Nkuringo sector in the south of the park is one of the four sections of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where gorilla trekking in Uganda occurs. Nkuringo is famous for hosting one of the most popular dominant silverback in Bwindi, Rafiki, who died at the hands of poachers during the June 2020 pandemic lockdown.
This section of gorilla trekking in Bwindi was the second to be established in 2004, a decade after opening the Buhoma sector north of the park. It is also the most popular among tourists, after Buhoma, with some of the most challenging to reach and entertaining gorillas groups in Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park protects about half of the world’s total population of mountain gorillas that live in complex social families spread around the protected reserve. Although many gorilla groups live far from human contact, 19 gorilla groups are habituated and available for gorilla trekking in this pristine ancient jungle, which means the gorillas have gone through a process to make them comfortable around humans but within their natural habitat for a limited time.
Habituated mountain gorillas live in a home range of about 0.75-to 16 square miles within the Bwindi park boundaries. For tourists to easily access them, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) established four sectors close to where they forage, including Ruhija Sector, Buhoma Sector, Rushaga Sector, and Nkuringo Sector. Daily gorilla trekking excursions, with eight tourists per group, head out to see mountain gorillas from each of the sectors every morning.
A Guide To Gorilla Trekking in The South of Bwindi, in Nkuringo Sector
- Gorilla Groups in Nkuringo Sector
- Gorilla Trekking
- Other Activities
- Where To Stay
- Getting There
- Best Time To Go
- What To Carry
Gorilla Groups in Nkuringo Sector
The Nkuringo sector has 3 habituated gorilla groups available for trekking. One other gorilla group is going through the Habituation process, and soon UWA will avail it for the exclusive Habituation Experience.
When you buy a gorilla permit for Nkuringo trailhead, it does not indicate which gorilla group you’ll track. However, during the briefing at the sector’s UWA trailhead office, you’re assigned any one of these gorilla groups based on your physical ability. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you can request to be assigned the Nkuringo Gorilla Family but the Bushaho family is more entertaining and easier to track. Many trekkers that have visited Bushaho say that Silverback Bahati likes showing off his intimidating chest-thumping demeanor and never disappoints. A sight most trekkers would like to witness.
Note that only eight tourists can track one gorilla family per day in Uganda and are allowed to spend up to one hour with the gorillas at a safe distance of 32 ft (10 meters), and wearing a facemask.
Gorilla groups in the Nkuringo sector include;
- Nkuringo Gorilla Family
- Bushaho Gorilla Family
- Christmas Gorilla Family
- Posho Gorilla Family (Under Habituation)
1. Nkuringo Gorilla Family — 12 Members (July 2021)
UWA availed the Nkuringo gorilla family for tourism in April 2004 after a four-year Habituation process—this was the first habituated gorilla group in the Bwindi southern sector. The family had 20 members, including three silverback under the dominant leadership of Silverback Nkuringo, who gets his name from a local word meaning “round Hill.”
The group is famously known for foraging outside the park for most of their time, which led to the government and conservation bodies to displace former local human settlers in the frontline villages along the Nkuringo sector park boundary, to create a buffer zone to minimize the human-wildlife interface. The gorilla group’s familiar relationship with villagers contributed highly to UWA deciding to habituate the group.
Silverback Nkuringo led the group till his death, in 2008, at the age of 45, leaving the family in Silverback Safari’s capable leadership. Safari had a successful tenure until he disappeared after a deadly encounter with the Bushaho gorilla group that lived nearby. Up to this day, rangers have failed to locate the whereabouts of Silverback Safari. Silverback Rafiki, next in line, immediately took up the dominant position after Safari’s disappearance.
Rafiki, whose name means ‘friend’ in Swahili, led the Nkuringo group with a family-friendly demeanor allowing his brothers to stick around or allowing occasional visits from brothers that lead other groups. During his reign, Silverbacks Christmas and Posho left to start their own families around the Nkuringo Sector.
To tourists visiting Bwindi, the Nkuringo group became one of the favorite gorilla groups to watch, making Rafiki a well-known figure among early gorilla trekkers. He would go on to lead the group for 12 years. Unfortunately, Rafiki’s life suddenly came to a brutal end, in June 2020, after a surprise encounter with an illegal hunter in the park. On June 2, rangers found Rafiki’s body with a deep wound in his upper left abdomen. It appeared that a spear had pierced his internal organs, causing the gorilla to suffer a slow, painful death.
