little infants that sleep with the mothers, each Gorilla has its individual shell. These shells are carefully built either in the tree branches or on the ground using branches from the bushes or any other plants.

Gorilla families in Uganda

Approximately half of the total Mountain Gorilla population resides in Uganda and this is bundled up into six families. These different groups are found in the various areas of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Mubare Gorilla Family

Family size: Five members including one silverback.
Location: Buhoma

The Mubare is the oldest resident group in the whole of Uganda. It was discovered deep in the Bwindi forest on Mubare hills and was fully adapted in 1993. The group initially had twelve family members with Ruhondeza as the leading dominant silverback.  In the following years the family managed to expand to eighteen members, but on a sad note, due to numerous fights with wild gorilla-groups, and death of some members, the Mubare group has narrowed to the only  5 remaining members.

Habinyanja Gorilla Family

Family size: fifteen members including two silverbacks
Location: Buhoma
The Habinyanja group was the very first one to be visited by tourists and this was in 1999. The name originated from “Nyanja” a local word that means “water body”. This was referring to the vast swamp in the Bwindi Forest where this group was first seen.  The Habinyanja is a charming family with so much drama and disorder. This is all because of the struggle for power between the existing silverbacks and other fights in struggle for family leadership. The mature female gorillas are led by a insightful alpha female known as the Kisho.

Rushegura Gorilla Family

Family size: nineteen members including one silverback
Location: Buhoma
This Rushegura family was united in 2002 following the breakaway of one of the silverback from the Habinyanja group. The family had a total of 12 members of which five where females. This ‘Group 3 Habinyanja”  speedily receive a new name Ebishegura which was derived from  a trees species that was popular in the local area for the new occupant family. The Rushegura family is a very calm group in this Mountain Gorilla clan. Previously they would cross the borders to the adjacent DRC now and again but at all times returned to the Bwindi Forest. These gorillas are situated near the Buhoma village and many times are seen loitering in the gardens of the lodges.
Bitukura Gorilla Family

Family size: twelve members including four silverbacks
Location: Ruhija
The Bitukuru family was named after a river where the family was first seen. The taming process begun in the month of July 2007 and was generally an easy procedure because the gorillas had on so many occasions come across the UWA rangers. Although usually the taming process runs for at least two years, uniquely tourists could visit this group within 15 months from the start of the taming process. The Bitukuru is a very peaceful group comprised of four silverbacks and a number of playful juveniles. The family is closely bonded and commonly holds “family meetings and get-togethers”

Nkuringo Gorilla Family hahe

Family size: Nineteen members including two silverbacks.
Location: Nkuringo
The Nkuringo name is a Rukiga word meaning ‘round hill’ and this group was habituated in 2004. The main reason for the habituation was the large number of troubles the family created to the local natives, which included demolishing their crops in addition to various other produces. On opening up the gorilla family for public visits, it greatly awarded the community as they could profit from the tourism, as well as protect the gorillas too. Nkuringo was the silverback that headed the family, though he later past way in 2008 leaving the family with 2 silverbacks. In the month of November in 2008, there was a unique increase in the number of family members which resulted from giving birth to twins ( Katungi and Muhozi). Sadly Katungi died at an early age of one and a half years.

Nshongi Gorilla Family

Family size: twenty five members including four silverbacks
Location: Nshongi

The largest family that has ever been habituated in this region is the Nshongi which was legitimately opened in the month of September 2009. This family was named after river Nshongi which flows adjacent to the locality where this family was first sighted at. Dissimilar to most gorilla families which are composed of 25 members, and 1 or 2 silverbacks, this family is quite different from this. However in the month of July, 2010 the group was separated into two.
Mishaya Gorilla Family

Family size: Twelve members including one silverback.
Location: Nshongi
The Mishaya silverback chose to depart from the Nshongi group in 2010 with a few females and started a new family. He managed to attract a number of females from different groups until he got a family of 12 gorillas that included 3 infants. The family has one adult- Mishaya who is a renowned fighter and usually initiates interactions with different gorilla families.

Oruzogo Gorilla Family

Family size: Sixteen members including one silverback.
Location: Buhoma – Ruhija
The Oruzogo family is the one of the newest launched gorilla family and was opened to the public for tourism in the Bwindi Park. This family is located between Ruhija & Buhoma and the dominant leader silverback is Tibirikwata. The group is comprised of sixteen members including 2 babies that were born recently.

While efforts are being made to make certain that the information provided is accurate and current though the statistics easily change with time.

Gorilla families in Rwanda

A third of the world’s total population of mountain gorillas is located in Rwanda.  Currently there are 7 gorilla families that can be visited by tourists.
Susa Gorilla Family

Family size:Thirty nine members including three silverbacks.

