Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a biodiverse mountainous area in the south western part of Uganda, with a variety of species in its eco-system its a source to many rivers and beautiful waterfalls, it was gazette in 1991 as a national park and declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 protecting more than half of the world’s population of the mountain gorillas. The forest has a thick undercover almost impassable regarded as one of the oldest and virgin forests of Uganda. The name ‘Bwindi ‘means impenetrable in the Rukiga local language, it is composed of 335 square kilometers on lowlands and montane forest receiving more than 15000mm of rain annually mostly during the long and short rain seasons of September –November and march –Mayit borders the Virunga mountains in Uganda, Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo along the southern limit of west Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is categorized in four sectors the Rushaga sector, Buhoma, Ruhija and Nkuringo with habituated gorilla families. The Buhoma region is the most popular it was the first place to have gorilla families for habituation to man the families include; Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Nkuringo group in the Nkuringo sector, Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro family in the Ruhija sector, and Rushaga contains Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye, Mishaya, and the Nshongi gorilla families living in the national park.
The Eastern Mountain Gorilla Belingei consider these areas homes typically living in no captivity, they feed on the roots of the trees in the forest, leaves, ferns and sometimes termites, they are intelligent and communicable animals seen using long sticks to trap insects from holes and are herbivorous species. They live in groups of up to 20 primates led by one male dominant silver back. They live alongside other primates like the L’hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkey, it’s the only Ugandan forest where chimpanzee co-exist with the mountain gorillas, about 45 other mammal species are available including the hairy forest elephant although they are rarely seen, reptiles like frogs, chameleons and geckos are also present. Bwindi hosts more than 300 species of beautiful birds some of which are endemic to the region for example the African green broad bill specifically in the Ruhija sector of the national park, other birds include the grey crowned crane, short tailed warbler, cape wagtail, African paradise fly catcher among other species.
The natives of the national park were originally the Batwa the last short structured group of people in Uganda (pygmies) they are forest dwellers they lived in harmony with the forest together with other creatures until they were evicted from the forest when it was declared a national park in 1991, they became homeless and their lives changed ever since then , however as a way to preserve their culture they put up the Batwa experience showing tourist a lot of interesting facts about the forest, doing cultural performances and dances.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the most sought of national parks in Uganda courtesy of the mountain gorillas, there are other activities that can be participated in like bird watching, mountain biking, guided nature walks, and gorilla habituation, Batwa Cultural Experience, community walks.
The national park is approximately 8 hours’ drive from Kampala by road passing through beautiful rolling hills of Kigezi, tea plantations and farms, charter flights can be organized to Kisoro or Kihihi Airstrip by in bound air flights like Aero link from Entebbe airport and Kajansi. There is available accommodation in all the four sectors ranging from luxury to best budget these include, Buhoma lodge, Rushaga gorilla camp, Ichumbi lodge, lake Mulehe gorilla lodge, Buhoma Community camp, Bakiga lodge.
Permits to gorilla tracking should be booked prior to the time of trekking, the peak seasons get so busy to have immediate permits, this is done for proper preparation to have the best trip to Uganda, it is advisable to book accommodation in the place where you’re to trek the gorillas, carry warm clothes and boots, rain gears, water proof cameras and phones it’s a tropical country so it rains anytime. Bwindi impenetrable national park is accessible all year round but best during the dry season of December – February and June to mid – September.
Best Time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a biodiverse ecosystem with a great number of animal, plant and bird species, it was gazette in 1991 as a national park and declared a UNESCO world heritage site by 1994 as a way to protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas covering an area of 330 square kilometres the park is managed under the Uganda wildlife authority hosting the highest number of mountain gorillas in the whole world, it was home to the last short structured people (pygmies) in Uganda the Batwa who were forest dwellers and lived in harmony with together with the forest creatures they were evicted due to conservation policies.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a tropical rain forest sitting at an altitude of 1190 to 2,607 meters above sea level the tropical climatic annual temperatures can drop to as low as 7-15°Cand a maximum of 20-27°C, Bwindi receives a lot of rain fall all throughout the year it reaches up to 2390mm categorized in short and long rains starting in march – May and September – November the drier months are December to January, June to August during these months of the year the forest has very cold mornings and evenings, it’s difficult to predict the rains of Bwindi it being a tropical rain forest sometimes it rains even in the dry months of the year.
The national park is open to wildlife viewing all throughout the year and mountain gorilla tracking but best during the drier months June to august and December to February during these months, the days are sunny and wildlife is at its best, it is the most wonderful time to trek mountain gorillas with ease , other primates could be spotted like the l’hoest monkey, black and white colobus monkey, grey checked Mangabey, red tailed monkey, chimpanzee, elephants, black fronted forest duiker are present although they are rarely seen it’s the trails are less slippery and easy to hike be sure to carry necessary requirements for tracking mountain gorillas which include boots, water proof covers for phones and cameras, insect repellents, hand gloves, rain gears, warm clothes, water for sunny daysand other personal materials. Mosquitoes are less during this time in Uganda it is in these months that tourism is at its peak for all the interconnecting national parks.
During the wet months of march – May and September to November the park trials are very slippery and almost impassable, it’s always misty and drizzling during this time although not all days are rainy some keep shining but windy, the months bring along a beautiful breeding time for birds of Bwindi impenetrable national park, birds of fly from several places to the park, it’s the best time for bird watching with a better birding experience in the Buhoma and Ruhija sector over 385 species of birds live in the forest some of which are endemic to the region examples of birds include the African green broad bills, white headed saw wig, yellow rumped tinker bird, it’s possible to track mountain gorillas although the slopes and hikes could be much more difficult to pass.
There is available accommodation in all sectors of the national park ranging from luxury to best budget providing services to every traveller that comes to the national park whether in the dry season or the wet season they are usually booked in advance by tour operators to ensure a comfortable stay and available occupancy of the lodges like Buhoma Lodge, Ichumbi Lodge, silver back lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, chameleon hill lodge, among other accommodation facilities. The park is approximately 8 hours’ drive from Entebbe by road passing through the beautiful rolling hills of Kigezi, tea and banana plantations with a single stopover in Mbarara town for lunch, chatter flights can be organized in Entebbe of Kajansi to Kisoro airstrip of Kihihi.
Tourist Attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the south western part of Uganda, the park is bisected in four sectors Nkuringo, Buhoma, Rushaga and Ruhija each of which has habituated gorilla families that are available for tracking. The park was gazette as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 as a way of conserving the critically endangered mountain gorilla Belingei its home to more than 300 species of birds some of which are endemic to the region for example the African green broad bill, it hosts primates, mammals like black fronted duiker and elephants are present although they are rarely seen.
The national park is full of wonders and beautiful tourism attractions right from the biggest flowers of the forest mountain gorillas, beautiful lakes Mulehe and Mutanda to the south of Bwindi, the ancient forest keepers batwa and their cultural ways, above all the forest boarders the great Virunga mountains sighted at a distance which include Muhabura, Sabinyo, Gahinga on the eight series.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park hosts to more than half of the population of mountain gorillas, its well-known for the primate species, they make nests in the forest, feed on the forest plants including bamboo, they are intelligent mammals seen using sticks to collect food like termites, gorillas live in groups of up to 30 lead by one dominant silver back, they are found in all the four sectors, permits to visit are bought prior to the date of tracking especially during the peak season, a maximum number of eight people is allowed per day for an hour to visit each gorilla family which can be found in 2 or more hours depending on how far the gorilla families have moved other primates like the l’hoest monkey, black and white colobus monkey are present.
Lake Mulehe is a lava dammed lake situated in the southwestern part of Kisoro, a cool place to relax after tracking either in the southern Bwindi Rushaga and Nkuringo or Mgahinga National Park for the Nyakagezi gorilla family, a number of activities can be participated in most commonly boat rides taking place in the morning, lunch time and evening sundowners offering great views of the volcanic ranges, flora and fauna of the surrounding area together with aquatic bird species of the lake. swimming, sunbathing together with community walks can be done while at lake Mulehe. The lake is located near three volcanic ranges mount Muhabura, Sabinyo and Gahinga this offers mountain climbing experiences a chance to see a number of wildlife and birds.
Lake Mutanda is one of the best most scenic yet less explored lakes of Uganda, it is a fresh water lake lying in the southern part of Kisoro town, it is a beautiful spot with a misty Virunga backdrop having a series of volcanoes and a starting point for walking safaris to Nkuringo in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the area is less developed but worth a visit it is so angelic, there can be mountain biking around Kisoro to lake mutanda, you can canoe along the lake to islands, fishing and birding.
