Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Approximately 1000 mountain gorillas remaining in the world and only found in East African mountain rain forests in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest protects a little more than half of the total number of mountain gorillas in the world.
To see the mountain gorillas, it’s mandatory that you acquire a gorilla permit which will cost you US$600 in Uganda and US$1500 in Rwanda from the governments.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a wilderness that lives up to its name. Situated in the south-western part of Uganda, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a captivating forest, home to a plethora of birds, uniquely-adapted forest elephants, and lush foliage. The rich and diverse ecosystem supports the mountain gorilla, chimpanzee and humans. Named a UNESCO Heritage Site, Bwindi is arguably the highlight of a Ugandan safari.
The main attraction in Bwindi is its mountain gorillas. Of its population of approximately 400 individuals, more than a hundred are habituated. Bwindi has more than 120 mammal species, the second most of any park in Uganda (after Queen Elizabeth NP). Most of these are small forest species. Elephant is the only one of the Big Five that is present, although they are rarely seen. More regularly encountered are some of the six antelope species, which include bushbuck and several types of duiker.
Bwindi is located on the edge of the Albertine Rift, a region harboring the most vertebrates in any region of a comparable size in Africa. It contains a huge number of endemic and threatened species and is therefore a hotspot in conservation. Butterflies are something of a specialty, with an impressive list of 220 species, eight of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift and three only occur in Bwindi. Bwindi is home to ten primate species including the rare l’Hoest monkey and black-and-white colobus. Chimpanzee are present but not habituated and therefore rarely seen.
Bird-watching in Bwindi
Bwindi is home to so many unique birds, some of which are only found here. Binoculars are essential as the lush foliage can often hide secrets in their high branches. Highlights include Shelley’s crimson wing, Chapin’s flycatcher, the African green broadbill, Green tinker bird and Uganda’s national bird; the Grey-crowned crane. The chitter-chatter of birds in the canopy above gives this forest a fairytale-like ambiance.
Chase waterfalls and butterflies
The Bwindi forest has many hiking trails. A long walk in this charming forest will lead to many surprises. Expect gorgeous waterfalls, cool pools of water and pretty butterflies, as well as the sparkling Munyaga waterfall. Interspersed among the ferns, bamboo, and orchids are the ‘fairies’ of the forest; thousands of dazzling butterflies, with the striking Blue salamis as the stars of the show.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking is a hike into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a jungle that is home to mountain gorillas. The trek involves getting a little dirty and bushwhacking through thick jungle with an experienced local guide to find a troop of habituated gorillas.
Mountain Gorillas can only be found in the Virunga mountains in the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda and also in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda holds 60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world with about 400 of them residing in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Bwindi is the most popular place to trek the gorillas in Uganda.
Bwindi is divided into four regions: Buhoma region, Ruhija region, Rushaga region, and Nkuringo region. Make sure to book your accommodation where your gorilla trekking permit is issued. Or contact your accommodation to help arrange your permits.
Finding the gorillas can take anywhere from one to five hours (sometimes longer). These are wild animals and the trackers have to locate where the gorillas have gone each day. It took our group less than two hours to find the H group deep in the jungle. The trek was mildly difficult, but our whole group ranged in age from 26-60 and everyone kept up just fine. I would say that if you are in at least decent shape and health a gorilla trek in Uganda will prove enjoyable.
If you’re worried about the trek we would recommend hiring some of the local porters. They porters come from the surrounding villages and cost $15 day plus a tip.
The Batwa – Forest Native Pygmy People
The Batwa pygmy people have mastered the art of jungle survival. These hunter-gatherers are experts in how to make the most of this ‘impenetrable’ forest. A highlight on a trip to Bwindi is meeting these local people and being absorbed in their culture and practices. These people are known as the “keepers of the forest”. On this cultural journey, you’ll learn about how these accurate hunters use a simple but powerful bow and arrow to hunt animals. Enjoy song and dance with these fascinating people.
How to get to Bwindi
If visited as part of a Ugandan tour, Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth NP (two to three hours), or from Lake Mburo NP (four to six hours). If coming straight from Entebbe or Kampala, the trip by road will take about six to eight hours. During the rainy season, travel by 4WD vehicle is necessary. Bwindi can also be reached by scheduled or chartered flight.
Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is where most visitors enter the country. It is about 46km/29mi from the capital city of Kampala. It is possible to fly by domestic carrier from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi Airfield) to Kihihi or Kisoro near Bwindi. Chartered flights to Bwindi can also be booked.
Best Time to Visit
Bwindi is open for gorilla trekking all year long, but the best times to go are from June to August and December to February. At these times, the forest trails are drier and therefore less slippery. Also, your chance of a dry gorilla viewing experience is higher during these months. This might result in a better experience and photography will be easier.