Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable national park, 331 kms, is located in South Western Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, on an altitude range from 1.160 m to 2.607m. This is a real tropical rainforest, spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys. It is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse forest in Africa. In the local language “Bwindi” (from “mubwindi”) means “dark place”, referring to the impenetrable nature for human beings to the swamp located the South East of the actual Park, according to legends.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a bio diverse, mountainous area in southwest Uganda. It is a home to many of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, who feed on roots, leaves and fruits from the park’s many tree and fern species. Restricted numbers of viewing permits help protect the endangered gorilla families. In the park, rough paths weave amid dense forests, which are home to many butterflies and birds. There are four areas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where activities take place – Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.  Each area brings out unique aspects of the ancient Rainforest and many visitors stay at one or more areas to do the various activities that are unique to the area.  Gorilla tracking is the major activity that visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest engage in.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest provides an incredible backdrop for this once in a lifetime adventure.  There are four trailheads from which one tracks one of the gorilla families for which we have obtained permits for you. More Gorilla Families have been habituated for visitors. That means that there are over 100 daily gorilla permits available in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Species
 There are 11 species of primates, including Gorillas, chimpanzee, Hoest’s, red-tailed and blue monkey, black and white Columbus, olive baboon. Particularly, Bwindi is home to 360 mountain gorillas, a half of the total remaining world population. There are 346 species of birds recorded (Bwindi contains 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics, rarely seen in any other place in East Africa) and 200 of butterflies. Mammals count only 30 (buffaloes, leopards, elephants). There are 324 species of tree.

Accessibility

Bwindi can be reached from QENP in the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours), or from Kampala via Mbarara (6-8 hours). The roads meet at Butogota, 17km from the Buhoma entrance gate. 4×4 recommended during the rains.
There are daily bus services leaving Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihiihi. A matatu can be hired from Butogota to Buhoma the park entrance gate.

The Kabale – Ruhija- Buhoma segment on this route is 72 km on a murram road branching off at Harutenga junction on the Kabale-Kisoro road.  Air transport: Travelers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Visitors to Buhoma can also charter planes to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips.

Bwindi is well served by three air fields at Kayonza and Kihiihi for the northern sector and Nyakabande in Kisoro for those going to track gorillas in the southern Sector (Nkuringo, Nshongi and Mishaya as well as Nyakagezi family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park).

Top Things to Do in Bwindi

There are lots of things to do in Bwindi for adventure seekers. From gorilla trekking to nature walks within the impenetrable forest, lots of adventures await you on your next visit.

 The main activity is “gorilla trekking” to the habituated 8 families of mountain gorillas (Habinyanja, Nkuringo, Rushegura, Nshongi, Mishaya, Mubare, Bitukura and Oruzogo), Gorilla filming is also possible. Hiking trails are open to people to sight birds, butterflies and primates, trees (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 walk to Buhoma village community, to see the traditional homestead, the local healer, the banana brewing, handicraft and cultural performances for Batwa. The mountain biking is also evolving.

Gorilla Habituation Experience in Rushaga:

It is only in Uganda that you can be with a Mountain Gorilla Family while on 4 Days Uganda gorilla habituation safari that allows a traveler to spend  4 hours with the mountain gorillas in the wilderness , this safari experience is only possible in the southern sector of Bwindi national park as offered by many tour operators in Uganda . The Gorilla Habituation watching travel with be along with researchers in Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest – this amazing experience – to be with a Mountain Gorilla Family as it is being habituated is a one of a kind experience in Africa.

There are presently two family groups being habituated, meaning that they becoming used to human contact and will not run away from visitors trekking them.

You can fly into Kigali Rwanda and 3 hours later be in the Rushaga Region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  You have the choice of budget, moderate and upmarket lodging and can stay either in Rushaga or scenic Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Mountain Bike Rides in Buhoma Area:

Ride 4 a Woman which is a community support group offers mountain bike rentals and guided bike in and around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the Buhoma area of the park.

You can even do the Village Walk on a bike with guide.  There are Birding Bike Rides, or simply a ride into the Forest such as the Ivy River Trail.  The average Bike Ride is 3 hours or longer in length with much to see along the trail or road.

The guides are all well-trained, some specialize in birding, others in culture but all know Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which they all love and want to conserve.

The Batwa Forest Experience:

The Batwa were the original people of the forest, they were here for thousands of years before the Bantu People, the Cultivators of the Land arrived.

The Batwa People – are pygmies – 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.  You can visit the forest (actually outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) with the Batwa People and learn of their traditional ways of hunting and gathering.

The Batwa Experience takes place in the Buhoma area

The Buhoma Village Walk:  

Here you have a 3 hour cultural walk through the village – you learn the ways and culture of the people that live in the Buhoma area on the edge of Bwindi Forest. The Village Walk is with a guide who is friendly and knowledgeable about local culture and customs.

You will see how people make local crafts such as baskets with the most intricate designs – beer made from Bananas, and a distillery that makes the local Waragi Gin from Bananas, meet a traditional healer and learn of what is gathered in the ancient forest and how it is taken and applied to ailments .See how the growing of local produce is done and harvested, food preparation over charcoal or open fire, visit a school, and meet the Batwa Pygmy community as they perform a dance for you just to name a few.  It is certainly a cultural learning experience and the cost of the walk supports the local community – so a win win for everyone.

Hiking through the Forest:

The Hike through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can be one day or longer hike from the north of Bwindi to the South – called Nkuringo- there one can stay overnight and continue the next day down to scenic Lake Mutanda where you paddle across in a wooden dugout and continue to the town of Kisoro.

This is the most popular hike along two trails of Bwindi – there are however other trails and nature walks, most from easy to moderate in and near the Forest that can be explored on foot and requiring from an hour to all day long.

Hiking through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is always with a guide.

Bird watching

The diverse habitats in Uganda’s most ancient forest imply that is the perfect habitat for a diversity of bird species, with about 350 recorded different species, with 23 endemics.

Cycling Tours

The mountain bike ride ventures in Bwindi are managed by a woman’s group which offers trained guides, a repair -shop for these bikes and every participant that helps in this program receives direct reimbursement from visitors to Buhoma enjoying a ride on the bike. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest is more than a gorilla tracking destination.

Accommodation facilities

Bwindi national park has got quite wide range of accommodation facilities both luxury, Mid-range and budget which incl6ude the Gorilla forest camp, Gorilla resort, Mahogany springs, Silver back lodge, Buhoma home stead, Lake Kitandara tented camp, Ruhija lodge (Luxury) and Engagi lodge, Cuckoo land lodge, Buhoma rest camp, Nkuringo safari camp (Mid-range accommodation).

Resources

  • Bwindi Guide: A complete guide to planning a gorilla trek to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Visit Bwindi: A guide for visitors listing the best things to do, experiences and tours in Bwindi Forest.