Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was gazzetted as National park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO natural world heritage site in 1994. Mubare gorilla group was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Bwindi is located in the south western Uganda on the edge of the rift valley and covers an area of 331sqkms. It is the source of five major rivers which flow into Lake Edward. Its major tourist attraction is gorilla tracking with 4 gorilla tracking trailheads, 9 groups that are habituated for tourism and one for research purposes. 8 tourists are booked per group per day. The park is about 530km from Kampala and can be accessed on several roads. The Kampala –kabale-kanungu- Buhoma road is (5-6hrs journey) while the Kampala- Ntungamo_Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma road is (5hrs journey). Bwindi with its mist covered hillsides, this impenetrable forest is the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest with over 120 mammal species, 346 bird species and 27 frog, chameleons and geckos among others. The species to expect in the park are the gorillas, birds like Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Banded Prinia, Black-faced Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, and Yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher and Ashy Flycatcher and Dusky-blue Flycatcher. The park is blessed with forest trails that lead to various attractions that include rivers, waterfalls, wildlife concentration and swamps. Birding is another attraction in the park that provides a wide opportunity to venture in various Albertine rift such as the short- tailed warbler. Other activities are Mountain biking and Nature walks to the falls and part of the forest, wonderful hikes along the hills crest and rivers.

Gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Buhoma Region (North)   |   Mubare Group This group is exactly what you dream of when you think of gorilla safaris. It comprises of 12 members inclusive of 6 Adult Females, 1 juvenile and 3 Infants. It comprises of very friendly members, this explains why it was the first Ugandan group to be opened for tourism, in 1993. Then, the group was still led by Ruhondeza, a fierce fighter who had zero tolerance for anyone who was a threat to his Kingship.This character prompted him to kill over three blackbacks that were aspiring to takeover the group's leadership. Habinyanja Group This 17 member group is led by Makara, a very protective silverback that never hesitates to fight off anyone who threatens to physically harm his family. Though this has often left him with injuries and broken bones, it hasn't weakened his spirit as nothing makes him happier than seeing his loved ones safe and happy. In an effort to save Makara from infections that could arise from the injuries, veterinary doctors of Uganda Wildlife Authority monitor and treat him throughout the year. Habinyanja comprises of 1 black-back, 5 adult females, 6 infants, 1 sub-adult and 3 juveniles. If you plan to see gorillas in Uganda as opposed to Rwanda, this is one of the groups to look out for. Rushegura Group Led by Kabukojo silverback, this group has 16 members inclusive of 4 blackbacks, 4 babies, 4 adult females and 3 juveniles. No matter the time of the year you chose to visit this family, you have a 95% chance of meeting them. This follows their permanent settlement in Buhoma, unlike several gorilla groups in Virunga National Park--that keep migrating. Their preference for Buhoma is thanks to its diversity of vegetation with relatively high protein content and low fiber content. Katwe Group Katwe is one of the new groups that were opened for tourism last year. It s made of a dominant silverback, 2 babies and 4 adult females who live in the Northern part of Bwindi, Buhoma. Like all the other families in Uganda, the permits to see them cost $600 to foreign tourists-$450 for foreign residents and 250000 UGX. The group is named after one of the oldest salt mines in Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you wish to visit it during your Uganda mountain gorilla tours, we are delighted to add it to your list as the park is on the way to Bwindi.

Main Activities

Gorilla Tracking is an experience worth to remember since its challenging and one needs to be reasonably fit enough to go venturing. The activity commences at 08:00hrs with briefing at the receptions and then tracking begins at 8:30hrs and can last for 2hours to a whole day depending on where the gorillas were left the previous day. The other activities are the Nature walks arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00am or afternoon at 1415hrs.the walks include Munyanga River trail, water fall trail, Rushura hill trail as well as Muzabajiro loop trail and River Ivi trail and this will give you an opportunity to see different bird species, trees and butterflies. Buhoma village walks The village walks are managed by the local community and lasts for three hours. It introduces the tourists to rural homesteads, traditional healers, banana beer demonstrations and cultural performances in the evening. Bird watching is held at Bwindi Impenetrable NP since the park harbors over 346 bird species and 90% of the Albertine Rift species difficult or impossible to see in East Africa. The species available include African green broad bill, dwarf honey guide, kivu ground thrush, lagden’s bush shrike, yellow eyed flycatcher, the montane double-collared sunbird and the dusky twinspot. Mountain Bike rides: these are available for rent with prior notice and are done around the forest and villages on well maintained bikes. Peak periods for mountain-gorilla trekking are the 2 dry seasons of (Jun–Sep & Dec–Feb). Mandatory gorilla-viewing permits are often cheaply obtained during the quieter rainy seasons (Mar–May & Oct–Nov), though trekking conditions tend to be more difficult at this time. While at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park you will stay at Buhoma lodge and Ruhija Gorilla safari lodge for luxury stay, Buhoma community rest camp, Bwindi guest house and Nkuringo Gorilla for a budget stay.