News of Rafiki’s death spread like wildfire around the world, as one of Uganda’s most loved mountain gorillas laid to rest under the dump floor of the enchanting misty jungle. He will be deeply missed by the caretakers, rangers, trackers, conservationists, researchers, tourists, and local villagers around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Even you, are already missing him!
Just like the hierarchy in human families, the next boy gorilla (or Blackback) in line took on his brother’s responsibility to take care of his family and the primitive jungle family drama continues under the mystical Bwindi canopy.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family’s Current Status
Rafiki left Blackback brothers Kamara, Muhoozi, Tabu, and Rwamutwe eying the throne. However, Blackback Rwamutwe immediately proved dominant and took up the lead position. The name Rwamutwe comes from a local language meaning bullheaded, or stubborn as a mule, stiff-necked, strong-willed.
A Blackback is a teenage male gorilla that hasn’t grown silver hair on its back. Like humans, gorillas grow silver hair as they age.
Some gorillas, not trusting the leadership of Blackback Rwanmutwe, left the group and joined the neighboring groups. Impressively, the group has retained its well-celebrated legacy of accepting other males to stick around and increase the family’s chances of survival in an unfriendly world. Today (2021), the Nkuringo gorilla group, under the leadership of Rwamutwe, has 12 strong members, and newborns that could be Rafiki’s, including:
- 4 Male Blackbacks—Rwamutwe (leader), Tabu (second in command), Kamara, and Muhoozi
- 4 Adult Females—Kwitonda, Kuhiirwa, Furaha, and Nderema
- 4 Infants.
From the UWA office at Nkuringo Sector, one has to drive about 20 minutes to Nteko ridge trailhead, then a one-hour walk down the valley to Kashasha river to find the Nkuringo group. The group is one of the most challenging gorilla groups to trek and is preferred by most seasoned safari travelers, like the famous 94-year-old lady who successfully tracked the Nkuringo gorilla family in 2013.
2. Bushaho Gorilla Family — 12 members (July 2021)
Bushaho is the second gorilla family UWA availed for gorilla trekking in the NKuringo Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Dominant Silverback Bahati leads the group.
Following unexplained individual dispersals from the Nkuringo family after Silverback Nkuringo’s death, researchers searched for their whereabouts in early 2012. They discovered that one of the former Nkuringo group’s silverbacks, Bahati, who had disappeared earlier, led a parallel-group. Some of the members in this group were former members of the Nkuringo group, among other non-habituated members.
What started as a follow-up exercise later led to close monitoring of the parallel group’s social behavior. The group was later habituated and named ‘Bushaho,’ meaning “there’s nothing” in the local language, inspired by the name of the place the gorilla family forages. Bushaho gorilla family is one of the three gorilla families available for gorilla trekking in the Nkuringo Sector, in the south of Bwindi.
Bushaho gorilla family is currently (July 2021) composed of 12 individuals, including;
- 1 Silverback—Bahati
- 1 Blackback—Kaheru
- 5 Adult Females—Nyankumu, Buzuru, Kaitesi
- 1 Sud-adult Female
- 2 Juveniles
- 2 Infants.
Bushaho group is one of the most entertaining gorilla families in Bwindi. Bahati 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. Despite these displays and the giant’s apparent physical power, Bahati is generally calm and nonaggressive unless physically threatened.
3. Christmas Gorilla Family — 6 members (July 2021)
Christmas is the third gorilla group available for gorilla trekking in the Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi. The group is aptly named after the dominant silverback, Christmas, born on Christmas day in the Nkuringo Group.
The formation of the Christmas gorilla family is fission from the Nkuringo group that didn’t need to go through the habituation process because all its members were from a fully Hbaituated family.
Christmas gorilla family currently (July 2021) has 6 members, including:
- 1 Silverback — Christmas
- 2 Adult Females — Kiza
- 1 Sub-adult Female – Guma
- 2 Juveniles — Owamani & ?
One of the adult females recently joined the Christmas group from the wild. She joined with her juvenile son, who’s always hiding under the bushes or behind the mother. Mother and son are not fully habituated for humans but comfortably stay a shy distance from the rest of the family when tourists visit.
