Bwindi impenetrable national park
About Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bwindi impenetrable national park is situated in southwestern region in Kanungu district on the edge of the rift valley bordering with Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park was gazetted in 1991 mainly to conserve and protect the endangered mountain gorillas and in 1994 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its undisturbed nature and unique wildlife species. Bwindi national park covers a total area of 321 square kilometers and lies at an altitude of 1160metres to 2607 meters above the sea level.
Bwindi national park is a home of about 120 mammal species including the forest elephants, golden cats, bush pigs, black fronted duiker, clawless otters, civet, giant forest hogs, side stripped jackal, primates such as the mountain gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees, l’hoest monkeys, over 350 bird species including 23 species which are endemic to the Albertine rift among others.
Activities in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bwindi national park is famously known for harboring the highest number of mountain gorillas to an estimate of over 4oo mountain gorillas which are roughly half of the world’s population. the national park harbors about 19 habituated gorilla families which are found in four sectors of the park namely Buhoma sector which is located in the northern part of the park and harbors 4 habituated gorilla families, Rushaga sector which is located in the southern part harboring 8 gorilla families, Ruhija sector which is located in the eastern part harboring 4 gorilla families and Nkuringo sector in the southern part of the park harboring 3 gorilla families.
Gorilla trekking is the major activity in Bwindi impenetrable national park where visitors are allowed to move deep into the tropical rainforest in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules, regulations and expectations at the park headquarters where after you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla group to trek. Grouping of people at the park headquarters is done according to age, physical fitness and personal preference therefore if you are not physically fit, you are advised to communicate with the guides so as to be allocated a gorilla family that is near to trek.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable park starts at around 8:00am with a park guide who is experienced and well conversant with the trails in the jungle. Trekking of the mountain gorillas takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on the location of the gorillas and once found, you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat taking photos, recording the videos and learning about their behaviors, habits and lifestyle. After the one hour face to face interaction with the mountain gorillas, you will trek back to the park headquarters where you will be awarded a certificate for participating in gorilla trekking.
Visitors who are interested in gorilla trekking are however required to have a valid gorilla trekking permit which costs $600 per person for foreign non-resident, $500 per person for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 per person for East African citizens. Uganda however increased the price of a gorilla trekking permit by $100 therefore effective 1st July 2020 a gorilla trekking permit will cost $700 for foreign non-residents and $600 for foreign residents.
Gorilla habituation experience
Bwindi impenetrable national park also offers gorilla habituation experience which is an activity where the wild gorillas are trained to get used to human presence. Gorilla habituation experience is only carried out in Rushaga sector and it involves a team of researchers, conservationists, park rangers, trackers, gorilla doctors among others and it takes a period of 2 to 3 years to be complete. The habituation process only allows a maximum of 4 visitors to engage in the process and also allowed to spend four hours with the mountain gorillas under habituation process. Gorilla habituation experience is an incredible activity and visitors who want to engage in the process are required to have a valid gorilla habituated permit which costs $1500 per person for foreign non-residents, $1000 per person for foreign residents and UGX 750,000 per person for East African citizens.
Guided nature walks/Hiking
Nature walks in Bwindi impenetrable national park are best done in Buhoma sector which is located in the northern part. There are 6 trails for nature walk including Rushura hill walk, Muyanga waterfall walk, River Ivi walk, Muzumbigiro loop, Habinyanja trail and the Buhoma-Nkuringo trail. during the nature walk you will have great views of the Rwenzori peaks, Virunga volcanoes, lake Edward, lake George, some animals, feel the cool breeze, breath fresh air, listen to the sounds of bird species among others.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is one of the top birding destinations in Uganda in that it harbors over 360 bird species including 23 species that are endemic to the Albertine rift, 14 species endemic to Bwindi forest, migratory birds among others. Birding in the park can be done during the nature walk along the waterfall trail in Buhoma, Mubwindi swamp in Ruhija among others. On your birding safari you can look out for bird species like pied kingfisher, emerald cuckoo, rwenzori batis, ross’s turaco, black bee-eater, handsome francolin, grey cheeked hornbill, white tailed crested flycatcher, African pygmy kingfisher, African hawk, kivu ground thrush, giant kingfisher, yellow whiskered, brown capped weaver, African wood owl, blue spotted wood dove, double toothed barbet among others.
This is an interesting activity where you get an opportunity to interact with the local people who live around the park. On your cultural tour you will visit the Batwa/pygmies who used to live in the Bwindi forest before it was gazetted into a national park. You will therefore learn about their hunting and gathering skills, be entertained through cultural dance, music, drama, storytelling among others.
Where to stay on your safari in Bwindi impenetrable national park
There are a number of accommodations in Bwindi impenetrable national park ranging from luxury, midrange and budget. The lodges include Ruhija Gorilla Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp, Volcanoes Bwindi Camp, Engagi Lodge, Clouds Lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Buhoma Community Bandas, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Silverback Lodge, Nshongi Camp, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Community Guest House, Trackers Safari Lodge, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Savannah Resort Hotel, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Agandi Eco Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge, Cuckooland Lodge, Buhoma Community Haven Lodge, Crested Crane Bwindi Hotel, Gorilla CloseUp Lodge among others.
Best time to visit Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bwindi impenetrable national park can be visited throughout the year though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the park therefore the access roads and gorilla trekking trails in the jungle will be dry and passable compared to the rainy season when they are muddy and slippery. though the dry season is the best time to visit Bwindi impenetrable national park there are some shortcomings like competition of a gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation permit and due to the fact that Bwindi impenetrable national park is a tropical rainforest, it can also rain anytime of the day regardless of the season.
How to get to Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda and can be accessed by both road and air transport means
This is the most common means of transport to the park where you will either use public means, self-drive or private means. When using road transport you will drive from Kampala via Mbarara, Kabale and then to Bwindi impenetrable national park which takes about 8 to 9 hours’ drive. Though it’s a long journey from Kampala to Bwindi impenetrable national park it is filled with spectacular views of the Kigezi hills, landscapes, homesteads, local people, equator among others.
Bwindi impenetrable national park can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest national park in Uganda. When travelling from Queen Elizabeth national park you drive via Ishasha sector which is famously known for the tree climbing lions which will be viewed lying up in the acacia or fig tree branches during the game drive. The journey from Queen Elizabeth national park to Buhoma sector in Bwindi impenetrable national park takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
You can also use public means of transport to the park where by you will board a bus from Kampala bus station to Kabale town and then hire a private taxi to the park headquarters. Public means of transport is however not recommended because it’s tiresome and you might be over charged.
There are domestic airline companies such as Aerolink which operate scheduled and charter flights daily from Entebbe international airport or Kajansi airfield to Kihihi airstrip. The flight takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes and after arrival you will connect to the park headquarters by road. Air transport is the best option to use when accessing Bwindi impenetrable national park for visitors who don’t like travelling long distances.
Bwindi impenetrable national park can also be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to Bwindi impenetrable national park through Cyanika border in Kisoro where you will be able to easily access Rushaga or Nkuringo sectors or Katuna border in Kabale where you will access Ruhija sector. The journey from Kigal to Bwindi impenetrable national park takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive and is filled with great views of the rolling hills in Rwanda, homesteads, local people among others.