Rushaga region is located in the southern section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is located in Kisoro District together with Nkuringo Region. It has several gorilla families which include Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza.
An amazing wilderness safari memory will always take you deep into remote trails of Africa. To the lovers of the ultimate Mountain Gorilla encounters, time spent at Rushaga is a footstep into a path less visited and in harmony with local cultures and Nature at aglance. Taking an intrepid journey into this Mountain gorilla remote highland of Uganda, you will allocate small mountain gorilla’s village hanging on the southern Bwindi forest boundary. This Gorilla hub Rushaga is a village with a rich cultural tapestry of Batwa and Bakiiga people fused together. Rushaga as a name is dated back many centuries and was derived from the presence of more “zanphophylum gilletti” hard wood trees that were very common in this mountainous area of Bwindi forest when Lumbering was a major activity. From this local tree name “Omushaga” if one tree or “Emishaga” denoting many trees, the village got its name “Rushaga”.
In 1970s when the forest was under community utilization, this village was a hot spot for most of the best value timbers exported to neighboring countries of Kenya and Rwanda. One of the prominent Business men called Mr.Kanyamunyu had timber stores plus mining sites in the village.He extracted timbers and Gold from Bwindi forest, kept them here waiting to be transported to Kabale and Kampala where he owned major trading stores. As a business man of that time, he led locals to make a small passable road from the main Road to Rushaga and continued through the forest interior to Mpororo Gold mines. This road is currently one of the numerous nature walks one can participate in to feel the interior of the Impenetrable forest. Lumbering and Mining that took place in the region ceased by 1990 when the tropical rain forest got a gazettement status and conservation laws were put into effect. To mention that before conservation of Bwindi was implemented by the Government of the Republic of Uganda, lumbering, hunting, gathering and gold mining were the lucrative activities benefiting the local Bakiiga communities who lived adjacent to the forest. By the year 1990 all the activities were declared illegal paving away to Great Apes conservation, this was not good news to the locals by then. Such conservation laws saw the Batwa people get evicted from the tropical rain forest,remember these were the forest dwellers living inside the forest depending on it for the whole entire life benefits.The Batwa people were evicted from the forest interior to join the locals outside of Bwindi impenetrable forest paving away to conservation. This forest gazette and eviction of Batwa led to a period of poverty and famine hit the families of Rushaga the hardest way having lost their forest benefits.
To survive out of the forest, the local Bakiiga people resorted to subsistence farming on crops like irish potatoes, sweat potatoes,bananas,maize,beans,peas and sorghum to get food and sell part of the produce to get other requirements for the house hold like abar of soap, a packet of salt, books and pens for the few school going children. However the Batwa failed to cope up with traditional Bakiiga ways of life, of course as indigenous people more was required for their welfare. The coming of Mountain Gorilla tourism by the year 2,000 into this part of Bwindi impenetrable national park restored the lost joy. The present lucrative tourism in the village came as asurprise when Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) started to habituate another Mountain Gorilla group in Rushaga after Nkuringo Gorilla group. The locals welcomed the news with lots of excitements as people who already knew the value chain they used to have with the mother tropical rain forest. As an additive to the Gorilla tourism of Uganda, Nshongi mountain gorilla group was habituated and by the year 2009 was officially opened for tourism.
Rushaga village once again have gained popularity in the gorilla conservation world, currently there is a tourism visitor Centre at the park gate with a connecting road through the village to the rangers briefing Banda and serves as tourism information Centre. Rushaga village is currently among the few remote corners of Uganda serviced with Hydro Electric power, rangers and guides who live in the area have attracted another investment in rentals. Mountain Gorilla tourism attracted more tourism prayers presently owning facilities in the Gorilla valleys of Rushaga like hotels and lodges e.g. Gorilla safari lodge, Gorilla valley lodge and Rushaga gorilla camp all employing up to one hundred locals. The daily tourist’s footsteps have become a tradition for the last 10 years, to celebrate the conservation efforts anumber of locals who were once poachers turned into support staffs-porters and are Gorilla Guardians in the name of conservation. On your visit to Rushaga you will pass through linear settlement patterns dominated by shops of all kinds together with artifact curios all targeting the tourist dollar in the area.
