5 key facts About Trekking gorillas in Rushaga Sector
If you are tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi, you will be allocated to trek in either of the 5 sectors of the park, which could be Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkuringo or Nyakagezi.
Rushaga is located in the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, closer to Kisoro town. It is also closer to the Rwanda border in case you will be coming from Kigali for your Uganda Gorilla Trek.
1. How to reach Rushaga Sector
You will have to access Bwindi Impenetrable National Park from its southern side. This means that if you are driving from Kampala, you drive through Kabale area and then branch off to your left as you are on Kabale-Kisoro Road. If you are coming from Kigali, you can enter the border from Katuna or Chanika and then drive to Rushaga Sector.
You can also fly in from Entebbe and land at Kisoro Airstrip from where you can be driven to your accommodation closer to the park. Some guests spend the night in Kisoro town from where they drive to the park next day for the gorillas trek. Flights from Entebbe will normally arrive Kisoro Airstrip at 8 am and depart back to Entebbe a few minutes after that. This means you cannot fly to Kisoro and track the gorillas in Rushaga on the same day. Neither can you track Rushaga gorillas and fly out back to Entebbe on the same day. You will definitely need a night in the park or in Kisoro for any gorilla trekking tour in Rushaga.
If you are driving from Kampala, driving to Rushaga can be ±8 hours journey or if you are driving from Kigali, it will be ±4 hours to the park offices in Rushaga.
2. Gorilla Groups (of Gorilla Families) in Rushaga
Rushaga sector has the highest number of mountain gorilla families and the more gorillas than any other sector of Bwindi. Of the current 19 Mountain gorilla families in Bwindi, 5 of these are in Rushaga sector. You are therefore most likely to be allocated to trek the gorillas in Rushaga on your gorilla tour in Uganda. The cost of gorilla permits in Rushaga is USD600 per person (USD700 from July 2020) and USD1500 if you will be opting for the gorilla habituation experience which allows you 4 hours with the mountain gorillas.
Gorilla Groups/ Families in Rushaga/ Shongi Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable N. Park
SHONGI GORILLA GROUP
Like Bitukura family, Shongi‘s habituation started in 2006. Initially, this family’s size was as large as 32 members with multi-males but with time intra-male rivalry has caused dispersals of individual members as well as fission. In early 2013, two sections of family members split off the main Shongi group to form the Mishaya family in June 2010 and later again to the current ‘Bweza’ family. Unfortunately, Mishaya Silverback (who had solely led the first splinter section as an adult male died of an obstruction of the intestinal gut on 3rd February, 2014). This resulted into the dispersal of the remnant family members as they had NO other adult male to take lead. Some of the members ended up joining Bweza family while others joined Bikingi family. Today Shongi group is composed of 7 individuals; 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile and 1 infant. Shongi family is headed by Bweza and found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable national park.
BUSINGYE GORILLA FAMILY
Members of Busingye gorilla family were initially habituated as a whole in 2008 with Kahungye family, unfortunately the group broke away in March 2012 creating the Busingye family. This family was named after one of the adult males who led the splinter section to form a new family. Busingye family is fondly known for foraging within the inner forest and very rarely comes toward the park edge. It is found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable national park and is composed of 9 individuals; 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 juvenile and 4 infants. Busingye family is still headed by its founder Silverback Busingye.
BWEZA GORILLA FAMILY
Bweza family members were initially habituated in the larger Shongi family until early 2013 when they detached themselves off the main Shongi family to form their own group under the leadership of Kakono. Found in Rushaga tourism sector of Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Bweza family likes to forage on local community land (where vegetation is more disturbed) than in the intact forest areas. This could be its way of freeing from the initial family. Bweza family is currently composed of 12 individuals including; 2 silverbacks, 4 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, and two infants.
KAHUNGYE GORILLA GROUP
Initially, Kahungye family size was as large as 29 members with three adult males but due to intra-male rivalry, fission occurred in March 2012 creating the Busingye family. Today Kahungye family is composed of only 17 individuals that include; 3 silverbacks, 3 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 3 sub-adult, 3 juveniles and two infants. Kahungye family is found in Rushaga tourism area of Bwindi Impenetrable national park and is headed by Rumanzi. The habituation of this group started in 2008.
MISHAYA GORILLA FAMILY
This is the group that was formed after it’s separation from the Nshongi family in 2010.
Mishaya, a fighter he is, tore away from his main family with 10 members and has continued to have several fights with other gorilla families.
Apparently, the Mishaya group is made of 12 family members with 1 dominant silverback.
3. Rushaga has highest diversity of optional tourist activities aside gorilla trekking in Bwindi
Apart from gorilla tracking in Bwindi, Rushaga sector offers the highest number of optional tourist activities compared to any other sector of Bwindi. While in Rushaga area, you can be able to arrange trips to the Batwa pygmies, Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga, Gorilla Habituation experience, canoe trekking on Lake Bunyonyi or Lake Mutanda, Hiking the volcanoes on Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and so many other activities in the community neighboring Bwindi.
4. The Best Accommodation choices in Rushaga Sector
Deluxe Luxury Lodges for Rushaga Sector
Saver Luxury Lodges in Rushaga Bwindi
Mid-range Lodges for Rushaga Sector
Lower Budget Accommodation for Rushaga Sector Gorilla Trekking
4. Rushaga is located farthest from other Uganda National Parks
If you are planning on connecting your gorilla tracking with other national parks of Uganda, you will have to bare with longer hours on the road. You need at least 7 hours to connect to Queen Elizabeth National Park, 8 hours to Kibale National Park and a full day drive from Murchison Falls NP (not recommended).
5. Rushaga offers the most Adventurous Gorilla Trekking.
The region where Rushaga is located is dominated by high hills and ridges. The place is beautiful for sightseeing and landscape photographing. The Bwindi forest as well is seen undulating over these hills and if your gorilla trek in in Rushaga, you will be hiking over these hills. The mix of the hills, valleys and ridges makes the gorilla trekking in Rushaga the most adventurous experience. As you trek gorillas from Rushaga you will also enjoy great scenic views and at some points, you can as well see the Virunga ranges in Rwanda and Uganda that include Mgahinga, Muhavura, Sabinyo, Karusimbi, and Bisoke among others. There is Lake Mutanda which is one of the only two lava damned lakes in Uganda. You can enjoy a canoe ride on the lake before or after your gorilla trek.