Nkuringo Sector (Gorilla sector in the South of Bwindi) : Nkuringo Sector is one of the 4 gorilla sectors of Bwindi impenetrable national park located in the Southern region of the park, Nkuringo sector famed for hosting one of the most popular dominant silver “Rafiki” in the whole of Bwindi impenetrable national park, Rafiki died in June in 2020 during the Pandemic lockdown in the hands of poachers.
Nkuringo sector was the second gorilla sector to be established in Bwindi impenetrable national park, it was opened in 2004 – a decade after opening Buhoma sector the first sector to be established in Bwindi impenetrable national park. This sector is known and loved by most trekkers for hosting some of the most challenging to reach and most entertaining gorilla groups in Uganda.
Gorilla Groups or Families in Nkuringo Sector
Nkuringo Sector has 3habituated gorilla groups open for gorilla trekking and 1 gorilla group which is under habituation process and according to Uganda Wildlife Authority it is to be availed exclusively for Habituation experience. Among the gorilla families in Nkuringo sector, Bishaho is a more entertaining and easier to track gorilla family and its silverback Bahati is known for showing off his intimidating chest – thumping demeanor and never disappoints.
For each gorilla group in Nkuringo sector, only 8 gorilla permits are issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority for gorilla trekking experience.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family
Nkuringo Gorilla Family initially had 20 members including 3 silverbacks under the leadership of dominant silverback Nkuringo, this group gets its name from a local word meaning round Hill, a place where members of this group where first sighted.
Nkuringo Gorilla family is famously known for foraging outside the park for most their time, this resulted into the government and the conservation bodies including UWA displacing former human settlers in the frontline village along the boundaries of the park in the southern region.
In 2008, silverback Nkuringo died at the age of 45 and he was replaced by Silverback Safari as the leader of the group, silverback safari had a successful tenure until he disappeared after a deadly encounter with the Bushaho gorilla group who lived nearby. Up to date, silverback Safari hasn’t been found yet.
Silverback Rafiki took over the leadership of the group, Rafiki a local word meaning friend in Swahili is known for his family – friendly demeanor allowing his brothers to stick around or allowing occasional visits from his brothers and leaders of other groups. During his reign, he lost two members that is silverback Christmas and Posho who left to start their own families around Nkuringo sector.
As of 2021, Nkuringo gorilla family has 12 members include
- 4 male black backs (Rwamutwe – the leader, Tabu – the second in Command, Kamara and Muhoozi)
- 4 adult females (Kwitonda, Kuhiirwa, Furaha, and Nderema)
- 4 infants
Bushaho Gorilla Family
Bushaho Gorilla Family is the second gorilla family to be habituated in Nkuringo sector to be availed by Uganda Wildlife Authority, this gorilla family has a total of 12 members under the leadership of a dominant silverback Bahati.
The Bushaho gorilla family comprises of members who left Nkuringo gorilla family following the death of Silverback Nkuringo, the researchers in their search for the whereabouts of these members in early 2012 discovered that Bahati a former member of Nkuringo gorilla family had led a group comprising of former members of Nkuringo group and other non – habituated members.
Bushaho gorilla is known for being one of the most entertaining gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Bahati the leader of the group, likes showing off his alpha male impressive shows of physical power whenever he has an audience, he may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges and pound his massive chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar.
Silverback Bahati is generally calm and non-aggressive unless physically threatened. As of 2021, members of Bushaho gorilla family include
- 1 Silverback—Bahati
- 1 Blackback—Kaheru
- 5 Adult Females—Nyankumu, Buzuru, Kaitesi
- 1 adult Female – Sud
- 2 Juveniles
- 2 Infants.
Christmas Gorilla Family
Christmas Gorilla Family is a group of 8 members under a dominant silverback Christmas – born on Christmas day in the Nkuringo Group, the formation of this group was a result of members splitting from Nkuringo group and its members did not need to undergo habituation process because all of its members were from a fully habituated family.
As of July 2021, members of Christmas Gorilla family include
- 1 Silverback — Christmas
- 2 Adult Females — Kiza
- 1 Sub-adult Female – Guma
- 2 Juveniles
- 2 infants
Posho Gorilla Family — 14 Members (July 2021)
Posho Gorilla family is a group of 14 members under the leadership of dominant silverback Magara, this group is still undergoing habituation process and it is said to be soon availed for Habituation experience in Nkuringo sector.
