Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda; Location, Activities, Lodges and Best time to Visit Bwindi Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the leading Uganda gorilla safari destination most visited for gorilla trekking adventures. Half of the world’s 1063 mountain gorillas are believed to be thriving within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with 20 gorilla families already undergone through habituation.
Location of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is suitably located near Uganda border with the D.R. Congo. Featuring a lush Impenetrable Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is geographically found in the South-western part of Uganda, approximately 8-9 hours’ drive from Kampala or Entebbe. The compact rain-forest protected area sits on altitudinal range of 1160-2607m and surrounded by three districts- Kisoro, Kabale and Kanungu.
Gazetted in 1991 as one of the best Uganda safari parks and later became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the biodiverse destinations in Africa. Mountain gorillas are undeniably the top attractions tourists should expect to see while on Uganda safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Its vast rain-forest dates back to over 25000 years, sheltering over 400 different species of plants.
Bwindi National Park is also positioned within the Western Rift Valley Area with misty hillsides. The designated UNESCO site and rain-forest park spans on 331sq.kms of land area, consisting of 4 sectors; Nkuringo, Rushaga in the South; Ruhija in the East and Buhoma to the North.
Top Attractions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an important home to all 120 mammal species which include a total of 459 mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla is a prime reason why most tourists undertake Uganda safari in Bwindi National Park. Not more than 1063 of these rare apes still live in the wild and there are only 4 National Parks to visit to see them including Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park.
The primary reason why Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was founded was to provide shelter to some of the world’s mountain gorillas. It is in Bwindi where the first gorilla family was opened for gorilla trekking in 1993 after undergoing through habituation for 2 years. Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda and it is found right in Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Still in Buhoma, the additional 3 groups include Katwe, Habinyanja, Rushegura.
A total of 4 sectors are in Bwindi and besides Buhoma, the other 3 sectors/regions include Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo. Rushaga hosts the biggest number of gorilla groups- about 9 of them including Mishaya, Nshongi, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Kahungye, Rwigi, Kutu, Bikingi and Bweza. Nkuringo currently has 3 families- Nkuringo group, Christmas and Bushaho. Trekking any of the habituated gorilla families in any of the 4 sectors in Bwindi requires you to have a valid gorilla permit, each costing USD700 per trekker per day.
Other Species of Wildlife
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an ultimate Uganda safari park, protecting more than mountain gorillas in the same habitat. The 331sq.kms tropical forest park also protects important wildlife species such as chimpanzees, giant forest hogs, rodents, colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, jackals, vervet monkeys. Bwindi is also a special habitat to about 220 butterfly species, 27 frog, 104 fern species, 163 tree species and more.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offers more than mountain gorilla encounters. A total of about 360 bird species make Bwindi a true birder’s paradise and they include 23 endemic bird species.
The birds to expect to encounter on Uganda safari in Bwindi include Chapin’s flycatcher, African wood owl, Shelley’s greenbul, Neumann’s warblers, African broadbill, Handsome francolins. Additionally, expect to look for Western green tinker bird, Dwarf honey guide, Red throated alethe, African emerald cuckoo, African green pigeon, Flycatchers, Harrier hawks to mention but a few.
Waterfalls in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is a beautiful place worth visiting by any nature lover on safari in Uganda. The park has exceptionally beautiful waterfalls including Kashasha River Falls and Munyaga River Falls.
A nature walk in existing trails from Buhoma to Nkuringo sector offer a great chance for tourists to visit, explore these natural endowments while also spotting variety of flowering plant species, birds, butterflies and more.
The People around Bwindi
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park like most African safari parks is surrounded by local communities worth visiting for cultural safari or encounter. Adjacent to Bwindi are the Batwa pygmies and Bakiga communities each with distinct cultural practices, traditions, norms.
The Batwa people are long known as the ‘forest people/dwellers’- this is a fact that they spent 500,000 years while hunting and gathering in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Southwestern Uganda. Visiting the Batwa or Bakiga community after or before your gorilla trekking adventure makes visitors’ safari holiday in Bwindi or Southwestern Uganda complete.
Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda
Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Tracking
Gorilla trekking is absolutely a unique wildlife activity and experience that attracts thousands of Uganda safari goers each year into Bwindi National Park. There are 4 major areas or regions in Bwindi, each with already habituated gorilla families for gorilla trekking/tracking.
