BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Pearl of Africa has became famous from the Mountain Gorillas that inhabit the Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is touched by a splendor with a variety of plant species and multiple colors and not forgetting its profusion of brilliant life. Half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population resides in this lush landscape Bwindi Forest, a close encounter with gentle giants on a gorilla safari in Uganda is an extraordinary African experience that will always stay with you for a lifetime.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, covering 32,092 ha, is one of the largest areas in East Africa which still has Afromontane lowland forest extending to well within the montane forest belt. Located on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley and believed to be a Pleistocene refugium, the property is a biodiversity hotspot with possibly the greatest number of tree species for its altitude in East Africa.

It is also host to a rich fauna including a number of endemic butterflies and one of the richest mammalian assemblages in Africa. Home to almost half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, the property represents a conservation frontline as an isolated forest of outstanding biological richness surrounded by an agricultural landscape supporting one of the highest rural population densities in tropical Africa. Community benefits arising from the mountain gorilla and other ecotourism may be the only hope for the future conservation of this unique site.

Gorillas in the mist - Uganda Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas

A day in the life of a mountain gorilla starts at sunrise as they begin looking for food for most of the morning hours spending most of their time follaging, resting and grooming each other. Unlike the other primates, the gorilla lives mainly on the ground and staying within a kilometer per day within their territory of about 20 square kilometers.

A baby Gorilla weighs 2.5kg at birth but its weight grows twice faster the growth of a human baby and at six years a Gorilla is about 1.20 meter tall and weighs almost 70 kg.

Male Gorillas strictly reach maturity at 10 years and their black back starts turning into grey making them silverbacks and here he will leave the parental group or join other males for some time, before attracting females to join them and form their own Gorilla family.

Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking is one of the most sought out activity in Uganda and Rwanda, the trekking experience is like no other with the company of the mountain gorillas as they go on with their daily routine of follaging, resting, grooming each other with the  female gorilla nursing the little ones and silverback keeping a close eye on his family as their protector.With a population of over 1000 individuals remaining in the world, half of the population inhabit Bwindi Forest. Mountain gorillas are one of the most endangered and threatened species in the world with  man that posing the greatest threat to their survival through civil war, poaching, habitat loss and human diseases have all had detrimental effects to mountain gorilla populations.

Gorilla Habituation Experience

Gorilla Habituation Experience is when visitors spend 4 hours in the company of the gorillas alongside researchers and other ranger guides as they try to habituate a group to make it get used to being in the presence of human beings without running away or getting violent.

This experience  can only be attained in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National  Park in the Rushaga sector as you trek into the Forest to a gorilla group that is being habituated.

The major difference between a normal Gorilla Trek and the Gorilla Habituation is Gorilla Trekking is observing the gorillas in their natural Habitat, taking photographs of that memorable time while Gorilla Habituation Experience is your active participation in the Habituation process and a learning experience.

gorilla trekking in Uganda

Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Though Bwindi Forest is mostly known for its famous Gorilla Trekking activities, they are plenty of things to do when you visit the park and they include;

Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking is one of the most sought out activity in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The trekking experience is like no other with the company of the mountain gorillas as they go on with their daily routine of follaging, resting, grooming each other with the  female gorilla nursing the little ones and silverback keeping a close eye on his family as their protector.

Gorilla Habituation Experience

Gorilla Habituation Experience is when visitors spend 4 hours in the company of the gorillas alongside researchers and other ranger guides as they try to habituate a group to make it get used to being in the presence of human beings without running away or getting violent.

Forest Walks

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has more to offer then just gorilla tracking, five different day-trails, ranging from 30 minutes to 8 hours in duration, offering the opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of the forest and to see several different monkey species. For birders, roughly 190 bird species have been recorded in this area, ten of which are either listed in the Red Data Book or else endemic to the Albertine Rift.

  • The Muyanga River Trail lies outside the national park and so no guide is required. It takes roughly 30 minutes, starting at the end of Buhoma road, from where it follows the Bizenga River to its confluence with the Muyanga, before returning to Buhoma Road. Birding can be good in the early morning and late afternoon.
  • The Waterfall Trail is best for primate species and general scenery and it takes about 3 hours and leads for 2km along an abandoned road before crossing the Muyanga River several times on the ascent to the 33m-high waterfall. Bathing is permitted at the bottom of the waterfall and often required after the relatively tough hiking.
  • Mazubijiro Loop Trail and Rushara Hill Trail, both take about 3 hours and offer good views across to the Virunga Mountains.
  • Bwindi Walking Safari

gorilla resting in bwindi - gorilla flying safari

Buhoma is on the Northern side of the rainforest and Nkuringo is on the Southern side, near the town of Kisoro. The drive between Buhoma and Nkuringo takes about 7—8 hours, depending on road and weather conditions, a more pleasant alternative to driving is hiking though the rainforest.

