World of the Mountain Gorillas
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the frequently visited Parks in Uganda considering it is home to half of the 1000 remaining endangered mountain gorillas. The park is located in South Western Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, at an altitude range from 1.160 m to 2.607m with a real tropical rainforest spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys. Gorilla trekking made the park popular as it is a habitat for more than half of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorilla population.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the most biologically diverse forest in Africa that has plant species that survived and flourished through the Ice Age. The forest derives its name “bwindi” from “mubwindi” which means a dark place, referring to the impenetrable nature of the forest. The ancient forest is regarded as a magnificent verdant swathe across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest consists of the extensive areas of bamboo interspersed with larger forest hardwoods. The forest floor is covered with a thick layer of ferns, vines and other plants and this dark and dense environment provides the ideal habitat for its indigenous wildlife.
Gorilla Trekking is the most exhilarating activity where visitors get to spend one hour with the peaceful beasts and or four hours on a Gorilla Habituation Experience. The permit that may be quite expensive at USD 600 but the experience of being a few meters away from these endangered creatures is worh while. Looking profound into the expressive brown eyes of these gentle giants is surely the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter that Africa has to offer. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park generates one of the highest revenues to Uganda Wildlife Authority among all the safari parks in Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has mainly 12 habituated Gorilla Groups set aside for gorilla trekking which is largely conducted in the four major sectors of Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga and Nkuringo sector.
The southern areas are easily accessed from Rwanda with a 4 hour scenic drive from Kigali, Rwanda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to half of the worlds mountain gorilla’s population, remaining in the world that has been growing over time to now 1000. The forest is a habitant to 11 primate species, including chimpanzees, Hoest’s, red-tailed and blue monkeys, black and white colobus, olive baboons. The forest is also home to over are 340 species of birds with 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics including the African green broadbill, white tailed blue flycatcher, brown necked parrot and Fraser’s eagle owl and 200 species of butterflies. The forest is also home to 120 mammals with about 30 forest elephants and also small mammals like the Rodents and Bats, 51 reptiles, 88 moths with 324 species of trees.
Gorilla Groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
With the Gorillas being the well-known habitants and main attraction of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Gorilla groups are found in different sectors of the Park. The population of gorillas is approximately 400 individuals, half of the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, with more than 100 habituated. Selected gorilla families have been habituated to human presence, and the number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent risks to the gorillas and degradation of the habitat.
- Buhoma sector: This is where the Bwindi Park headquarters are located and where gorilla tracking in Bwindi originally started from. There are 3 groups available: Mubare group (11 members), Rushegura group (15 members) and Habinyanja group (17 members).
- Ruhija Sector: They are excellent three gorilla groups available for tracking: Bitukura group (15 members), Oruzogo group (17 members) and the Kyaguliro group (20 members) is set aside for research and is considered two separate groups: Kyaguliro-Rukara’s group and Kyaguliro-Mukiza’s group.
- Rushaga Sector: Rushaga is the least developed area for tourism with 5 gorilla groups habituated with several other un habituated gorilla groups including:Bweza group (12 members), Nshongi group (7 members), Kahungye group (18 memebers), Busingye group(9 members) and Bikingi group (18 members) set aside for the habituation Experience
- Nkuringo Sector: The headquarters of the Southern sector of Bwindi are located in Nkuringo and despite the area having a very tough terrain, it is having one of the best groups in Bwindi, the Nkuringo group has 2 groups available: Nkuringo group (12 members) and Bushaho group (9 members)
Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Gorilla Trekking is the main attraction to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with more than 10 habituated families of mountain gorillas. Bwindi Forest has more to offer apart from viewing the most sought out Mountain gorillas. Visitors can conduct hiking safaris are open to people to sight birds, butterflies, and primates (along the Munyaga, Waterfall, Rushura, River Ivy and Bamboo zone trials). Specially recommended for bird watchers are the River Ivy and Mubwindi swamp nature walks. Cultural walks to Buhoma village community can be organised to see the traditional homesteads, the local healer, the banana brewing, handicraft making and cultural performance. he area is also great for hiking.
Nkuringo Walking Safaris offer excellent guided nature walks between Buhoma and the town of Kisoro via Nkuringo, including dugout canoe trips on Mutanda Lake.
- Gorilla Trekking: This is the most sought out activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you will track the gorillas and spend an amazing one hour staring into the eyes of these endangered species. This is the best experience on your travel to Uganda.
