Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Overview
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a biodiverse, mountainous area that lies in southwest Uganda. More famously, the “Bwindi impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked. The park also shelters a variety of wonderful creatures to glance at while on your trip to Bwindi. These include several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. The park is 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.
Every day when tourists go out for the famous gorilla trekking safari in Uganda the ranger guides have to cut vegetation for trackers to access way to where gorillas nested the previous night. It is the true African jungle with droplets of the sun coming through the think forest cover giving you a feeling of being in paradise
Bwindi forest is a birding spot where birders can enjoy the birding tour especially for those who have limited time in Uganda. Bwindi can easily be accessible for birding with birding trails in the forest leading to different area including the waterfall trail. With over 350 species of birds which include 23 Albertine Rift endemics and 14 of which are recorded nowhere else in Uganda, I dare you to leave out Bwindi for a birding experience. There are excellent site guides in the communities who are very knowledgeable about the birds in the area especially the endemics. These join you as you take your trip into the forest re-enforcing the team you will have started with on your trip.
Mountain biking follows a well-maintained trail from the park headquarters at Buhoma to the Ivi River. Along this 13km trail you may see wildlife such as bushbucks, black-and-white colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Take a biking adventure to Kigezi region where Bwindi impenetrable forest is located is a mountainous area with beautiful scenery. Most lodges have bikes you can rent per day to take on the special trails created in the community otherwise ask them for a project you can rent from. Ivi river trail from Buhoma park headquarters to Ivi river organized by ‘ride for a woman’.
Gorilla tracking is the main and leading adventure in Bwindi. This activity is done on a daily basis after purchasing a gorilla-tracking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. There are 4 locations for tracking gorillas in BINP these are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. The 4 locations have a total of about 18 families as of December 2018. You are advised to book your permit at least 3 months prior to secure your day especially if you prefer a certain location. Only 8 individuals of 15 years of age and above are permitted to visit a gorilla family per day. You need to be in good health condition otherwise you will not track because humans and Gorillas can easily pass diseases to each other. Additionally, it is important that you wear long sleeved pants and shirts to avoid scratches as you trek through the forest, carry a rain poncho, seasoned boots, lots of water, lunch (sometimes it takes an entire day to locate them) and finally consider hiring a potter because the terrain can be difficult.
There are six main nature trails in Buhoma for those who wish to explore the “impenetrable forest”, including waterfall walks, forest walks, primate encounters, mountain views and impressive birdlife.
1. The Muyanga Waterfall Walk departs from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo trail and culminates in the sensational sight of the falls plummeting 33 meters.
2. Rushura Hill Walk passes through one forest shared by two countries. On a clear day you can view Lakes Edward and George and the Rwenzori Mountains as well as the conical peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes.
3. Muzubijiro Loop is a 6km walk around a hill, where you will encounter primates and birds and enjoy a view of the Virungas.
4. The Ivi River Walk is 14km and takes around seven hours. The trail passes a place known as Mukempunu – meaning “a place of pigs” – where wild pigs can often be found.
5. The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail takes three to four hours, and crosses right through the park, connecting the two villages and offering impressive views of the misty hillsides as you ascend the hills towards Nkuringo. .
6. The Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail takes 4-6hrs. After crossing the Munyaga River, it takes in a fairly steep ascent of the Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge overlooking Buhoma River. Birders on this trail should watch out for the Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others.
The community surrounding Bwindi forest is full with activities and cultural experiences for you. You can choose to take on the Batwa experience – a people that lived in the forest for many years. Here you will be to re-visit the forest with them and experience how they lived in the forest, how they co-existed with the gorillas and the other animals for years. The different walks include Buniga Forest nature walk in Nkuringo – a forest reserve adjacent to Bwindi impenetravle national park. Nyundo community Eco trails and King Bakyara’s waterfall trail. Tour the village Aquaponics project with Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). Buhoma community tours – areas of interest, handcraft shops, Batwa community, traditional healer, primary school and finally learn how bananas are used to make juice, beer and gin and taste.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is divided into different sectors where gorilla trekking tours happens. The gorillas habituated for tourism are in families based at different trailheads. When you choose to visit Bwindi, be sure to know which trailhead you are allocated before you book your hotel. After knowing your allocated trailhead then you can book the hotel in that location. Currently 12 gorilla families are habituated for tourism. The sectors heads include; Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. The following are the afferent gorilla families in bwindi’s major 4 sectors
The Mubare Family
The Habinyanja Family (17 members)
The Oruzogo Family (17 members including 2 silverbacks.)