This group now and again journeys to places of higher altitude and this makes it had to track them. The group is popularly known because it has baby twins called Impano & Byishimo.
Sabyinyo Gorilla Family

Family size: Nine members including two silverbacks.
The family lives on the gentle slopes of Sabyinyo and Gashinga Mountains, and can easily be accessed. The strong Guhonda silverback heads the family.
Amahoro Gorilla Family

Family size: Fifteen members including one silverback
The Amahoro family dwells on the steep slopes of Mountain Bisoke so tracking this family is quite challenging as it requires steep trekking. However it is a very peaceful family headed by Ubumwe. Their name Amahoro literally means peaceful.

Group 13 Gorilla Family

Family size: Twenty members including one silverback
This was the very first family to be habituated in Rwanda and has expanded from the initial thirteen members to now twenty one.
Umubano Gorilla Family

Family size: Seven members including one silverback.
This Umubano family was formed after Charles a once male member of the Amahoro family decided to leave the family and started his own family.
Kwitonda Gorilla Family

Family size: Eighteen members including two silverbacks.

Kwitonda means ‘humble one’ and this group was named after it dominant silverback.
Hirwa Gorilla Family

Family size: Nine members including on silverback.

This is a newly formed group that surfaced recently. it is composed of 2 different families that is the Sainyo and the Group 13.
While efforts are being made to make certain that the information provided is accurate and current though the statistics easily change with time.

Protect the Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla existence was revealed by a German Explorer in 1902. Close to 60 years afterwards George Schaller an American scientist first ever known to conduct a study on Gorillas did so on the gorillas living in Bwindi forest and Virunga Volcanoes. Years later Dian Fossey carried on the research, and she later became popular for her movie –‘Gorillas in the Mist’. From 1967 up to 1985, she worked on the gorillas found in Rwanda and because of her dedication; the entire world started learning more about theses mysterious but attractive apes. Up to today, the Karisoke Research center located in Rwanda is open to

Also previous to starting the research, there were approximately Mountain Gorillas dwelling in the transferred virungas volcanoes. But just soon after 20 years, the population was reduced to only 250nmembers. Despite the gorillas having very few enemies, human beings are the most dangerous of all. Humans demolished their habitant through deforestation, they transferred disease to them, and they were disturbed by wars and hunted for their meat or just as an award. But because of Dian Fossey’s vigorous conservation efforts, the number increased yet again.
It is quite understandable that the mountain gorilla is the most endangered gorilla species in the whole world. In an effort to increase awareness among people and conserve the gorilla, visiting the different gorilla families has been opened to the public. This way many visitor learn about their lifestyle and the revenues collected are centered on conservation.

It is very important that these gorillas are first habituated to the company of humans before any family can be open for tracking to the public. This long and delicate process takes several years. Exceptionally trained game rangers carefully approach the gorilla and spend accumulating time lags with them. This habituation process is risky to both the gorillas and the participating humans. In addition to the silverback feeling threatened, the gorillas may easily be infected by human transmitted diseases. For that reason therefore, it is very vital to follow strict rules while visiting and carrying out the habituation.
So how can you can you help/lend a hand in protecting these wonderful Mountain Goriilas?
?    Book into a Gorilla Safari to visit theses gorilla families in person. The proceedings collected from gorilla permits id utilized by park officials in protecting the gorillas from the reoccurring poachers, to conduct research and support the neighboring communities.

?    Befriend a gorilla. You can befriend baby Kiiza, Makara the silverback or many other gorillas of your pick for just US $1. This donation will greatly support in conserving the Mountain Gorilla, as you view their videos, peruse through their photos or track the various families using GPS coordinates in the large forest.

?    Volunteer with the Conservation Through Public Health (CPTH).  Work together with the park rangers and the CPTH as they monitor the gorillas’ health, and educate the local natives.  You could alternatively check on the four-day Gorilla-Conservation tours which include visiting the Gorilla clinic.

?    Offer support to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. By becoming one of the members of this foundation or a adopting a gorilla, you greatly join in the historical efforts of Dian Fossey.

?    Make donations to the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund –MCFC. This fund is devoted to conserving and protecting this endangered gorilla species, the habitant they dwell in and working with the natives surrounding the park.

