BWINDI NATIONAL PARK (The Ultimate Gorilla Experience)
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park lies suitably in southwestern Uganda and remarkably features as one of the most pristine montane national park in Africa. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is found in Uganda in the Southwestern Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift and its shared by three different districts which are; Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale districts. The distance from Kampala, which takes 10 hours is approximately 534Km from the city. The park is boardering the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With over 460 gorillas, Bwindi is home to almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. This true African jungle covers 33.000 hectares, with about 400 species of snakes, about 250 species of trees, 27 species of frogs, over 250 species of butterflies, lizards, chameleons, geckos, chimpanzees, gorillas and baboons.
It straddles just on the Albertine rift valley at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This 331 square kilometers’ protected area boasts of its expansive tropical rain forest that makes it one of the most significant water catchment areas in the pearl of Africa.
A visit to this spectacular wilderness area for a holiday gets you the best of Africa’s most experiential safari. It lies between elevation 1160 and 2607 meters.
Conserving Importance: A UNESCO designated World Heritage Site that provides habitat to Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees, two great African apes, both of which are listed in the IUCN Red Data Book as endangered animals. With 346 bird species recorded, 8 are known to occur only in the impenetrable forest and nowhere else in East Africa. Seven bird species are listed in the IUCN Red Data Book that includes the Dwarf Honey guide (NT), African Green Broadbill (rare), Kivu Ground Thrush (NT), Forest Ground Thrush (rare), Grauer’s Rush Wabler (Vulnerable), Chapin’s Flycatcher (rare) and Shelley’s Crinson wing (NT).
Specie diversity: At her size, specie diversity is great. There at least more than 120 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, 163 species of trees, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species.
Tourist attraction: Gorilla tracking is the major activity in this park. 19 families of mountain gorilla families have been habituated and only 8 tourists are booked per group per day. Forest trails leads to various attractions including rivers, waterfalls, swamps, special vegetation type and to high level of wildlife concentration like monkeys.
Size and accessibility: The 331km squared of jungle forests containing both montane and lowland forest. While there is a road that cuts through one section of the park, kabala-Ruhija-Buhoma road, most areas are only accessible on foot.
HISTORY OF BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
The Impenetrable Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1942, upgraded to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1992 and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1994. In the local Lukiga language, Bwindi actually means ‘Impenetrable.’ This double warning is apt, for Bwindi is all but impenetrable; 327km2 of tangled vegetation draped over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high, draughty ridges. But if the terrain is far from easy to negotiate, it is well worth the effort. A trek through this, one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests, in search of the endangered mountain gorilla, ranks among the world’s premier wildlife encounters.
The altitude of Bwindi is about 1,190m to 2,607m. While the highest point occurs in Rwamunyonyi hill on its Eastern edge, the lowest occurs in the northern most tip of the park. And it’s a tropical kind of climate, having 2 rainfall peaks, which start from March to May and then from September to November. The range of the annual mean temperature is from 7-150C as the minimum to 20-280C as maximum.
LOCAL COMMUNITIES NEAR THE PARK
The Batwa pygmies who were hunter-gatherers are believed to be the original inhabitants of the forest. And the other neighbouring people are the Bakiga and Bakonjo. Their population is in the range of 350 persons per square kilometre.
Things to see in Bwindi National Park
If there are a few naturally endowed destinations on earth then Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park won’t miss on the list.
A visit to magnificent protected area means a great opportunity for you to have magical encounters with a group of mountain gorillas that make up part of the 11 species of primate.
About 459 mountain gorillas are all confined within this dense rain forest park and this represents about half the total number of these endangered species that still live on earth today.
Besides, there are also many chimpanzees, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, L’Hoest monkeys and olive baboons among others.
There are also bats and rodents while for birders, this park is a host to over 350 bird species thus making it one of the most significant birding site in Uganda. About 23 of them are Albertine rift endemics and 14 are never sighted anywhere in Uganda. A Uganda birding tour in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park gets you incredible opportunity to spot out birds such as the African green broadbill, white tailed flycatcher, blue flycatcher, brown necked parrot, Frazer’s eagle owl a mention but a few.
If you are nature lover, a visit to this exceptional conservancy area equally gets you covered and while on nature walks, don’t miss to catch a glimpse at some of the 200 butterfly species that are all confined within this montane park.
Birds in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is Africa’s most biodiverse forest with an impressive 350 species of bird. There are 23 species endemic to the Albertine Rift and14 species are recorded nowhere else in Uganda, and include the African green broadbill, white- tailed blue flycatcher, brown-necked parrot, white-bellied robin chat among others. It’s slippery valleys, high draught ridges and a generally steep landscape makes it not only virtually impenetrable but a bird sanctuary.
