Bwindi impenetrable National park is located in south western Uganda in East Africa, in the district of Kanungu. The park is part of the Bwindi impenetrable forest that is located along the border with Democratic Republic of Cong on the edge of the Albertine rift valley.
Bwindi impenetrable National covers a total area expanse of 321 square kilometers characterized with a thick tropical rain forest, moist montane vegetation and some areas covered with bamboo and shrubs.
It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 because of its rich diversity in sheltering different flora and fauna and being home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas in the whole world. It is also home to over 120 mammal species, 348 bird species, 220 butterfly species, 27 amphibian species, reptiles, 163 tree species, flowering plants among others.
Bwindi is famous for hosting the mountain gorillas, a gorilla species that just got off the list of the critically endangered animals by the IUCN. In addition to its star gorillas, Bwindi is host to elephant, bush pig, giant forest hog and over 300 species of birds including rare forest birds. Others who have found a home in this ecosystem include many types of bats and rodents, 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads, 6 chameleon types, 14 lizards, skinks and geckos and 200 species of butterfly. Bwindi is to the west of the country and is 560 km from Kampala.
Bwindi impenetrable National park can be accessed by air or road means. Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors can be accessed by air from Entebbe airport to Kisoro airstrip then Ruhija and Buhoma sectors can be accessed by air from Entebbe airport to Kihihi airstrip.
Alternatively, you can drive from Entebbe airport or Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Ntungamo, Kabale to Bwindi Impenetrable National park for 8-9 hours drive.
What to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National park
Gorilla trekking is one of the major activities in Bwindi impenetrable National. Mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking is done only in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo in the whole world. In Uganda it is done Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National park in south western Uganda.
Gorilla trekking is done in the 4 sectors including Buhoma sector in the north with 4 gorilla families, Ruhija sector in the east with 3 gorilla families, Nkuringo with 2 gorilla families and Rushaga sectors in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable National park with over 9 gorilla families making it all 18 gorilla families habituated for trekking.
Gorilla trekking is done throughout the year but the most recommended time is during the months of January, February, June, July, August and December when there is little or no rainfall and the roads are less slippery.
Gorilla trekking starts in the morning at the park headquarters with briefing by the ranger guides about the rules and regulations of trekking gorillas, then head out to the forest in search of the endangered species in their natural habitats. On encounter with gorillas, you are allowed only 1 hour in their presence for observation and photography then return back to your lodge for the next activities.
A gorilla trekking permit costs US$700 currently for foreign nonresidents, US$600 for foreign residents and 250,000 for East African residents. Gorilla permits are obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority and it is advisable to book your passes at least six months prior to the trekking date. Each gorilla family is allowed to only 8 members per day.
Gorilla habituation is the process where the gorillas are trained to get familiar to human beings during the trekking process.
Bwindi impenetrable National park is also a famous destination for gorilla habituation safaris which is only done in Uganda and not in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla habituation is done in Rushaga sector in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable National park where there 1 gorilla family Bushaho reserved for the habituation process.
Gorilla habituation in Bwindi impenetrable National park costs 1500 US dollars and allows only 4 hours in the presence of mountain gorillas as you learn about their behaviors and photography. It is also obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Batwa cultural experience and community tours
Batwa people are also referred to as the pygmies and the people of the forest because they were the first inhabitants of the forest who co-existed with the gorillas and wild animals in Bwindi and Mgahinga forests and lived in the forest for so many years. The batwa lived in harmony with the forest and survived by hunting small wild animals like squirrels, rabbits, bush pigs among others and gathering plants for food and medicine.
Batwa cultural experience is normally done after gorilla trekking or you can organize a whole day trip to the batwa community. A day spent with the batwa gives you opportunity to hike in the forest to the batwa community guided by the batwa guides, learn about their way of life and how they carried out hunting and gathering and you are allowed to participate and try out your hunting skills and using bows and arrows
Visit the batwa home steads and learn on many things like cooking food, hand craft making, making fire, herbalists that make medicine and enjoy the traditional dances and ancient songs that they display to educate their children their traditional culture.
There are various trails that lead to the different directions where you would what to tour into the forest. There are trails leading to the magnificent water falls but normally guided by the armed ranger guides just in case you meet dangerous wild animals.
There is also the Buhoma – Nkuringo trail which may take you 3-4 hours passing through the National park where you also view many different wild animals, Muyanga water fall walk, Muzubijiro loop walk which is over 6km and get to meet the birds and primates.
There is also the Buniga forest nature walk in Nkuringo, the forest reserve adjacent to Bwindi impenetrable National park, there is Nyundo community Eco trails, king Bakyara’s water fall trails among others where you can do your guides nature walks.
Bwindi impenetrable forest is a major spot for birding in Uganda and Africa as named by African Bird club. Bwindi forest is well known for birding because it is accessible and has the different areas including water falls where you the birds.
Bwindi impenetrable forest is home to 350 bird species including the 23 Albertine rift endemics and 14 of which are not found anywhere else in Uganda which are seen done on your birding safari guided by the guides in the community who are knowledgeable about the birds in their area.