Bwindi Impenetrable National park is situated in south Western Uganda, on the edge of the Western Rift valley (Albertine rift) and is shared by Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro districts. It is 331km2 in size and on an altitude range of 1,160 meters (Ishasha gorge) to 2,607 meters (Rwamanyonyi Peak). The ancient rainforest is the home of roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Renowned for gorilla tours in Uganda, this park is the most visited in Uganda. The annual average temperature range is 7o C –20 O C with the coldest period being June and July. Bwindi is home to 326 gorillas, almost a half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. There are also 346 species of birds and over 200 species of butterflies. This afro-montane forest has dense under storey of fern , vines and shrubs. About 324 tree species have been recorded here, 10 of which occur nowhere else in Uganda. Other wildlife includes a large variety of primates, including chimpanzee, Blue monkey and Black & White colobus monkey,antelope and forest elephants. Terrain varies from swamp and bamboo forest to dense thicket from the ankle up which makes up 90% of the park, thus making gorilla trekking work hard
Kampala to Kibale is a distance of 414km on bitumen surface and takes 6-7 hours. An additional 120km from Kibale to Buhoma Park Headquarters via Kanungu and Kanyantoroogo on murram surface takes 3-4 hours and many require a 4WD vehicle. Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma is 95 kilometers and takes 3-4 hours. This road is not frequently used by the public. A 4WD is recommended.
Bwindi impenetrable national park has regions of which each one has it’s accommodation facilities, for instance Eastern side there is Asynate, northern side there is Buhoma lodge, southern side, there is clouds lodge.
WHAT TO BRING WHEN TRACKING GORILLAS IN BWINDI NATIONAL PARK.
- Wear jungle shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes and carry a rain jacket because the park is often wet.
- Put on ear plugs for those who feel uncomfortable with jungle sounds.
- Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellant.
- Carry a packed lunch.
For conservation reasons, visits to the gorillas are tightly controlled. The following rules apply and must be strictly adhered to:
- No one with a communicable disease (e.g. flu, diarrhea) is allowed to enter the park.
- Stay together in a tight group while with the gorillas, don’t surround them.
- Don’t get closer than 7 metres (21 feet) to the gorillas.
- Don’t eat or smoke when with the gorillas or within a distance of 200 metres from the gorillas.
- Turn away from the gorillas if you have to sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth in the process.
- Burry all human feaces a minimum of one foot deep and ensure that the hole is properly covered.
- Don’t leave litter. All litter must be carried out of the park and disposed off properly.
- No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas.
- Don’t spit on vegetation or soil when in the park; use your hankie or other garment.
Your group must not be more than 8 tourists and must all be over 15 years old.
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Gorilla tracking is the main tourist activity in Bwindi National Park. Bwindi currently has a population of over 320 gorillas. There are 8 habituated groups namely; Mubare (M group) with 5 gorillas, Habinyanja (H group) with 21 gorillas, Rushegura (R group) with 20 gorillas , Nkuringo (N group) with 20 gorillas , Bitukura (B group ) with 14 gorillas, Nshongi with 26 gorillas , Mishaya with 11 gorillas , Kyaguriro with 16 gorillas. The gorillas are tracked daily by trained guides who note where they rest for the night. Tracking begins early in the morning where a beeline is made for the nest sites. The track may involve jumble up hillsides and along slippery paths. When you get closer to the Gorilla’s, your guide will coach you how to talk to the Gorilla’s to assure them that you mean no harm with your presence. The silverbacks (adult males) are usually peaceful; however, if they sense danger they may scream loudly and charge at the intruder. As long as you stay still and look away from the silverback he may come very close but it is very unlikely that he will harm you. When in direct contact with the expressive brown eyes of the gorillas, one realizes the most thrilling and emotional wildlife encounter and experience. Trackers are given one hour of viewing time which usually involves skidding and jumbling on the slopes to get a good position to photograph the various family members or to keep up with playful young ones.
The Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) at Bwindi built a partnership with locals to support development through conservation. It has enabled local people to advance their standard of living through better farming practices, thus reducing pressure on forest resources in and around Bwindi National Park. The park employs the locals as wardens, researchers and rangers, local communities receive a proportion of the Park’s income.
For visitors who are staying longer in Bwindi, besides gorilla tracking, the park has 4 fantastic hiking trails. On all these trails you have opportunities to see and learn about primates, many species of birds, butterflies, trees and other organisms. The guide’s company is compulsory and affords you a superb understanding of nature’s system at work in the park. Departure times: 9:00 am and 2:15 p.m.
Munyaga river trail
The Munyaga river trail is an ideal short walk for visitors with time to spare. Here you can see birds and primates of the forest edge.
The popular waterfall trail provides an attractive feature of the forest with a profusion of tree ferns, epithetic ferns, orchids and Bwindi’s colourful array of butterflies. The trail which leads to 3 delightful crystal clear waterfalls typifies your impression of a tropical rainforest.
The Rushers Trail commands expansive views across the western rift valley floor. To the west, Congo’s Parc Nationale des Virungas provides a spectacular backdrop and on clear days Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains are visible.
Muzabajiro loop trail
The 5.2 km Muzabajiro loop trail offers breath taking views of Bwindi Forest, Western Rift Valley and the Virungas. On the way, you witness hundreds of pre-historic tree ferns. The top of this trail is a great place for picnic lunch.
The River Ivi trail
So far the longest in the park, will occupy you for a full day, it is highly recommended for bird watchers.
Buhoma Village Tourist Walk
The village tourist walk, which takes up to three hours is managed by the local community and the proceeds received here are ploughed into the community to improve on their welfare. The walk introduces you to a number of interesting sites such as a typical rural homestead, a visit to the local traditional healer, a banana beer brewing demonstrations site and much more.
In the evenings, participate in captivating traditional performance presented by women and Orphan groups. Proceed from these go directly to improve the welfare of the families around the park.
Bwindi is the bird watchers haven! It holds 346 species of birds and contains 90% of all albertine rift endemics, difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa. An experienced bird watcher can identify up to 100 species in a day!