Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is found in the Southwestern Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift. This is Uganda’s most popular national park and it is shared by three different districts; Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale districts.
The lies 534Km from Kampala City, the capital of Uganda. Most gorilla tours to Bwindi start from Kampala and it takes about 10 hours drive from Kampala. The park can also be accessed from Kigali, the Capital Of Rwanda and the journey takes about 6 hours drive.
The park is bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West. With over 420 mountain gorillas, Bwindi is the ultimate home to almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.
A Great Biodiversity Area
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site. This true African jungle covers 33.000 hectares, with about 400 species of snakes, about 250 species of trees, 27 species of frogs, over 250 species of butterflies, lizards, chameleons, geckos, chimpanzees, gorillas and baboons.
The altitude of Bwindi is about 1,190m to 2,607m. While the highest point occurs in Rwamunyonyi hill on its Eastern edge, the lowest occurs in the northern most tip of the park. And it’s a tropical kind of climate, having 2 rainfall peaks, which start from March to May and then from September to November. The range of the annual mean temperature is from 7-150C as the minimum to 20-280C as maximum.
The Batwa pygmies who were hunter-gatherers are believed to be the original inhabitants of the forest. And the other neighboring people are the Bakiga and Bakonjo. Their population is in the range of 350 persons per square kilometre.
Travelers on Uganda safari can get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by either road or by air. By road, you can drive from Entebbe or Kampala through via Masaka to Kabale route and this is approximately, 8-10 hours’ drive. The alternative route for you to take starts from Entebbe/Kampala via Mubende-Fort Portal then drive to Kabale and the advantage is for you to track chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park before connecting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to track mountain gorillas.
The shortest route takes you from Kigali through Katuna or Chanika border then you drive to Kabale or Kisoro where you can connect to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Driving from Kigali can take you about 3-4 hours to drive in a 4×4 drive safari vehicle.
There are also flight services to opt for especially if you don’t need to spend more time on road. Flight services start from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip where you can easily connect to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Things to Do in Bwindi National Park
The popular waterfall trail
This provides on attractive features of the forest, with a profusion of tree ferns, orchids, epiphytic ferns and Bwindi’s colorful array of butterflies. The trail leads to 3 delightful crystal clear waterfalls, which typifies your impression of a tropical rain forest.
There are 4 fantastic hiking trails where you will have an opportunity to see primates, species of birds, butterflies, trees and other organisms. And this usually starts at 9:00am in the morning after breakfast and 2:15pm in the afternoon after lunch.
Buhoma village walk
The village walk is managed by the local community and takes up to three hours. This walk introduces you to different interesting sites such a typical rural homestead, then a visit to the local traditional healer, banana beer brewing demonstrations site and much more. There will be a traditional performance in the evening, which is presented by women ad orphan groups. Proceeds from these go directly to improve the welfare of the families around the park.
It holds over 346 species of birds and contains 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, difficult or impossible to see in any part of East Africa. For the adept bird watcher, close to 100 bird species can be identified in a day. You can visit Buhoma and Ruhija for this dream. The example of birds include; the African green broad bill-psedocalptomena graveri; dwarf honey guide indicator pumilio, kivu ground thrush zoothera a Tanganjicak, Lagden’s bush shrike Mahaconotus legdeni, Chaplin’s flycatcher
(musticapa lend) Oberhander’s ground thrush, yellow eyed flycatchers, Montane double collared sunbird Nectarinia ludoviencis and dusky twinspot inter-alia.
The Munyaga River
The trail provides short walks for the tourists with very little time to spare. It gives you an
opportunity to see birds and primates of the forest edge.
The River Ivi
This trail is the longest in the park and will occupy you for a full day. It is highly recommended for those with a soft spot for bird watching.
The 5.2Km Muzabajiro Loop Trail
It offers breath-taking views of Bwindi Forest, Western Rift valley and the Virungas. On the way, you witness hundreds of pre-historic tree ferns. The top of this trail is a great place for a picnic lunch.
The Rushora trail
The trail commands expansive views across the western park Nationale des Virungas, provides a spectacular backup and on clear days, Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains are visible.
Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla Tracking is the major tourist activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, consisting of six gorilla groups currently available daily fro tourists. The groups currently include;
- Mubare group, that was opened to tourists in 1993.
- The second group is Habinyanja group, that was opened to tourists in July 1998.
- The third group is Rushegura, that was opened in July 2002 for tourists.
- The fourth group is Nkuringo that was opened in April 2004 for tourists.
- The fifth is Nshongi
- The sixth is the Ruhija Gorilla Group, which was fully open for tourism in February 2009.
Each of these six gorilla families has between 8-12 gorilla individuals, and 8 trackers are allowed per day – therefore a total of 24 at Buhoma (Mubare, Habinyanja, and Rushegura), 8 at Ruhija and 16 in Bwindi South (Nkuringo and Nshongi)- Bwindi therefore can take up to only 48 trackers a day. With another 8 trackers allowed at Mgahinga, Uganda allows up to a maximum of 56 trackers a day.
Gorilla tracking is an exciting but challenging experience. Therefore, one has to be physically fit for this exercise. The tracking experience starts at 8:30am local time. And time of tracking depends on where you are to find the groups of gorillas that you are allocated.
Bwindi Gorilla National Park Rules
For conservation reasons, visits to the gorillas are tightly controlled. The following rules apply and must be strictly adhered to: –
§ Don’t leave litter. All litter must be carried out of the park and disposed off properly.
§ No one with a communicable disease is allowed to enter the park.
§ Don’t spit on the vegetation or soil while in the park, use your hankies or other garment.
§ Don’t use flashes while photographing the gorillas.
§ Stay together to a tight group while with the gorillas, don’t surround them.
§ You are allowed a maximum of 1 hour with gorillas.
§ Turn a way from the gorillas if you have to sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth in the process.
§ Don’t get closer than 7 metres to the gorillas.
§ Burry all human feaces in a minimum of one feet deep and ensure that the hole is properly covered.
§ Don’t eat or smoke when with gorillas or within a distance of 200 from the gorillas.
§ No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas.
§ Don’t make loud noise or move suddenly.