Bwindi’s Gorilla trekking experience will awaken your sense of wonder

If you love indulging in gems that nature has been generous to, the Gorilla trekking experience of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park will leave you with tears of joy. Found in the picturesque highlands of Western Uganda, Bwindi is a well conserved UNESCO World heritage site packed with 400 plant species, 120 mammal and 350 bird species. Its 25,000 year old forest is endowed with awe-inspiring waterfalls and towering trees that inspire a sense of mystery, awe and fascination. In here, you will find over 40% of the world's last surviving population of mountain gorillas (over 440). Sure, there are lots of forest buffaloes here, so they say….and even chimpanzees and elephants, but seriously, who cares…Bwindi is all about the biggest primate species in the world, gorillas! Gorilla permits here are still at $600, compared to Rwanda's Volcanoes National park where it was recently doubled to $1,500. That is something that many tourists like about this destination that soars at an altitude of 1,160m-2,607 meters above sea level. However, what they really love is that one has a 95% probability of encountering the gorillas even in peak rainy months like April. This is partly thanks to the abundance of edible floras and variety of wild fruits that are spread over the park's 321Km2 surface area. Personally, among the things that keeps me coming back here is the fact that the gorilla tracking experience is intimate. Tourists intending to see the 17 habituated gorilla families are clustered into small groups, comprising of a maximum of eight people. As such, you can take lots of pictures during your time in the forest--without much interference from tourists. In the interest of ensuring you have a quality experience, your pursuit to encounter the gorillas will start early morning. At this time of the day, gorillas are in their most active state, searching for food, playing, harvesting fruits and swinging from one branch to another with ease like spider-man. Your adventure off-the-beaten path will be guided by two enthusiastic Ranger guides who have done this over 200 times. As such, they know the most scenic routes through which to take you as different animals roll around in the sun. Apart from being very knowledgeable about the park's eco-system, they are patient. They will set a gentle pace thereby allowing you get over steep stretches without pushing yourself to a breaking point. This pace will allow have a fruitful photography tour full of enchanting sights and sounds of nature, inclusive of rivers with crystal clear water. There will be lots of stopovers where you can recharge your batteries in case your energy levels have run low. Better-still, porters are available for hire in case you want extra support while ascending and descending over challenging stretched of the terrain. For just 15USD, they are happy to carry your luggage throughout your adventure thus enabling you to travel light. Duration of adventure It takes an average of two hours of hiking before encountering gorillas. Nonetheless, bear in mind that there is no fixed route to find these wild animals. They have unlimited freedom to wander, unlike animals in a zoo. As such, pursuing them feels like heading out for a treasure hunt, except that in this case you have a 95% chance of encountering your target. All habituated families have 9-36 members belonging to different age-brackets ranging from infants to blackbacks to adult females, all of whom are submissive to their guardian silverback. This full composition allows you to analyze how gorillas behave as they go through different stages of growth. Having been habituated, the gorillas are accommodative to human presence for as long as they don't feel threatened. Looking these peace-loving beasts in the eyes arouses shattering sensations of fear and excitement. Unlike their close cousins’ chimpanzees, gorillas never seem oblivious to your presence. They blaze their eyes into yours, making your face dark with desire to know more about them. The one hour you will spend with them will not just pass by. It will fly by, but the experience will linger for a lifetime. See, it is full of spectacular national geographic moments that make the hair on your back of your neck stand up. You will be at a loss of words in case an infant gorilla excitedly crawls up to your feet to figure out why your legs are longer than your arms, unlike theirs. Main Difference between Bwindi and other parks where gorilla trekking takes place like Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and Congo's Virunga National Park The park isn't called Impenetrable by mistake. It is an untamed jungle divided into four wings, each with at least three habituated gorilla families. Brace yourself for some steep, muddy climbs over wild jungles that frequently demand machetes to hack a way through the vines, thorns and shrubs. That said, the park also has its share of gentle tracks that favour people with weak knees and persons with disabilities.

What to pack

Your yellow fever certificate Good hiking boots and waterproof jacket to protect you from rain. Due to its status as a tropical forest, Bwindi experiences spontaneous rain even in dry seasons. By the same token, tag along with a waterproof bag to protect your gadgets and filming equipment. Best time to visit Although gorilla tracking in Bwindi takes place every day all year, the peak rainy season of May isn't recommendable especially if you want good pictures. The park gets quite messy at this time. To this effect, the dry months between June-August and Nov-end of March are a better choice.

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