Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a magnificent verdant swathe of forest across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley, these 331 km²ancient rains forest, one of the few in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age and it is a home to the rare Mountain Gorillas.
Uganda alone harbors half of the world’s total population of the rare Mountain Gorillas and currently with 459 individuals from an estimated 400 individuals in 2011 as it was revealed by Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities together with the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration in 16th December 2019.
The world’s total population of the Mountain Gorillas has risen to over 1,063 individuals including the parks from the Virunga Massif with the total population of 603 individuals of Mountain Gorillas i.e. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in DRC Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an Afromontane forest with dense under growth of fern, vines, and shrubs. About 324 tree species have been recorded here 10 of which occur nowhere else in Uganda.
It is located in south western Uganda on the edge of western rift valley bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shared by Rukungiri, Kabale and Kisoro districts in Uganda. The park is next to Virunga National Park of Congo and it is designated as a world heritage site by United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizational (UNESCO) in 1994 because of its national and ecological importance.
The park derives its name from the local phrase called “Mubwindi bwa Nyinamuraki”. The name dates back in the years when a family was migrating from Kisoro to the southern part of the park. So, when they reached at Mubwindi swamp, they were unable to cross the swamp to the other end because it was impenetrable. The family members asked the swamp spirits for guidance and they were told to choose and sacrifice their most beautiful daughter for them to be allowed to cross the impenetrable Mubwindi swamp. So, after two days of waiting, they sacrificed and threw their most beautiful and beloved daughter called Nyinamuraki to the swamp and they were allowed to cross to the other side of the swamp.
After the news spread to the community, they started avoiding the swamp terming it Mubwindi bwa Nyinamuraki meaning that the dark place of Nyinamuraki hence the park obtained the name Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Initially, the park was started and designated as Crown Forest reserve in 1932 which was into two division where the southern part of the park was named Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve and the northern part was being called Kayonza crown Forest Reserves.
In 1964, the Crown Forest reserve was turned into animal sanctuary to protect the rare Mountain Gorillas until 1991 when it was upgraded into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park together with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Ruwenzori Mountain National Park. It covered 330.8square Kilometers and it was being managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority to date.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is composed of different sectors for Gorilla trekking and they include Buhoma sector, Ruhija Sector, Rushaga sector and Nkuringo sector. They all have a variety of Gorilla groups for trekking but the gorilla permit availability will determine the sector you will be allocated for Gorilla trekking on the time of confirmation.
MAIN TOURISM ACTIVITIES AT BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Uganda offers a lifetime experience for Gorilla trekking in the whole world and it is the most remarkable wildlife encounter in Africa. These rarest Mountain Gorillas are only found in the remote forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the south western corner of Uganda and also the Virunga Volcanoes. Gorilla trekking involves finding the habituated group of Mountain gorillas for clients in the forest by the help of the ranger guides. The gorilla trekking starts at exactly 8:00am and each Gorilla family is assigned to a group of 8 people per day to minimize the disturbances and maintain their natural behaviors. It takes almost 2-6 hours and upon finding these rare apes, clients will spend only 60 minutes (1hour) of interaction while putting in mind that these are closest creatures to human beings. Involvement in this interesting and exclusive activity is worth the effort travelling to your African safari and being driven by a comfortable safari vehicle with experienced safari guide. The group of the rare Mountain gorillas is led by the Silverback which is the male gorilla and it weighs over 200kgs.
African Pearl Safaris recommends booking your gorilla permit a year before the tracking date to avoid availability issues of your gorilla permit. The Gorilla permit costs USD$ 700 per person for Non-Foreign residents and USD$ 600 per person for Foreign residents in Uganda.
Gorilla Habituation experience
Gorilla habituation experience has a slight difference from Gorilla trekking but just to say, it is more spiced than Gorilla trekking. It takes place only at Rushaga sector where only one gorilla family has been assigned for this everlasting activity to ensure sustainability. After briefing at the UWA office, you will be escorted by the ranger guides and researchers very early in the morning unlike the gorilla trekking where you will be only escorted by ranger guides. It allows clients to spend more time (4 hours) with Gorillas upon meeting them, the clients will be escorted with researchers and rangers who will show the clients and guide them through the whole process of the experience. So Gorilla habituation experience might take 5 to 10 hours of the day depending on the time and the place you get the Gorillas.
The number of client is also limited to 4 people per day and that is the reason we recommend our clients to secure the permits one year to the trekking date before other clients take them.
