Buhoma Sector | Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Buhoma sector is one of the 4 sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that a traveler can choose to visit to see some of the mountain gorilla groups. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has 4 sectors that tourists can choose from to trek gorillas. This is the most sought after sector by tourists who wish to trek gorillas in Bwindi. Located in the northern region of the park in the district of Kanungu, Buhoma sector is the closest to Kihihi airstrip and also Kabale, making it the easiest to be accessed and trekked. The park has a low altitude compared to the other sectors of the park so trekking the gorillas here is less tedious. Buhoma is the home to the very first habituated gorilla family that was availed to tourists to track. The Mubare gorilla family was availed in 1993 and that was the birth of gorilla trekking in Uganda. The park now boasts of 5 gorilla families, say;
- Mubare gorilla family: This is the oldest gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It was found in the Mubare hills deep in the Bwindi forest and was habituated. The family started with 12 members with Ruhondeza as the dominant silverback and it grew to more than 18 members in a few years. They were however attacked by wild gorillas who took many female gorillas from the group. Out of frustration, Ruhondeza quit the leadership of the family. He sought refuge in a nearby community that welcomed him. He died a few years down the road and he was buried just near the Uganda Wildlife Authority Buhoma headquarters. You can visit the grave when in the area. The group now has only 5 members.
- Habinyanja gorilla family: This group got its name from a local word ‘Nyanja’ which literally means river, where it was first sighted. This family during the time of habituation had 30 members with Mugurusi as the leading silverback. With time Mugurusi died of old age and it led to power struggles as there were 4 silverbacks in the group who all wanted to take leadership of the group after their father. The most dominating two silverbacks, Rwansigazi and Mwirima shared power for some years however after some years the group split with Rwansigazi staying as leader of Habinyanja gorilla family and Mwirima having a new family named Rushegura. As time went on, Rwansigazi moved and left his son Makara as the family leader. Habinyanja now has 16 members. This group moves daily and it covers a wider part of the Buhoma sector compared to the other groups.
- Rushegura gorilla family: This group broke away from Habinyanja in 2002. Mwirima the then lead silverback who broke away with 8 members grew the family group to 19 by April 2010. He was a heroic fighter who used to fight off any rival and attack from any other group. He protected his family with all his might. Having had 5 adults bonded to him, he sired a number of offsprings, no wonder the group grew larger sooner. The family is however led by another blackback after Mwirima’s death in 2014. The group now has 15 members with Kabukojo as the leader.
- Katwe gorilla group: This is a newly habituated group in Buhoma and it comprises 9 members with 1 lead silverback, 2 blackbacks, 4 adult females and 2 infants. They were announced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in 2018, bringing the total number of gorilla groups in Buhoma to 5.
Gorilla trekking permits in Buhoma are highly demanded since almost all travelers who wish to visit Bwindi particularly request for Buhoma, thus having them be sold out sooner than the rest of the sectors. Travelers are therefore advised to book way in advance if they really want to track gorillas from Buhoma. The cost of gorilla permits is the same irrespective of the sector. Foreign non-residents pay $700 while foreign residents pay $600 and East African residents pay UGX250,000 only. You can book your permit through the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala or have a trusted tour operator do it for you. This permit allows travelers to trek gorillas for only one day and spend only an hour with them. A total of 8 persons per day can track a particular gorilla group.
The Buhoma sector not only has gorilla trekking to offer to travelers. It also has Bakiga and Batwa community visits that tourists can take part in, and they can learn of their history and way of life say how and what they cook, the handicrafts they make and much more. Hikes through the forest that have carefully developed trails say the Ivi River trail, Rushura trail also offers a wonderful experience to tourists as they will visit the different waterfalls, not forgetting bird watching to the birders, chase after butterflies with the help of knowledgeable and professional guides. The handicrafts that one can purchase from the different shops within the park contribute greatly to the locals.
Buhoma sector is easily accessed by both road and air depending on the travelers’ preference and time to spare. By road, it is 8-9 hours’ drive with stops on the way says at the Equator in Kayabwe, from Kampala, travelers access Buhoma through Kibale. It is about a 3 hours’ drive from Kibale to Buhoma if using a 4WD vehicle. The park can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth National Park through the Ishasha sector on a 4-5 hours’ drive, giving travelers an opportunity to see the tree-climbing lions and other wildlife.
Alternatively, travelers can do a flying safari instead of having a long drive. Charter flights from Entebbe or Kajansi to Kihihi airstrip can be arranged and it takes only an hour. From Kihihi a drive of at least an hour to the park with your arranged transport means will get you to your accommodation soon enough.
There are various choices of upmarket, midrange and budget accommodation that one can choose from. It is advised that travelers book accommodation that are within reach of the gorilla trekking starting point. Mahogany Springs Lodge, Buhoma Haven lodge, Buhoma community rest camp among others are some of the lodging facilities that one can choose from.
Why is the Buhoma sector demanded most than the rest?
- The sector is closer to other parks, for example, Queen Elizabeth National Park via the Ishasha sector where travelers can have a combined safari with Bwindi without going through long travels. Kibale and Rwenzori National parks are also nearby.
- Many accommodation facilities to choose from
- There are many conservation and volunteer projects in Buhoma that one can take part in.
- The history of the sector, of it being the very first to have a habituated gorilla group.
Buhoma sector is undoubtedly the most sought after sector in Bwindi for reasons mentioned, booking way in advance will guarantee you tracking gorillas from your preferred sector. Reach out to a trusted tour operator to handle it all for you.