Bwindi Impenetrable National park is located in South western Uganda adjacent to the Albertine rift escarpments near Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga mountains. It covers 321 sq. km between 1160m and 2607m above sea level. Bwindi was gazette in 1991 as a national park and declared as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 1994.
Bwindi is famously known as a top Gorilla tracking destination. It’s is home to more than half of the world’s mountain Gorilla population. Gorillas are considered critically endangered with only 800 individuals in Bwindi and Mgahinga and the Virunga mountains of the Congo.
The Mubare Gorilla group was the first to be habituated for tourism in 1993 and now the groups have grown to 15 habituated groups. Gorilla tracking can be done at any time of the year and there are 120 gorilla tracking permits available everyday which can be attained with pre arrangement.
Bwindi Impenetrable offers more than just the mountain gorillas as it offers over 120 other mammals including chimpanzees, elephants black and white colobus monkeys. The National park is very prolific for birding. With a rich bird life including species endemic to the Albertine rift valley, the park offers over 350 bird species including 23 endemics. The tropical forested park has various rare and some of the oldest African plant species. The park is rich in butterfly species and has over 84% of the country’s species.
It is a source of five major rivers flowing into Lake Edward offers numerous forest trails that lead to scenic waterfalls and numerous rift valley view points
Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Needless to say, this is the most popular activity in the park. There are 15 Gorilla groups to track and each group can only been tracked by a group of 8 people. This means that there are only 120 Gorilla tracking permits available at $700 per day and they have to be pre-booked at the Uganda wildlife Authority. Each group can stay with the Gorillas for up to one hour of interaction. Gorilla tracking is done throughout the year. This sure is a must have on every bucket list. A gorilla tracking permit goes for $700 per person except in the low season in the months of April and early May where
The gorilla habituation activity can only be done in Bwindi at $1500 and this is done for close to 4 hours a day. This involves getting the gorillas used to the presence of people but without getting them too used that they change their true habits.
The Batwa experience
The Batwa are considered the oldest surviving population of the great lakes region and are the world’s shortest people. The Batwa experience involves tracking them in their homesteads in the forest and experiencing, learning about their lifestyle. The funds collected from tourism help the Batwa to afford basic needs and some luxuries like alcohol.
With over 350 species, birding is a very prolific in the national park because of the presence of various vegetation, water sources and the Albertine rift valley. The park has up to 23 endemic species and the and you can find birds like the honey guide, yellow eyed black fly catcher among others.
Preparing for Primate tracking
For your own safety and the protection of the primates, you are required to follow a few rules along the forest trails.
- Primates can catch your diseases, you must not enter the forest if you are sick.
- Minimum Age for tracking is 12 years
- Do not leave litter in the forest
- If you need to urinate or defecate, do so off the trail. Bury your waste in a hole (30 cm deep) along with any toilet paper.
- Keep as quite as possible in the forest, you will see more.
- Keep at least 8 meters (25 feet) from the primates at all times.
- Do not mimic primates’ vocalization (you do not know what you might be saying!)
- Do not eat near the primates.
- Do not chase the primates
- Do not use flash photography.
Bwindi Impenetrable can be accessed by road though Masaka, Mbarara to Buhoma (460mk) the main circuit circles through Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth or through Rukungiri, Kihihi to Buhoma.
Ruhija trail head can be accessed from Kampala to Kisoro after Kabale town. Rushaga and Nkuringo trailheads can be traced midway Kabale-Kisoro road from Kisoro town.
The park can also be accessed by air form Entebbe International airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Kisoro for trailheads of Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija and to Ishasha for Buhoma trailhead.
Luxury: Gorilla safari lodge
Trackers safari lodge
Buhoma Haven Lodge
Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge
Gorilla valley lodge
Buhoma community camp
Broadbill forest camp
Bwindi backpackers lodge
Bwindi view bandas