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Bwindi Forest, Uganda

Officially classified as 'critically endangered', mountain gorillas live in only three countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, in two distinctly separate populations.  The first of these is in the Virunga Massif mountain region straddling the borders of the three countries, and the other is in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.  

Uganda has long been recognized as one of the easiest places to view these fantastic animals.  A 2010 census found a total population of 880 gorillas across DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, with 480 of them in Uganda. A new census of the Virunga population, a huge collaborative project across the three countries, was started in October 2015.
Uganda's gorillas are found in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park. The habituated gorilla family that used to reside at Mgahinga is no longer resident there full time and viewing is currently not being offered. This group is likely to remain unstable unless more females join the group.

Bwindi has four habituated gorilla families with 32 permits available daily. The gorillas there live in thick tropical forest and tracking is challenging as the hillsides are steep - it can take 3-10 hours to reach the gorillas. Three of the families (Mubare, Habinyanja, and Rushegura) are accessed from Buhoma in the north, while the fourth family, in Nkuringo in Southern Bwindi, is accessed from Kisoro. Access to this group is on a very steep trail and tracking can take much of the day.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

The altitude of this mountain park ranges from 1200-2600 meters, and five rivers and a high annual rainfall make it rather humid.  The rainforest here is said to be 25,000 years old, making it one of Africa’s most biodiverse habitats.  Although best known for its mountain gorillas (gorilla gorilla berengeri), the National Park is also home to an amazing 120 species of mammal, 51 species of reptiles, 88 of moths, 310 of butterflies and over 200 of trees. In addition, the birdlife is spectacular - 350 species are to be found here, including 23 of the 24 Albertine rift endemic bird species including the African green broadbill and bar-tailed trogon. 
It is believed that about 350 gorillas remain in several stable groups in the park. The increased protection afforded to the gorillas over recent years has lead to a slight but steady increase of the population.

Buhoma Sector - northern Bwindi

There are three gorilla groups in Buhoma, northern Bwindi, with a maximum of eight visitors allowed to each group per day.  These are the Mubare Group (M), the Habinyanja Group (H) and the Bitukura Group (B).  The permits are sold in advance, but only to Tour Operators who are members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators.  30% of the permits are sold two years in advance, 50% one year in advance and 20% six months in advance.  The Bitukura group has only just opened, so permits for this group are currently sold not more than a month before the tracking date.

Nkuringo Sector - southern Bwindi

There is one gorilla family in Nkuringo, southern Bwindi, with a maximum of eight visitors allowed per day.  Visitors are based at the top-class Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, in the south west of Uganda, and the point at which clients begin tracking is right next to the lodge. Due to its remoteness, a flying package to track gorillas in Nkuringo is more expensive than an equivalent one in Buhoma. However, the gorilla family is worth it, with 19 members including a silverback.   


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