Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in the kanungu district situated along the democratic republic of Congo bordering the Virunga national park, on the edge of the Albertine Rift covering an area of 321km2 it lies at an altitude between 1,160 and 2,607m above sea level and it was designated as a national park in 1991, it became popular to the world because of the gorilla trekking and it was later in 1994 enlisted as one of the world heritage site because of its rich diversity in hosting different flora and fauna and being a home to the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The forest lies on steep slippery valleys with ridges and hilltops.
Gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park:
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is divided into different trail heads where the gorilla trekking takes place. The gorillas habituated for tourism are in families found in different trailheads. Tourists visiting Bwindi should first confirm which trailhead they are allocated before booking a hotel. After knowing your allocated trailhead then your free to book the hotel in that location. However, only 21 gorilla families are habituated and can be accessed by visitors in four trail heads include; Buhoma, Ruhiga, Rushaga and Nkuringo.The Mubare gorilla group in Buhoma was the first to be habituated for tourism in Bwindi in April 1993.
However, their much more activities done in Bwindi than gorilla trekking, forest trails lead to scenic waterfalls and rift valley view points while community walks through local villages providing insights into the lives of the batwa pygmies and bakiga people living alongside the forest. Bwindi is also one of the Uganda’s top bird watching destinations with many Albertine rift native present, particular in the high, Ruhija sector.
Wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
The park is ahome to about 120 mammal species, 310 butterflies, 88moths, 200 trees, 51 reptiles. These mammal species include; elephants, duikers, buffaloes, golden cats, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, black-fronted duiker, gorillas, yellow-backed duiker, clawless otter, side-striped jackal, civet, numerous bats, rodents and several primates for example blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey, black and white colobus monkeys, Red tailed monkey, chimpanzees, baboons, and the star of Bwindi; the mountain gorillas.
In Bwindi impenetrable forest national park birdlife is also exceptionally rich with 357 species of birds and is also known as the best place for birding in Uganda because of its unique species of birds. These include 23 Albertine Rift endemics such as the short tailed warbler, Shelley’s crimson wing, African green broadbill and the blue- headed sunbird and fourteen exist nowhere else in Uganda. These include; brown-necked parrot and the white-bellied robin chat among others. Birding in Bwindi takes place mainly in the Mubwindi swamp in Ruhija sector of the park and on the water trail in the buhoma area.
How to get to Bwindi impenetrable national park.
By Road: From Kampala, the route depends on which trailhead your visiting. from Kampala to buhoma trailhead is about 460kilometers.The most direct route from Kampala follows a surfaced road to Rukugiri via Mbarara and Ntungamo, a dirt road then winds through the highlands to Buhoma via Kihihi and Butogota. Ruhija trailhead is easily accessed from the Kampala Kisoro road, turning north from the surfaced highway 18km beyond kabale town.The Rushaga and Nkuringo trailheads can be reached using dirty roads leading west from muko, midway on the surfaced kabale-Kisororoad and north from Kisoro town. It can also be reached from the north through ishasha sector of queen Elizabeth national park having a chance to see the tree climbing lions, Bwindi impenetrable national park is 160kilometers from mweya and 62kilometers from ishasha.
By Air: There always schedule flights from Entebbe international Airport to Kihihi town connecting to buhoma area or Kampala’s kajjansi Airfield to Kisoro connecting to Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija.
Activities and attractions in Bwindi.
Mountain gorilla trekking:
Bwindi is a home to half of the endangered mountain gorillas. Gorilla tracking is done after obtaining your gorilla trekking permit from the Uganda wildlife Authority(UWA). Gorilla trekking can last from a few hours to a whole day depending on their location. Bwindi has got 15 habituated gorilla groups that are trekked in four trailheads. Three of these groups are found in Buhoma in the northwest Bwindi, four in Ruhija in the east and eight in Nkuringo and Rushaga in the southern part of the park.only 8 individuals from 15years are allowed to visit the gorilla families perday. You are advised to always book your gorilla permits at least 3months before. It is always good and enjoyable to go for gorilla trekking when one is in good health conditions otherwise you will not trek because we humans share 98% of our DNA with the gorillas so you can easily pass diseases to each other. It is advised to always first go for the briefing on rules and regulations of gorilla trekking before heading to the jungle to start the trekking. Encouraged to stay at least 8m from the gorillas and not to look directly in their eyes for an extended period of time.Your reminded to always wear long sleeved clothes in order to avoid scratches during the trekking in the forest, carry boots, a rain poncho and lots of water. The trekking always starts at 08:30am.
Bwindi forest is oneof the best place for birding in Uganda. For a visitor specifically doing birding, then Bwindi should be your choice. Bwindi has got four trailheads and all offer good birding opportunities. The River Lvi trail between Buhoma and Nkuringo is recommended, as is buhoma’s forest edge Munyaga River trail. Ruhija bamboo trail and Mubwindi swamp trail are famous for Albertine Rift endemics including the localized green broadbill.
Though gorilla trekking is the main attraction, also other walks provide more relaxed opportunities and these walks start at 09:00 in the morning and in the afternoon at 14:00. You walk along with the Uganda wildlife ranger guide for protection incase you meet a wild animal.Munyanga River trail, in the valley below the buhoma trailhead, it provides ashort walk with achance to view birds and primates along the forest edge. Rushura Hill Trail a trail that provides expansive views across the plains of Albertine Rift valley, Ivi River walk, Muzabajiro loop walk around the Rukubira hill a chance to view the Bwindi forest, the Albertine Rift valley and the Virunga volcanoes.
Community walks and cultural experiences:
Bwindi forest is full of activities and cultural experiences. You can choose to go for batwa experience commonly known as people who lived many years in the forest to know more about their lifestyles on how they lived in the forest, how they stayed with the gorillas and other animals for all those years.Other walks include; the Buniga forest walk at Nkuringo controlled by the batwa guides. Nyundo community Eco trails, Buhoma community toursthe area of interest, visiting the hand craft shops, batwa community interacting with the local batwa and the bakiga people.
When is the best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park:
The park can be visited all year round. There two most popular seasons when most travelers visit the park. the best time to visit Bwindi impenetrable national park is between June and August, then again in December through to February. These are the dry months, with the sunny skies and clear days perfect for wildlife viewing.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Accommodation facilities at the four trailheads all offer midrange, budget and luxury facilities. Some of these popular facilities include; Bwindi lodge, Buhoma lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, Mahogany Springs, Buhoma Haven lodge, Buhoma community Rest Camp, Silverback lodge in Buhoma sector. Chameleon Hill, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Valley Lodge in Rushaga Sector. Bakiga Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp, Agandi Lodge in Ruhija sector. Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Nkuringo Safari lodge in Nkuringo sector. Choose the best place to stay in Bwindi including safari lodges, tented campsites, open camping and more others.