UWA has now set the dates for the formal launch of the most recently habituated and arguably largest gorilla group (34 members) visitors can see in any of the tracking locations in eastern Africa. Selected VIP guests and a few invited media organization representatives, including eTN, will travel to the site in Bwindi on September 22 and then do their trek into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Gorilla National Park to visit the new Nshongi group. This will be followed by a formal launch ceremony in Bwindi, which will be part of UWA’s UN Year of the Gorilla 2009 celebration and followed by another event in Kampala on September 26.
The Nshongi gorilla group, besides being the largest ever habituated, has other unique characteristics, such as three dominant silverbacks living harmoniously with their females and young ones, not seen elsewhere in the otherwise competitive group behavior common with these animals.
Bwindi is the best known Ugandan national park for visits to the gorillas with the Buhoma gate the main entry point. However, other access gates have now been created to decongest the main gate area and make it easier for tourists to reach their allotted gorilla group. Uganda’s second gorilla national park, Mt. Mgahinga, borders the Rwandan side of the trans-boundary ecosystem in which the habitat of the gentle giants is found, divided between Uganda, Rwanda, and the DR Congo.
Cooperation between the three national park and wildlife management bodies has notably improved in recent years, and funding from international organizations has awarded this newly-found spirit by establishing a US$90 million project aimed at protecting the gorillas and their habitat.
Gorilla tracking continues to be the best-recognized tourism and safari activity in Uganda, although the natural attractions and game in some of the other national parks, like Queen Elizabeth, Murchisons Falls, or Kidepo Valley hold their own fascinations and offer visitors a unique experience.
Uganda is home to 14 species of primates, the best known, of course, the mountain gorillas, and several other species like chimpanzees and golden monkeys have also been habituated for easy access by tourists. Chimpanzee tracking in particular can be done with relative ease at several places across the country and even a quick visit from Entebbe to the chimp sanctuary on Ngamba Island, Lake Victoria takes as little as half a day from the main hotels in Kampala. Access www.uwa.or.ug for more information about the country’s national parks or www.visituganda.com, the main website of the Uganda Tourism Board.