gorilla trekking bwindi impenetrable forest

At 331Sq Km Bwindi impenetrable forest is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Their encounter and consequent eye contact is the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter in the whole of Africa. With mist covered hillsides, the Bwindi impenetrable forest is the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest with over 400species of plants. It lies on the edge of the rift valley in southwestern Uganda and protects at least 120species of mammals and 346species of birds. It also has 202species of butterflies, 163species of trees, 100species of ferns, 27species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, among many endangered species. It is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site popular for mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, the two great African apes listed as endangered animals in the IUCN Red Data Book.

Bwindi Impenetrable forest Park has gorilla trekking as the major tourist attraction with 4 gorilla tracking trailheads. Also, 9 groups of mountain gorilla families have been habituated and only 8 tourists booked per group per day. Forest trails in the park lead to various attractions including rivers, waterfalls, swamps and high level of wildlife concentration.

Birding is another attraction that provides great opportunities to see various Albertine rift endemics such as the short-tailed warbler. A 6 hour bamboo trail leads to Rwamunyonyi peak, at 2607m, is the highest peak and notable spot for birding. While a 3hr descend to Mubwindi swamp could lead a visitor to endemic and localized African green broadbill.

Other rewarding activities are mountain biking and nature walks to waterfalls and parts of the forest. A short drive north to Buhoma, which sits on the Congo border, offers wonderful hikes along the hill crests and rivers to discover waterfalls, glorious views and the traditional lifestyle and folklore of the Kigezi people.

WHAT TO DO IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST

Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla tracking is an unforgettable and amazing experience and it’s always worth the adventure. With Buhoma being the trailhead, visitors can have a chance to track 3 of the mountain gorilla groups with a silverback. Others can be seen in different parts of the park & the chance for getting to see these gorillas is at 99%. The gorilla tracking experience starts early in the morning at 8am at the park headquarters with a brief and the activity will normally take between 2 to 7 hours depending on how far these gorillas might have moved. It’s recommended to be reasonably fit and carry the right gear for this activity since it can be a little challenging. Gorilla tracking permits are booked in advance since there is always a maximum number of tourists to see these gentle giants per day.

gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park, Uganda

Other Activities around Bwindi impenetrable forest

Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, a range of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests. Mountain biking is also a good activity around Bwindi, this is usually done through a well maintained trail 13km trail of Ivi River from the park office.

The following walks can be arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00am and in the afternoon at 1415hours;

Munyanga River Trail in the valley below Buhoma (park office) provides an ideal short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge.

Waterfall Trail leads through one of Uganda’s most pristine tracts of rainforest, passing beneath tree ferns, epiphytic ferns and orchids to visit three sparking waterfalls.

Rushura Hill Trail provides expansive views across the plains of the western rift valley to the west and (on clear days) Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains to the north.

Muzabajiro Loop Trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill for breathtaking views of Bwindi forest, the western Rift Valley and the Virunga volcanoes.

River Ivi Trail follows an old road through beautiful forest emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest. It is highly recommended for bird watchers.

Mountain Gorillas

The Mountain gorillas in Bwindi Live in structured groups and there are about 10 habituated Gorilla groups in this forest that can be tracked by tourists. Three of these groups are in Buhoma, then three others in Ruhija and the others are in the southern parts or Rushaga and Nkuringo. Each of these mountain gorilla groups in Bwindi can be tracked by eight tourists and always accompanied by a guide.

Birds

A remarkably high figure of over 350 species of birds are recorded in this impenetrable forest with 23 endemic to Albertine rift such as the short-tailed warbler, sherry’s Crimsonwing, African green broadbill and blue headed sunbird. Some of the easiest birds to spot include the African emerald cuckoo, African blue white-tailed flycatchers & Read headed bluebill and they have been recorded nowhere else in Uganda.

Flora & Fauna

Bwindi impenetrable forest is one Africa’s most bio-diverse rainforests. Its slopes extend over a broad altitudinal range of 1447m to create habitants ranging from lowland forests to rare Afromontane vegetation. In 1991, the rain forest was gazetted as a national park and protects a true rainforest which receives an annual average rainfall of almost 1,500mm. It’s a also a vital catchment area for 5 major rivers that flow into Lake Edward. In 1994, Bwindi forest was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site due to its biodiversity and wealth of IUCN red-listed wildlife. With over 25,000 years, Bwindi’s Vegetation has  accumulated a lengthy species list and these include 310 species of butterfly, 88 moths, 120 types of mammals, 51 reptiles and 200 tree species.

Primates

Apart from the mountain gorillas, Bwindi impenetrable forest park boosts of other primate species which include chimpanzees, baboobs, L’hoests monkeys, blue monkeys, Black & white collobus monkeys, red-tailed and the nocturnal bush babies.

How to get to Bwindi impenetrable forest

By road

Bwindi Impenetrable forest National Park is located in south western Uganda about 530km from the capital – Kampala. The park can be reached by road from many routes which include:

Via Queen Elizabeth Park (Mweya) to Kihihi to Buhoma; this route passes through Ishasha, the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park giving you a chance to see the famous tree climbing lions. Bwindi is 160km away from Mweya and 64km from Ishasha sector.

Visitors to this park can access it through these alternative routes;

  • Kampala – Kabale – Kanungu – Buhoma (5 – 6 hours journey)
  • Kampala – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihihi – Buhoma (5 hours journey)
  • Kabale – Ruhija – Buhoma (5-6 hours journey)
  • Kampala – Kabale – Nkuringo (6-7 hours journey)

By Air

Travelers can fly from Entebbe international Airport or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro town. Visitors to Buhoma can also fly to Kayonza (near Butogota) or Savannah (Kihihi) airstrips.