- Gorilla Habituation Experience: This activity only takes place in the Rushaga sector of the park where you spend an amazing 4 hours with the gorillas. This experience cannot be enjoyed from any other park apart from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- Nature Walks: In company of a tour guide, visitors tour Bwindi in four fantastic hiking trails where you have the opportunity to see and learn about primates, many bird species, butterflies, trees and other organism as achieve an excellent understanding of eco- system in the park. The trails include;The Munyaga River trails; It is a short walk trail for visitors to view different primates of the forest edge.
Water fall Trail: It is one of the Uganda’s early primitive tracts of the rain forest, which pass via trees, and orchids to visit sparking water falls.
Rushura trail: This trail commands expansive views across the western rift valley floor and to the west Congo’s parc National des virungas provides a spectacular backdrop, and on clear days Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountain are visible.
The Muzabajiro Loop trail: It provides breath-taking views of Bwindi Forest, the Western rift valley and the virungas. On your way, you witness hundreds of pre-historic tree ferns and is a great place for a picnic lunch at the top
The River Ivy trail: it is the largest in the park emerging near Nkuringo on the edge of the forest and it is the best trail for Bird watchers.
- Bird Watching: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the bird watchers haven, holding 350 species of birds and contains 90% of the albertine rift endemics, 7 red data book species. An experienced bird watcher can identify up to 100 species of birds in a day. Most common birds are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill.
- Cultural Performances: In the evenings, participate in captivating traditional performances presented by women’s group. Proceeds from these go directly to improve the welfare of the families that leave around the park.
- Batwa Encounter: The Batwa People are pygmies and were the first inhabitants of years, they were hunter-gatherers and lived in the forests of Southwest Uganda and beyond. They left a small ecological footprint on the forest and lived in harmony with nature. It also restores a bit of their dignity and keeps their cultural practices alive to be passed on to future generations.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has developed many beautiful brilliant lodges over time and are within easy reach of any of the trail heads with an amazing serenity and environment. The accommodation facilities near and around the park offer options for all categories of travelers including Budget, Midrange and the Luxury visitors.
Most of these lodges are within close vicinity of the park headquarters where briefing is done. The park has four sectors including Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. The lodge you book depends on the sector in which you will track the gorillas since all the sectors are not close to eachother. The popular Lodges include;
Buhoma (Northern sector of the park)
The Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has a variety of lodging choices since it was the first area to open up Gorilla Tracking. Buhoma is more developed compared to the rest of the sectors in Bwindi.
•Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp: A high end establishment that blends in sensitively with the dramatic African mountain landscape situated uniquely inside the national park afew minutes away from the start of your gorilla trekking adventure.
•Bwindi Volcanoes Lodge: A luxurious accommodation overlooking the beautifully primeval Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with a stylish setting from which to enjoy the unforgettable experience of tracking the majestic mountain gorillas of Uganda.
•Buhoma Lodge: A luxurious establishment offering top quality and intimate moments with spectacular and uninterrupted views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home to the rare and elusive Mountain Gorilla and a few minutes’ walk the meeting point for gorilla.
•Mahogany Springs: A luxury lodge with a mixture of traditional and international blends and is a few minutes away from the park headquarters and is sometimes visited by the majestic gorillas.
•Gorilla Resort: A luxury accommodation located within the Impenetrable Bwindi Forest with luxurious cottages together with safari tents set up on the wooden platforms with great views overlooking the verdant forest and River Munyaga.
•Lake Kitandara Tented Camp: A midrange lodge adjacent to the good with a condusive and friendly environment for all tourists.
•Buhoma Community Rest Camp: A budget establishment within the park and is a few minutes away from the briefing point.
Ruhija (Eastern sector of the park)
Visitors tracking gorillas in Ruhija sector can also seek accommodation in Buhoma but they will have to leave early morning for tracking.
•Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge: A luxurious lodge located in Ruhija area of Bwindi national park and one of the best lodges with remarkable views of the Bwindi Impenetrable forest and the Virunga volcanoes.
•Gorilla Mist Camp: A budget lodge situated about 50km from Buhoma (2 ½ hours) by road, It also offers a relatively flat camping ground where guests can setup tents.
•Ruhija Community Rest Camp: A budget accommodation set on the east of Bwindi and a few minutes from the park headquarters.
