Updated list of gorilla families and permits available in Ruhija region
Ruhija gorilla safari area is home to about four gorilla families as of now. Trekking mountain gorillas of Ruhija is a double opportunity for keen birders as this is Bwindi forest’s prime birding area. Some of the gorilla families of the Ruhija area include Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, and Mukisa. The list of Gorilla trekking families is expected to expand as the gorilla habituation process in the Ruhija area continues.
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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four areas: Ruhija, Rushaga, Buhoma, and Nkuringo. The vast size of Bwindi, separated by several highlands that resulted from volcanic action in this area prompted Uganda Wildlife Authorities to partition the park into these areas. Ruhija area is known for its poor road condition, so you must have at least a 4×4 wheel drive vehicle when attempting it.
You must have a gorilla permit for the Ruhija area to participate in gorilla trekking. A maximum of 8 gorilla permits are allowed for each gorilla family daily. This was for conservation reasons and to reduce the chances of trampling on vegetation on which these primates feed.
Securing accommodation for the gorilla safari in advance is a must because they sell out fast, especially during the peak season of June to September and December to January. Ruhija area has limited choices of accommodations, but one can also overnight in the Buhoma area, which is about an hour’s drive away.
What are the gorilla families of the Ruhija area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
- Oruzogo gorilla family
- Bitukura gorilla family
- Kyaguriro gorilla family
- Mukisa gorilla family
The list of gorilla families of Ruhija may expand as long as the gorilla habituation process continues.
How do you book a Gorilla permit for the Ruhija area?
Confirm the Gorilla trekking day and the number of eligible people traveling with you for this adventure. Enquire about gorilla permit availability, specifying the Ruhija sector as your area of interest. At Encounter Africa Safaris, through our tour consultants, we can assist you in booking the gorilla permit, planning the gorilla safari, and reserving other safari logistics.
Our safari consultant checks availability from the list of Uganda Wildlife Authority with an emphasis on permits for the Ruhija area.
Upon confirming gorilla permit availability per your interest, they will get back to you, but we advise clients to book their gorilla permits as soon as possible. Gorilla permits can only be reserved with payments. A first come, first served basis is used to secure the gorilla permits. The gorilla permit status changes can occur without warning because of their limited number, yet demand is very high.
Later, provide us with personal details like your full name as presented on the passport, nationality, date of birth, and passport expiry date to be added to your gorilla permit card.
What is the price of a gorilla permit for the Ruhija area of Bwindi?
The price for gorilla trekking permits for the Ruhija area is $800 for foreign nonresidents, $700 for foreign residents, and 300000shs for East African residents. The Uganda Wildlife Authority sells and regulates all Uganda gorilla permits. Still, you can go through an accredited tour operator like Encounter Africa Safaris to secure your gorilla permit.
Within the cost of gorilla permits are the park entrance fees that last 24 hours from the time you enter the park on gorilla safari day, ranger guide fees, security for the day, community support, mountain gorilla conservation, one hour with the mountain gorillas and others.
Exclusions in the gorilla permit cost are porters, accommodation, packed lunch, snacks, and others.
Is the cost of a gorilla Permit worth it?
Yes, purchasing the Gorilla trekking permits allows you to be just meters away from the only leftover mountain gorillas in the world. These mountain gorillas are regarded as endangered because, at the moment, only a population of approximately 1000 are living in the world.
With some of the gorilla permit money, the conservation of mountain gorillas is boosted as more funds are needed to support the wildlife conservation team. Annually, a portion of the proceeds from sale of gorilla permits is given to the local community to support their projects. At times, mountain gorillas stray into the community and destroy farmers’ produce, so this is one way of compensating them.
The community also needs to be sensitized about the importance of protecting mountain gorillas, other forest inhabitants, and the forest. They must be on board to protect the mountain gorillas and their habitat. Part of this is also financed by funds collected from selling gorilla permits.
When Is the Best Time to Book The Gorilla Safari Permit For the Ruhija area?
Booking the gorilla permits in advance is the best choice because they are limited to a maximum of 8 per gorilla family. To be safe, one can book the gorilla permits at least six months to a year in advance. During the peak season of June, July, August, September, December, and January, demand for gorilla permits gets high, creating scarcity at the last minute.
The low season, that is, March, April, May, and November, has typically less demand for gorilla permits, and chances to find availability at the last minute are high, too, though not a guarantee all the time. In case you wish to travel on a limited gorilla safari budget, you can use this opportunity of the low season to grab a chance to get an upgrade on the gorilla safari. Some service providers like accommodations and drive guides may lower their costs to break even. The chances of an upgrade are more open.
What accommodation do you book for gorilla trekking in Ruhija?
Ruhija area has limited choices of accommodations, but the Buhoma area is also available for nights before the gorilla safari. The drive from the Buhoma area to the Ruhija area is about two hours via a poorly maintained road, which can only be attempted by 4×4 wheel drive as the public doesn’t frequently use this road.