The Bitukura Family
The Rushegura Family
The Nkuringo Family
The Nshongi Family
The Kyaguliro Family ( 20 members)
The Bweza Family (12 members)
The Kahungye Family
On your visit to Bwindi, take a three hour village walk as you encounter with various cultural activities of the Local Bakiga and Batwa communities and you will as well observer how they are carried out. First of all you will encounter with a handcraft shop where handmade artefacts are sold such as the wood carvings, fabrics, and beeswax candles. These handmade artefacts are made by the local craftsmen and women in this village due to their talents. You will also be able to observe a unique cultural activity of cultural songs and dance performances by the local people of the Batwa community which portrays their past life in the forest.
While at this community, you will also meet the Blacksmiths, the amazing traditional healer who treats the sick using local herbal medicine which is got from plants, and you will also meet the teachers and the pupils the the local Primary School. You won’t also miss out observing how juice, beer and jin are made from Bananas. You will taste and see the difference therefore we do believe that you will learn how to do this.Buhoma Community Tours / Mukono Development Association
Overlooking the imposing hillsides of Bwindi Impenetrable forest, with mist swirling over the summits, Buhoma is a truly dramatic setting for your cultural tour!
Proceeds from the tour support community development projects such as a secondary school, maize mill and microfinance circle, and the Batwa receive all proceeds from their performances.
Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth National Park to 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. A 4WD vehicle is necessary during the rainy season.
A daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihiihi. A matatu (public minibus), hire car or boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) can be taken from Butogota to the park entrance gate at Buhoma.
Travelers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Planes can also be chartered to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips. Bwindi is well served by three airfields 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).
Looking for where to stay in Bwindi? find here comprehensive list of recommended hotels and Safari Lodges in Bwindi located within the different sections of the park and offering different levels of comfort and pricing. From basic / budget accommodation, to mid-range and up market / luxury accommodation options, you will find a great deal of choices and you can easily book your accommodation in Bwindi using the provided contact details or contact us to benefit from our special tour operator rates.
In addition to the above hotels, camps and safari lodges in Bwindi, new facilities keep springing up and as such, you can be sure there are always plenty of choices for your accommodation in Bwindi and we are eager to help you find one that fits your exact needs and budget.
Recommended Time to Visit Bwindi
When planning for a trip to this park, you need to put into consideration two important seasons-the dry and wet season. These are two most significant seasons any visitor on Uganda safari to Bwindi Forest should bear in mind. Each season has its own advantages and disadvantages. The dry season comes in two phases with the first phase starting from June to September and this is normally considered as the longest dry spell which is encountered in Bwindi and most parts of Uganda.
This season is also regarded as the peak/high season and normally preferred by most visitors on Uganda safari due to its ideal conditions. It is characterized by low rainfall and because of this; the habitat remains relatively drier making it easier for visitors on gorilla safari to embark on a hike through the park’s steep slopes and dense vegetation to search for the rare mountain gorillas while in their natural habitat. But given the nature of habitat where these creatures thrive, you have to expect it to rain at any time of the day. What is remarkable about it is that it can rain but for a short time after, you can still proceed with your adventure.
On the other hand, the wet season which is also known as the rainy season or low season is equally ideal for safaris. It starts from March to May and October to November which equally represents two phases. This season comes with heavy rainfall which favors growth of plants in the habitat which means availability of plenty of forage for these creatures to depend on. This also denotes that they keep within and thus making it easier for you to track them compared to the dry season which comes with food shortage and makes these primates to move to distant areas in search of what to feed on which also means longer hours of hike. The disadvantage with it is that it comes with plenty of rainfall which means the ground becomes muddy and slippery making it a bit more challenging for one to hike through the steep slopes and dense vegetation while in search for these amazing creatures. But if you are good at birding, the wet season is perfect period for you to spot out variety of bird species as most of them are attracted.
Whether you plan to visit Bwindi during the dry season or wet season, how you pack also matters a lot. When considering which items to pack, put in mind the essentials first. That said, in your packing list, don’t miss to include waterproof hiking boots which are light weight and offer support to your ankle while you are hiking, gardening gloves, waterproof daypack, first aid kit, insect repellent, camera but with no flashlight, walking stick which you can get at the park headquarters, hat, sunscreen, long sleeved shirt or t-shirt, trousers a mention but a few.
In conclusion, in case of any plans to visit Bwindi National Park for a safari, put into consideration the dry and wet season. However, you can get to this park at any time of the year depending on what your travel needs are.