In 1942, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Reserve was gazetted, and later in 1992 it was declared as the Bwindi National Park and also honored as a World Heritage Site two years later in 1994. The word ‘Bwindi’ in the native Lukiga language means ‘Impenetrable.’ This dual warning of impenetrable best describes the densely covered Bwindi that stretches over an area of 327 sq km of tangled vegetation enveloped over a greatly creviced terrain of steep, muddy slippery valleys plus high, draughty edges.
Although the Bwindi terrain is challenging to explore, the reward you will get makes it all worth the effort. You will have the opportunity to move around this one of the surviving prehistoric rainforests in Africa as you look for the endangered giant mountain gorillas for one of the best wildlife encounters on earth!
In the early morning as well as at night the Bwindi can be extremely cold with temperatures dropping as low as 7°C while the highest temperatures can reach 20°C. in a year, the coldest months are June and July so we recommend that you carry with you Warm clothing as well as rain gear since it frequently and unexpectedly rains in the Bwindi.
The terrains is more challenging especially in the two wet seasons, with short rains being experienced from March to May and heavier rains from September to November. Unique about Bwindi is that the short tropical showers, often present as long hours of drizzle.
How to get to Bwindi
Bwindi is found in south-western Uganda, approximately 530km from the capital Kampala. This park may be accessed using road from various directions.
Routes to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya)-Kihihi-Buhoma
This route goes through the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park called the Ishasha sector, offering travelers an opportunity to search for the well-known tree-climbing lions. The Bwindi is just 160km from Mweya and then 64km from Ishasha.
This route takes you along a tarmac highway up to Kabale (414km) for 5 to 6 hours. The following 120km section then follows murram roads going through Kanungu as well as Kanyantorogo and goes for 4 to 5 hrs. It needs a 4WD vehicle.
This is the quickest as well as most direct path from Kampala, along tarmac roads up to Rukungiri (390km) and then 82km along murram to Buhoma.
The Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma part on this route is 95km on a murram road taking 3 to 4 hours. The Ruhija part is in bad condition and must only be used in a 4WD vehicle. The general public doesn’t often use this road.
Nkuringo is 105km from the town of Kabale. This drive goes for 6 hours along a mountainous murram road. The majority of visitors spend the night in Kisoro (which is 80km from Kabale) prior to continuing to Nkuringo. From Kisoro, the 35km road is winding, rough and that takes a maximum of 2 hours. We therefore recommend a 4WD car to approach Nkuringo.
How to access Bwindi National park using Public transport.
There are some buses that operate from Kampala to Butogota daily from which you hire a taxi for the following 17km up to Buhoma. There isn’t any public transport up to Nkuringo however vehicles may be hired from Kisoro.
How to get to Bwindi By Air
Travelers may fly from Entebbe or Kajjansi airfield in Kampala to the nice tarmac airstrip in Kisoro. People heading to Buhoma may use charter planes to the airstrip in Kayonza airstrip or Kihihi. Aerolink Uganda has recently introduced daily scheduled flights to Bwindi National Park. Hence making flights to the park cheaper.
A variety of accommodation handles up-market as well as budget visitors. It’s always best to reserve ahead of time.
Up-market plus mid-range facilities include: Gorilla Forest Camp, Mantana Tented Camp, Volcanoes Bwindi Camp, Buhoma Homestead, Lake Kitandara Camp and Gorilla Resort
Budget facilities include: Buhoma Community Campground and Bwindi View Canteen
You may also reserve a self-catering guesthouse through the headquarters of the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala.
Flora and fauna
Bwindi holds a huge biodiversity because of two factors. One, its slopes cover a wide altitude range of up to 1447 meters that create a range of habitats including the lowland forest at 1160 meters to uncommon Afromontane vegetation of more than 2600 meters. Two, it is very old. Although the majority of African forests disappeared throughout the dry conditions of the previous ice age (from 1200 to 1800 years back), the Bwindi was among the few ‘refugia’ which survived.
The Bwindi national park supports 310 butterfly species, 51 reptile species, 200 tree species, 88 moth species as well as 120 unique species of mammals among which are 10 primates. Among the Bwindi forest mammals are blue monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, L’Hoest’s, black and white colobus, red tailed monkeys in addition to the endangered mountain gorillas for which Bwindi is most famous for.
Furthermore, Bwindi gorilla park is a paradise for birdwatchers with about 35o different species of birds among which are 7 of the IUCN red-data listed plus 90% of the total Albertine rift endemics, species that are hard or rarely seen across most of East Africa. Especially relevant, an experienced bird-watcher can identify as many as 100 species of birds in a single day!
The local people living close to the park are mainly the Bafumbira with tiny communities of the pygmy Batwa people.
Around the park
The busiest tourism area of Bwindi national park is Buhoma found in the northern part of the forest. This is a trailhead to trekking many gorilla families and there are several accommodation facilities in this area. Although the main activity is gorilla trekking, there are other amazing tourist activities such as watching of monkeys and birds and nature walks. All these other activities start at 9:00am every day, and these include:
The Munyanga River Trail: a short walk that takes you through the valley right below Buhoma with opportunities to see birds and monkeys.
The Waterfall Trail: takes you through the verdant rainforest, going below tree ferns and orchids as you head to the beautiful waterfall
The Rushura Hill Trail: offers sweeping views over the plains of the western rift valley, Lake Edward as well as Mt. Rwenzori
Other routes include The Muzabajiro Loop Trail and the River Ivi Trail all worth exploring.
Enjoy a Buhoma community walk plus cultural performances by the local community who operate a thrilling village walk that takes about 3 hours. This offers visitors an opportunity to experience the village life and also visit some of the local homesteads, visit the traditional healer as well as the beer brewery. There are local dance groups that perform thrilling traditional dances plus music during the evenings on arrangement. You will also visit a couple of community development projects.
Nkuringo is located on the remote Nteko Ridge. It offers breathtaking views across the verdant Bwindi national park and towards the southern Virunga volcanoes.
Gorilla tracking is the main activity at Nkuringo. Trekkers must be physically fit and consequently able to walk for long hours. This offers great exercise pre and post tracking gorillas.
Villagers in Nkuringo arrange a community walk that includes visiting the traditional healer, brewers, rural homestead and the blacksmith.
Visitors driving private vehicles should think of crossing the middle of the park from the headquarters at Buhoma through Ruhija (in a 4WD vehicle). This route offers views into the deep valleys covered with the natural undisturbed rainforest. You will be able to see some duiker, monkeys plus various bird species. At Ruhija, there is a 3 hours hike great for birds in Mubwindi swamp. Guests may as well climb to the Afromontane vegetation through the bamboo area and enjoy views of Lake Bunyonyi as well as Mafuga forest.
Gorilla tracking is a fascinating and memorable experience that rewards your efforts. Bwindi is home to several gorilla groups that you can visit. Bwindi National park has been further broken down into regions. Below I have highlighted some of the habituated gorilla families within Bwindi:
- The Mubare group
- The Habinyanja group
- The Rushegura group
- The Nkuringo group
- The Nshongi
- The Mishaya
- The Rushaga group
- The Oruzogo
Gorilla tracking is the most well-liked tourism activity in Uganda. You should reserve earlier to make certain that permits for your preferred dates can be obtain. Gorilla trekking safaris ca also take place in Mgahinga national park.
There is also an option of spending 4 hours with th gorillas by participating in the recently introduced gorilla habituation experience.
For more information about gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi national park follow the link – gorilla safaris .