Bwindi Impenetrable National park most famous for mountain gorillas is located in southwestern Uganda. With a land area of 321 square kilometers, Bwindi is a home to the highest gorilla population in East Africa.
The park is a UNESCO world heritage site and its covered by a tropical rain-forest dating back over 25,000 years. The tropical rain-forest is evenly distributed over many hills and this ecosystem is home to over 400 plant species.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is also a home to over 300 bird species including Albertine Rift Valley endemics. There are also about 120 mammal species here with mountain gorillas being the commonly seen.
Tourist Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mountain gorilla tracking is the main activity done in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park. The park has over 450 mountain gorillas which is half of the remaining gorilla population on the entire planet.
The park has over 15 habituated gorilla families evenly distributed in the 4 major sectors of the park. Each gorilla family is tracked by only 8 tourists a day allowed in the presence of gorillas for one hour.
Mountain gorilla permits in Bwindi currently cost USD 700 for international tourists and USD 600 for East African Foreign Residents. For East African Citizens including Ugandans, it cost about USD 70. Tourists should ensure to book them in advance as they easily get fully booked.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is an ideal place for birding with over 300 bird species. Birding in Bwindi can be done year round. Some of the seen birds include black bee-eaters, Mountain Masked Apalis, Blue-headed sunbirds, African broad-bills, Regal sunbirds among others.
There are birding trails in Bwindi forest for example along the Buhoma waterfall trail and in Mubwindi Swamp Ruhija sector. While on the gorilla trek, you also encounter a number of birds giving you a double wildlife experience.
Anyone interested in getting closer to nature enjoying the sights and sounds should have a nature walk in Bwindi. There are six well developed nature walk trails in Bwindi and include Muyanga waterfall walk from Buhoma to Nkuringo.
The Buhoma Nkuringo Trail is another popular one from Buhoma taking a 4 hours hike to Nkuringo. There is also the Ivi River guided walk that takes about 7 hours offering great views of wildlife especially birds.
Other walks include the Habinyanja trail of 5 to 6 hours, Rushura hill walk, Muzubijiro Loop most of which offer views of wildlife especially birds.
Bwindi Impenetrable National park is neighbored by the Batwa and baking communities. The Batwa were initially staying in the forest but were resettled at the park outskirts when the park was gazetted.
A community visit to Batwa or Bakiga communities offers an insight on local Ugandan culture and offers great cultural experiences. Any of these communities can be visited after gorilla tracking.
The Batwa some times display their initial ways of life of hunting, gathering as well as making fire using stones.
Sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is divided into major Four sectors each with various habituated mountain gorilla groups. Tourists intending to track gorillas here must book accommodation as per the sector where they have to track gorillas. This is because the sectors are apart about a 1 to 2 hours. Below are the sectors of Bwindi National Park.
This is located in the northern part of the park with 3 habituated gorilla families. These include Mubare gorilla family with 9 gorillas, Habinyanja family with 17 gorillas and Rushegura family with 19 gorillas.
Buhoma was the first sector to open up for tourism in 1993 and unto date its the busiest sector. In-case you intend to track gorillas here ensure to book your gorilla permits and accommodation in advance.
Ruhija is located in Eastern Bwindi and also has 3 habituated gorilla families that are Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguriro. This sector is about an hours drive from Buhoma sector and most times tourists from Buhoma track gorillas here. To do that you need to wake up early morning for a transfer to Ruhija park headquarters to catch up with briefing.
There are various accommodation options here that include Bakiga Lodge, Agandi Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge and Trekkers Tavern. Ensure to book in advance especially in the peak tourist season from June to September and December to February.
This is located in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park with about 5 habituated gorilla families. This sector also offers mountain gorilla habituation experience that gives one a chance to spend 4 hours with the gorillas.
Rushaga can be easily accessed by tourist coming in from Volcanoes National Park Rwanda or from Kigali. You can also get to this sector from Kampala or Entebbe Uganda though its a long drive taking 9 to 10 hours with en route stop overs.
To avoid this long drive there is an option of flying from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airstrip. You then connect to the park by road taking an hour of 30 minutes depending on your accommodation.
Nkuringo is also located in the southern area of Bwindi Impenetrable national park with 2 habituated gorilla families. This area is very steep and its usually challenging for the non experienced hikers as gorillas stay in high altitudes.
The sector is one hour drive to Rushaga sector and tourists can be driven to Rushaga from Nkuringo for tracking. Accommodation options in Nkuringo include Clouds Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Heights Lodge and Nkuringo Safari Lodge.