BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP) is a lush tropical rainforest-dominated protected area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. The park features steep mountains covered in the dense, misty and untamed rainforest where majority of its wildlife thrive from. Lying between an altitude of 1190 and 2607 meters, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park protects hundreds of amazing mammal species and other wildlife plus bird species.

Location of the park

Bwindi National Park is found in the Southwestern side of Uganda along the rift valley. It is popularly referred to as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the largest habitat to its bio-diverse wildlife species. This park spans in Kabale District and its boundaries stretch covering Kanungu district, at the border with the D.R. Congo.

The area coverage of Bwindi is 331 sq.km and it was established in 1991 primarily to host the endangered mountain gorillas. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to its rich faunal, floral and avifaunal species.

Floral and faunal species in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest N. Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park holds the highest density of floral and faunal species in East Africa. The park hosts more than 1000 flowering plants, 220 species of trees including endemic species and 104 ferns. More than 120 species of mammals also are also inhabited within this protected area including the endangered mountain gorillas; many amphibian species, reptiles and colorful butterflies like cream-banded swallowtail and the African giant swallowtail.

The common wild animals to see in Bwindi National Park include jackals, red-tailed monkeys, forest elephants, baboons, vervet monkeys, forest duikers, golden cats, l’hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.

Mountain gorillas in Bwindi N/Park (Uganda)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park protects an estimate of over 459 endangered mountain gorillas in its rainforest. The park is comprised of 20 habituated families of mountain gorillas and they are open for tracking in Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga and Nkuringo sector.

The birds in Bwindi

A total of 360 species of birds live in Bwindi and these include 23 Albertine rift endemics and forest species. The common species of birds to be identified on birding tour in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: handsome francolin, short-tailed warblers, Chapin’s flycatchers, Archer’s robin chat, African wood owl, Western green tinker bird, Doherty’s bush shrike, Cream-banded swallowtail, regal sunbird, African giant swallowtail, Kivu ground thrush, red-throated alethe, standard-winged nightjars, great blue turacos and more.

Tourism Activities in Bwindi Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park features many memorable activities. The park’s activities begin from the main trailheads: Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija.

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is the top adventure that Bwindi offers to the world. This is done in the 4 sectors and it is done once a day starting at 8:00 am. One habituated gorilla family is visited by a maximum of eight (8) guests a day and to engage in the trek, you should have a valid gorilla permit which costs USD 700 per person.

Briefing about gorilla trekking is first conducted at 7:00 am and you get to know the different guidelines to be followed. The actual walk to see gorillas begins at 8:00 am and all guests will have an experienced guide to lead their group that will comprise of 8 people. The long day walk estimated to last for 2-6 hours guarantees 98% sightings of gorillas in the wild.

To have a memorable gorilla trek, don’t forget to carry waterproof daypack, walking stick, bottled drinking water, snacks, wear long-sleeved shirts, trousers, a sweater, have a camera free of flashlight, rain jacket and insect repellents.

During the actual trek, you should observe a distance of 8 meters away from gorillas to reduce any chances of infectious diseases to spread to these endangered apes. The gorilla families to visit on Bwindi gorilla safari include Kahungye, Bikingi, Rwigi, Mucunguzi, Mishaya, Bitukura, Mubare, Kyaguriro, Oruzongo, Nkuringo, Bushaho, Bweza, Kutu, Rushegura, Christmas and many others.

Gorilla habituation

Gorilla habituation offers tourists opportunity to spend more quality time with semi-habituated gorilla families. It is all about following and observing every bit about how mountain gorillas behave. This is best done with researchers and park rangers. Before a gorilla family is opened for trekking, it undergoes habituation and this lasts for 2 years less or more.

Birding

Bird-watching in Bwindi allows you to look out for diversity of birds in the park including 23 Albertine rift endemics. The bird check-list for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP is long but the must-see birds include Kivu ground thrush, Chapin’s flycatcher, African wood owl, Archer’s robin chat, great blue turacos, black-breasted barbet, Africa green broadbill, Western green tinker birds, and regal sunbird. The main birding spots in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park include Bamboo zone, Mubwindi swamp trail and Waterfall trail.

Hiking/forest/nature walking

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is recognized among the best places with exceptional hiking trails. Most of the park’s trails take 3 to 4 hours or more and hikes are done with the lead of park guide trained by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The nature walking trails to explore on Bwindi hiking tour: Muzubijiro, Bamboo trail, Waterfall trail, Ivy trail, Kashasha river trail, and others.

Cycling

For enthusiastic bikers, cycling can be done excellently while on a safari in Bwindi Impenetrable NP. Not only will you be spotting plenty of primates, birds and butterflies, but also navigate around some nearby local communities; observe the rural setting of Uganda. You don’t need to worry about where to find the bikes, these are available at Ride for a Woman.

Batwa experience

The Batwa experience offers a rich cultural expedition about the Batwa pygmies, how they used to live and later, get entertained by locals. The Batwa lived in the dense Bwindi Forest as hunters and gatherers, left when the park was gazetted. A visit to their community adjacent to the park is a remarkable opportunity to explore in depth about their lifestyles, traditions, cultures, norms and practices.

When should you visit Bwindi?

Bwindi is always open for tourists on Uganda safaris. However, the most favorite time/season by majority of tourists is during the dry season. Each year, there are 2 phases of dry months to guide you when planning a tour to Bwindi: long dry months (June, July, August to September), and short dry season (December, January and February.

Lodges/accommodation

There are lodges to be booked at Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo. They include Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Sanctuary Retreats Gorilla Forest Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Gorilla Heights, Nshongi Camp, and others.

How to reach the park

The distance of Bwindi from Kampala is about 478 km and driving time is about 8-9 hours. Set off from Kampala along the Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale route or drive from Kigali connecting via Katuna/Chanika border. By air, you can also take a domestic flight from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrip.