Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park cannot be mentioned without the Buhoma sector/region, because it is always the top on the list in the minds of tourists and Tour operators. Buhoma region is situated in the North-western side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Kanungu district. Besides Buhoma, there are 3 other sectors in this Park that include Ruhija sector (located in the Eastern side of the Park) Nkuringo and Rushaga sector found in the Southern side of Bwindi but Buhoma is the busiest and permits in this sector are always fully booked. Why? This is a question most intending gorilla trekkers always ask. It is not as if this sector homes the highest number of gorilla groups, or not as if the prices of gorilla permits are cheaper, but it still remains the busiest sector since this was the first location where gorilla trekking was conducted.
Firstly, Buhoma was the first sector to be opened for gorilla trekking (in 1993, two years after Bwindi was gazetted into a National Park), and it is undeniable that this is where gorilla tourism in Uganda started from. There are currently three habituated gorilla families in Buhoma sector and they include Mubare, the first group to be opened for tourism (in 1993), Habinyanja, the second habituated gorilla group (opened for tracking in 1997) and Rushegura sector (habituated in 2000). This implies that only 24 gorilla permits are sold for this sector per day. The fact that it was the first sector to be opened for tourism undoubtedly contributes a lot to its popularity.
Nevertheless, there are several other strong factors that make Buhoma sector the most visited and booked for gorilla tracking in Uganda. One of the reasons why Buhoma sector has attracted many tourists is due to the numerous lodging facilities compared to all the other sectors. Accommodation is always an important consideration by gorilla trekkers and tour operators when planning for this life changing activity in a particular area. Lodging facilities in Buhoma sector range from budget to Luxury options and they include Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp (luxury), Buhoma Community Rest Camp (budget), Buhoma Lodge (luxury), Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp (midrange), Silverback Lodge (luxury), CTPH Gorilla Conservation Camp (budget), Mahogany springs Camp (luxury), Gorilla Resort (luxury), Bwindi Guest house, Bwindi View Bandas, Engagi Lodge and Gorilla Forest Camp among others.
Better still, it is easier to connect from Buhoma to other National Parks, especially Queen Elizabeth National Park via the Ishasha sector. It takes just 2 to 3 hours to drive from Buhoma sector to Ishasha sector where you will encounter the exceptional tree climbing lions only found in Queen Elizabeth National Park (for the whole of Uganda), or 4 hours drive to Mweya area of Queen Elizabeth National Park known for mainly launch cruises on the Kazinga Channel, where you will be amazed for the large population of hippos, Nile Crocodiles, Elephants and Buffaloes and aquatic avian species such as the Pink-backed Pelicans and the African Fish Eagles.
Similarly, it is less challenging to access Buhoma sector than it is for the other sectors. It is estimated for 550 kilometers/342 miles, and 8-9 hours drive from Kampala to this sector. Several routes can be used to reach Buhoma and they include Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Ntungamo-Rukungiri-Kihihi then Buhoma, Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma. Tourists planning to access the Park through air transport can book with Aerolink from Kajjansi Airstrip (in Kampala) or Entebbe International Airport to Kayonza and Kihihi Airstrips.
Unlike Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors that are marked by the Kigezi highlands, the terrain of Buhoma sector is not very mountainous hence not strenuous to hike/hike. Buhoma sector has the lowest altitude of at least 1,350 meters/4,429 feet above sea level. This is why most elderly gorilla trekkers are advised to book for Buhoma gorilla permits.
If you are someone interested in Volunteer work and participating in some of the Conservation projects within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, then visit Buhoma sector. The fact that mountain gorilla trekking began from this region, several conservation and Volunteer projects were started to encourage gorilla conservation efforts. Actually, some tourists prefer combining their gorilla Safaris with volunteering in the sector. Some of these projects include Human, Gorilla Conflict Organization (HUGO), Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), and Bwindi Community Hospital under the Kellermann Foundation especially for volunteers.
Buhoma is also a sector where you will never run short of interesting activities to participate in. There are over 6 invigorating hiking/nature trails within Buhoma sector that lead tourists through the jungles of this Park to watch several magnificent waterfalls, primate species, tree and plant species, colorful butterfly and exceptional bird species. Other activities within this sector include Mountain biking conducted by the Buhoma Community Rest Camp in the “Ride for a woman” project and the most sought-after Buhoma Village walk.
In conclusion, it is undeniable that the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most visited region in the Park because it was the first sector to be opened for tourism, then it is easily accessed from Kampala, the area within the sector is also less mountainous compared to the Southern sectors, there are numerous and nearer accommodation facilities within the sector and also several volunteering and conservation projects exist within the sector, which is why gorilla permits are always fully booked.