Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi impenetrable National park is one of the premium national parks not only in Uganda but the entire world. Its a home of more than half remaining endangered mountain gorillas in the world with other balance hosted in neighboring DR Congo and Rwanda. The park is mostly covered by the rain forests. It covers around 321 square kilometers with an altitude of 1,160 meters to 2,607 meters above sea level. Bwindi was established in 1991 to protect and conserve the rare mountain gorillas. In 1994 the park was listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Mubare gorilla family was the first group to be habituated in Uganda for the tourist activity. They were launched for tourists in April 1993. Till now more gorilla families have been habituated in Bwindi in all the four sectors now. The four sectors where gorilla tracking is done afre: Buhoma, Ruhinja, Nkuringo and Rushaga sector.
Uganda is the only country among the three countries that host the mountain Gorillas where Gorilla habituation is done. This is also called Gorilla research programmes in which few guests maximum of 4 people are allowed to spend 4 hours with the gorilla in the jungle. Its mist-covered hillsides are blacketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and biologically diverse rainforests. The forest is dated back over 25,000 years ago hosting over 400 plant species. The forest also homes over 400 mountain gorillas. Bwindi is among the few protected areas in the world where mountain gorillas share with Chimpanzees the same forest. There are also other primate species. The park hosts over 120 mammal species like forest Elephants, Duikers, Antelopes, warthogs and many others. There are over 350 bird species found at the park hosted in this forest. The park also hosts around 23 Albertine Rift endemics which are easily seen.
Location of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Forest National Park lies in the Southwestern part of Uganda On the edge of the Great Rift Valley. It’s located at the rim of the great Albertine Wesyern Rift valley along the Kigezi Highland commonly known as the “Switzerland of Africa ” Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth national park through Ishasha sector taking only 2-3 hours drive. If the guest is in Kampala city it takes 7-9 hours to drive through Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale route.The long drive is worth it as it is scenic with much to enjoy. During briefing from Entebbe or Kampala you may get scared but the beauty enroute will make you forget the time you took.
Another alternative for guests who may not wish to spend longer times on the road can opt for a domestic flight. There are domestic flights to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrip from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi.
Activities done in Bwindi forest National Park
Mountain Gorilla tracking is one of the world’s unique wildlife experience that can only the achieved in 3 countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda Gorilla tracking is done in Bwindi impenetrable National park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park. The Gorilla tracking in Bwindi is done in four sectors of Buhoma, Ruhinja, Nkuringo and Rushaga. There are around 18 gorilla families that are fully habituated and used for tourism activities. Among them only one is used for Gorilla habituation or research purposes and its the only one where habituation is done in the entire world. The guest has to book the Gorilla permit in advance at the fee of 700usd. You will pay directly to Uganda wildlife Authority or through a local tour operator of Uganda.
Just 8 guests are allowed to see the gorillas for an hour a day, and participants must be 15 years of age or older. And UWA guides will accompany them when they are with the Gorillas.
Depending on how far the group has traveled since it was observed nesting the previous night, monitoring the gorillas will last from a couple of hours to a whole day.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is covered by the varied habitats from Uganda’s oldest rainforest to the lowland swamps. This has been attributed to the high number of bird species at the park. The park hosts over 350 bird species recorded including the 23 endemics that covers 90% of the Albertine Rift endemics. Birding takes place along the main trails of Buhoma Waterfall Trail, and in Ruhija trail. Birding is also done along the bamboo area and Mubwindi Swamp trail. Some of the bird species recorded include: Short-tailed Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, Red-headed Bluebill,Green broadbill and many others.
For those who want to explore the “impenetrable forest,” there are six main nature trails in Buhoma, including waterfall hikes, forest walks, primate encounters, mountain views and spectacular birdlife.
The Muyanga Waterfall Walk leaves Buhoma along the trail of the Ivi-Nkuringo River and culminates in the sensational sight of 33 meters of falling falls.
The Rushura Hill Walk crosses one forest owned by two nations. Lakes Edward and George and the Rwenzori Mountains can be seen on a clear day, as well as the conical peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes.
Muzubijiro Loop is a walk of 6 km around a hill where you can meet primates and birds and enjoy a view of the Virungas.
The Ivi River Walk is 14km long and takes about seven hours to complete. The trail passes through a location known as Mukempunu where wild pigs can sometimes be found, meaning “a place of pigs.”
As you climb the hills towards Nkuringo, the Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail takes three to four hours and passes right through the park, linking the two villages and offering spectacular views of the misty hillsides. You and your driver, who will meet you on the other side, should leave our baggage. As part of the Ivi River Walk, this trail can also be completed.
Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail.
It takes 4-6 hours to reach the Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail. After crossing the Munyaga River, the climb of the Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge overlooking the Buhoma River is fairly steep. The legendary “African Corner,” named after a rock piece depicting a map of Africa, is located along this trail. After the steep climb, keen hikers will enjoy the mighty Habinyanja swamp on a more comfortable, gentle slope. The Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others, should look out for birders on this trail.
Here you have a 3-hour cultural walk through the village-you learn the ways and culture of the people on the edge of the Bwindi Forest living in the Buhoma district. A guide who is polite and knowledgeable about local culture and traditions is at The Village Walk.
You can see how people make local crafts, such as baskets with the most intricate designs, beer made from bananas, and a distillery that produces the local Waragi Gin from bananas, visit a traditional healer and hear about what is gathered in the ancient forest and how it is taken and applied to ailments.