Bwindi impenetrable national park
Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda on the edge of the western arm of the great east African rift valley, the park is part of the Bwindi impenetrable forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga mountains just about 530km from Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Its mist-covered hillsides are covered by one of Uganda’s premier and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains over 400 species of flora. More remarkably, this “impenetrable forest” also harbors an approximate number of 400 mountain gorillas– almost half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked quite easily.
This biologically diverse region also shelters over 120 mammals,with numerous numbers of primates including baboons and chimpanzees, as well as forest elephants and antelopes. There are approximately 350 bird species sheltered in this forest, including 23 Albertine rift endemics.
It comprises of 331 square kilometers of tropical forest i.e. lowland and Montana forest.
The National park receives regular rain fall of 1,500mm, and it’s an essential catchment area, the oasis of 5 foremost rivers, that gush into Lake Albert.
It’s considered to be the main natural forest in Africa, largely due to its antiquity and an altitude range of between 1,160 and 2,607m above sea level.
The park is a factual rain forest, stretch over a series of steep ridges and valleys which form the eastern border of the Albertine Rift Valley.
Tourist activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National park
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
Gorilla trekking over the years has not only been a highlight in Bwindi impenetrable national park but also in Uganda. This national park has over 12 Gorilla groups / families staying in the 4 major tracking regions, that is; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
These families / groups have been habituated and are available for tourists in Bwindi; Mubare Group (8 gorillas, 1 silverback) was launched for tourism in 1998, Rushegura group (18 gorillas, 1 Silverback) was opened in July 2004, Habinyanja group (16 gorillas, 2 Silverbacks) opened 1st July 1999, while Nkuringo family (17 gorillas, 2 silverbacks) was opened for tourism in April 2004.
Gorilla trekking is arguably the most spectacular activity for any safari traveller in Uganda and east Africa, with a variety of Gorilla packages, such as the Uganda Gorilla safaris, Rwanda Gorilla safaris and combined gorilla trips with Rwanda’s volcanoes national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park and Bwindi impenetrable national park together giving a magical experience that will never easily disappear from the memories.
Once a habituated gorilla family has been located by the guides, you can settle down for an hour to observe them as they feed and groom while their babies tumble about the undergrowth – all under the watchful gaze of the great silverback male. Sitting only a few meters from a gorilla and looking into its soft brown eyes is a spine-tingling experience not easily forgotten.
Hiking and nature walks in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
This park is broadly considered to enhance a variety of any East African forest, and Buhoma area has a lot to offer than just Gorilla tracking.
6 trails, ranging from 40 minutes to eight hours leading from Buhoma straight into the interior of this “impenetrable forest”. Presenting an opportunity to have the humility of the forest and a number of monkey and bird species.
Muyanga waterfall trail; This avails striking feature of the jungle with a large amount of tree ferns, epiphytic ferns, orchids and Bwindi’s vibrant array of butterflies. This track that leads to 3 amusement crystal waterfalls which typifies your feeling of a tropical humid forest.
The Rushura hill trail; This is a 3 hours track and offers good views across the western rift valley floor, including the lakes, George and Edward, the Rwenzori Mountains as well as the conical peaks of the Virunga volcanoes.
Ivy River Trail; This is greatest trail in the park and will take you for a full day. It is highly recommended for bird watchers. Then to the west, Congo’s Parc Nationale des Virungas provides spectacular backdrop and on clear days like Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains.
The Buhoma-Nkuringo trail; A latest introduction is a three-hour stroll through Buhoma and its margins to see the customs and practices of the Bakiga and Batwa people. The tour take sin varied activities such as farming, brewing local beer, dispensing traditional medicines and concludes with dancing displays by members of the Batwa community.
The Habinyanja trail; This is a 4-6hrs trail which crosses the Munyaga River; it takes in a fairly steep ascent of the Habigorogoro and riyovi ridge overlooking Buhoma River. Found along this trail, visitors are able to have a view of the legendry “African corner” named after a rock piece depicting a map of Africa. However, birders and hikers can enjoy this route as it leads to the mighty Habinyanja swamp following a more relaxed gentle slope and a variety of black bee eaters, African black duck can be a wonderful experience for those interested in birding.
Take note of duikers, primates and both forest and grassland bird species. In Ruhija, tourist can take the 3- 4 scenery packed hike to Mubwindi swamp. You may also walk to the Bamboo zone (the only such area in the park). Hit the Trail in your safari car; Tourist with their 4*4 should consider crossing the rough centre of the park via Ruhija. This transect enables tourists with Uganda’s finest vistas of deep uninterrupted forests.
The Bamboo trail offers 14 vegetation types and is one of the areas of highest diversity in the park.
You witness panoramic views encompassing L. Bunyonyi and Mafuga forest at the top of this trail. Then in the evenings, participate in captivating traditional performances presented by Women’s groups. Proceeds from these go directly to improve the welfare of families around the park.
Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for a variety of birds; Bwindi is one of the finest montane forest bird watching destinations in Africa, and is a must visit site for any birder travelling to Uganda. There are an estimated 350 bird species with 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) and 14 recorded nowhere else in Uganda. Globally threatened species such as African Green Broadbill and Shelley’s Crimson wing are also found here. Other birds include the Handsome Francolin; Black-billed Turaco; African Broadbill; Black and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters; Western Green Tinker bird; Purple-breasted, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds; Short-tailed and Black-faced Rufous Warblers; Mountain-masked and Collared Apalis; Mountain and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls; and Many-colored Bush-Shrike, among others.
Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable national park takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable national park.
All the major Gorilla trekking regions in the proximity, such as Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo provide an amazing array of Luxury accommodation, Mid range lodges, budget campsites and rustic bandas.
Accessing Bwindi Impenetrable national park
Bwindi can be accessed either by air from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip or by road from Kampala.
From Entebbe airport, there are scheduled flights to Kihihi which is close to the northern sector of Bwindi and also flights to Kisoro which is close to the Southern sector of Bwindi. Flights to Kisoro only leave in the morning while Kihihi has both morning and afternoon departures from Entebbe.
Charter flights are also available from Kajjansi Airstrip to either Kisoro or Kihihi.
There are many access routes to Bwindi; This is according to the region one is interested in tracking.
But most definitely, the quickest and most direct of all the routes from Kampala is the Kampala-Ntungamo-Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma road, which follows a tarmac route to Rukungiri for about 390km followed by Murram roads to Buhoma for 82km.
Other routes are:
- Kampala- Kabale- Kanungu- Buhoma; A tarmac highway until Kabale for about 414km spending at least 6-8hrs.
- Kampala-Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma; This follows the same route as the above option except the Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma section that is about 95km on a Murram road and can take about 3-4 hrs.
- Kampala-Kabale-Nkuringo; This highway also follows the same as the above routes to Kabale plus an additional 105km, about 4-5hrs drive on a mountainous Murram road to Nkuringo from Kabale.
- There is also a route that goes through Queen Elizabeth National Park via Kihihi to Buhoma passing through the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park famous for the tree climbing lions.
Please note that on all the above routes, 4WD vehicles are highly recommended.
When to visit Bwindi impenetrable national park?
Bwindi impenetrable can well be visited all year round. However, it is better to note the variations in weather patterns in this region to help you plan appropriately.
The rainy season is from March till May and October till November. Light rain season falls in November and December. Dry seasons are from December to February and June to August.
The best time, the best months of the year would be December to late February and from June to September.
Popular Gorilla safari packages to Bwindi Impenetrable national park Uganda.
4 Days western Uganda Gorilla safari