Tourists undergo briefing early morning before setting foot into the jungles of Bwindi to look for mountain gorillas. Briefing time is from 7:00am to 8:00am when you can begin the actual trek with park guide, expecting to take 2-6 hours including one hour of face to face encounter.
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Rules
- Only use a camera that is free from flashlight for taking photos.
- No one shall be permitted to set foot into the jungles to trek gorillas if they are sick or ill.
- Keeping a distance of 10 meters from gorillas is mandatory to prevent spread of infectious diseases to these endangered species.
- Visitor voices should be kept low at all times while in the jungles.
- Only those with valid gorilla permits have a chance to visit a habituated family of gorillas in Bwindi/Mgahinga. About 168 gorilla permits are all available for booking in Uganda at USD700 (FNR/Foreign Non-Residents), USD600 (FR. Foreign Residents) and East Africa Citizens Uganda shillings 250,000.
- One hour of face to face with gorillas is guaranteed upon finding them in the wild.
- Don’t forget to wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth.
- Have all human wastes buried deep as recommended by the park official.
- Trekking gorillas in Uganda is open to persons above 15 year.
- It is highly prohibited to liter the gorilla habitat.
There is only one destination to visit for gorilla habituation experience that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
Gorilla habituation is unique from the normal gorilla trekking because it takes a long day or half day of monitoring/following the semi habituated gorilla group to make it used to presence of people before it is opened for actual gorilla trekking. Gorilla habituation permits- Uganda cost USD1500 but guarantees visitors 4 hours face to face with mountain gorillas as opposed to one hour during the normal gorilla trekking.
Birding is another special Uganda safari activity Bwindi has to offer nature lovers. The park is a host to all 360 bird species in its different birding areas such as Bamboo zone, Mubwindi and Buhoma waterfall trail. The birds to keep an eye on birding tour here include African broadbill, Kivu ground thrush, African wood owl, Handsome francolins, Red headed blue bill,
The special birds of Bwindi N/Park include African wood owl, Regal sunbird, African broadbill, Red headed blue bill, Handsome Francolins, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori batis, Dwarf honey guide, Red throated alethe, African emerald cuckoo, African green pigeon, Flycatchers and more.
Cycling is another astonishing experience tourists in Bwindi should expect to enjoy. It is arranged by Ride 4 a Woman a local project intended to support local residents. Bikes are available for renting for interested cyclists/bikers and this amazing activity is conducted on Buhoma sector of Bwindi.
Before or after gorilla trekking Bwindi, Batwa cultural experience is the best way to end your day. You visit Batwa community to learn how they lived for 500000 years as hunters and fruit gatherers, how fire can be made using traditional ways and get entertained by dances, music performance and plenty of other activities.
Over 6 hiking/nature walk trails in Bwindi introduce visitors into the hidden treasures of what this park has to offer. They include among other Buhoma village walk, waterfall trail, Ivy trail, Muzubijiro loop, Habinyanja, Munyaga trail and Rushura hill walk.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Best Time to visit
Uganda safaris in Bwindi National Park can be conducted at any day, time, month of the year. However, the dry season is undoubtedly the best time for anyone to have excellent exploration of this lush protected area. The dry season often begins from June, July, August to September; December, January to February.
Where to stay – Lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi National Park has all accommodation types, budget, mid-range and luxury.
The top budget safari lodges in Bwindi include Ruhija Community Rest Camp, Buhoma Community Camp, Gorilla Friends Resort, Nshongi Camp, Bwindi Backpackers Lodge;
Mid-range lodges include Gorilla Valley Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge while luxury options include Gorilla Mist Camp, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
By road, Bwindi is easier accessed in a 4×4 safari vehicle for about 8-9 hours’ drive starting from Entebbe/Kampala; 3-4 hours’ drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park or from Kigali through Chanika/Katuna borders.
By air: fly in gorilla safaris can be arranged and flights begin from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrips where you can easily connect to the Southern sectors of Bwindi that is Nkuringo or Rushaga. The Northern (Buhoma)/Eastern (Ruhija sector) is served best by Kihihi airstrip.