4. Posho Gorilla Family — 14 Members (July 2021)
Posho gorilla family is still under the habituation process in the Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi. The dominant Silverback Magara leads the ground with 14 members.
According to internal sources in UWA, the Posho group will soon be available for the Habituation Experience in Nkuringo Sector, a very much anticipated move because the experience only occurs in the Rushaga sector.
Gorilla Trekking in Nkuringo Sector
Three trekking groups of eight tourists leave the UWA trailhead at the Nkuringo sector and head to the south of the Bwindi jungle to find and spend an hour with the mountain gorillas. These daily gorilla trekking excursions are the main attraction to Nkuringo village.
Though mountain gorilla groups usually maintain a maximum of 16 sq mi home range, their movements are unpredictable, and it could take approximately 30 minutes to one hour to find them. Treks in Nkuringo leave at 08:00 every day after a short briefing, at the UWA hall, for rules and regulations.
Two armed rangers for security and an expert tracker are assigned to each trekking group to take through the thick, pristine jungle and help them fruitfully spend one hour a safe distance of 32 ft (10 meters) from the mountain gorilla family.
All trekkers should carry two masks, one fresh one to wear when you meet the gorillas and the other at the briefing. They should have tested negative for COVID-19 before they’re allowed to trek. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, and waterproof hiking boots to navigate the uneven terrain that leads to the gorillas.
A gorilla trekking permit for the Nkuringo sector costs $700 for all non-resident foreign guests, which is the same permit price for all the other three Bwindi sectors.
Nkuringo sector is a preferred choice for travelers coming from Kigali and want to trek Bwindi gorillas.
Would you spend a day with a silverback and his family deep in the jungles of Bwindi?
Other Activities in Nkuringo
After the gorilla trekking experience in Nkuringo Sector, venture deep into the Bwindi jungle with an expert guide to learn about its wildlife and incredible ecosystems. Keep your binoculars peeled! Birding enthusiasts will delight in the exceptional array of unique bird species that call the Bwindi jungle their home.
As the first rays of the golden sun strike the earth, wildlife and birds start to stir, and the hustle and bustle of the day begin. Make the most of your day and rise early to appreciate the vibrant zones of the Nkuringo sector.
Embark on a fascinating walk that lures you deep into the lush rainforest—Marvel at dynamic, colorful creatures inhabiting dense vegetation. Crouch low and inspect the forest floor, darting with a diverse array of frogs, flashy butterflies, and shy forest animals. Hear the chatter of the trees, rustles of leaves, and the sky illuminated with vibrant fluttering as beautiful birds make their presence known.
Boasting over 350 unique bird species, a whopping 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics, the biodiversity in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is staggering. Little interference in this reserve ensures an untouched natural habitat. Don’t forget your binoculars for any hiking trail; you won’t believe what your eyes are telling you they see!
If you are after a birds-eye view, then encounter new heights, with a top-of-the-world tour, Ivy River trail, and Kashasha River trail, and seek out colorful birds and wild things that can’t be seen from the humming jungle floors.
Nature Walking Trails
Kashasha River Trail (17 km, 6-7 hrs)
The Kashasha River trail starts at Nkuringo Sector trailhead and meanders gently through the ruggedly beautiful landscapes of the park’s boundary with several viewpoints overlooking lush mist-shrouded valleys. The trail then penetrates the jungle to find the Kashasha River and walk along the river for an hour.
The meditative walk along the Kashsha River with calming sounds of babbling brooks and the natural soothing melodies of the forest will leave you relaxed enough to finish the second half of the walking trail.
On can take around trail going back to Nkuringo sector or continue the route to Buhoma sector. The latter is preferred by most hikers coming from Buhoma to stay in Nkuringo or coming from Nkuringo to connect to Queen Elizabeth National Park via the Buhoma sector.
Monkeys, duikers, bush pigs, and some of Bwindi’s world-renowned bird and butterfly species can be sighted on this nature walking trail. This trail is very popular with birders.