Things to do on Uganda safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
When it comes to safaris, gorilla trekking is undoubtedly Bwindi’s prime safari experience. To get the best of this primate adventure, pay a visit to any of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park’s 4 trailheads that include Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Interestingly, each of these regions feature habituated families which guarantees you distinctly unique wildlife experiences.
You need $700 to help you secure your Uganda gorilla permit and you can book one through a reliable, trustworthy and recognized tour operator in Uganda or the reservation office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
The groups to explore while on Uganda gorilla safari in Bwindi National Park include Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Katwe which are confined within Buhoma sector; Rushaga sector features mainly Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye, Bweza and Nshongi while Ruhija sector is composed of Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro and Nkuringo sector has Nkuringo and Christmas.
Gorilla habituation experience
Perhaps your dream has always been to spend more time with a group of mountain gorillas while in the wild but the unfortunate bit of it is that you unsure of which destination to get too. If so, then Bwindi National Park has you covered up.
With Gorilla Habituation experience, you get the best of ultimate primate adventure. Two gorilla groups have been set aside for this specific experience and they include Bushaho and Bikingi. What is unique about this primate adventure is that it takes you the whole day to search/follow gorillas and it includes the 4 hours of magical encounter.
To take part in this most thrilling adventure, you need $1500 for you to secure a permit. Generally, habituation takes a process of making gorillas get used to human presence and lasts for about 2 years before they are officially opened for gorilla trekking.
For nature enthusiasts of Uganda safari, a nature walk in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park offers you a chance to get close to its natural wonders. It takes you through its distinct trails with unique wildlife and they include among others, Munyanga River trail which is popular for its primate species, birds and many others.
The waterfall trail-this takes you to the 3 scenic waterfalls, Muzubijiro loop-which gets you the best views over Bwindi forest, western rift valley, the Virunga volcanoes and others, Bamboo trail that is characterized by 14 different vegetation types, Ivi river trail which is ideal for bird watching, Buhoma village tourist walk that takes you to Batwa and Bakiga community, Rushura trail and others.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is truly a birder’s paradise. Over 350 bird species are all confined within this beautiful protected area and they include the western green tinker bird, chestnut throated apalis, Kivu ground thrush, montane oriole, African green broadbill, collared apalis, shinning African blue, common bulbul, white tailed fly catcher, fine banded woodpecker, short tailed warbler and many others
A trip to Bwindi isn’t only for you to have magical encounters with the rare mountain gorillas but also for you to get the best of African cultural experiences. A cultural tour in this pristine national park takes you to the Batwa and Bakiga communities. While here, you have a chance to enjoy thrilling traditions, cultures, dances, music performance among others.
Other thrilling safari activities for you to take part while on Uganda safari in Bwindi National Park include mountain biking, village walk and others.
Best time to visit Bwindi National Park
Safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can be done at any time of the year but most importantly, the dry and wet season are the 2 significant seasons any traveler on Uganda safari should put in consideration.
The dry season starts from June to September and December to February and this is normally more ideal time for safaris especially for visitors on gorilla tour. The rainy/wet season is equally perfect and begins from March to May and October to November.
How to get to Bwindi National Park
Bwindi National Park is reachable by road or air. By road, you need 8-10 hours to drive from Kampala or Entebbe to this park and a 4 WD safari car is very car for your navigation. From Kabale, drive for about 108 kilometers to Buhoma via Ruhija about 3 hours. Kampala-Buhoma route is good from Kabale to Ntungamo. From Ntungamo, drive for 45 kilometers to Rukungiri where you then drive via Kambuga to Kanungu then finally come to Butogota about 17 kilometers to Buhoma park headquarters.
A bus runs daily from Kampala to Butogota from which a taxi can be hired for the last 17km to Buhoma. There is no public transport to Nkuringo but vehicles can be hired in Kisoro.
Travellers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Visitors to Buhoma can charter planes to the grass Kayonza airstrip.
The other best option is for you to take a flight from Entebbe and then land into Kisoro airstrip. From here, you can easily connect to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Whereas those of you who are planning to set off via Kasese or Fort Portal, you can take the Katunguru route, Ishasha and Kihihi.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long and tough is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Bwindi Forest National Park
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest depending on the nature conditions at the time of your trek. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths. It can be very strenuous, it may be just a couple of hours but it can also be for a full day of up to 8 hours or more of hiking in hot, high altitude conditions. Therefore please be prepared for this by being as fit as possible.