Apart from the closest cousins that do call this part of Bwindi forest their home, this remote village of western Uganda shares the Albertine rift valley and is your next stop for ultimate Mountain gorilla encounters in Uganda’s Bwindi south. Bisected by the Virunga massif and Great East African Rift valley, Rushaga is agood natural home to Albertine and Mountain endemic bird life. Rushaga hosts good and healthy numbers of forest elephants the only part of Bwindi forest where Mountain Gorillas claim to live in harmony with African Forest Elephants, people and chimpanzees. Though both are a problem to local people when it comes to crop raiding, this has been agreat community conservation challenges for decades. Forest elephants being hard vegetative crushers do pave away for plenty of Mountain Gorilla food. Yes both the two are vegetarians but the contrasts is that Mountain Gorillas only depend on forest second growth. The survival of African elephants into this southern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park have positively affected numbers of Mountain Gorillas in this sector.
To mention that Rushaga hosts more wild and habituated Mountain Gorillas than any sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park.
On your Greatest of the wildlife trails as currently voted by CNN Travel, atrip to Bwindi will always have ample safari opportunities beyond encountering any of the five habituated Mountain Gorilla families. This gives destination have more to offer hence higher chances for tourists to stay longer with more activities like tracking, nature walking, mountaineering, cultural tours etc. while having less time in the transfers.
Today Uganda wildlife Authority have introduced anew tourist package known as “Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience” abbreviated on reservations to GEX .Get immersed into the natural and tropical fabrics of rural Uganda for the whole day participating to make mountain Gorillas get that wild familiar character to human presence. Tourists on this activity take a trail inside the tropical rain forest with the advance team of trackers and the lead guide very early in the morning to spend the whole day amidst amazing wild scenes including the act of habituating a mountain Gorilla. By doing this activity, please note you’re part of the team doing this job daily paving away for future tourism. With 1,500$ you pay for a permit to walk quite early with rangers, spend the whole day inside the forest and participate in the act of Mountain Gorilla habituation while monitoring their Health too.
Gorilla Families in the Rushaga Sector
The Rushaga sector boasts the highest number of gorilla families and lies between Kabale and Nkuringo coming from either Ruhija or Kampala.
The region is dominated by high hills and because of this, habituated gorilla families have kept on separating and subdividing to take up different hills in the region. Because of these hills, tourists who trek gorillas from Rushaga tend to 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.
Gorilla Tracking in Rushaga
Rushaga is the perfect sector in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest when it comes to mountain gorilla tracking and it is also the only sector where visitors can do Gorilla Habituation Experience.
Nshongi gorilla family:
This is one of the largest habituated gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest after the current split with where Mweza group was created. This group was previously composed of 36 gorillas but today it boosts of over 25 mountain gorillas with dominant silverback, two sub silverbacks, three black backs, six adult females, six juveniles and three infants. This is one of the unique gorillas to have over four silverbacks and still, it controlled by Nshongi who is not the oldest silverback in the group and surprisingly all the three silverbacks and seven silverbacks stayed peacefully and never had cases of power struggle. Nshongi gorilla group was established with a lot of fanfare and celebrities from far and wide came in 2009. In 2010, Nshongi group broke off and only 26 mountain gorillas were left as others went to form their own families for instance Mishaya gorilla family. In 2013, the group still broke off and reduced to 18 members with new split establishing the current Bweza with ten gorillas. Being the largest gorilla group, visitors also have higher chances of sighting at other apes, forest birds and butterflies.
Mishaya gorilla group:
This group split from Nshongi group in 2010 due to disputes under silverback Mishaya. The silverback went away with other females and today it boosts of over seven mountain gorillas and one silverback. Mishaya silverback is a real fighter and he managed to gather many females around and the number shot up to twelve including 3 infants. Mishaya is the only adult mountain gorilla which is famous for fighting and often begins interacting with other mountain gorilla groups. However, by 2015 this group was left with only seven members due to continuous battles.
Kahungye gorilla family:
This group is composed of 13 mountain gorillas and three silverbacks and the dominant silverback is known Rumansi followed by the other 2 male mountain gorillas called Rwigi and Ruhamuka. This group was ready for gorilla tracking in 2011 but unfortunately not more than a year the group broke off and hence a new family call Busingye gorilla group was formed. Prior their split, the group was composed of 27 members including three silverbacks.
Busingye gorilla group:
This group is composed of 9 mountain gorillas and it includes one silverback, three infants, two adults and many young ones. Busingye gorilla group broke off from Kahungye gorilla group in 2012. It was Busingye silverback that decided to break away and form his own group. The word Busingye denotes “peace” which a bit astonishing since his ambitious silverback is popular for his legendary fights with other gorilla families. He enjoys demonstrating his power and whenever he encounters a wild group he mercilessly takes a female gorilla to add to his own group.
