Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas as well as a World Heritage site–listed in December 1994 is located in southwestern Uganda, with thick vegetation like its name predicts. whenever tourists step out for the famous trekking adventure, the ranger guides slice the thick vegetation for trackers to access way to where gorillas nested the previous night. It is the true African jungle with droplets of the sun comic cover giving you a feeling of being in paradise with zero pollution from several emissions common to our daily environment.
Its declaration as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1994 was due to its rich biodiversity in terms of various flora and fauna as well as harboring beyond half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. The park covers an area of 321 km2 all of which is forested with some areas being covered by bamboo and shrubs. The forest lies on steep slippery valleys with ridges and hilltops.
The weather in Bwindi is chilly because of the immerse canopy, you are advised to carry some warm clothing for evenings and long sleeved shirts/trousers for trekking. For the ultimate experience to anyone who chooses to trek the mountain gorillas or search for birds, butterflies or shrubs, you need to be in good physical condition to go up and down the terrain. It lies at an altitude between 1160m-2607m above sea level.
When most people think of Bwindi Impenetrable national park, they think of mountain gorilla trekking/tracking, which is rightly so because it is the main attraction. However, Bwindi being heavily dense rainforest, it is home to many birds and animals and several other activities.
A genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience, hanging out with mountain gorillas is one of the most thrilling wildlife encounters in the world. Gorilla trekking is done daily after purchasing a gorilla-trekking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. You are advised to book your permit at least 3 months prior to secure your day especially if you prefer a certain location. Only 8 individuals from 15 years of age are permitted to visit a gorilla family per day. You need to be in good health condition otherwise you will not track because humans and Gorillas can easily pass diseases to each other. You will be briefed by your guide way before tracking and advices to stay at least 8m from the gorillas, do not use flash photography and do not look directly in the eyes of the gorilla for an extended period of time. You need to wear long sleeved pants and shirts to avoid scratches as you trek through the forest, carry a rain poncho, seasoned boots, lots of water, lunch (sometimes it takes an entire day to locate them) and finally consider hiring a potter because the terrain can be difficult.
Bwindi is one of the most exhilarating birdwatching destinations in the Uganda. It is easily accessible for birding with birding trails in the forest leading to different area including the waterfall trail. It is home to about 350 species of birds which include 23 Albertine Rift endemics and 14 of which are recorded nowhere else in Uganda. There are excellent site guides in the communities who are very knowledgeable about the birds in the area especially the endemics. These join you as you take your trip into the forest re-enforcing the team you will have started with on your trip.
Nature and waterfalls walks
There are various trails into the forest for your different interests. You have trails leading to beautiful waterfalls where you can dive in the water. You walk along with an armed Uganda wildlife ranger guide for your protection in case you meet a wild animal but also as a guide. The available trails; Buhoma – Nkuringo trail which takes 4 – 5 hours crossing through the national park. Rushura Hill walk – a trail through forest shared between Congo and Uganda. Muyanga waterfall walk, Ivi River Walk – 14 kms and takes about 7 hours. Muzubijiro Loop – 6km walk around the hill where you have chances of interacting with primates and birds.
Mountain Hiking and biking
Kigezi region where Bwindi impenetrable forest is located is a mountainous area with beautiful scenery. Most lodges have bikes you can rent per day to take on the special trails created in the community otherwise ask them for a project you can rent from.Ivi river trail from Buhoma park headquarters to Ivi river organized by ‘ride for a woman’.
Community walks/Cultural encounters
The community surrounding Bwindi forest is full with activities and cultural experiences for you. You can choose to take on the Batwa experience – a people that lived in the forest for many years. Here you will be to re-visit the forest with them and experience how they lived in the forest, how they co-existed with the gorillas and the other animals for years. The different walks include Buniga Forest nature walk in Nkuringo – a forest reserve adjacent to Bwindi impenetrable national park. Nyundo community Eco trails and King Bakyara’s waterfall trail. Tour the village Aquaponics project with Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). Buhoma community tours – areas of interest, handcraft shops, Batwa community, traditional healer, primary school and finally learn how bananas are used to make juice, beer and gin and taste.
Scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe International Airport and Kajjansi airstrip to Kihihi town connecting to Buhoma area or to Kisoro Airstrip to Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga are organized on a daily basis by both Aerolink and Fly Uganda respectively to enable you shorten on the driving distances whereas driving from Kampala/Entebbe takes +9hrs drive approximately 550 kilometers. The journey is astounding as it accredits the rolling hills of Kigezi region, Lake Bunyonyi, the Uganda Equator as well as the Switzerland of Uganda.