Uganda offers the highest number of gorilla families (16) that can be tracked in the wild, with 15 habituated in Bwindi and 1 family in Mgahinga.
A primate is a member of the group of mammals, which includes humans, monkeys, and apes. There are more than 300 species of primates on Earth of which apes and monkeys are usually confused for on another. There are a number of differences between apes and monkeys for example apes have a longer lifespan, larger body size, larger brain-to-body size ratio, and higher intelligence, however the main difference is that monkeys have tails and apes do not have tails. There are two types of apes, great apes and lesser apes, with the primary difference being their general size. There are two types of lesser apes, gibbons and siamangs which are both found in South East Asia and there are four types of great apes: Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Bonobos found in Africa as well as Orangutans found in South East Asia. Apes are humanity’s closest living relatives with both the great apes sharing around 98 percent of their DNA with humans.
Gorillas live in family groups of usually 5 to 10, but sometimes two to more than 50, led by a dominant male who holds his position for years. Females become sexually mature around seven or eight years old but don’t begin to breed until a couple of years later. Males mature at an even greater age. Once a female begins to breed, she’ll likely give birth to only one baby every four to six years, and only three or four over her entire lifetime. This low rate of reproduction makes it difficult for gorillas to recover from population declines. Both gorilla species have been decreasing in numbers for decades, and a 2010 United Nations report suggests that they may disappear from large parts of the Congo Basin by the mid-2020s.
Worldwide, it is estimated that only about 880 mountain gorillas remain in the wild; no mountain gorillas on record are kept n captivity. Of these, at least 400 are located in Uganda deep in the rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park; the others can be found directly across Uganda’s border, in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas are classified as critically endangered; the biggest threats to their existence are increasing deforestation and poaching, and disease.
Gorillas share 94.5% of their DNA with humans and after chimpanzees are the closest living ‘relatives’ that we have. Indeed, these gentle giants display some really typical human characteristics and interactions. Gorillas live in groups that are led by silverbacks who determine the movements of the group and protect it from any external and internal threats. Although they are capable of climbing trees, gorillas are usually found on the ground so they are relatively easy to track and observe.
- Mubare: 14 members with 1 Silverback
- Habinyanja: 17 members with 1 silverback
- Rushegura: 16 members with 1 silverback
- Nkuringo: 11 members with 1 silverback
- Bushaho: 10 members with 1 silverback
- Bitukura: 12 members with 3 Silverbacks
- Oruzogo: 19 members with 3 silverbacks
- Kyaguriro Mukiza: 11 members with 1 silverback (Research)
- Kyaguriro Rukara: 9 members with 1 silverback
- Nyakagezi; 10 members with 3 silverbacks
- Nshongi: 26 members with 4 silverbacks
- Mishaya: 12 members with 1 silverback
- Kahungye: 13 members with 3 silverbacks
- Bweza: 9 members with 1 silverback
- Busingye: 9 members with 1 silverback
- Bikyingi: 22 members with 1 silverback*
The Bikyingi family is currently under habituation and habituation experiences are being carried out only at Rushaga for the moment.
What You Need To Know
What Does It Cost?
Gorilla Trekking and Habituation fees are on the steep side for a wildlife experience, but part of the fees paid are ploughed back into conservation to ensure the continued existence and survival of the endangered mountain gorilla.
Gorilla Trekking: $600 a head
Gorilla Habituation: $1500 a head
When to do it
The Dry season from mid December – February and June – September is ideal because navigation through the thick vegetation that lines the steep slopes of Mgahinga and Bwindi is much easier.
Gorilla trekking can also be done in the wet season from March – May and October – mid December but the journey is significantly harder and requires stronger resolve on the part of the trekkers.
Of course the beautiful Ugandan weather dictates how it goes in the end, so it is not uncommon at all for heavy rain to fall on occasion, even in the dry season.
Good to know
- Only 72 permits are issued each day, for a maximum of 8 trekkers per gorilla family
- Trekking and Habituation Experience permits must be booked well in advance through a registered safari operator
- To protect the gorillas, trekkers that are ill are not permitted on these experiences
- Permits are not issued to anyone below 16yrs