Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park  is a world-renowned protected area located in southwestern Uganda, East Africa; It was established in 1991 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, The park covers an area of approximately 331 square kilometers (128 square miles) and is situated along the steep eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, at altitudes ranging from 1,160 to 2,607 meters (3,806 to 8,553 feet) above sea level.

The name “Bwindi” comes from the local Runyakitara language, which means “dark” or “impenetrable,” accurately describing the dense and thick vegetation that covers much of the park. The landscape is characterized by rugged hills, deep valleys, and a dense tropical rainforest that dates back over 25,000 years. Bwindi is considered one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa and is home to an incredible variety of plant and animal species; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Uganda’s most visited national park and is home to half the world’s mountain gorilla population with 50 gorilla families but only 20 are habituated. Located in the southwestern part of Uganda 512 kilometers from Kampala.

The park’s wonderful geographical cover takes you through the 4 trailheads of the impenetrable forest namely Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga, and Nkuringo.


Key features and attractions at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:

Biodiversity:

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is famous for its rich biodiversity, particularly its population of endangered mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). It is estimated that approximately half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population resides within the park’s boundaries, making it a crucial conservation area for this critically endangered species; The park is divided into several sectors, and each sector is home to different gorilla families, which are available for trekking experiences.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking:

Bwindi is one of the few places in the world where tourists can have a rare and unforgettable opportunity to trek through the dense forest and encounter these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is strictly regulated to ensure the well-being of the gorillas and to minimize human impact on their environment. Permits are required, and only a limited number of visitors are allowed to track each gorilla family daily.

Wildlife:

Besides the mountain gorillas, Bwindi is home to numerous other wildlife species, including several primate species such as chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, and blue monkeys. The park also boasts a diverse array of bird species, with over 350 recorded bird species, including the African green broadbill, the African emerald cuckoo, and the Chapin’s flycatcher.

Flora: – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The forest of Bwindi is considered a true tropical rainforest, and it houses an astonishing variety of plant species. The park is part of the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion and contains a mix of lowland and montane forest, as well as bamboo stands. Several plant species are endemic to the region, making it of great importance for conservation efforts.

Cultural Heritage:

The communities surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are predominantly Bakiga and Batwa people, each with their unique cultures and traditions. The Batwa are indigenous forest dwellers who were historically dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. Efforts have been made to include these communities in sustainable tourism initiatives, benefiting them economically and preserving their cultural heritage.


Activities to do at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The ancient Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest

Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest the few forests in Africa which still flourished even in the last ice age. It covers an area of about 331 square kilometers at an altitude of 1,160 meters-2,607 meters within the Ishasha gorge, up the Rwamanyonyi Peak.

Its average temperatures range between 7-20 degrees C and the temperatures are normally cool in the months of June and July. Heavy rains are received in the months of March, April, September, and November, and it’s normally dry in the rest of the year, but however, there is no guarantee that it won’t rain since it’s a tropical rainforest.

The Ancient Rainforest is a habitat to more than 326 endangered mountain gorillas, in other words, approximately more than have of the total population of mountain gorillas in the whole world making Uganda the leading and as well main Gorilla Safari area.

The rainforest also provides Habitation for over 30 elephants, 120 species of mammals of which 7 are diurnal primates, about 360 bird species, 200 butterfly species, and it also has over 324 tree species of which 10 cannot be found in any other part of Uganda including 23 Albertine Rift Endemics hence making Bwindi forest favorable for trekking.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Gorilla Trekking & Habituation

This is the most interesting activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which has attracted many tourists hence promoting more gorilla visits in Uganda; Bwindi has about 14 habituated gorilla families but currently, gorilla trekking is mainly carried out in the southern part of Bwindi in the regions of Nkuringo and Rushaga.

Gorilla trekking In Bwindi costs only $700  and Gorilla Habituation costs $1,500, therefore tourists who want to go for gorilla trekking are required to have their Gorilla trekking permit which can be acquired through contacting the Uganda Wildlife Authority head offices or through a tour or safari company; Through gorilla trekking, tourists are only allowed to spend one hour with the gorillas and only 8 trekkers are allowed per gorilla family.

The age limit for one to go for a gorilla trek is limited at 15 years therefore clients below 15 years are not accepted for gorilla trekking; Therefore through your trek through the forest, you will be able to view the colorful beautiful birds, butterflies, the black and white colobus monkeys and many other plant and animal species.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Birding: – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi impenetrable forest is a habitat to about 350 bird species for example the Blue-headed sun-bird, short-tailed warbler, Red headed Blue-Bil, White-tailed blue flycatchers, the attractive African Emerald cuckoo and many others. Therefore through hiking and trekking within the forest, you will be able to view these various bird species. The ancient rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park provides more habitats for other unique bird species including 23 Albertine rift endemics.

Birdwatching at Bwindi is mostly done through the Buhoma waterfall trail, bamboo zones, and the Mubwindi swamp trail in Ruhija. Some of the bird species found at Bwindi include the common bulbul, kiev gerund thrush, crowned hornbill, the African green pigeon, and many others; Bwindi forest is gifted with 400 tree species and these include the xymalos, the monospora, the myrianthus holstii, the neoboutonia macrocalyx, the teclea nobilis, the Allophylus abyssinicus, Blue-headed sun-bird, short- tailed warbler, the shinning African Blue and many more.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Birding at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain Biking

At Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mountain bikingis carried out in and around Bwindi impenetrable forest and it’s offered by a women organization called Ride 4 a woman organization; Through biking, you will be able to climb the Buhoma mountain trail and while at the top, you will be able to view the wildlife as well as the beautiful scenery of the forest hence leaving you with a memorable experience at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mountain Biking at Bwindi

Hiking & Nature Walks : – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Hiking through the Bwindi Impenetrable forest is very interesting and as you enjoy the nature walk, you will be accompanied by fantastic views of various beautiful bird species singing in the air, butterflies, the beautiful sceneries of the ever green vegetation and waterfalls within the forest.

You will also be able to see the chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys as well as other primates. Buhoma region of Bwindi has six main hiking trails and these include; muyanga waterfall trail, Rushura hill walk, Muzubijiro loop trail, Buhoma-Nkuringo trail, the ivi river walk, and the Habinyanja trail.

Nature walks in Bwindi national park, Hiking trails in Bwindi & Bwindi Village walks Nature Walks and hiking Bwindi; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has six main hiking trails in the Buhoma region of Bwindi and as you hike through the impenetrable forest, you will get chances of seeing various primate species, beautiful butterflies, various trees.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Nature Walks – Hiking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park


Cultures and people of Bwindi (Batwa Trails)

Bwindi forest national park is home to the Batwa people who have interesting cultures, art pieces, and cultural performances ranging from songs to dances.

The Batwa people are known as the keepers of the forest. These pygmies are a hunter-gatherer tribe living within the forest of Bwindi. Meeting them starts with an adventurous 3hours hike reaching the homes of the Batwa who will brain feed you with the different medicinal flora species; After welcoming you, the Batwa will take you through their fascinating culture, hunting skills, religious life, and much more staff as you get a chance to interact with the tribesmen. The Batwa excursion gives you a hint on how the ancient tribes survived.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Batwa People (Trails) at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park


Conservation Efforts at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) with support from various conservation organizations. The park’s main goal is to protect and conserve its unique biodiversity, with a particular focus on the endangered mountain gorillas. The revenue generated from gorilla trekking permits plays a significant role in funding conservation efforts and supporting local communities.


When to visit Bwindi

Bwindi forest national park is free and welcoming throughout the year though the weather here is unpredictable even though the park lies within the equatorial position having the heaviest rainy seasons stretch from mid march toward the end of May and during the end of September down to November; Trekking is fine throughout the year though more difficult during the rainy season as you will have to fight with the slippery and muddy trails.

The most favorable time to visit Bwindi is during the dry season which is June to mid-September and December, January, and February

When to Visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park


Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

There are 2 ways of getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

By Road

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in South-western Uganda which takes approximately 7hrs and 35mins at a distance of 463.7kilometers to get there via Masaka Road from Kampala. Therefore road transport is the easiest to use in order to get to Bwindi.  However, there are various routes that can be used to reach Bwindi Impenetrable National Park through road transport.

Bwindi National park can be accessed right from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north which is a two-three hour drive, from Kabaale town to the south which takes only about one-two hours, or it can be from Kampala through Mbarara for about six-eight hours.

These roads meet at Butogota which is a distance of only 17kilometers from Buhoma entrance gate. And if it’s a rainy season, visitors are required to use a 4wheeled vehicle for matters of safety. And if you are to use a Bus, a daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihiihi. At Butogota you will have to use a public minibus or boda-boda or hire a private vehicle to take you to the park entrance gate at Buhoma. However, as Arcadia Safaris we do advise clients to book for the safari through a Tour company like Arcadia Safaris.

By Air

As a tourist, you can choose to fly right from Entebbe or from Kampala at Kajansi airfield from where you will be taken to the modern tarmac airstrip located at Kisoro.  The planes may also be chartered to the Savannah or the grass Kayonza airstrips.

Bwindi actually has three airfields and these are found at Kihiihi and Kyonza in the northern area as well as Nyakabande located in Kisoro at Nkuringo for clients going for mountain gorilla trekking in the south of Bwindi.


Accommodation at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi forest national park is well vast with different kinds and classes of accommodation in whichever sector you are willing to visit.

