At 3315km it is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, whose encounter and consequent eye contact is the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter in the whole of Africa. With mist covered hillsides, this impenetrable forest is the oldest and most biologically diverse rain forest, with over 400 species of plants. It lies on the edge of the rift valley in south-western Uganda, and protects at least 120 species of mammals, 346 species of trees, 100 species of ferns, 27 species 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 national park has gorillas tracking as the major tourist attraction with 4 gorilla tracking trail heads. 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 broad bill.
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.
The national park is located in south- western Uganda about 530km from Kampala, the capital city. The park can be reached by road from several directions that include: through queen Elizabeth national park (Mweya)- Kihiihi- Buhoma. This route passes through queen Elizabeth national park’s southerly Ishasha sector, providing a chance for the tourists to stopover and search for the famous tree- climbing lions. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is 160km from Mweya and 64km from Ishasha. You can also access the park through:
- Kampala – Kabale – Kanungu – Buhoma (5-6 hours journey)
- Kampala – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihiihi – Buhoma (5 hours journey)
- The Kabale – Ruhija – Buhoma (5-6 hours journey)
- Kampala – Kabale – Nkuringo (6-7 hours journey)
Travelers can fly from Entebbe airport or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro town. Visitors to Buhoma can also charter planes to Kayonza (near Butogota) or Savannah (Kihiihi) airstrips.
Tracking is a captivation and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Gorilla tracking can be challenging and one needs to be reasonably fit before undertaking to venture into the activity. Registration and briefing at Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga visitor receptions commences at 0730 hours with general briefing conducted at 0800hours. Gorilla tracking starts at 8:30am and can last from a few hours to a whole day depending on where the gorillas were left the previous day.
Apart from gorilla trekking tours you can experience gorilla habituation experience which is a full day activity staying with the mountain gorillas in the mist. It is only done at the Rushaga side and to only 2 gorilla families (Bikingi &Bushaho) and in a group of 4 people and to take this you need to book in advance with reliable tour operators in Uganda like 4×4 Car Hire Uganda with very professional team of travel experts at customizing best gorilla safari holidays in Uganda, Rwanda & DRC Congo.
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species.Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bul bul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Blue bill.
Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija
Other activities around the park
Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, a range of other walks provide more opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rain forests. 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 rain forest, 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 no clear Days Lake Edward and Rwenzori mountain to the north.
- Muzabajiro loop trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira hill for breath-taking 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. Ti is highly recommended for bird watchers.