Bitukura gorilla family is found in Ruhija sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park and is one of the 6 habituated gorilla groups in the sector. The family is currently made up of 13 members led by dominating silverback Mugisha. Other members in BituKura family include another silverback, 4 adult females, 2 blackbacks, 1 sub adult female, 2 juveniles and 2 infants.
Getting to Ruhija
Ruhija is one of the 4 gorilla trekking sectors of Bwindi impenetrable national park located in the east of the park. The sector can be accessed via Kabale-Rubanda route. Before entering the thick and dense Bwindi forest, you enjoy the beautiful surrounding of the rolling hills including the 4 volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains that overlook the park. Entering the Bwindi forest is an adventure itself with amazing views of inter-winding hills covered with dense forests. The forest is composed of both high hills and long valleys which may be unrecognisable due to the dense forests covering them.
Getting ready to trek gorillas
Early in the morning all the trekkers gather at the sector’s office to be briefed about the experience and to ensure that they have all what is required for a successful gorilla trekking encounter. Some of the recommended items include drinking water, snacks, a rain jacket, walking stick, pair of gloves, and hiking boots. A porter is also recommended for those who may feel that they are not physically fit to cope with the tenacity of the forest. Porters help to carry bags of the trekkers and where necessary they may give a push or carry those who have failed to finish the trek. A porter comes at extra cost of $20. During the briefing, trekkers are told the details of the gorilla group they are assigned to track. Before departing for gorilla trekking, visitors are also entertainment by a group of local dancers (Bakiga) whose performance reflect on conservation of the gorillas and their community life.
Entering the forest to search for gorillas (Bitukura gorilla family)
A group of trekkers is led by a park guide into the forest to look for their assigned gorilla group. They are also accompanied by two armed rangers who are responsible for the visitors’ security. As you trek through the forest, the guide keeps on informing you about the gorillas, the park and other wildlife species found within. Trekkers are also free to ask questions about anything they would like to know regarding the exercise. While trekking looking for your gorilla group, the guide and rangers keep in communication with trackers who follow the gorillas to know where they can be found. Without the work of these trackers, it would be very difficult for the visitors to meet the gorillas. They feed guides with information and signals about where the gorillas are who in turn lead the visitors to the exact location. For the case of Bitukura gorilla family, it took us about 2hrs to find the group.
Meeting Bitukura gorilla group in the wild
After trekking the forest for about 2hrs, we finally met Bitukura gorilla family. We were signalled by the trackers who first showed us one of the four adult females who was lying down trying to catch a few flies passing by her. She kept in one position for a few minutes and gave us a huge opportunity to take photos and videos of her excitedly since she was the first member of the group we met. Trackers moved on to lead us to more members of the family. We were able to see more members of the family including the leading silverback Mugisha, the 2 infants and other females. The members were foraging in close range with one another which gave us a great opportunity to take their pictures and videos. The two youngsters were foraging while playing on their mothers’ backs at the same time. The full hour spent in the presence of gorillas was fully rewarding in the company of Bitukura members. Silverback Mugisha couldn’t let the this show end without him proving his supremacy to the visitors. He decided to pass exactly where we were standing filming him as he tried to lead his members into a new grazing territory.
According to the guide, we were very lucky to meet our assigned gorilla family after just two hours adding that some trekkers have spent up to six hours in the jungle. From a personal experience, Bitukura must be among the best gorilla families to track in Bwindi. In addition to being found easily, the family the family is also very friendly to visitors and it has got a relatively good number of gorillas engage all the visitors.
Trekking back from the jungle
After spending the full hour in the presence of gorillas, trekkers are guided back from the jungle. The guides do their best to help trekkers get shorter route back since they are already exhausted. Therefore the return journey is always shorter. After successfully concluding the gorilla trekking exercise, visitors are awarded the prestigious gorilla tracking certificates to congratulate them. This is a monumental moment that excites visitors as these certificates keep bringing back the memories of this breathtaking and amazing experience.