The Batwa people were the original keepers of the forest, they are the last structured short people in Uganda(pygmies) living in harmony with the forest creatures until the national park gazette in 1991 which led to eviction of the batwa from the forest, however they continued living in the surrounding areas of the park passing their cultural customs to the generations through traditional songs, norms many tourists visit for the Batwa cultural experience these people make you see the forest through their eyes, learn how they lived long ago, medicines from the forest, traditional dance among others.
The park has a thick vegetative cover and can be visited all year round best during the dry seasons of December to January and June to mid- September it is advisable to carry warm clothes as the park lies at a very high altitude its surely cold, boots for the hike, hand gloves, insect repellents and all necessary needs for travel.
There is available accommodation ranging from best budget to luxury for example, lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, Ichumbi gorilla lodge, Buhoma lodge, silver back lodge, it approximately 8 hours’ drive from Kampala, Uganda’s capital by road, chatter flights can be organized to Kisoro airstrip or Kihihi to the national park.
Tourist Activities and Things to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies is the south western corner of Uganda gazette in 1991 and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 protecting the endangered species of mountain gorilla’s gorilla Belingei, the park has a rich biodiverse ecosystem with different types of vegetative cover and animal species. The vegetation ranges from lowland to montane forest with thick bamboo and ground plantations its almost impassable earning it the name impenetrable locally known as ‘Bwindi’ in the Rukiga language. For decades the park has been regarded as one of the most beautiful and virgin forests in Africa, its popular for the mountain gorilla and most sought of park to do gorilla tracking in Uganda.
The forest hosts more than half of the population of mountain gorillas together with other primates like the l’hoest monkey, grey checked mangabey, black and white colobus monkeys among others, forest elephants and chimpanzee are present although they are rarely seen, its home to more than 300 species of birds some of which are endemic to the region
Bwindi was originally I habited by the Batwa the last short structured people who lived in the forest they were together with other creatures of the forest in harmony until the park was gazette which led to their eviction from the forest this was a blow to the lives of the Batwa community however they continued preserving their cultures in villages around the national park, they present and perform to tourists about their tradition through songs and the trail.
There are several adventurous activities in Bwindi impenetrable national park beyond gorilla tracking that tourist shouldn’t miss out during their visit to the national park, explained below are the activities that can be done while at the national park
Gorilla trekking is the major activity taking place in the virgin forest, the park has four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo all with habituated gorilla families available for visitors to enjoy, trekking is done in groups of 8 per gorilla family ounce a day an hours’ time availed with the primates, it may take longer or shorter hours depending on how far the gorilla families have moved, hiking may be tiring but rewarding by the end of the day. Permits are booked prior to the date of tracking and are valid for only that day. There are rules concerned to the conservation these include, maintaining a 7 meter distance from the gorilla, prohibited flash photography, if you must sneeze or cough cover your face or turn away from the gorillas.
Batwa cultural experience, they were original keepers of the forest, they lived in harmony with the creatures of the forest including the mountain gorillas, they survived by hunting small game using arrows or nets and gathering plants and fruits in the rainforest when the forest was gazette, they lived outside the park areas, the experience was created by the displaced Batwa as a way of preserving and conserving their culture, they will guide you through the forest, teach you on their traditional ways from handling a bow and arrow , traditional medicine, teach you on how traps and nets were used it all begins with a forest hike.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a great birding destination hosting to over 300 species, Buhoma and Ruhija sectors are excellent birding spots, over 100 species in a day can be spotted by great birders for example the crowned hornbill, African green pigeon, African green broad bill, graver’s rush warbler, short tailed warbler among others.
Buhoma village walks is a best informative way to get involved in the community, it starts at the Buhoma community rest camp and last for about 2 hours touring around the village, it gets you direct contact with the local community, learning their way of culture, women weaving baskets, making handicrafts women working in the fields and during a tea season you can see how tea is harvested.
Buhoma has community hospital started to help the people around the park it was something small but later developed into some much better hospital visitors can talk a walk to the community and can even donate to support the needy and helpless.
Gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park takes place in Rushaga area south of the national park there are two gorilla families available for habituations, it allows you more time with the gorillas the one hour during trekking, however this comes at an extended price of 1500 united states dollars, Uganda wild life authority researcher’s will take you through the experience of gorilla habituation.