Bweza gorilla group:
This group is comprised of only seven mountain gorillas including one silverback and two infants. Bweza gorilla group is a splitter group of Nshongi gorilla family and it is the most versatile and exciting gorilla group that is worth visiting while in a safari to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
For those interested in gorilla habituation experience, they can visit Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families where they will spend four hours exploring the daily behaviors of these spectacular primates.
- If you are driving, please budget for a whole day since it may take you approximately 9-10 hours drive on a winding road.
- If you are interested in flying to Rushaga, you can book a scheduled flight operated by Aero link or charter flights by Fly Uganda among other companies in Uganda.
- From Rushaga, you can continue to Rwanda, by driving to the nearby Uganda Rwanda Boarder at Chanika. From Kisoro town to the Uganda Rwanda boarder is a 15 minute drive but if you want to cross over to Rwanda then you need to have applied for their visa online at least two weeks before arrival.
- There very many up-market, midrange and budget accommodation facilities offered in the sector
Answering this Common Gorilla booking question
In most of the inquiries, tourists ask a question-where is the Best Spot for Mountain Gorilla encounter among the three sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
For Gorilla trackers coming to Uganda, please note that since the habituation of the first Gorilla at Rushaga, this sector has become the best area for Gorilla Treks and more versions of nature walks inside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. For phenomenal tourist experiences beyond Gorillas, there is a waterfall walk to Bayenda waterfalls and numerous birding trails both revealing rarities like Kivu Ground thrush among others. And in here we do reveal more travel potentials for your wildlife Gorilla tour in Uganda’s Rushaga. Rushaga as your next best Area for Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is located Between Mgahinga and Bwindi conservation areas. Hanging at the southern forest boundary and connected with amain road from Kampala city to Kabale,from Kigali city of Rwanda to Kisoro and to Nkuringo conservation sector. Rushaga has an easy Access from Rwanda, for easy connection by road most of the tourists flying in Kigali and drive for five hours from Rwanda to this conservation corner hidden in the Albertine rift valley. Driving from Kigali to this rugged boundary of Bwindi tropical and rain forest is quite scenic with meandering roads compared to the 10 hours of driving needed for the transfer from Kampala or Entebbe in Uganda. We provide the answer to be Rushaga as the Best Area for Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest due to diversified Gorilla encounters where tourists can decide between Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience four hours with the wild Mountain Gorillas or the common one hour Gorilla trekking.
Tourists at Rushaga benefit from the Birding and hiking forest trails such as the Waterfall Hike, Village Visits and Batwa Cultural interactive experiences including hands-on craft-making, drumming lessons, traditional cooking lessons of some delicacies, African traditional dancing and folk tales etc. Rushaga has the most habituated Gorilla Families that you can track in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. What does it mean in Gorilla bookings? We understand the congestion that can happen while securing your Mountain Gorilla tracking permit mostly in the high season months. The more the groups, the more are the chances of getting permits among the more groups available and because of this personalized tracking are possible in Rushaga. You can travel as afamily and expect to track the whole Mountain Gorilla group.
The driving to Rushaga in the southern area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is also one of the most scenic road trip one can recommend, the magnificent natural views are diversified by the rugged terrain, steep ridges as you get closer to the Rift valley escarpments which forms abig part of Bwindi verdant swathe, the rolling greenery of Kigezi highlands, 8 gallant extinct volcanoes that forms the Virunga massif, volcanic twin Lakes of Mulehe and Mutanda plus the warmth of the locals with children’s welcome Mzungu smiles.All these will make this Gorilla tracking destination quite hot.
New Lodges have sprung up, given more choices in and around the South of Bwindi Forest and lots of things to do and see. Tourists are free to make their best accommodation choices from smart budget facilities to medium allocated premises and finally luxury comfort safari in style waits you for life time safari indulgent.
Tourists coming to discover this gorilla natural home will find it quite accessible both on Road and by Air.Mostly with afly in Rwanda it is only a5 hours drive from Kigali with border crossing to arrive at Rushaga in Uganda. And permit prices are only 600 USD compared to Rwanda’s 1500 USD, only for the four hours of forested wild Gorilla habituation experience at 1500 USD only doable at Rushaga on the entire planet Earth .On this activity you get 4 hours with a gorilla family compared to 1 hour in Rwanda for the same price as in Rwanda– Remember our role is to furnish you with accurate and timely information but the choice is yours! Don’t forget that Gorilla tourism in Uganda started in Mgahinga,then Buhoma Area in the North of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was the second spot for gorilla treks in Uganda. Rushaga and Nkuringo came years later; however most habituated gorillas and trekking on various groups are now in the South of Bwindi Forest at Rushaga.