Ivy River Trail (4 hrs)
There are three ways to hike the Ivy River trail: the first one leaves Nkuringo, walking 12 kilometers to Nteko village and another 5 kilometers down the steep valley to Ivy River and back. The second starts at Nteko outpost, 12 km from Nkuringo, where your driver would have dropped you and hikes down the valley to the river and back. The third one is the most interesting, starting from Nteko, down the valley and across the jungle to the Buhoma sector on the northern side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The trail from Nteko, over the newly built bridge on River Ivy, and through the jungle follows a seemingly paved road abandoned in the ’80s for unexplained reasons. The trail is approximately a 5-hour walk to Buhoma and about 4 hours back to Nkuringo.
The path is averagely flat with no significant uneven terrain. You will encounter some famous forest inhabitants like primates, various bird species, and hundreds of butterfly species.
Buniga Forest Trail (3 hrs)
The Buniga Forest Trail showcases the symbiotic relationship the Batwa pygmies had with the wild Bwindi jungle before they were ousted to turn the forest into a protected reserve. To reveal their unique heritage and traditions to the world, the Batwa people, through their community organization NCCDF take tourists into their small pocket forests, showcasing their historical nomadic cultures when they occupied the jungles.
The Buniga forest trail is a USAID initiative started to help the Batwa community earn a living from tourism around the UNESCO world heritage site.
You’ll walk an hour to a Batwa enacted settlement, where you’ll observe how the women prepare, cook and serve a meal. You’ll engage with medicine men, learn about the lush forest flora’s medicinal properties, and hear ancient legends and traditional songs. You’ll earn about the Batwa’s fascinating way of life, from religion to their food gathering and hunting techniques, and how they made fires from rubbing sticks.
The Buniga forest trail is one of the most leisurely activities around Nkuringo, popular with many tourists. It starts at the NCCDF office located a few meters from the UWA office and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.
Suma Waterfall Trail (4 to 5 hrs)
Suma waterfall is a pristine 50-meter waterfall hidden away at the edge of Suma village about 7 kilometers from the Nkuringo sector. The waterfall rumbles on the edge of the village to later stream a river through a family-owned valley across the village, the sight of which is a magnificent wonder.
As the first rays of the golden sun strike the dying night, wildlife and birds tune their sound, set off Nkuringo hill, and slide through the waking villages to catch the first life movements of an authentic African village. You’ll see kids taking their animals to graze; mother’s heading out to their gardens with hoes of their shoulders and a basket balancing off their heads—Marvel at men and women plowing gardens steeped at 45 degrees. View the gorgeous, meditative landscapes that get revealed as you tumble through uneven terrain.
A woman with her kids controls the entrance to the falls, which is practically the entrance to their home. After paying the entrance fee (20,000 Uganda shillings), you’ll be escorted through the family beautifully cultivated farm on a valley that ends at the falls’ river. Going around a big rock as the rumbling waterfalls sound becomes louder, nature’s most magical creation, a roaring and powerful yet serene and calming waterfalls, is revealed. It’s hard not to look up at Suma waterfall and feel inspired; the power and the beauty always leave guests mesmerized.
Water is a perfect traveler because after falling off those crackling rocks, the path itself down the valley through the village, leaving you yarning for its graceful movements to stay with you. There’s a bench to sit and marvel at the beauty of Suma waterfall valley; sit and let the time walk away from your presence.
There’s a man famous for marrying 16 wives in that village; you might hear something about him or even visit his home.
The waterfall is surrounded by different species of trees that are home to plenty of endemic bird species that will interest bird watchers. Birds like the Northern Double Collared Sun Bird, the Violet Backed Starling, and the Great Blue Eared Starling are common sightings along the Suma Waterfall trail.
This activity is available and organized by Nkuringo Walking Safaris guides and birding experts, and it’s available at any time of day. However, the best time is in the morning hours.
Birding Trails (2-6 hrs)
Nkuringo sector, south of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, offers some of the best montane-forest birding in Africa. A birding foray of 350 species that fly through and up the forest canopy will be a delight for birding nads in ticking off this list on a 2-3 hour excursion that is hosted by an expert guide.
It is a journey of discovery, traversing along a winding trail framed by exotic and emerald vegetation through this ancient jungle and outside undulating terraced farms on the slopes of rugged western Uganda.
Winding through evergreen and montane marshes that intertwine across the lush forest floor, your birding trail leads you to enchanting falls, booming out a thunderous roar of pristine river water crushing against enormous rocks. Set in exquisite verdant terrain, the waterfalls that rumble in the Bwindi jungle is truly a sight to behold. Prolific with birds, the cacophony of chatter, and the cascading falls is a magnificent sound that will vibrate through your eardrums and bring life to your unconscious body.
