Bwindi Impenetrable national park is located on the edge of the Albertine rift along Uganda’s border and the Virunga National Park in the DRC covering a total area of 321 square Kilometers. The park comprises of an ancient montane and lowland forest; Bwindi Impenetrable forest, that it shares with the neighboring Virunga National Park.
Out of the 120 mammal species that are enclosed within the park’s boundaries, the most popular are the mountain gorillas. These giants are extremely rare in that you can only find them in three countries in the whole world; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This has greatly encouraged tourism with people coming from all over the world to track these primates here.
In addition, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has about 348 bird species, 120 butterflies and 27 species of frogs, Chameleons and Geckos. Also, it has about 1,000 flowering plants; 163 tree species and 104 species of ferns. This uncommon diversity in the eco system is simply because the Forest is believed to have the survived the last ice age; preserving many endangered species.
How to get there:
By road, Bwindi Impenetrable National park can be accessed by driving from Kampala to Kabaale or Kisoro for about 8-7 hours covering 478 kilometers. From Entebbe, the drive can take about 5-6 hours. By air, a domestic plane can be chartered from Entebbe International airport to Kihihi or Kisoro airstrips by Aero link ltd.
What to do in Bwindi Impenetrable national park (activities):
With around 600 mountain gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable national park is home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. This means that the major safari activity in the park is mountain gorilla trekking. In Uganda, these gorillas can be seen in the wild in Bwindi and in Mgahinga gorilla National Park only.
Gorilla trekking is mainly carried out in six sectors; Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nyundo and Rubugiri. Each sector has one or more gorilla families and you can choose which family you best identify with for the experience. In total, mountain gorilla families in Bwindi are about 10; fully habituated and ready for mountain gorilla trekking.
Gorilla trekking has already laid down rules that you need to observe lest you lose a chance to see the gorillas in the wild; for example; you ought to stand atleast 8 – 10m away from the gorillas and you must be healthy without any ailments like the flu that you could potentially pass onto the gorillas. Also, persons must be 15 years and older to stand a chance at the experience.
Gorilla habituation on the other hand involves spending an entire day with rangers and scientists amidst a family of gorillas; observing their habits yet all the while getting them accustomed to human presence. This all-time favorite activity is carried out in the Rushaga sector that has about 5 gorilla families and you are still expected to follow a certain way of behavior.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park has a promising bird count of about 320 bird species with atleast 23 species reported endemic to the area. The diversity in its birdlife is a network of East African, Congo biome, Rwenzori range, Albertine rift and Ugandan endemic species. Therefore; for any bird lovers out there, a trip to this forest might just be what you need.
Birds to keep an eye out for include; western green tinker-bird, African wood Owl, Archer’s Robin Chat, Red throated Alethe, Fine banded woodpecker, Grauer’s Rush, Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Chestnut throated Apalis, Regal sunbird, Collared Apalis, Montana Oriole, Short tailed Warbler, Kivu ground-thrush, Chapin’s Flycatcher and African green broadbill among other birds.
Hiking and nature walks:
The perfect place to enjoy a bush walk is in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is seated on the very safari plains of ancient montane and lowland moist ever green forests. Plan a morning walk with your guide through the thick underground to find animals like bush-pigs and a variety of primates like Chimpanzees and monkeys. Also, birds like the Great Blue Turaco are very likely.
Cycling and mountain biking:
Join dozens of other travelers as they race on a 12km trail in an effort to save the local batwa women in the “Ride for a Woman” initiative. The movement aims at supporting local women dealing with HIV, domestic violence and poverty by providing them with the funds collected from the cycling and mountain biking adventure.
Meet the Batwa people:
The Batwa people are a group of pygmies that have co-existed with the animals of the forest for hundreds of years. This ancient tribe lost a lot of cultivation plains, game meat and a source of herbs to cure local ailments; stories they are often more than happy to share should you venture into their community for a cultural experience.
Accommodation options (Where to stay):
You have several options to choose from when it comes to where you should rest after or as you look forward to a mountain gorilla trekking adventure. Whether you are in the market for something fancy or you prefer to stay at a budget facility, there is something for everyone. Options include; Mahogany springs, Buhoma community rest camp, Silverback, Engagi and Buhoma lodge among others.