Volunteering in the national park is done through the Uganda wildlife authority or conservation or business volunteers cater for their own meals, medical expenses, transportation and insurance for the period of time given.
Mountain biking is done in and around the park, bicycles can be rented for a full day or half day with a lead experienced guide in wildlife, birds of different species kinds, mountain biking in Buhoma is offered by ride for a woman a community project hiring a bike contributes a lot to the community projects and the local people.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has best trails to hike unveiling the beauty of the ancient forest, a number of species of plants for example the Mimlopsis plant most fed on by mountain gorilla, giant forest fans, some of the trails lead to the caves lived in by Batwa in the old days and beautiful water falls.
Where to Stay in and Around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the most sought of destinations for gorilla tracking in east Africa, it’s a long journey to the national park which was gazette in 1991 and declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 as a way of protecting the critically endangered mountain gorillas it hosts more than half of the population of primate species its home to over 300 species of birds, mammals like elephants, black headed forest duiker are present although rarely seen. activities including birding, boat rides, nature walks, mountain biking, swimming, cultural experiences are all found here however one needs a place to stay. There is available accommodation ranging from luxury to best budget these offer the best services to tourists coming to the national in each of the sectors Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija.
Buhoma Lodge is a luxury facility of top quality and intimate property of exclusive camps and lodges Uganda commanding beautiful views of the impenetrable forest, it’s one of the two lodges situated within the park, 5 minutes away from the area to track gorillas in the park, offering the best jungle experience to visitors that come to the facility for their gorilla experiences, its composed of an elevated central lounge area complete with a bar, dinning and spa facilities together with a comfortable environment for discussing day activities, fire places for warmth in the cold nights.
Silverback Lodge is perfectly located on top of a hill valley overlooking Bwindi Impenetrable National Park keeping comfort and great hospitality to clients that spend some days at the lodge, the lodge rooms were built using locally sourced material designed with an en-suite bathroom, the safari lodge is under the ownership of Marasa group of companies.
Chameleon Hill Lodge located adjacent to lake Mutanda the facility has excellent views of the Virunga mountains, beautiful islands on the lake its designed to the individual coloring reflecting its name chameleon the main lodge has lobby, restaurant and kitchen serving three meals a day hot drinks are available all throughout the day the lounge is fitted with sofas, cushions, fire place and a library perfect relaxation after a day’s nature walk, gorilla tracking in Bwindi impenetrable national park south Rushaga.
Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge is perfect gate away for a midrange stay in Rushaga sector of the national park, it’s a walkable distance to the park headquarters they offer the best comfortable cosy accommodation, meals are served three times a day, hot tea available at the lodge all day long.
Rushaga Gorilla Camp a facility in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable national park offering both midrange and best budget facilities to travellers tracking in Rushaga, it’s a haven for trackers, it does not only provide accommodation but also other activities like Biking and bird watching.
Buhoma Community Camp is a wonderful budget lodge in Buhoma sector offering safari tents for travellers booked to track in Buhoma, its typically constructed using local materials built in an African architectural design, the restaurant serves both local and international foods, available charging points, complementary tea, parking slots.
Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge located along the peninsula above Lake Mulehe facing the Virunga mountain ranges in the southern sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park, with breath taking views of the lake several activities can be participated in like hiking Virunga, village walks, nature walks, forest walks, golden monkey tracking, bot trips along the lake among others. the lodge offers best comfort mid- range accommodation, trekking can be in Nkuringo or Rushaga south of the national park.
Bakiga Lodge is situated in the Ruhija sector a five minutes’ drive to the tracking point its built up hill overlooking Bwindi impenetrable national park, the lodge offers spacious accommodation each room fitted with an en-suite bathroom, Ruhija is good birding spot, tours to the forest in search of bird species begins at the lodge.
There are many more safari lodges in all the four sectors of the national park, within and outside the park making it an assured good comfortable stay, it is wise to book for best accommodations through tour operators and permits prior to the time of tracking, boots, warm clothes, hand gloves are advisable for the cold weather, water proof covers for phones and cameras Bwindi is a tropical rain forest so it can rain any time.
The park is accessible all year round January to December but best in the dry seasons of December to February, June to mid- September it is approximately 8 hours’ drive from Kampala on road to the south western part of Uganda, chatter flights can be organized to Kisoro or Kihihi for easy access.