Batwa trail experience
The Batwa people were the inhabitants of Bwindi Impenetrable National park forest since their origin until 1992 when they were evicted from the forest. It is believed that they stayed in the Virunga Mountains for over 500,000 years including the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Batwa people also known as the pygmies depended on the forest especially hunting wild animals, gathering fruits and collecting medicinal plants for their treatment. The Batwa were evicted from the forest to preserve the mountain gorillas and since then, they only access their ancestral forest as guides. The Batwa trail was launched on 7th June 2011 so that they can preserve their tradition culture. While on the Batwa trail experience, the Batwa guide will show you the hunting techniques, different trees and their uses as medicinal plants, how they used to gather fruits, lighting fire naturally from the forest trees, also how they can make handcraft from wood for example using bamboo to make cups. Above all you will visit Garama cave. The women will perform local tradition music and dance which will make your day to believe that really the Batwa culture is fading.
Bird watching at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is Bird Watchers’ haven with 350 species of birds. It contains 90% of the Albertine Rift Valley endemics that are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa especially the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. An extended visit to the Ruhija area of Bwindi provides not only spectacular vistas but is also home to the African Green Broad bill to be seen in the Ruhija swamp by a fortunate few.
There are very many birding trails while at Bwindi and they include the Buhoma Waterfall Trail, the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail at Ruhija sector
Guided Nature Walk
Following the Munyaga River trail will help you to discover the forest interior. Primates including the L’hoest’s monkey may be seen. The trail leads you to 3 delightful crystal-clear waterfalls that typify one’s impression of a tropical rain forest. The Rushura trail leads you to a ridge providing views of the Western Rift Valley escarpment. On clear days the Western part of Congo, Congo’s Parc National Des Virungas, the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains are visible.
ACCESS / HOW TO GET THERE
The distance from Kampala to Bwindi is 550km with some 400km on bitumen surface via Kabale. The Kampala via Rukungiri route is a slightly shorter distance however either route will necessitate 9-10 hours on the road to reach your accommodation in Buhoma. African Pearl Safaris is there to drive you to Bwindi in our 4×4 wheel drive vehicles.
The park can also be accessed via Kigali, Rwanda through the Katuna Border point into Uganda. It takes 4 hours drive and our guides from Rwanda side can drive you to Bwindi using our 4×4 wheel drive vehicles.
Domestic flights can be organized to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and it takes only 2 hours to fly from Entebbe International airport to either Kihihi or Kisoro airstrip depending on your location for Gorilla trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The gorilla permit availability will determine the location of your gorilla tracking activity which will also determine where the aircraft will disembark the clients.
If the clients are tracking in Buhoma and Ruhija sector, they will be disembarked at Kihihi airstrip and our driver guide will drive them to the booked accommodation.
For the case of tracking at Rushaga and Nkuringo sector, the clients will be disembarked at Kisoro airstrip where they will be picked and transferred to their place of accommodation.
WHERE TO STAY
- Buhoma lodge – high end lodge
- Mahogany spring – high end lodge
- Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp- high end lodge
- Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge – high end lodge
- Trackers Safari Lodge – high end lodge
- Silverback Lodge – Mid range facility
- Engagi Lodge – Mid range facility
- Buhoma Haven Lodge – Mid range facility
- The crested crane Bwindi Hotel – Mid range facility
- Buhoma Community Rest Camp – Budget facility
- Ride 4 the woman – Budget facility
- Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge –High end
- Bakiga lodge – Mid range facility
- Gorilla Mist Camp – Mid range facility
- Broadbill Forest Camp – Budget facility
- Trekkers Tavern Cottage – Budget facility
- Agandi Uganda Eco Lodge – Budget facility
- Ruhija Community Rest Camp – Budget facility
- Gift of Nature Lodge – Budget facility
- Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge – High end
- Gorilla Heights Lodge – High end
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge – Luxury Lodge
- Gorilla Closeup Lodge – Mid range
- Bwindi Backpackers Lodge – Budget facility
- Gorilla Safari Lodge – High end
- Gorilla Forest Camp – Mid range
- Chameleon Hill Lodge – Mid range
- Ichumbi Gorilla Safari Lodge – Mid range
- Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge – Mid range
- Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge – Mid range
- Gorilla valley Lodge – Budget facility
- Nshongi Camp – Budget Facility
- Wagtail Lodge – Budget facility