Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is one of Uganda’s finest national parks and is home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. Bwindi national park is a diverse tropical rain forest park that covers an area of 321 square kilometres mainly made up of dense thick vegetation and that’s where the park derives its “impenetrable” name. Gorilla Trekking is the most popular tourism activity in the park and Bwindi is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas making it one of the best places in the world to see the mountain gorillas. The park is internationally recognized and Bwindi was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1994.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is known as the most diverse park in East Africa and is home to 120 mammal species, 310 butterfly species, flowering plant species, 200 species of trees and about 104 species of ferns. Bwindi national park is also a birding haven for expert and specialist bird watchers as it is home to 350 species of birds with 23 of these species being Albertine Rift Endemics. The park is a popular birding hot spot as it offers incredible sightings while on a birding safari.
Wildlife in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi national park provides a habitat for 120 species of mammals with the most popular being the Mountain Gorillas. About 1004 mountain gorillas are left in the world and nearly half of that mountain gorilla population lives in Bwindi Forest. The forest also hosts large mammals that include forest elephants, buffaloes, golden cats, giant forest hog, side-striped jackal, duikers but these are rare sightings due to the thick and dense vegetation of Bwindi forest. In addition 11 primate species have been recorded at the park and these include De Brazza Monkey, L’Hoest Monkeys, Common Chimpanzees, Black-and-white colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys etc. Bwindi national park also hosts the colorful Three-horned Chameleon that is often seen in the surrounding areas of the lodge or one might come across it during the gorilla trek.
Birds in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is a must visit while birding in Uganda as it is one of the best places to see Albertine Rift endemics and high elevation birds. Bwindi national park has a high record of over 350 species of birds which include forest specialists and migratory species. The most sought after bird in Bwindi is the African Green Broadbill also known as the Grauer’s Broadbill which is endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Birds in the park include – Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-Chested Bee-eater, Western Tinkerbird, Variable Sunbird or Yellow-bellied Sunbird, White-browed Robin-chat, White-starred Robin that belongs to the flycatcher family, Strange weaver, Regal Sunbird, Rwenzori Apalis an Albertine Rift endemic, Yellow-eyed Black flycatcher, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Snowy-Crowned Robin-chat, Northern double-collared Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Black Bee-eater, Cassin’s Flycatcher, African Black Duck, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Ruwenzori Apalis, Brown-capped weavers, Frazer.s eagle owl,Black-billed Weaver, Equatorial Akalat, Brown-throated Wattle eye, Blue-throated roller, Speckled Tinker bird, Many-colored Bushshrike, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill and the Kivu Ground thrush a rarely seen but beautiful specie. Birding in Bwindi is done in Ruhija sector which has a number of high elevation endemics, Rujija is at about 1900-2500m above sea level, birding is also done in Buhoma sector via the Neck a popular birding trail in Bwindi. Other bird species are sighted while at the lodge and while on community walks, the park is rich in birdlife.
Activities in Bwindi National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi National Park
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is a fulfilling wildlife adventure and the most popular activity in the park. The adventure brings you face to face with the mountain gorillas in the dense and thick Bwindi Forest. There are 20 habituated gorilla families that are available for trekking in Bwindi and only 8 tourists are allowed to visit a gorilla family per day. The gorilla trekking adventure happens in 4 sectors of the park that is – Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. All the sectors have park headquarters which are the starting point for the mountain gorilla trekking adventure. For more on gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Gorilla Habituation Experience
The gorilla habituation experience offers one an opportunity to spend more time with the gorillas as opposed to the gorilla trek. The gorilla habituation experience allows visitors to spend 4 hours with the gorillas in their natural habitat which is more time than the one hour spent with the primates on a gorilla trek. The gorilla habituation only happens in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park and only 4 individuals can do the habituation experience at a time.
Birdwatching in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi national park is a prime birdwatching spot and offers the expert birder incredible sightings including Albertine Rift Endemic. The park is a habitat for 350 species of birds with 23 of those being Albertine Rift Endemics, Bwindi is also home to high elevation bird species and these are usually seen in Ruhija sector of Bwindi national park that is at 1900-2500m above sea level. The most sought after bird in Bwindi national park is the African Green Broadbill an Albertine Rift endemic specie. Other highly searched for birds while on a birding safari in Uganda include – Doherty’s Bushshrike, Rwenzori Apalis, Yellow-eyed black Flycatcher, Kivu Ground Thrush, Blue-throated Roller and African Broadbill.