Gorilla Trekking in Nkuringo Sector
In Nkuringo sector, there are 3 gorilla trips open for gorilla trekking. On a daily, 3 groups of 8 tourists leave the UWA trailhead at the Nkuringo sector and head to the south of the Bwindi.
Gorilla trekking in Nkuringo sector starts as early as 08:00 am with briefing at the UWA Hall or park headquarters where you are taken through the rules and regulations. You are then grouped into 8 people, be assigned a gorilla group to trek, two armed rangers for security and an expert tracker who will help you during the experience in the pristine jungle.
Gorilla trekking experience in Nkuringo Sector offer trekker 1 hour of being in the presence of mountain gorillas.
Other Activities in Nkuringo
In addition to gorilla trekking in Nkuringo Sector, there are other Uganda safari activities to do in the sector. Bwindi impenetrable national park boasts over 350 unique species of birds including 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics, this makes the park to be a haven for birding enthusiasts. The fascinating nature and a variety of species of flora make the park to be a great destination for nature and hiking experiences done using several trails
Activities to do in Nkuringo sector include
Nature Walking Trails
Nature walks in Nkuringo sector are done using following trails as detailed below
Kashasha River Trail
This trail is approximately 17 kilometers starting at the Nkuringo Sector trailhead and meanders greatly through the beautifully rugged landscape of the park’s boundary, this trail has several viewpoints overlooking lush mist – shrouded valleys.
This trail penetrates deeply into the jungle leading to Kashasha River providing a one hour walk along the river and hikers get to enjoy sounds of babbling brooks and natural soothing melodies of the forest.
This trail is a very popular trail for birders and during the hike, lookout for several bird species and forest creatures such as Monkeys, duikers, bush pigs and butterfly species.
While hiking on this trail, one can take around trail heading back to Nkuringo or continue on this route to Buhoma sector. This trail leading to Buhoma is more preferred by most hikers coming from Buhoma to stay n Nkuringo or those from Nkuringo connecting to Queen Elizabeth national park via Buhoma sector.
Ivy River Trail
The Ivy River Trail is a trail of approximately 4 hours and there are 3 ways to hike this trail
- The first trail starts from Nkuringo, walking 12 kilometers to Nteko Village and is a trail of 5 kilometers down the steep valley to Ivy River and back.
- The second trail starts at the Nteko out post, 12 kilometers from Nkuringo, hike down the valley to the river and back.
- The third trail is the most interesting part of the Ivy River Trail starting from Nteko, down the valley and across the jungle leading to Buhoma sector on the northern side of Bwindi impenetrable national park.
The trail starting from Nteko takes you over the newly built bridge of River Ivy and through the jungle and follows a seemingly paved road which is no longer used in the 80s due to unknown reasons. This trail is approximately a 5 hours walk to Buhoma and about 4 hours back to Nkuringo. While hiking on this trail lookout for primates, various bird species and colorful bird species
Buniga Forest Trail (3 hrs)
The Buniga Forest Trail is one of the most leisurely trails in Nkuringo starting at the NCCDF office located a few meters from the UWA office and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, this trail showcases the remarkable relationship of the Batwa and the jungles of Bwindi impenetrable national park. The Batwa used to live in the forests of Bwindi until they were forced out of the forest when it was made a protected area, this trail offers an insight in the unique heritage and traditions to the world, the Batwa people through their community organization NCCDF which takes tourists into their small pocket forests showcasing their historical nomadic cultures when they occupied the jungles of Bwindi.
The Buniga Forest trail is a USAIN initiative which was started to help the Batwa Community to earn a living from tourism around this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On this trail, you are to spend an hour in the Batwa settlement where you will observe how the women prepare, cook and serve a meal, engage with medicine men with whom you will learn about the lush forest flora’s medicinal properties, you will also hear ancient legends and traditional songs. This trail generally offer visitors an opportunity to learn about the fascinating way of life of the Batwa from religion to their food gathering, local way of making fire from rubbing sticks and hunting techniques.
Other trails in Nkuringo sector include
- Suma Waterfall Trail leading to the Suma waterfall of 5 meters hidden at the edge of Suma Village about 7 kilometers from the Nkuringo sector
- Birding Trails offering some of the best montane – forest birding experience in Africa
- Nkuringo Village walk
WHERE TO STAY IN NKURINGO
Nkuringo sector is a very remote sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park with a few accommodation options, there are luxury accommodations, midrange accommodation and budget accommodations.
