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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,  You can never talk Mountain gorilla trekking without mentioning Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is sprawled within the south-western side of Uganda on the Albertine Rift Valley brim along the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. This popular Gorilla destination was gazetted in 1991 and due to its rich biodiversity was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site three years later (1994).

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park extends for approximately 321 square kilometers with its landscape ranging between 1160 and 2607 meters above sea level. With such altitudes, most of the Park’s hillsides are covered by mist and offers shelter to one of the country’s most ancient as well as biologically diverse rainforests dating to more than 25,000 years. This Park is a water catchment area with five major rivers flowing through the steep ridges and valleys into Lake Edward having their sources within the Park.

Attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Biological or Species diversity is the best way to describe Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with extraordinary mammals, reptiles, Amphibians, birds, trees and butterflies calling the lush montane and lowland forest home.

There are over 120 mammal species in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which are overshadowed by the popular and endangered Mountain gorillas that total up to 400 individuals. Besides the gorillas, there are other primates in the Park such as chimpanzees, Pottos, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys and De Brazza monkeys among others. Other mammals in the Park are elephants, clawless otters, duikers, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, buffaloes, Side-striped jackals, golden cats, African civets and bushbucks among others.

There are also 350 species of birds in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of which 23 are Albertine Rift endemics and 14 species are native to the Park. Some of the species you must see are the Rwenzori batis, Black-billed Turaco, Chapin’s flycatcher, Cream-banded swallowtail, handsome francolin, Purple-breasted sunbirds, strange weavers, African green broadbill, regal sunbirds, mountain-masked Apalis, Shelley’s Crimsonwing and many others.

Apart for the mammals and birds, the 200 butterfly species, reptiles (snakes, geckos, lizards and Chameleons) and Amphibians (especially frogs) will spice up your visit to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Tourist activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla trekking

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for gorilla trekking with more than 400 mountain gorillas and 20 gorilla families to be trekked. These gorilla families are distributed across the four sectors of the Park that include Buhoma, home to Katwe, Rushegura, Habinyanja and Mubare. Another sector being Rushaga is a home to the largest number of gorilla families that are Mucunguzi, Kutu, Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye, Rwigi, Nshongi, Mishaya and Bikingi. Nkuringo sector is a home to the Christmas, Bushaho and Nkuringo gorilla family while Ruhija a haven to Kyaguliro, Mukiza, Oruzogo and Bitukura families. Gorilla trekking permits allow persons of 15 years and above to spend one hour with a habituated gorilla families. They can be acquired directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority or indirectly through a reputable and credible tour operator.

Gorilla Habituation Experience

The Gorilla Habituation Experience offers trekkers a more elaborate encounter with the Mountain gorillas still undergoing habituation to spend four hours instead of the usual one hour spent during the normal gorilla trekking adventures. With a permit of $1500 per person, tourists can visit the southern sectors of Nkuringo and Rushaga for a moment with the Bikingi and Bushaho families.  Surprisingly, the Gorilla Habituation Experience can only be enjoyed from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Birding

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has different habitats/ecosystems that shelter over 350 species of birds including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. Each of the four sectors of Bwindi have birding hot spots sheltering the Kivu ground thrush, common bulbul, short-tailed warblers, Rwenzori batis, African emerald cuckoo, handsome francolin, strange weavers, blue-headed sunbirds, African blue flycatchers, Rwenzori nightjars, white-tailed flycatchers and many others. The Buhoma waterfall trail is the main birding trail in Buhoma sector while the Mubwindi swamp trails as well as the Bamboo zone are the most popular birding trails in Ruhija sector.

Nature walks/hiking

Nature walks offer one of the best options of exploring the beauty of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Hiking trails in this Park allow tourists to see the primates, waterfalls, unique plant/tree species, mountain views and the extraordinary bird species that call the Park home. These trails last between 2-9 hours and they include the Bamboo Trail, Muzabajiro loop Trail, Rushura Hill Trail, Mubwindi swamp trail, Ruizi River Trail, Kashasha River Trail, Ivy River Trail, Munyanga waterfall trail, Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail and Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail among others.

Cultural encounters

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is not only about nature but also cultural encounters to explore the culture of the surrounding communities. Some of the cultural groups are the Buniga Forest Nature walk, Nyundo community Eco-trails, Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation, Buhoma Community Tours, Nkuringo Cultural Center and Rubuguri Village walk among others.

Mountain biking

Based in the Buhoma sector, there are several well-maintained biking trails in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park extending from the Park Headquarters to the Ivy River. Organized by the Buhoma Community Rest Camp under “Ride for a woman Foundation”, the biking trail is about 13 kilometers long, lasting between 6 and 7 hours and offers chances of seeing the black and white colobus monkeys, bushbucks and the red-tailed monkeys among others.

Best time to visit 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be visited all year round but the most perfect time for most activities is the dry season-June to September and December to February because there are less rains, forest floor and hiking trails are less muddy and slippery making gorilla trekking, mountain biking, nature walks and the Habituation Experience less challenging. The rainy season-March to May and October to early December are characterized by heavy rains, thick vegetation and muddy/slippery forest floors and hiking trails but are also ideal for birding.

What to pack for your visit 

Given the thick vegetation and hilly terrain of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the items to be packed apply for all activities of the Park. The must-have items are strong waterproof hiking boots, snacks, water bottle, a sweater, backpack, long sleeved shirts, toiletries, first-aid kit, safari pants, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, backpack, rain jacket, camera, gardening gloves and pair of binoculars among others.

Where to stay

The accommodation facilities you will choose for your trip to Bwindi will depend on the sector you will be visiting. Popular places to stay are Buhoma Lodge, Sanctuary gorilla Forest Camp, Lake Kitandara Bwindi camp, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Gorilla Resort, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Mist Camp, Bwindi Guest House, Nyundo Valley Hill Bandas, Ruhija Community Rest Camp and Ruhija Gorilla Resort among others.

How to get to there

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-western Uganda is approximately 570 kilometers/8-9 hours’ drive from Kampala. It can be reached by both air and road transport. With air, flights are usually arranged from Entebbe International Airport or the Kampala-based Kajjansi Airstrip to Kisoro/Kayonza/Kihihi Airstrips, then to sector of your choice by road.

For road transport, the commonest route is through Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale to the Park lasting 8-9 hours. Visitors from Queen Elizabeth National Park can access Bwindi through the Ishasha sector and the journey lasts 2-3 hours.

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