Ambling along the Kashasha River Trail, be sure to look out for the White-tailed Ant Thrush and dapper francolin, the splendid Black Bee-eater, Yellow-eyed Black and African Sooty Flycatchers along the river.
Venture to the Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija, where sightings of the endemic and localized African green broadbill are frequent. Gaze up at the treetops and keep your binoculars handy to spot the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as the African Green Broadbill and Shelley’s Crimsonwing.
Nkuringo Village Walk
Organized by Nkuringo Walking Safaris, the village walk sets off at 08:00 or earlier from your lodge in Nkuringo, going through a misty waking town with the word ‘gorilla’ on all business names written at the top of the entrances.
Off the main road and onto a small path, you’ll follow your guide into a village spread across a valley with impressive structures popping up the hillside. The homesteads built on hills are pretty impressive, with a blanket of Bwindi swathe painting the fore drop. These meditative moments will capture your undistracted attention till you’re woken up by jubilant kids shouting “Mzungu.”
Any foreigner carrying a backpack and looking through a small reflective box in their hands is Mzungu to the village. “Mzunguuuu, … maaany!” will become a disruptive ringtone from a smiley bunch of kids singing from their home compounds. At least wave back and smile like an ignorant politician; you’re a guest,r and smiles don’t come cheap!
You’ll have a chance to visit a local homestead and witness their daily home activities like preparing meals, coffee, fetching water for home use, gardening, and listen to some of their stories.
Observe the local production on sorghum beer, see the local blacksmith at work, visit the Women’s craft center and enjoy dances performed by a youth group atop the Nkuringo hill viewpoint known as ‘Top of the World’ – Experience a 360° view of Bwindi, the Virunga and far into the DRC
Itineraries in Bwindi tend to be at a relaxed pace, in a small group, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a few minutes to do nothing but watch the world go by.
Your guide will generally take you on a tour of the village, with a stop at the local school, if it is term-time, along with a demonstration of local practices. On top of this, you can ask them to introduce you to locals and translate your questions, if necessary.
Where To Stay in Nkuringo
Nkuringo Sector is very remote with very few accommodation choices. It has two upmarket priced facilities, one mid-range priced, and very sparsely spread hostels. Most of the budget accommodation to access Nkuringo is more than 20 kilometers away from Nkuringo.
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge — $230 pp/n (with meals)
On the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, on a magnificent ridge, sits Nkuringo Lodge’s ten luxurious cottages. The chalets have a distinctive elegance and surprising luxury amid forest trees, flowers, and shrubs. Locally styled furnishings grace the spacious rooms, and light fills the space from your private viewing deck over the forest swath. There is also a private villa available, ideal for families or groups of friends traveling together. Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge is an 8-minute walk to the gorilla trekking trailhead at Nkuringo.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge — $831 pp/n (with meals)
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge sits on a forested ridge near the UWA’s Nkuringo Sector offices. This high-end luxury lodge has eight spacious cottages built from volcanic stone. Spectacular views stretch across the Virunga Volcanoes and the border into the Congo, where you can see the glow of Nyiragongo Volcano on a clear night. Warm and welcoming, each cottage features a bedroom, ensuite bathroom with a walk-in shower, and separate lounge. Comfortable chairs on the outdoor verandas provide the perfect vantage point to admire the unforgettable vistas of the forest below. Blazing fireplaces create a cozy glow as evening falls. Clouds Lodge is practically at the gorilla trekking trailhead.
Gorilla Heights Lodge — $240 pp/n (with meals)
If you fancy a city hotel setting in the jungle, Gorilla Heights Lodge is your choice for accommodation. The owner did not spare in making his property if lovish modern architecture facing into the Bwindi Jungle. The property has a swimming pool, and rooms have a bathtub that I doubt you’ll use in the Bwindi cold. However, if you want to retain your city’s lavishness, Heights is your choice. Gorilla Heights is about a 10-minute walk to the Nkuringo gorilla trekking trailhead.