Buhoma Community walks
The Buhoma community walks take visitors in to the community for an experience of the culture and traditions of the local people living near the forest. The tribal groups in the neighboring communities include the “Bakiga” and “Bafumbira”. The community walk allows you to spend time interacting with the locals as you visit a homestead where you can participate in local activities like millet grinding, a craft making place, visit a community school and look at how traditional beer is made. The community walk also includes a visit to the batwa pygmy who formerly lived Bwindi forest.
Nature Walks – The Waterfall Trail
Bwindi national park offers guided forest walks along different trails in the national park. The day nature walks are another great way to experience Bwindi forest aside from the mountain gorilla trek. The most popular trail is the waterfall trail in Buhoma which takes about 3 hours and once you get to the beautiful waterfalls you have an opportunity to take photos and then start the walk back to your accommodation. The other trails include the Rushara Hill trail and Mazubijiro loop trail which offer spectacular views of the Virunga Mountain ranges.
Visit the Batwa Community
This is a cultural visit that can be done in the afternoon after your gorilla trekking activity. The Batwa are the original inhabitants of Bwindi forest and a visit to them gives you a glimpse in to how they lived, hunted and existed in the forest. While on the visit expect to immerse yourself in their culture, way of life and traditional dances.
Canoeing on Lake Mutanda
A canoe trip on Lake Mutanda is one of the best ways to spend a chill afternoon while on safari in Bwindi national park. Lake Mutanda is a beautiful lake tucked away in the mountainous Kisoro district and the canoe ride on this lake offers stunning views of the Virunga Ranges that are seen perfectly on a clear day. You have chances of encountering some bird species that love nesting in the papyrus swamps, local fishermen going about their day and some locals who are usually seen fetching water or doing laundry on the shore s of the lake on a sunny day.
Getting to Bwindi National Park
Bwindi impenetrable national park is located in south-western Uganda and can be accessed by road or by Flight. The drive by road from Kampala the capital city of Uganda takes about 8-9 hours on the road and this is excluding the short stop overs along the way to stretch or grab lunch. The alternative way to access the park is by scheduled flight with Aero Link Uganda from Entebbe International Airport or from Kajjansi in Kampala to Kihihi Airstrip that is situated near the park.
The driving time from Kampala or Entebbe is long but the drive through this specific route is scenic offering you spectacular views of Uganda. The journey takes you through the busy small towns, beautiful green landscape, interesting landmarks like the Equator where you can stop for photos and also offers you stunning views of the rolling hills of Kabale district as you approach Bwindi national park.
For visitors who would like to avoid the long driving time you can fly into Kigali International Airport – Rwanda, overnight at any of the hotels in Kigali and transfer by road the next day. The journey from Kigali Rwanda to Bwindi national park is just 4 hours.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Choosing the right accommodation facility in Bwindi national park is very crucial as the park has 4 sections so it’s important to choose an accommodation facility that is close to the sector that you will be doing your gorilla trek. Staying closer or within the section of Bwindi national park where you are tracking gorillas makes it easy to transfer to the park headquarters on the morning of your gorilla trek and also makes it easy to do other activities.
The park has a number of accommodation facilities, some situated within the park and others located in proximity to the park. The lodges range from Luxury Lodges to Mid-range to Budget lodges. Some of these include;
Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge – Bwindi Lodge is a luxury lodge facility overlooking Bwindi Forest, the lodge offers excellent services and high quality experiences that are typical of a top luxury lodge. The lodge features 10 guest bandas which include two deluxe and 8 standard rooms. The interior of the guest bandas is made with locally sourced materials and with a nice African touch. The facility also features a lounge, a library, a new spa and sauna and a bar area.
Mahogany Springs Lodge– This is a luxury lodge that features 12 beautiful cottages and a beautiful calm green environment with stunning views of Bwindi Forest and the Munyanga River valley. The lodge offers the perfect breakfast with a view of the dense Bwindi Forest. The lodge has excellent staff ready to attend to visitors and has great reviews from our visitors. The cottages have single, double and triple en-suite rooms featuring comfortable and warm linen which is perfect for the weather as Bwindi gets really cold during night time.
Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge – This is a mid-range lodge located in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park overlooking Bwindi Forest. The lodge is the perfect choice if you are trekking gorillas in the Rushaga sector as it is just a 5 minute walk away from the park headquarters and starting point of the gorilla trek. The lodge has nine en-suite cottages (single, double and twin rooming) and a comfortable lounge area with a dining area serving delicious meals.
Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge – This lodge is located 25kms away from the southern gate of Bwindi national park. The private facility offers breath-taking views of Lake Mulehe and features comfortable lodging, single rooms, double rooms, triple rooms and family cottages are available for booking. The lodge is a perfect mid-range facility while on safari in Bwindi national park. Be sure to capture the sunset while here as it is truly a beautiful sight!