Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is found in southwestern Uganda. Bwindi, a habitat to mountain gorillas is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and the western Great Rift Valley periphery. It comprises of 331 square kilometres of jungle forests which has both montane and lowland forest accessible only on foot. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site with one of the richest ecosystems in Africa plus varieties of animal and bird species.
Bwindi together with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, are the homes to endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda. And gorilla trekking is the major activity at both parks. It is estimated that the Bwindi has about half the number of mountain gorillas remaining in the world today. Approximately 1000 gorillas live in the four gorilla parks of Bwindi plus Mgahinga in Uganda and Volcanoes and Virunga National Park in Rwanda and Congo respectively.
The park is a habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, 163 species of trees, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and numerous endangered species. In particular the area shares in the high levels of endemism of the Albertine Rift. The park is a place of safety for gorillas, colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds like hornbills and turacos. There are 19 habituated Mountain Gorilla groups open to tourism. The gorilla families are spread across the four trekking regions of Bwindi. To trek gorillas in Uganda, there are set rules and regulations visitors must follow to ensure safety for both humans and animals. These inlcude Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija gorilla sector. The biologically diverse park derives its names from the local language ‘Bwindi’ (dark place) which defines the impenetrable nature of its thick forests.
How to get there?
Bwindi National Park is about 520 Kilometres from Kampala city. Usually stronger vehicles like 4 Wheel Drive vehciles are recommended from Kampala or Kabale to the park. One can also do gorilla trekking in Uganda from Kigali to Bwindi Forest. This transfer takes about 4 hours to reach the park.
There are various routes:
1. One can move from Kampala-Kabale (414Kilometres, between 5-7 hours), then Kabale-Kanungu- Kanyantoorogo – Buhoma Park Headquarters, about 120kms, a 3.5hour-drive.
2. Kampala-Kabale (414Kms), then to Ruhija and finally to Buhoma which is 95 kilometres, a three-hour drive.
3. There is an option of flying from Entebbe to Bwindi for gorilla trekking adventures. From Entebbe, you land at Kihihi airstrip Buhoma areas and then transfer to the park for a gorilla trekking encounter.
3. Kigali via Cyanika border to southern Bwindi or Kigali through Gatuna border post to Kabale and then Bwindi. The option here is to fly into Rwanda and visit gorillas in Uganda.
Bwindi animal species:
– Mountain Gorillas, it’s a home for over 360 gorilla beringei*, a half of the total remaining world gorilla population.
– Monkey i.e. Hoest’s, red-tailed and blue monkey, black and white colobus,
– Olive baboon.
– Over 346 species of birds registered (Bwindi contains 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics.
– 200 of butterflies.
– Mammals like buffaloes, leopards, elephants and many more.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Activities.
There is mainly gorilla trekking to the numerous families of Gorilla gorilla beringei. Bwindi National Park gorillas are organized now in several groups that can be visited by tourists. Current information about the gorillas in Uganda can be got from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Headquarters or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park management. Bwindi Gorilla tracking is a bit tiresome, meaning physical fitness is an essential necessity. Usually gorilla tracking runs from 8:30 am local Ugandan time up to late hours of the day. About 8 permits are sold on a daily basis for each of these groups at UWA offices. So it’s better to book three months in advance to ensure proper safari planning. For environmental and animal safety reasons, visits to the gorillas are controlled.
It’s advisable to come with the following for tracking gorillas.
(a) Hiking boots- ankle level boots are ok but make sure it is something handy.
(b) Video- filming is allowed in the parks though not outside the park
(c) Rain Coat
(e) A pair of binoculars if you are a keen bird watcher.
(f) A warm cardigan
(g) Thick trousers and a long sleeved top are ideal for tracking.
(h) Water proof container for their cameras
(i) If you prefer wearing a hat, a baseball cap is recommended.
Bwindi is a hub for those needing to watch birds. Hiking trials are open to people to sight birds, butterflies, primates and trees along the Munyaga, Waterfall, Rushura, River Ivi, Mu bwindi swamp nature walks and Bamboo.
There are also a cultural walk to Buhoma village community for viewing traditional homestead, the healer, the banana brewing exercise, traditional handicraft and cultural performances.
One can watch up to 150 species in a day especially at Buhoma and Ruhija. Define what you need to enable proper arrangements in time for the whole day. Bwindi has over 350 birds’ species, representing a 90% of all Albertine rift Endemics which include:-
1. Short tailed Warbler.
2. Yellow-eyed black Fly-catcher,
3. Bar-tailed Trogon
4. Kivu Ground Thrush, Dusky Crimson Wing,
5. White-tailed Blue Monarch
6. Rusty-faced woodland Warbler,
7. Wilcock’s Honey-guide,
8. Gruer’s Rush Warbler and many more.
All these bird species are very rare in the Great Lakes Region at large. A golden chance to watch them is at Bwindi.
THE MUNYANGA RIVER TRAIL
Munyanga river trail is an interesting short walk for tourist with limited time at their disposal. Interesting to see here are mainly birds and primates of the forest edge. The wonderful waterfall trail provides an attractive feature of the forest with a profusion of tree ferns, epithetic ferns, orchids and Bwindi’s colourful array of butterflies. This trail gives a clear picture and comfort of a true tropical rain forest.
When you spend between 2 to 4 days in the park, there are 4 interesting hiking trails. There is a chance to see and learn about primates, various rare bird species, butterflies, trees, plants and other organisms on all the four trails. When you are with a guide, who is a must on the tour, you get a comprehensive learning of how park’s system operates. The guides understand well the primatology, ornithology and botany of the park.
THE RUIZI RIVER TRAIL
It’s the longest of the trail and takes a full day to accomplish. It’s always good for bird watchers. Visitors with their own 4WD vehicles transport should consider crossing the rugged centre of the park through Ruhija. This transect affords the visitor with Uganda’s finest vistas of deep undisturbed forests. While on this Uganda safari, watch out for duikers, primates and both forest and grassland bird species. In Ruhija, visitors can take the three-hour scenery packed hike to the Mubwindi swamp. One can also walk conveniently to the Bamboo zone.
THE RUSHURRA TRAIL
This trail is very enjoyably because it commands an expansive view across the western rift valley floor. To the west, Congo’s Parc Nationale des Virungas provides spectacular scenery of clear Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountain.
THE MUZABAJIRRO TRAIL
Muzabiro Trail gives a comfortable breath taking spectacular scenery of Bwindi Forest, Western Rift Valley and the Virungas. While on your way, you will view a lot pre-historic tree ferns. When you reach the top of this trail, you will realize it is a wonderful site for a picnic lunch.
THE BAMBOO TRAIL
This one is among the areas of the highest diversity in the park and its trail offers 14 vegetation types. When at the top of this trail, you are treated to an expansive sight of the clear-water Lake Bunyonyi and the thick Mafuga Forest.
The evenings are usually characterized by traditional dance performances by local tropes especially women groups. And money raised from these performances is directed towards improve the lives of the people/ locals who live around the park.
Bwindi is blessed with a number of affordable accommodation facilities of almost all class of people. Accommodation below is of luxurious and relative in setting:
1. Abercrombie and Kent with luxury secure tents.
2. Mantana, with very luxurious safer tents.
3. The local community also operates a clean accommodation camp with a restaurant serving traditional dishes for breakfast, lunch and super.
4. Ruhinja Guest House
5. Buhoma Homestead
6. Savannah Resort Hotel at Kihihi.
7. On prior arrangement, a medium class accommodation in the homestead is possible.
8. In Kihihi, Savanna Resort Hotel is 40 kilometres to Buhoma and near Ishasha sector, of Queen Elizabeth National Park.