Wagtail Eco Safari Lodge — $10 pp/b&b
Wagtail Eco safari camp is a budget accommodation establishment located in Rubuguri town, 11 kilometers from Nkuringo—a 30-minute drive. The lodge offers comfortable accommodation with a restaurant and bar services that fit the price.
Contacts: +256 772 987576
Chameleon Hill Lodge — $130 pp/sharing (with meals)
This exclusive, colorful, and vibrant lodge enjoys spectacular views across Lake Mutanda with the Virunga Volcanoes as a magnificent backdrop. Each chalet flaunts its own identity and color scheme along with high-quality, handmade furnishings that boast a unique Euro-African style. Chameleon Hill offers ten luxury chalets designed to provide guests with privacy and tranquillity. The spacious dining area with the adjacent wooden deck on top of the hill provides a bird’s eye view over the lake and beyond. The lodge is located about 18 kilometers, about a 1-hour drive to Nkuringo Sector.
Mutanda Lake Resort — $155 pp/single (with meals)
Perched on a Lake Mutanda peninsula in the shadow of the Virunga Mountains, the resort offers comfortable accommodation combined with spectacular views of southwestern Uganda’s rugged landscapes. It is a perfect base for gorilla trackers, lake loungers, volcano hikers, and bird lovers, as well as those looking for a mystical place in nature. Each cottage has a private veranda and en-suite bathroom. The lodge offers single, double/twin, and family/triple rooms with comfortable beds and mosquito nets. Mutanda Lake Resort is 19 km, about a 1-hour drive to Nkuringo Sector.
How To Get To Nkuringo
Nkuringo sector is located on the southern Bwindi Impenetrable National Park border, a few kilometers from the DRC border, at the Edge of the Albertine Rift. It is about 34 km (1.5-hour drive) from Kisoro Town (Kisoro airport) and about 83 km (2.5-hour drive) from Kable Town at coordinates 1°04’53.5″S 29°37’39.9″E.
Entebbe – Kabale – Muko – Nkuringo: The Entebbe, via Kabale and branching off at Muko (2 km from Lake Bunyonyi on Kabale-Kisoro road) to drive 38 kilometers on a dirt road to Nkuringo is the easiest road route to the Nkuringo sector. The route is 497 km (297 mi) with only 38 km (23 mi) on a dirt road easily navigable with a 4×4 vehicle in approximately 10 hours.
Entebbe – Kisoro – Mutanda – Nkuringo: Entebbe, Via Kabale, Kisoro, and then Nkuringo is the longest route from the International Airport. It covers about 527 km (327 mi) with just about 34 km (21 mi) on a dirt road from Kisoro Town and will take close to 11-hours of driving time.
Travelers can also join this route at Kisoro when coming from Rwanda via the Cyanika border in the south and DCR via the west Bunagana border. Both border entry points are about 19 km (11 mi) from Kisoro Town.
If you’re using the Katuna (Gatuna) border from Rwanda, drive 24 km (14 mi) on a paved smooth road to Kabale and then join the Kabale-Kisoro road. Then turn off at Muko (2 km from Lake Bunyonyi on Kabale-Kisoro road) to join the 38-km (23-mi) dirt road to the Nkuringo sector.
Ishasha Sector in Queen Elizabeth NP – Kihihi – Nkuringo: Coming from the Ishasha sector in Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can drive through Kihihi (airstrip) via Kanungu, Rutoma, and join the Kabale-Kisoro Highway at Rubanda and continue up to Muko, where you branch off the highway. This route is not paved and would need a 4×4 safari truck to navigate. This route is about 160 km (99 mi) and would take approximately 5-hours of driving time.
Alternatively, you can drive into Buhoma and go round the Bwindi Forest via Ruhija Sector for 148 km, which would also take about 5-hours of driving time on a dirt road.
Buhoma – Nkuringo Across Bwindi: If you’re pondering an outdoor adventure to include on a journey to Nkuringo to see the mountain gorillas, the Buhoma-Nkuringo walking trail is one I would recommend. It is Bwindi’s most famous hiking trail crossing the impenetrable jungle via Kashasha or Ivy Rivers.
There’s about 120 km of bone-jarring dirt road between Nkuringo and Buhoma. The 17 km across the jungle is not just the avoidance of the long 5-hour drive between the two but also a reward for walking in one of the earth’s oldest and untouched rainforest reserves.