Purchase of a gorilla permit

So as to enjoy your gorilla tracking, you essentially need to purchase a permit which is granted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Since a maximum of eight individuals per group is allowed to track them, it is recommended that you book you permit as early as possible. We recommend that you book three months earlier so as to track on the exact date you requested. Gorilla-trekking permits go for a cost of USD $ 500 per individual though these prices may increase in the near future.
When you visit the gorillas or buy a trekking permit, you greatly contribute in conserving the mountain gorilla. Uganda Wildlife utilizes the collected funds in conserving gorillas and conducting research. A percentage of the generated funds collected as entrance fee at the park’s entrance is given to the local communities that stay near the park and help in developing and improving of management of natural resources within the area.
Sale conditions of the gorilla permit:

?    All visitors who demonstrate any signs of illness shall not be accepted to take part in the gorilla tour. When a visitor is affirmed unfit to partake in the tracking because of illness by the park’s professional in-charge, a refund of half of the tracking fee will be made. The cancellation policy applies to only visitors who fall sick before traveling to the park.

?    Permits are generally non-refundable although visitors who will track the entire day and not see these gorillas will be refunded half of the tracking fee.

?    Getting a gorilla permit is no excuse that you will clearly view the gorillas.

?    One to visit the gorillas should be 15 year old and above.

Gorilla tracking rules

For individuals who are planning to have a gorilla safari within Uganda, the information below is of great help. (As it is printed by Uganda Wildlife Authority leaflet of “Gorilla Rules”)

Before departing on your gorilla tracking:

At most a group of eight individuals is allowed t visit a habituated gorilla family at a time in a single day. This minimizes the risk of exposing gorillas to human borne diseases and also reduces on behavioral disturbances. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before embarking on searching for thr Gorillas.
On the way to the gorillas:
?    Ensure that you always maintain your voices low. In addition you will be able to view the spectacular bird life and other wild residents of the forest.

?    NEVER litter the park. What you carry into the forest should always be carried out as you leave.

?    In company of your guides, you will ne taken to the place where gorillas where last seen the previous day, and from there you will follow their trail until you catch up with them. As you trek, you should be on the watch for their nesting places.
As you get closers to theses Mountain Gorillas, the guides will inform you.
When you are with the gorillas:
?    You should ensure that you maintain a distance of 7 meters / 21 feet from the gorillas. The larger the distance you are from them, the more tranquil the group will be.

?    Endeavor to stay as a group once you find the gorillas.

?    At all times, try to maintain your voices low. But this should not stop you from asking the guides any arising questions.

?    Never eat, smoke or drink when close to the gorillas. When you eat or drink, unavoidably droplets of food or drink will fall and these highly increase the chances of spreading disease.

?    Occasionally gorillas may charge. Endeavor to follow what your guides do. For example squat down slowly and don’t look directly into the gorillas’ eyes and wait until they pass. Never dare to run as they approach because it is a very risky act.

?    Taking photographs with the camera flash is not allowed. Always move slowly and carefully as you take photographs.

?    Never touch gorillas, remember they are also wild animals.
?    At most, you are supposed to spend one hour with the gorillas. But if they become nervous or in any way agitated, the guide may conclude the visit early.

?    After spending time with the gorillas, maintain your voices low until you have moved a distance of over 200 meters from them.
General health rules:
?    Keep in mind that mountain gorillas are highly vulnerable to diseases that affect humans. So the following regulations will help you minimize the chances that the you many infect them on your visit.
?    Always respect the restrictions imposed on the visitors’ number that is allowed to see the gorillas per day. This is in place to curb on the risk of transmitting diseases and minimize on behavioral disturbance.

?    In case you are feeling sick or with a contagious disease , please voluntarily stay back. You will either have you money refunded or an optional visit will be organized for you.

?    If you feel like sneezing or coughing while with the gorillas, you are kindly advised to turn away and cap your mouth together with the noise. This will greatly reduce the risk of viruses and bacteria spreading to the gorillas.

?    You should ensure that you maintain a distance of 7 meters / 21 feet from the gorillas. The larger the distance you are from them, the more tranquil the group will be.

?    Don’t litter the forest with things like food packs because such foreign items unusually harbor contaminants or even diseases.
?    In case the urge to ease yourself arises while in the forest, feel free to inform the guide who will willingly using his panga dig a hole for you. This whole will be 30 centimeters deep, and remember to cover it when are through.
What to bring on your Gorilla Safari:

?    Wear comfortable hiking-shoes that will enable you climb the muddy-steep slopes.
?    For individuals who are not comfortable with the persistent jungle sounds, remember to carry ear plugs.
?    Pack your lunch with adequate drinking water.
?    Carry a hat, rain gears and sunscreen lotion to cater for the unpredictable weather in addition to insect repellent.
?    Carry a photo or video camera. Since flash lights are not allowed, we advice you to use films between 400 to 800 ASA.

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