Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Recognized internationally as UNESCO world heritage site, <>Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is one of the most bio diverse areas in East Africa and protects what equates to half of the world’s mountain gorillas about 400 individuals live. Within the park, there’s a diverse of flora and fauna including 120 mammals, more than 350 birds as well as the indigenous communities of BaTwa pygmies. The most memorable experience for visitors in Bwindi is to see mountain gorillas through gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation experiences.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is located in southwestern Uganda at the edge of the Albertine rift valley. The park covers an area of 331 sq km protecting ancient tropical rainforests which dates back 25,000 years ranging from an altitude of 1160 – 2607 meters above.
Because of such altitudinal range, Bwindi rainforest has one of the highest levels of plant, insect and mammals biodiversity. The forest is often covered by mist. The following species can be found in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.
120 mammals including forest elephants, warthogs, stripe sided jackals, genets, black fronted duiker.
10 species of primates such as chimpanzee, L’Hoest monkey, olive baboons, red tailed monkey, black and white Colobus monkey.
360 species of birds including 23 Albertine rift endemics such as African green broadbill, Stripe breasted tit, and Red throated Alethe, red faced woodland warblers among others. Bwindi holds the record for being voted number 1 African birding destination by African birding club.
220 species of butterflies
More than 400 species of plants
160 species of trees including the brown mahogany
More than 100 species of ferns
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park has 12 habituated gorilla families available for tracking. The park is divided into four tourism sectors which are open for tourists who want to undertake gorilla tracking and gorilla habitation experience which are the main activities. There are other activities such as bird watching, hiking, nature and village walks, boat rides, canoeing at lakes such as Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda.
Buhoma is the headquarters located in the lower northern boundaries of Bwindi. It is where gorilla tourism started in 1993. In the area there are 3 habituated gorilla families of Mubare, Rushegura and Habinyanja which can be visited by tourists. There are 3 series of waterfalls accessible by a nature walk. This area has the highest number of luxury to budget accommodations. Village walks will give you access to the communities living around are involved in productive agriculture, tea planting, and bee keeping and making of craft products.
Ruhija is located in the south east above 2000 meters, the highest altitude point of Bwindi is Rwamunyonyi peak (2607m, the hill of many birds). There is also a large swamp called Mubwindi on top of the hill. This area is meant for scientific research and eco tourism than the sectors and therefore Ruhija has a diversity of landscape, more birds and vegetation. There are 3 gorilla families habituated. Tourists are allowed to visit them daily but hiking in this region can be challenging due to steep terrain. Ruhija is the easiest to access from Rwanda because it is close to the main Kabale highway.
Nkuringo located in south of Bwindi this area has 1 gorilla family but is also has beautiful landscape for photography. At Nkuringo ridge, there are lodges where you get a view of the whole forest as well as Virunga Mountains and Albertine rift valley.
Rushaga has 5 habituated gorilla families, including 2 for habituation experience which are the largest in Bwindi. This area is the most visited by tourists for two reasons. There is gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation experience where visitors spend 4 hours with semi-habituated gorillas. Rushaga is also located close to beautiful lakes such and Lake Mulehe where you will find some lodges offering accommodation. However if you choose to stay at these lakes, expect that you will wake up early to drive for around 15 -20 minutes to the gorilla tracking center.
How to get to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park
It is better to drive by road from Kampala or Entebbe airport (this will take 9-10 hours) until arriving at your lodge in Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga or Nkuringo.
The second option is to arrive to Bwindi by charter flight from Kampala or Entebbe airport. (This takes 1-2 hours but it is expensive). Traveling to Bwindi by road is cheaper and the route is beautiful and allows tourists to enjoy sightseeing at equator monument and Igongo cultural center via Mbarara town as well as beautiful scenery of kigezi highlands.
If you plan to visit Bwindi please note that gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation must be booked in advance through a tour operator. Try to read the gorilla rules because you will not be allowed to see gorillas if you are sick. Tracking gorillas is easy but it involves hiking through thick rain forests which require physical fitness and wearing hiking shoes.