If there’s one place we go above all others when we need to relax, it’s the forest. Walking between old trees is almost meditative and pretty much the antidote to stress. Hikers always come out of the jungle tired but happier than they went in.
Your driver, who would have driven around the jungle, will be on the other side to receive you and transfer you to your next destination.
The quickest air transfer to Nkuringo Sector from Entebbe International Airport is at Kisoro Airport, about 34 km (21 mi), an hour’s drive on a dirt road. Aerolink operates daily scheduled and chartered flights between Kisoro and Entebbe.
If you’re connecting flights to Masai Mara or Serengeti, you’ll fly from Kisoro to Entebbe then connect to the other destinations in the region. Also, flights connect to Kasese (Queen Elizabeth NP), Semiliki, Murchison Falls NP, and Kidepo NP. Ask your operator for available flights.
The alternative airport is at Kihihi, about 125 km (77 mi), a four-hour drive. Usually, Kihihi Airstrip is not a great option if you can fly to Kisoro. You can use it if you intend to take the Buhoma-Nkuringo trail across Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Kisoro – Lake Mutanda – Nkuringo Village Walking Trail
Suppose you fly into Kisoro and still have the energy to take on a village hiking adventure in the remotest parts of western Uganda. In that case, the Kisoro-Mutanda-Nkuringo African village walking trail is highly recommended.
Operated by Nkuringo Walking Safaris, the African village walking adventure trail starts from Kisoro town with an expert walking/birding guide, leading through homesteads and villages. Forget the staged village shows and welcomes: on this guided village walk, no one expects you, which makes for an authentic walk to pass by Africans in their usual way of life.
From the densely populated villages near Kisoro town, the trail leads down valleys, over steep ridges, and round beautifully cultivated gardens to reveal stunning views of Lake Mutanda and the imposing Virungas in the backdrop.
At Lake Mutanda, you’ll get into a dugout canoe with a rowing expert guiding you across the stunning Mutanda up to the resort, from where you’ll find your driver to transfer you to Nkuringo. There’s so much to learn, see and experience on this village trail; take it if you’re flying into Kisoro.
Best Time To Go
Nkuringo Sector is open for gorilla trekking all year round, but the best times to go are from June to August and December to February. At these times, the jungle trails are drier, less slippery, and your chance of not getting wet while viewing the gorillas is higher during these months. Also, the dry season gives a better experience, especially with photography.
However, the dry seasons of June to August and December to February are peak seasons in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Uganda as a destination. Gorilla permits for Nkuringo Sector are in high demand during the peak season, and I would highly recommend booking your permit months in Advance. Or take advantage of the low season numbers, especially if you’re traveling to Uganda on a budget.
During the wet seasons of March, April, May, October, and November, roads to Nkuringo may be challenging for some cars. However, the roads have been improved, and a moderate 4×4 can navigate the 43-km dirt road between Muko and Nkuringo with less trouble.
Gorilla trekking excursions in the Nkuringo sector go out every day throughout the week irrespective of the weather or public holidays. Besides, the tropical rainforest weather around Bwindi is quite unpredictable—it could rain any minute in and around the jingle. So, if you don’t mind the showers, visit Nkuringo and track mountain gorillas on any date on your calendar.
What To Carry
On this Uganda safari, you’ll be visiting the tropical rainforest regions when you come to Nkuringo, which means that your first items to carry should be things that will keep you dry during your gorilla trekking or hiking adventures.
- Carry a pair of walking books, preferably waterproof, to keep that muddy water off your toes.
- A poncho or light rain jacket will help prevent rain from drenching you while walking under the forest canopy.
- You’ll need dressing to cover your arms and legs. I suggest light trousers and long-sleeved shirts. You’ll be walking through an impenetrable jungle, cutting your way through thorny branches, and stepping on angry bugs that could retaliate on your yummy skin. Throw in a pair of hiking gloves. Cover up!
- Carry a decent sweater to keep you warm during the cold evenings.
- A tiny insect repellent spray is a great idea—it will help keep away the forest flies.
- You’ll need two facemasks (N95) for the gorilla trek.
- Your light backpack should have some energy bars and a flask of drinking water, plus your photography gadgets.
Remember to pack light because you may be walking for hours a day, and a heavy backpack will slow or cut your expedition short.