For our tourist community, more people coming here for Mountain Gorilla Trekking is for many the experience of a lifetime and Instinct safaris we consider this while putting up not only atour but an experiential package for you whether traveling solo, couple or in our small groups of six pax maximum. We are known world over for our professional level of flexibility while we tailor down all the individual packages in Rwanda, Uganda and D.R.Congo for decades. Hoping that we have answered more of your questions about Gorilla tracking in Uganda, we will remain to receive your inquiry anytime and expect to meet you on one of the lifetime dream package to Africa. Come meet the people and people will show you all the amazing wildlife and landscapes that do make asafari to Africa quite magical, remarkable and tranquil.
On your next visit to Uganda, Rwanda or D.R.Congo,get off the hassle and contact us, we will design your itinerary together taking care of your interests,budget,time and expectations. Remember Instinct safaris operations are beyond Rushaga! Permits for the Gorilla Habituation Experience are 1,500 USD and the number of permits is limited to 4 permits for a group of gorillas being habituated in the Rushaga area of the park. It takes a bit more planning when it comes to doing this activity because of limited permits available. In case you’re in Uganda,from Entebbe international airport or Kampala city Rushaga is a 10-hour journey to the southern sector of Bwindi Forest. Rushaga can be easily accessed from Entebbe or Kampala by taking a flight to Kisoro – the flight is one of the more scenic ones in Uganda and includes views of the Virunga Volcanoes – Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda. The morning flight with Aerolink is 1.5 hours long to the town of Kisoro from Entebbe at Nyakabande airstrip and then from here is a short drive to the Rushaga or Nkuringo area to your booked lodge. After you Gorilla experience you will then get back to your flight embarking to Entebbe international airport for your connecting flight back to your home-country or continue your safari with us to other places within and outside Uganda. Domestic flights to Bwindi are operated by Aerolink Airlines which is a part of Kenya Airways.
Hiking Trails in and around Rushaga Areas Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:
The hidden gym of Rushaga is the best off- Beat destination for the less travelled paths, while here expect to leave a trail yourself. Different walks abound such as the Kapata Trail which is an easy 3-hour trail where you combine, nature, local history, and culture. The Kara Ridge Trail is moderate in difficulty where you have Panoramic Views of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rubuguri plus the furthest points of the Virunga massif. On all the trails, you take part in the local culture, traditions including the original People of the Forest – the Batwa People.
Our traditionally packaged Nyandwi trail is a touristic way to connect to Queen Elizabeth national park through Bwindi forest. Usually the trail begins or ends in Kisoro and includes dugout canoe trekking experience on the volcanic waters of Lake Mutanda. On your visit expect to explore the local artifacts where you can buy some locally made arts and crafts to take home. This is another responsible travelling way and will benefit the locals and you. They do make crafts in groups like women and from the sales they get income to their families. Should you feel interested in more cultural activities to be included in your itinerary to Uganda like local cultural entertainments dominated by dancing, drumming, jewelry making and the like, feel free to let us know during your inquiry and we will facilitate your request.
Where to Stay in Rushaga Sector
Accommodation for those interested in trekking Rushaga Gorilla Families can be booked in Kisoro Town-Kisoro Travellers Rest Inn, Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp or even Clouds Gorilla Lodge.
The best safari Add on destination in a Short range
There are many places you can add-on to your Gorilla Trekking Safari in Rushaga both in Rwanda,Congo and in Uganda. While at Rushaga you are near some of the Major tourist wonders of the Albertine Rift valley where amazing rare wild scenes tend to concentrate on the planet Earth.
Rushaga is opened both sides to other National Parks and Places that attract visitors from far and wide, from places where to relax and chill out like from your Mountain Gorilla encounter at Rushaga one can have post safari moments at the second deepest Lake of Africa Bunyonyi in the low lying meandering valley of Kigezi highlands.What about connecting to Virunga massif for more activities like Volcano Climbing the Virungas, have another gorilla trek in Mgahinga Gorilla Park of Uganda etc. From Rushaga a tourist can connect to the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha and later Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale rain Forest.
All are possibilities to add-on to your Mountain Gorilla Trekking Expedition from Bwindi south. From Rushaga or Nkuringo you can easily spend 10 days plus itinerary in this part of Uganda plus Rwanda, what about time spent in the Volcanoes, then move alittle to relax at sand raised beaches at Lake Kivu or ascend to the active Mountains of Nyiragongo and Mountain Gorillas of the Congo basin. In the Albertine Rift, tourists can see and do what they cannot do elsewhere in East Africa.