Bwindi Impenetrable National Park- Gorilla Trekking Safaris Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is found in the south western part of Uganda where the mountain forests and plain meet. It has more than 160 species of trees ,birds, ferns, butterflies as well as other endangered species like the mountain gorillas. It covers 32000 ha hence its exceptional diversity. In 1932, it was divided into two blocks called the Crown Forest Reserves .
These included the northern block "Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve" and the southern block "Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve”. Being combined together, enlarged and protected, these covered 207 square kilometers and were renamed the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest which covered 298 square kilometers under the joint control of the Ugandan government's game and forest departments.
In 1964, the reserve became a habitat providing protection to various wildlife species like the mountain gorillas hence called the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve. In 1966, two other forest reserves were added to the main reserve thereby increasing its area to 321 square kilometers.The park continued to be managed both as a game and forest reserve.
In 1991 the Impenetrable Central Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla and Rwenzori Mountains reserves were designated as a national park ie Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This covered 330.8 square kilometers and was meant to protect various wildlife species like the mountain gorilla hence a large impact on the Batwa/ pygmy people since most were evicted from the forest and could not access the park with its resources. Gorilla tracking became a tourist activity in April 1993 and the park became a popular tourist destination since in 1994 it was inscribed on the World Heritage List .
Bwindi forest is popular for viewing mountain gorillas in the wild. There are four main points from where you can do this: Buhoma,Nkuring,Ruhija and Rushaga .All the four sectors offer similar opportunities to see the Gorillas. Permits must be obtained from the UWA office in Kampala at the price of US $ 600 for foreign nationals or with a tour company.
High altitude mountainous with deep valleys. Bwindi Forest is the last remaining piece of primary forest in the area, all the surroundings have been almost completely deforested, and even small pockets of forest are still being cut.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
When traveling by bus, car, one can access Bwindi Impenetrable National park by taking a 2-3 hrs drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north. Or 6 -8 hrs drive from Kampala through Mbarara,or 1-2 from Kabale town to the southern and then you will meet a convergence at Butogota just 17 kilometers from Buhoma Entrance Gate. During rainy seasons, we recommend one to use a 4×4 vehicle.
When travelling with air, one can opt to take a flight from Entebbe,Kajansi airfield so as to meet their final destination at Tarmac airstrip Kisoro and Savannah Grass Kayonza airstrip. Bwindi is served by 3 airfields at Kihiihi, Kayonza for the northern area and Nyakabande in Kisoro for those that track mountain gorillas within the southern area which includes Nshongi,Mishaya and Nkuringo.
Best time to visit
The climate varies - Uganda is wet most of the year, with dry periods from June to august. It can be a scorching 30 °C, or a chilly 9 °C, depending on the weather. If you go gorilla tracking, be sure to bring a sweater, at least 2.5 liters of water, long-sleeved t-shirt/trousers, a hat, rain-clothing and decent hiking boots. The tracking takes you through the dense rain forest, where you go up and down steep hills, often with no visible path.
If it rains, it will be extremely muddy, if it's dry and the sun is out, you will need a lot of water. Bring insect repellent for the mosquitoes, and consult your doctor for vaccinations and malaria-pills for surrounding regions. No risk of malaria in Buhoma, Nkuringo and Bwindi Forest due to the altitude there are no mosquitoes.
Things to Do in Bwindi Forest National Park
Bwindi is an ideal habitat for a variety of birds hence called a bird-watchers’ paradise with 347 bird species of which ten of twenty six are threatened and 5 are endangered in Uganda. Bwindi has 24 of the total 25 Albertine Rift endemic bird species of which some have partial distributions in other places in their range like Shelley’s Crimson-wing, African Green Broadbill and Chapin’s Flycatcher. On the main trail of the Buhoma Waterfall Trail, the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija is where birding occurs.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park provides outstanding gorilla tracking experiences. It also acts as refuge to chimpanzee, monkeys, elephants, various small antelope and bird species. If you book a Uganda safari without Gorilla trekking then you will miss out an opportunity to watch the rare and threatened gorillas.
Currently, gorilla trekking has been made simplified by the solely body that is responsible for selling and issuing of gorilla permits in Uganda(Uganda wild life Authority) unlike the old days where people could buy gorilla permit attached to particular gorilla family , being the fact that some gorilla families are easier than others paving away for un imbalance on the gorilla trek.
Currently gorilla permit are sold on the basis of region ie, Buhoma, Ruhijja, Rushaga and Nkuringo, Nyabalemula is also soon becoming another gorilla trekking point following the opening of the 2 newly habituated gorilla families, Bikingi and Ndyanabo.