Buhoma Sector

Nkuringo Sector

Ruhija Sector

Rushaga Sector

Buhoma community rest camp

Clouds mountain gorilla lodge

Cuckooland tented lodge

Gorilla safari lodge

Buhoma lodge

Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge

Ruhija Gorilla safari lodge

Chameleon hill lodge

Silverback lodge

Nshongi camp

Ruhija gorilla mist camp

Rushaga Gorilla Camp

Engage lodge

Chameleon hill lodge

Trekkers tavern cottages

Gorilla Valley Lodge

Gorilla resort

Wagtail Eco Safari Camp

Gift of nature lodge

 Four Gorillas Lodge

Mahogany springs camp

Bwindi Backpackers Lodge

Ruhija Gorilla Resort

Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bakiga Lodge Twin -Room

 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bakiga Lodge


Geography, Geology and History of Bwindi – Bwindi NP

The geography and geology of Bwindi start with its tropical forest sitting 331 km2, valleys and steep slopes having the border of the democratic republic of congo in the southwest; Bwindi forest national park is situated within the western rift valley with quartzite, pre-Cambrian shale phyllite, granite, quartz, and schist in terms of geology. 1,160m-2,607m above sea level and 60% of the park is at an elevation of about 2,000 meters. The northern end of the park is its lowest part and the eastern end is the highest.

The park has got about 5 major rivers that begin their descent in lake Edward, mutanda, and bunyonyi being supported by the annual rainfall that is between 1,400 – 1,900 millimeters; Historically the Bwindi forest has existed for more than 25,000 years. the park was established in 1964 and designated as a gorilla and wildlife sanctuary. 1994 the park was declared a natural world heritage site (UNESCO).


History of Mountain gorillas

As its name flows, the mountain gorillas can be found in mountains; The world’s mountain gorillas can be found in strictly three countries worldwide and these are Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo with the highest concentration in Uganda specifically at Bwindi forest national park.

When standing, the mountain gorilla ranges from 4-5 ½ feet weighing up to 440 lbs. Its scientific name is Gorilla beringei beringei. These species are considered endangered, they have got thicker fur more of it compared to the other great apes. This fur helps them within their cold full habitats.

Gorillas live in close-knit family groups that may have up to 30 members with a diet of purely vegetation; mainly leaves, buds, shoots, tubers, roots, stalks, barks, fruits, ferns, and many more; The gestation period of the mountain gorillas is 8-10 months as they give birth for the first time at 10 years and will have more offspring every three or four years. The life span of the gorillas is 50 years in the wild.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (Mountain Gorilla
Giant Mountain Gorilla at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park


What to Pack for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Packing for a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in Uganda, requires careful consideration due to its unique environment and the activities you might engage in, especially if you’re planning to go gorilla trekking. Here’s a packing list to help you prepare for your adventure:

Clothing:

  • Sturdy hiking boots: Essential for trekking through the dense forest.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants: Protect against insects, thorny plants, and the sun.
  • Rain jacket or poncho: Bwindi is a rainforest, so be prepared for sudden downpours.
  • Warm layers: Nights can be chilly, especially at higher elevations.
  • Hat and sunglasses: Protection from the sun.
  • Gloves: Useful for gripping vegetation during treks.
  • Swimwear: If your accommodation has a pool or hot tub.

Gorilla Trekking Essentials:

  • Permit: You’ll need a permit to trek and observe the gorillas. Arrange this in advance.
  • Daypack: A small backpack for carrying water, snacks, camera, and personal items.
  • Reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is crucial during treks.
  • Snacks: Energizing snacks like granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits.
  • Camera and binoculars: For capturing memories and observing wildlife from a distance.
  • Walking stick: Some lodges provide these, but you can bring your own for stability during the trek.

Health and Personal Items:

  • Prescription medications: Carry any necessary medications and a copy of prescriptions.
  • Insect repellent: Protect against mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Sunscreen: Even under the forest canopy, sun protection is important.
  • First aid kit: Include basics like band-aids, antiseptic, pain relievers, and any personal medications.
  • Toiletries: Pack travel-sized toiletries, including biodegradable soap.
  • Hand sanitizer: Useful for maintaining hygiene in the field.

Miscellaneous:

  • Travel adapter: Uganda uses Type G power sockets.
  • Cash: While credit cards are accepted in some places, having local currency is helpful for smaller purchases.
  • Photocopies and documents: Keep photocopies of your passport, permits, and other important documents in a separate bag.

Respectful Clothing:

  • Neutral-colored clothing: Bright colors can be disturbing to wildlife and are generally avoided on treks.
  • Conservative clothing: Uganda is a conservative country, so it’s respectful to dress modestly, especially in villages.

Accommodation Details:

  • Confirmation documents: Have copies of your accommodation bookings and contact information.

Remember that the climate and weather conditions can vary, so it’s a good idea to check the local weather forecast before you go. Additionally, be prepared for rustic conditions, especially in remote areas of the park.

Ultimately, packing for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park requires a balance between comfort, practicality, and respecting the environment and local culture.


Remarks on Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an exceptional experience, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with nature and observe some of the most remarkable and endangered species on the planet; However, it’s essential to approach the park with respect for its wildlife and natural environment to ensure its preservation for future generations.