There are two walking trails between Buhoma and Nkuringo:

  • Ivy River Trail: This trail starts off with a 7km walk along a murram road with the rainforest on the right and the river on the left. Upon reaching the forest, the trail ascends and descends gently through beautiful areas of rainforest. A wide diversity of wildlife can be spotted during the walk, including monkeys, duikers, birds and many colourful butterflies. The Ivy River trail takes about 6.5 hours in total.
  • Kashasha Trail: This is the most direct trail through the forest and is about 13 km in length. The Kashasha trail begins at the Nkuringo Park Office before proceeding down a steep slope through community land to reach the park buffer zone. The route passes the junction of two rivers inside the forest where after a further 20 minute ascent the trail meets the alternative route, the Ivy River trail, inside the forest about 90 minutes from Buhoma. The Kashasha trail takes approximately 4-5 hours from Nkuringo to Buhoma and 6-7 hours from Buhoma to Nkuringo. The trail offers visitors a close up experience of the natural wonders within a rainforest environment, including a number of monkey species. Birds are prolific in Bwindi forest and your guide will points these out to you during your walk.

Cultural Walk

A chance to have a taste of the Ugandan lifestyle as you meet with locals of many different generations and see the way of life in this developing country. One of the highlights of this cultural visit is a visit to a traditional healer or medicine man from the DRC who will show you how bananas are used for a children’s drink, to make beer and also the local spirit.

Batwa Experience

This activity requires a free day in Bwindi where you  will trek into the forest to a Batwa village and meet the community. Here you will learn about their life style, past and present. They will invite you into their homes and show you their traditional hunting techniques and craft making skills.

batwa people

Bwindi Community Health Centre – Dr. Scott’s Clinic

Bwindi Community Health Centre or as it is affectionately know, Dr Scott’s Clinic, was started by US Missionaries Scott and Carol Kellermann in 2003 when they came to Uganda with a mission to the Batwa Pygmies who had been evicted from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest after it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.

BCHC provides different levels of health care to different patients from the nearby parishes including all health problems, delivery of babies, vaccinations, treatment of TB and when they become seriously ill and need admission to the wards.

Birding

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of Africa’s number one Birding Site with many species endemic to the forest. As one of the prime birding destinations in Africa, it is home to over 347 species of forest birds recorded in the Park, at least 70 out of 78 montane forest bird species occurring in the Albertine Rift region are found in the forest, and 22 of the 36 endemic species in the region.

Mountain Bike Rides

Opt for a fascinating village walk on a bike with a well trained guide where you will ride into the Forest such as the Ivy River Trail.  The average Bike Ride is 3 hours or longer in length with much to see along the trail or road.

Craft Shopping

Buhoma village has many craft shops and stalls that clients can visit as they are just a short walk away. Buying the crafts is an initiative as you will supporting the locals in making their lives better as you purchase their crafts.

Please be expected to haggle as it is more or less customary in Uganda and can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience as you enjoy the various activities in this renowned and amazing park.

Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Forest is one of the most frequented and visited park in Uganda as you tourists seek the remaining endangered gentle giants in their natural habitat thus they variety of lodginging options around this area ranging from budget to mid range to upmarket depending on the traveller’s preference. Some of the lodges are as below:

  • Bwindi Lodge
  • Buhoma Lodge
  • Gorilla Forest Camp
  • Mahogany Springs Lodge
  • Gorilla Safari Lodge
  • Chameleon Hill
  • Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
  • Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
  • Bwindi Backpackers
  • Rushaga Gorilla Safari Camp
  • Buhoma Haven
  • Buhoma Community Rest Camp

Best time to see mountain gorillas /visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain gorillas can be seen year-round, therefore the best time for trekking is ultimately up to you. The dry seasons, from mid-December to February and from June to September, are considered the most comfortable times for trekking and the trails are in better condition.

However, there are some advantages of trekking in the wet seasons (March to May and October to December). During these months, gorillas tend to stick to the lower slopes as food is plentiful and temperatures are milder, therefore trekking times can be much shorter.

How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to half of the remaining mountain gorillas in the world thus very frequently visited by travellers from all around the world. The park can be accessed by air for the luxury travellers who don’t want to spend a lot of time on the road and by road for the travellers that want to appreciate the scenic attractions on the long drive.

By Air

Some travelers prefer to fly because they have less travel days, a scheduled flight can be booked with Aerolink from Entebbe International Airport or from Kampala at Kajjansi airfield to the airstrips in Kisoro if you are tracking the southern sector or Kihiihi and Kayonza for travellers tracking for the northern area

By Road

Bwindi Forest can be accessed using different routes depending on where on where you are coming from and where you are planning to have your Gorilla trekking activity

  • Kampala to Kabale to Kanungu to Buhoma.

The drive from Kampala to Kabale lasts 8 hours where you will connect through Kanungu to Buhoma for  about 5-6 hours.

  • Kampala to Ntungamo to Rukungiri to Kihihi to Buhoma: This route is the easiest, direct and most convenient route is from Kampala direct to the tarmac road Rukungiri and has about 390km to Buhoma.
  • Kampala to Kabale to Ruhija to Buhoma: After the 8 hours drive from Kampala, this route covers an area of about 95 km 2 on the murram road lasting about 3-4 hours.
  • Kampala to Kabale to Nkuringo:  This route covers a distance of about 105 km from Kabale town lasting about 4 hours to get to the mountainous murram road and another 120 km lasting about 4 hours to Nkuringo.
  • From Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya) to Ishasha to Kihihi to Buhoma: This route covers an area of about 160 km from Mweya and another 64 km from Ishasha to Buhoma through Kihihi

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park attracts more travellers to Uganda than any other park in Uganda as visitors search for the famous  mountain gorillas that inhabit the biodiversity of this beautiful forest. While in Bwindi they are variety of activities to explore that will supplemented on to your gorilla trekking activity to make you safari more memorable.

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