While the whole world was on lockdown and travel restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda were celebrating the arrival of two babies.
During a post Covid-19 tourism recovery strategy Zoom meeting organized by the Uganda Tourism Board in early May, the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), confirmed that two proud mothers in Bwindi “have given birth but the sex of the babies isn’t known yet and we have no clear images.”
What is known is that they were born into the park’s Nshongi and Muyambi gorilla families. Kabagyenyi and Bweza are the respective mother and father of the Nshongi newborn. No word yet on who the Muyambi parents might be.
The undisputed wildlife superstars of Uganda and Rwanda are mountain gorillas. They evolved with the rise of the volcanoes half a million years ago, adapting to the terrain with thicker, darker fur and larger bodies than the western lowland gorillas found in the tropical forests of West Africa.
As of December 2019, the global mountain gorilla population was estimated at 1,063 individuals. On average, guests say the highlight of nearly every Adventure Consults’ safari in Uganda is tracking and visiting these gentle giants.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offers four gorilla tracking areas. Which one you end up exploring depends on availability at the time of safari booking confirmation. As of May 2020, Adventure Consults was leading tracking in these four zones:
- Buhoma: Most accessible and preferred section. In addition to gorillas, there’s a chance to visit with the indigenous Batwa people, Bwindi Community Hospital, have a cycling adventure around the village, participate in basket weaving, tailoring or cooking lessons presented by the local women’s project, tour coffee and tea plantations, or pop into the gorilla clinic at the Conservation Through Public Health center (Dr Gladys Kalema’s pet project).
- Nkuringo: One of the oldest gorilla tracking areas offers spectacular views of the Virunga volcanoes, crater lakes and farmlands. Tracking here requires some level of fitness because the terrain is a bit tough, but the gorilla viewing is outstanding. Among the other activities are visiting the Batwa community, a boat ride on Lake Mutanda and exploring hidden islands.
- Rushaga: This area has the largest number of habituated gorilla groups, which makes it perfect for Adventure Consults’ Gorilla Habituation Experience. Unlike normal tracking where guests spend just one hour with the primates, this special interest safari spans four hours and is limited to four guests per day. Because it’s more relaxed and less congested, the interaction with gorillas and the photos are even more awesome.
- Ruhija: With four gorilla families, this area is about a 1.5-hour drive from Buhoma. Tracking in this part of Bwindi Forest normally (but not always) entails a shorter walk compared to other areas. Ruhija also offers the park’s best birding opportunities, especially for those who venture into the bamboo zone or the Mubwindi Swamp that gives the park its name.