Accommodations in Nkuringo sector include
- Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Gorilla Heights Lodge
- Wagtail Eco Safari Lodge
- Chameleon Hill Lodge
- Mutanda Lake Resort
HOW TO GET TO NKURINGO
Nkuringo sector is located in the Southern region of Bwindi impenetrable national park at the edge of the Albertine Rift, a few kilometers from Democratic Republic of Congo. From Kisoro Town and Kisoro Airport it is a drive of about 34 kilometers and a drive of 1.5 hour to Nkuringo and from Kabale Town it is a approximately 83 kilometers and a drive of 2.5 hours.
By road, there are several trails used to get to Nkuringo sector
- Entebbe – Kabale – Muko – Nkuringo
This route is the easiest route to Nkuringo sector taking approximately 10 hours of drive, it is via Kabale and branches off at Muko – 2 kilometers from Lake Bunyonyi on Kabale – Kisoro road , to drive approximately 38 kilometers on a dirt road to Nkuringo.
This route is approximately 497 kilometers with only 38 kilometers on a dirt road which is easily navigable with a 4×4 vehicle.
Entebbe – Kisoro – Mutanda – Nkuringo
This route is the longest route to reach Nkuringo sector from Entebbe International Airport covering about 527 kilometers with about 334 kilometers on a dirt road from Kisoro Town. This route takes about 11 hours of driving time.
For tourists coming from Rwanda via the Cyanika border in the South and DRC via the west Bunagana Border, they can join this route at Kisoro. These two border entry points are about 19 kilometers from Kisoro Town.
For tourists using the Katuna (Gatuna border) from Rwanda, it is a drive of approximately 24 kilometers on a paved smooth road to Kabale and join the Kabale – Kisoro road off at Muko (2 kilometers from Lake Bunyonyi on Kabale – Kisoro road) to join the 38 – kilometers to the Nkuringo sector.
Ishasha Sector in Queen Elizabeth NP – Kihihi – Nkuringo
From the Ishasha Sector in Queen Elizabeth national park, you drive on a route through Kihihi via Kanungu, Rutoma and joins the Kabale – Kisoro Highway at Rubanda and continue to Muko where you branch off the highway.
This route is approximately 160 kilometers taking about 5 hours of driving, this route is not paved and you would need a 4×4 wheel vehicle to navigate through
Nkuringo sector can also be accessed while hiking from Buhoma sector, the hiking journey is done on a Buhoma – Nkuringo walking trail which is the most famous hiking trail crossing the jungle of Bwindi via Kashasha or Ivy rivers.
The route is approximately 120 kilometers of dirt road between Nkuringo and Buhoma,.
Using a domestic and chartered flight is the quickest way to get to Nkuringo sector from Entebbe International Airport, there daily scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe International airport to Kisoro Airstrip. These flights are operated by Aerolink and Bar Aviation.
BEST TIME TO GO GORILLA TREKKING IN NKURINGO SECTOR
Nkuringo sector is open for gorilla trekking all year round, however the best time of the year to go gorilla trekking is from June to August and December to February, during these months the trails in the jungle used for gorilla trekking are drier and less slippery, though chances of getting wet are still higher.
The dry season offers the best gorilla trekking experience most especially to photographers.
Note: the dry season period “June to August and December to February” are peak seasons in both Bwindi impenetrable national park and Uganda, in the peak season gorilla permits for Nkuringo sector are high demand and it is recommended to book your safari about 3 months to your safari or during the low season.
During the wet season period “March, April, May, October and November”, roads leading to Nkuringo sector tend to be challenging for most vehicles and because of this, you are advised to use 4×4 wheel vehicle most especially on a 43 kilometer dirt road between Muko and Nkuringo.
WHAT CARRY FOR A GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE IN NKURINGO SECTOR?
The following are the items to carry with you on the gorilla trekking adventure, remember that you will be visiting the tropical rainforest region of Uganda.
- A pair of well fitting walking boots to keep the muddy water off your toes, waterproof boots are perfect for the experience
- A poncho or light rain jacket to help you from getting wet from the rain
- Long sleeved shirts and long light and a pair of gloves trousers to cover your arms and legs from thorny branches and stepping on angry bugs that could irritate your skin.
- A decent sweater to keep you warm during the cold evening
- Insect repellent to help you keep away from the forest flies
- 2 face masks
- A light backpack with some energy bars, drinking water and to carry your photography gadgets
- Note: carry a light pack because of the walking hours as a heavy backpack will slow you during the expedition.