Nkuringo (Southern sector of the park)
Visitor Tracking Nkuringo sector can also seek accommodation in Rushaga and Kisoro if they are early risers
•Clouds Mountain gorilla lodge: A luxurious lodge located at quite a high altitude of over 2000m above sea level making it one of the of Uganda’s highest lodges
•Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge: A midrange lodge located high in the mountains at a height of 2,161m above sea level on the Nteko ridge.
•Chameleon hill Lodge: A luxurious lodge strategically located near the Rushaga and Nkuringo trailheads and located on the shores of Lake Mutanda.
•Bwindi Backpackers Lodge: A budget lodge set on the boundaries of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is a few minutes away from the Nkuringo Park headquarters.
Rushaga (Southern sector of the park)
While tracking gorillas in Rushaga, accommodation in Nkuringo and at Lake Mutanda can be considered for early risers. This sector is convenient for visitors coming in from Rwanda.
•Gorilla Safari Lodge: A luxurious lodge on the boundary line of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a few minutes away from the starting point of gorilla tracking
•Gorilla Valley lodge: A midrange establishment hidden in a beautiful valley close to Rushaga, with fantastic panoramic views of Bwindi.
•Rushaga Gorilla Camp: A budget lodge set on 6 acres of land bordering Bwindi and is 15 minutes’ walk away from the gorilla tracking starting point.
•Nshongi Camp: A budget establishment situated just 5 minutes walking distance from the park headquarters meeting point.
Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is approximately 8 to 9 hours’ drive from Entebbe by road and 1 hour away by air. The first and last days of Gorilla Safaris in Uganda are mostly set aside for traveling to the destination. The drive to Bwindi Forest is long with many sceneries along the way that make it worthwhile. Bwindi Forest can also be accessed by air through the daily scheduled flights from Entebbe to Kihihi airstrip or Kisoro airstrip.
The park can be accessed from;
•Kampala to Kabale (414kms) lasting 5-6hours and passing through Kanungu and kanyantorogo in the winding marram roads for 120km lasting 4-5 hours. And proceeding to Ruhija and Buhoma takes 95kms lasting 3hours though a 4WD vehicle is recommended.
•Queen Elizabeth National Park– Mweya sector through Kihihi to Buhoma: This route passes through Ishasha, the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is 160km from Mweya and 64km from ishasha. This route provides you with the possibility of viewing the famous tree climbing lions enroute to Bwindi.
•Kampala through Ntungamo, Rukungiri through tarmac roads (390km), Kihihi followed by 82km on murram road to Buhoma making it the quickest and most direct route from Kampala.
•Kampala through Kabale (414kms) to Kisoro 80km from Kabale lasting 1-2 hours on the mountainous paved road and to Nkuringo (35km) lasting 1-2 hours.
•Back packers can opt for public transport by bus which runs daily from Kampala to Butogota from which a tax can be hired from the last 17km to Buhoma.
Air transport can be used to get to Bwindi, and it lasts up to 1 hour, there is an airstrip in kihihi and Nyakabande where you can access the northern sector and southern sector respectively using the Aerolink that has scheduled or the Kajjansi Airstrip for chartered flights. Rwanda-Kigali is an entrance into Southwest Uganda and it is 3 ½ hour drive to Rushaga and Nkuringo in the Southern End of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with some clients trekking Gorillas in Nkuringo or Rushaga choosing to fly into Kigali Rwanda.
Climate and Best time to Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be done all year round, with the best times being from June to August and December to February considering there is less rain during this time and the forest trails are not impassible and slippery. June to August and December to February are the drier months with drier tracking trails enabling easy Gorilla Trekking. March to April and September to November are usually very wet month providing the best bird watching time for bird enthusiasts.
During the dry season when the best time for wild life viewing and track gorillas in Bwindi Forest though remember to carry warm clothing it sometimes gets very cold, especially at night. There are fewer mosquitoes so chances of getting malaria are much lower during the drier months. During the wet season, it is misty and wet and it may drizzle for days making it the best times for Bird watching with migratory birds in the park during this time. Gorillas can also be tracked during this time although the access roads may be hard to travel and the trails become slippery and impassible
South-Western Uganda, East Africa
Best Time to Go:
June to August and December to February
June to September (Gorilla permits are scarce)
Size: 321km² / 124mi²
Altitude: 1,300-2,462m / 4,265-8,077ft