Ruhija accommodations: Ruhija Gorilla Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp, Bakiga Lodge
Buhoma accommodations: Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs, Engage Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Gorilla Resort, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge
How To get to the Ruhija area from Kampala or Entebbe?
From Kampala or Entebbe, you can drive to Kabale, about 414 kilometers away, then continue to Ruhija, passing a bumpy, dusty road for about 42 kilometers. Another route you can use is via Buhoma, driving for about 2 hours to the Ruhija area.
The roads to the Ruhija area are still in bad condition, so you need a vehicle in good condition and at least a 4×4 wheel drive.
Daily domestic flights from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kihihi Airstrip are available, but booking is recommended for better preparation. Hire a transfer vehicle to your lodge.
Charter flight services for a more private gorilla safari experience are also available at Kajjansi Airfield and Entebbe Airport to Kihihi airstrip, about two hours from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Advance clearance is needed, so book the charter flights in advance.
Which is the Easiest gorilla family to trek in the Ruhija area?
Of the four gorilla families that opened in the Ruhija, it is hard to determine the easiest families to trek. This is because the gorilla family that was close the previous day may be the furthest the next day. Mountain gorillas are mobile primates that are not restricted by anything.
During gorilla trekking, locating the mountain gorillas depends on factors prevailing in the wilderness, like proximity of their food source, in case the gorilla family is adventurous, death of a family member, pace of fellow tourists, and others.
Tourists are requested to have patience before finding the mountain gorillas. Open your mind to viewing other interesting features in the wilderness to avoid getting bored when the search is prolonged. Other primates in the Bwindi forest include black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, blue monkeys, olive baboons, etc.
What Criteria Is Used To Allocate Gorilla Families For Ruhija Area Of Bwindi?
After the briefing, it is hard to determine the criteria for allocating gorilla families. Sometimes, gorilla families are allocated according to interests, fitness level, relations, etc. You may try your luck to state your preferences to the ranger guides so that you may be considered, but it’s not always a guarantee.
No matter which gorilla family you are allocated to, the excitement of being just meters away from these primates is unrivaled.
Is Gorilla trekking in Ruhija Difficult?
Generally, the gorilla safari destinations are located in a volcanic area, making the trekking quite tiresome. The terrain of areas of gorilla safaris is rugged, with highlands-like ridges and plateaus draped by tangled vegetation that sways to the bottom sometimes. The ranger guide with a machete may trim the vines to create a way.
When the mountain gorillas feed from the slopes of these highlands, you may have to hike to find them. One needs to bear some fitness level to complete the trek and not cause commotion in the forest when you delay the rest. The time of finding the mountain gorillas is hard to determine.
As you pack for gorilla safari, remember the gorilla safari gear like safari boots, rainproof gear, backpack, garden gloves, insect repellant, and others that protect you from the rough surfaces in the jungle.
Are mountain gorillas dangerous?
No, mountain gorillas are not dangerous despite how they are portrayed in films, animations, and other media. They are naturally calm primates but look intimidating. The mountain gorillas are covered in dark fur, have sunken brown eyes and massive bodies, and walk by knuckle locomotion. These, at a glance, may portray a dangerous animal, yet by the time you depart their presence, you will have realized how vulnerable the mountain gorillas are.
This doesn’t mean provoke the mountain gorillas because they can charge, too. When angry, the mountain gorillas thump their chests, hoot, pull vines around them, and move into the deep forest.
Upon witnessing such behavior, do not panic but listen carefully to the instructions given by the ranger guide and do as instructed. Sometimes, the mountain gorillas are having a family feud or have been attacked by an intruder. Do not escalate the situation by running around, but be calm till the case is settled.
When getting away after watching the mountain gorillas, do it unnoticeably so as not to look suspicious before the mountain gorillas.
What are the rules of Gorilla trekking in Uganda?
- No feeding the mountain gorillas because they are wild animals that must search for their food.
- Provoking the mountain gorillas is forbidden because they may be agitated and move into hiding.
- Flash photography is forbidden because mountain gorillas fear new occurrences in their environment.
- Surrounding the mountain gorillas during gorilla trekking is forbidden because they feel ambushed, which may cause them to retreat into hiding.
- Eating or smoking 300 meters from the mountain gorillas may cause them to grab it from you. They are wild animals that must not depend on human provision.
- Littering in the forest is forbidden because this alters the nature of the forest where mountain gorillas feed.
- Spitting on vegetation is not a great idea because it contaminates the foliage that the mountain gorillas feed on.
- Wearing a mask when you locate the mountain gorillas is a must since the coronavirus outbreak to protect them from catching communicable infections from humans.
- Keep a distance of about 8 meters from the mountain gorillas to reduce the chances of spreading any infection to these primates.
- When you locate the mountain gorillas, you have just one hour with them because they have been habituated to be in the presence of humans for that time.
- Noise-making is forbidden when trekking to locate mountain gorillas because they are generally serene creatures that live in generally quiet environments.
- Mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human infection, so if you have a cough, flu, cholera, or COVID-19, volunteer to stay behind so that you don’t pass this to the mountain gorillas.