Gorilla permits have become digitalized, ie from the old printed paper permit to the current electronic gorilla permit cards. All your bio data is enclosed in the gorilla card. Which every one has to present to his or her respective place within Bwindi impenetrable forest.
Buhoma. This was the first place in Uganda where gorilla trekking began from in the late 1990’s. this place become famous together with the other neighboring villages like Nkwenda and Kacwampale to the extent of these places featuring in many of the international news but later had a set back from the 1998 Bwindi massacre when the Congo rebels invaded Bwindi forest camp that caused a set back into gorilla trekking as an activity but latter resumed after some time. From year 2000, gorilla trekking began spreading to different parts of Bwindi up to the current state.
Uganda used to offer gorilla trekking at $450 during low season from April-may and November , which offer was removed followed Rwanda’s permit increase to US $1500 that pushed all the influx to Uganda. Now Uganda’s gorilla permit cost $600 irrespective of which month. The price has remained the same since December 2018.the price is uniform until the next UWA tariff will be published in 2019.
While booking gorilla permits, you’re only guaranteed assurance of trekking after proof of payment. That’s when an electronic ticket will be published barring all your personal details. Iam sure you re all happy about our natural world being kept intact as natural as possible as one way to have sustainability of our natural resources.
What else can one do in Bwindi Besides gorilla trekking
Bwindi impenetrable forest covers 322 sq km with a bio diversity of flora and Founa , it’s a world heritage site and well protected, Besides Gorilla trekking, Bwindi is known as birding paradise to those who love birds.it was gazette as national park in 1991 and the mostly done activity is Gorilla trekking! Bwindi covers almost 2 districts, Kanungu and part of Kisoro. Bwindi boarders Democratic republic of Congo, Virunga national park and Rwenzori mountain. All make it the Albertine rift.
Batwa trail.the Batwa are the indigenous people who formally used to live in the forest but when the forest was gazated national park in 1991 these people were forcefully told to vacate the lodge, this group of people have turned out to be a tourist attraction and visiting these people requires one to pay $80 is per person to allow one take part in this journey. The Batwa are known to be the shortest people in the world and visiting their homes is an interesting place to be how such people lives.
Munyaga walk: This walk begins from the park offices at Buhoma, to those who have done gorilla trekking that same day and would wish to participate in this activity, they don’t pay for park fees but they are subject to other charges. The walk takes you down towards the villages of Nkwenda and kachwampale all the way down to the river dam, the chances of seeing other animals like black and white colobus monkeys are high.
Medical and Bwindi;
Bwindi impenetrable national park is an area surrounded by bakiga people, and they are population belonging to the rural communities who vulnerable to health hazards, that is to say can be infected by diseases like AIDS, Diarrhea, different types of coughs, skin rushes, and other heath complications.
Therefore, if some body is interested in tourism and as well as a medical practioner can visit Bwindi national park, after doing the gorilla tracking then discover the heath part of Bwindi because there is Bwindi hospital. This hospital is found in the northern sector of Bwindi [ Buhoma].
Bwindi and Neighborhood;
Bwindi impenetrable national park is surrounded by natives of the area, therefore if a tourist is interested in communities near to the conserved area, Bwindi is the best place to visit because people have settled adjacent to the forest of Bwindi. After gorilla tracking, a visitor can decide to visit the community and make an assessment of the area, even sometimes to see the impact of tourism to the surrounding community.
Bwindi and ishasha sector;
This fascinating region is an hour 30 minutes’ drive to ishasha famously known as territory for the tree climbing lions , its believed that all cats climb trees but not all they time , the behavior characteristic of these lions have no definite description but the lions of ishasha are so unique as they purposely climb fig trees as they try to escape from the Tsetse flies, its hide out for shade and also it’s a hunting method as why they are up, they are able to spot their prey in a distance and also climbing trees acts as their habitat during day time so all these activities are among the few things one can do while still at Bwindi it can be like a daily activity for those while at Bwindi.
Volunteering and Bwindi
Bwindi is well known as research area since the forest is a habit to different primates, for primatology’s, Zoology and Botany always like taking park in research together with gorilla doctors who make sure that the health of gorillas is in perfect state other researches take part in teaching schools and communities around the park with help if an organization called CTPH(conservation through public health) the organization that makes sure that the animals and communities around the park are treated well so that diseases are not spread to the endangered species like gorillas.in case one is to take part in working with gorilla doctors, you have to pre book months in advance to a void last time disappointment since it requires several vaccinations.
This walk takes you through Buhoma all the way to Nkuringo, its 3 hours walk to those who are still in perfect state but to those who are old aged can take up to 5 hours whoever is taking this walk, one will be required to have enough water to be able to cover for this walk.