How to book Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
First step of booking a Gorilla tracking Safari in Uganda is securing and purchasing a Gorilla Permit. You can only purchase this from Uganda Wildlife Authority and a Gorilla Permit costs USD700 per person per trek for Foreign Non-Residents, USD600 for East African Residents and USD70 for East African Citizens. Contact us Africa Tours Adventure and we will help secure the gorilla permit for you. Once you have your planned dates of travel, you will let us know and we check for availability of space for Gorilla tracking Experience with Uganda Wildlife Authority and once we confirm availability we will go ahead and book for you tentatively. We will then send you an invoice for you to make payment and once this is done, you will send us proof of payment so that we go ahead and secure the permit accordingly. After purchase we will send you a scanned copy of your permits for your records and perusal. Gorilla tracking is done in a group of 8 tourists plus park rangers tracking per group. There are 36 habituated mountain gorilla groups open for gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. With this, it means they are only 288 permits available for gorilla tracking in Bwindi per day making it hard to get last minute booking. It is always better to book your permit in advance atleast 3-5 month prior visiting so that you don’t miss out on the few permits available.
Safari lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most popular of Uganda’s national parks. Home to almost half of the remaining mountain gorillas, Bwindi is the most visited of all Uganda’s parks. If you are traveling for gorilla trekking or any activity in this park you can stay in either luxury or budget safari lodge which include the following;
- Buhoma lodge,
- Chameleon Hill Lodge,
- Gorilla Forest Camp,
- Clouds Mount Gorilla Lodge,
- Mahogany Springs Lodge,
- Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Gorilla Mist Camp,
- Rushaga Gorilla Camp
- Nkuringo Gorilla Camp,
- Silverback lodge Bwindi,
- Eco Marvels Gorilla Resort,
- Engagi Lodge Bwindi
- Buhoma community rest camp,
- Broadbill forest camp,
- Wagtail Eco Safari camp,
- Gift of nature lodge,
- Nshongi camp,
- Ruhija community rest camp
Popular Lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Luxury safari lodges include the following
Buhoma Lodge is an up market facility in Northern part of the park-Buhoma area, and it comes with elevated lounge area, solar power, bar, fire place, mosquito proof rooms, gravity fed water supply, dining facilities, Wi-Fi, recharging facilities with UK square 3 pin plugs 240v in the central area.
Chameleon Hill Lodge
Chameleon Hill Lodge is located on the shores of Lake Mutanda offering views of the Lake and the Virunga Mountains as well as the Bwindi National Park. For tourists tracking gorillas in the southern sector-Rushaga and Nkuringo this is the best place for you. It comes with 10 private cottages with distinct colors that feature the background. Its restaurant takes 20 people, five twin rooms.
Clouds Mount Gorilla Lodge
This lodge is situated in Nkuringo sector and stands at 2000 meters above sea level. It faces the 8 Virunga Mountains when you are within Bwindi National Park and also comes with eight cottages, lounge, bar, restaurant, reading room and many more.
Gorilla Forest Camp
Gorilla Forest Camp is situated in Buhoma sector to the north of Bwindi where the treks starts from just at the entrance of the park. It features eight chalets which comprises of adequate space, two queen sized beds, comfortable warm beds and huge bath hub overlooking the park. It has the lounge, camp fire place, dining area with silver service, small spa and bar.
Gorilla Safari Lodge
This features eight cottages offering en suite with hot and cold running water along the flush toilets, solar lights, fire place and private veranda, restaurant, bar and many others.
Mahogany Springs Camp
This features super and presidential suites with twin, double and triple, luxurious double doors and windows, private terrace overlooking its surrounding, advanced mosquito net;
Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge
This lodge is located in the north and comes with 8 bandas and stunning views of the forest canopy and has private terrace and en suite bathrooms.
Budget safari lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
For budget travelers, they can stay in;
Broadbill Forest Camp
This lodge is situated within Ruhija area, east of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and ideal for visitors who wish to track gorilla groups like the Oruzogo, Kyaguriro and Bitukura. It has four tents with self contained wash rooms and offers twin, double and single bed arrangement, bar and restaurant.
Buhoma Community Rest Camp
It comes with six en suite safari tents, 3 en suite cottages, six bed dormitory, two non self contained twin cottage bandas and campsite.
Other budget lodges in Bwindi National Park include Bwindi View Bandas, Gift of Nature Lodge, Nshongi Camp, Nshongi Gorilla Resort, Ruhija Community Rest Camp, and Eco Safari Camp.
For detailed information about planning a visit to Bwindi check out;