- Bwindi is a UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site and a habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas.
- Located in South Western Uganda on the edge of the western rift valley, covering 331 square kilometers shared by Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu districts on the edge of the western rift valley.
- It lies on an altitude range of 2607m (Rwamunyonyi peak)-1160m (Ishasha gorge).
- Hosts 50% of the world’s Mountain Gorilla Population.
To do list: Nature walks, Bird watching, Gorilla Tracking, fauna
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the best place in the world to track the endangered Mountain Gorillas. It lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most diverse rainforests that dates back over 25,000 years hosting almost 400 species of plants. More famously, Bwindi’s “impenetrable forest” protects an estimated 400+ endangered Mountain Gorillas – roughly 50% of the world’s population. Bwindi is known to have a rich fauna community in East Africa with over 120 mammal species making it only second in mammal numbers to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Apart from gorillas, there are 11 primate species in the park. They include: Black-and-white colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys, baboons and chimps among the many. Other residents are: Forest Elephants and several species of antelopes. Of Bwindi’s 200 butterfly species, 42 are endemic to the Albertine Region. Out of around 350 species of birds, 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
The Gorillas are unconditionally Bwindi’s key tourist attraction. Gorillas were first tracked in 1993 when tourist tracked Mubare Gorilla family, the first to be habituated. Gorilla habituation is a process that takes about two years as people habituating them spend days with them until they get used human beings and remain doing their routine activities in the wilderness even when human beings are present.
Only 8 adult visitors are allowed to track each of the habituated gorilla group each day. Tracking gorillas can take a few to several hours because they never stay in one place. Due to high demand for tracking permits, it is advisable to book your tracking permit six months in advance.
The high months for gorilla tracking are January, February, June, July, August, September and December. The low months are April, May, October and November. Gorillas can be tracked any time of the year but note that drier seasons are better as during wet season some access roads and trails are wet and slippery.
About Mountain Gorilla
Scientific Name: Gorilla Beringei beringei
Size: Males: Up to 6 feet tall, standing. Females: Up to 5 feet tall.
Weight: Males: 350 pounds. Females: 215 pounds.
Lifespan: 40-50 years
Habitat: Dense forest, rain forest
Diet: Herbivorous (vegetarian)
Gestation: About 8 1/2 months
Predators: Predominantly humans. Occasionally leopards.
What to Bring for Gorilla Tracing
Good walking boots, wet weather clothing and warm layers for the evenings – it gets cold and damp at this altitude. The sun is still fierce during the day – even when overcast – so be sure to still wear sunscreen and a sun hat. You may also want to bring waterproof bags to protect cameras and other equipment when hiking. Water and snacks are also recommended, as well as a packed lunch for full-day tours.
Bwindi has many nature walk trails some short and other long. The Muzabajirro trail offers breathe taking views of Bwindi Forest, Western Rift Valley and the Virungas. The Rwizi river trail is the longest in the park and takes a full day. It is recommended for bird watchers. This can be done in a 4-wheel drive through Ruhija. Tourists can also do a hike to the Mubwindi swamp.
The bamboo trail: Offers 14 vegetation types and is one of the areas of highest diversity in the park. At the top of the trail, you witness scenic views encompassing Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga Forest. The Munyaga river trail is a short walk for visitors with little time to spare. You can observe birds primates, a plethora of tree ferns, epithetic ferns, orchids and Bwindi’s colorful array of butterflies. This trail leads to three delightful crystal clear waterfalls. The Rushura trail commands open views across the western rift valley floor to the west, Congo’s Parc Nationale des Virungas.On a clear day the Rwenzori Mountains and Lake Edward are visible.
Bwindi is the Bird watcher’s haven holding up to 348 species of birds with 90% of all Albertine rift Endemics hard or not possible to see in any other part of East Africa. These birds are: the Rusty-faced woodland Warbler, Wilcock’s Honey-guide, Short-tailed Warbler, Bar-tailed Trogon, Gruer’s Rush Warbler, Yellow-eyed black Fly-catcher, Wilcock’s Honey-guide, Kivu Ground Thrush, White-tailed Blue Monarch among others, If you happen to be an experienced bird watcher you can identify over 100 species here.
People and Culture
Buhoma offers a three-hour village walk that begins with a visit to the handcraft shops that sell crafts. The neighboring Batwa community performs songs and dances about their former life in the forest. There is also a traditional healer who treats the sick with medicinal plants. During the tour, you learn how to make juice, beer and gin from bananas and taste it too. Proceeds from the tour support community development projects while the Batwa receive all proceeds from their performances.
Can be accessed from Queen Elizabeth National Park after 2 to 3 hours’ drive passing through Ishasha, the land of the tree climbing lions. Ishasha is 64km from Bwindi. Kampala through Mbarara is about 6 to 8 hours’ drive. It takes 2 hours from Kabale. A 4×4 vehicle is needed through the rainy months. A daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihihi.
Bwindi is served by 3 airfields at Kihihi, Kayonza and Nyakabande in Kisoro for people going to track mountain gorillas within the southern area (Mishaya, Nshongi and Nkuringo. Planes can be chartered from Entebbe Airport or Kajansi. Those who may want to visit Buhoma may take on the charter planes and land off from Kayonza airstrip.