BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
This national park is 321km in size, was gazzetted as a national park in 1991 and declared as a UNESCO natural World Heritage in 1994. Its first group to be habituated was Mubare gorilla group and it became available for tourism in Uganda in 1993. The park has nine habituated families and one of them is for research.
The park is spread over a serious of steep ridges and valleys. This national park is the source of five main rivers that flow into Lake Edward. This national park lies in south western Uganda on the edge of the rift valley. This national park is home to 480 mountain gorillas, 120 mammals, 350 bird species as well as 23 albertine rift endemics.
Activities in Bwindi Forest National Park
Bird watching in Bwindi Forest
The varied habitants of Uganda’s oldest forest means it’s ideal for many birds, with over 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics including the short tailed warbler and the blue headed sun bird and the red data listed species. The other species include; the African Emerald cuckoo, the common Bulbul, red headed blue bill, and the white tailed Blue fly catchers. Birding takes place along the main trail, Mubwindi swamp trail in Ruhija, Buhoma waterfall trail as well as the Bamboo zone.
The tourists call it a bird watcher’s haven with three bird species that are the only existing representative of their respective genera; these include grauer’s warbler, African green broadbill, and short tailed warbler. The broadbill and short tailed warbler are sought to be related to the Asian bird species. Bwindi hosts 220 butterfly species including the 8 Albertine rift endemics. Some of these include; the cream banded swallowtail, charaxesfournierae as well as the graphiumgudenusi.
Bird watching safaris in Bwindi are carried out in Buhoma area along the forest margins and on village paths or in the Ruhija section where forest birds and swamp birding takes place with the local guide’s help. The jewel of forest birding at Ruhija is at Mubwindi swamp where some rare Albertine endemics as well as lifers can be seen in their natural habitats.
Birding can be done in Buhoma sector of the park; Most of the birding is done here at Buhoma visitor centre on many trails near River Munyaga, the birding sites at the neck and the Ruhija sector of the park includes tours to Mubwindi swamp and a walk just near the park offices. The bird species found here include; Pink-footed Puff back, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Grey Crowned Crane, African Olive-pigeon, Crested Guinea fowl,Jameson’s Antpecker, Cassin’s Flycatcher, Ansorge’sGreenbul, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Cape Wagtail, Dusky Twin spot, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Blue Spotted wood dove, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Paradise flycatcher, Tambourine dove, Handsome francolin and many more
Ruhija sector of Bwindihas great bird watching opportunities and starting early in morning offers the best birding sights. These include; Mountain plus yellow-streaked Greenbuls,Rwenzoribatis,Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, western Green Tinkerbird, western Green Tinkerbird,Rwenzori batis,Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, red-faced woodland Warbler,Mountain plus yellow-streaked Greenbuls, and many more.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Gorilla tracking in Bwindi forest offers you an outstandingexperience while on your safari to Uganda. Bwindi impenetrable national park is situated in southwestern Uganda which is a very superb verdant wrap across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift valley. This rain forest is one of the few in Africa to have flourished and a home to the remaining world’s endangered population of mountain gorillas. Just looking into the eyes of these mountain gorillas is so impressive and exciting.
This forest reserve was gazette in 1942, and up graded as a national park in 1992. In 1994, it was recognized as a world Heritage site in 1994. This is tangled vegetation draped over land scape of steep, slippery valleys as well as high ridges. A gorilla trek through this ancient rain forest in search of these endangered mountain gorillas, ranks among the world’s leading wildlife encounters. The forest can be cold most especially in the mornings and at night, the annual average temperature ranges from 70c – 200c with the coldest period being June and July. Proper clothing is required for the gorilla trekking since the weather in this forest is un predictable.
Gorilla tracking is a fascination and unforgettable experience which repays more than the efforts invested in to trek these unique primates. Bwindi has got seven habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by the tourist. Three of these are in the location of Buhoma and one at Nkuringo Gorilla tracking in Uganda’s most required after tourism activity. You need to book in advance to ensure that the permits for the requested dates are available.
Gorilla tracking can be challenging and you require being fit. The registration and briefing at Buhoma park offices and Nkuringo starts at 7:45 hours and tracking starts at 8:30am and can last from a few hours to the whole day depending on where the gorillas are in the forest. The gorilla permit for Bwindi costs $ 600 per person, but can change any time.
Gorilla habituation experience
Gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park offers you more than a glance. This calls for strength to hike through the thick foliage, appreciate every shrub, tree and bird, insect and the mountain gorillas. The self-control to keep your hands away from these beautiful creatures and the opportunity to hike, this comes with snootiness to allow you enjoy the sight of these spiritual creatures and avails great viewing time as opposed to that allowed for gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Bwindi impenetrable forest is the only national park in Uganda that offers gorilla habituation experience. Its home to 20 habituated families including; Mubare, Habinyanja, Nshonji, Oruzogo, Bitakura, Mishaya, Kyaguriro, and Nkuringo. Even though these families are in different locations of Bwindi, gorilla habituation takes place in Rushaga- Nkuringo area south of Bwindi impenetrable forest. These two families available for visiting are Bushaho and Bukingi group which they are trying to habituate.
With gorilla trekking, you know you are entitled to one hour around the gorillas whose presence may not be so assured. Gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi allows you 4 hours with the gorillas and this gives you great closure to these primates. You get to observe them as they go about their daily duties around the gorillas, monitoring and recording their behavior. The closeness with these primates gives you a chance to take the best photos for a memorable habituation experience.
The rules and regulations for gorilla habituation are similar to those of gorilla trekking with the exception of number of visitors per group. The day starts will a travel to the head quarters where you are briefed about more rules regarding habituation. The maximum number of people per group is 4 individuals. This also means that you need to book 6 months in advance. Always hold back yourself from the touching the gorillas as they can easily get worried and charge at you. Ensure you are always in good health because gorillas can easily catch a cold in case you have it. The best time for gorilla habituation in Uganda is December to late February and from June to September, since these are dry months.
Batwa trail experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Batwa experience in Bwindi forest is an extra ordinary activity of visiting these local people with the objective of enjoying and learning about their way of life. The Batwa people were the first people who lived in the forest and were called the Batwa pygmies. They lived, hunted and gathered in the forest, but later they were pushed out of the forest and they started living a very miserable life. Owning the land to them was new since these lived in harmony in the forest but due to time. Everything charged because of conservation and this caused preservation of the rainforest of Bwindi as well as its wildlife including the mountain gorillas, primates and birds.
Because of what had happened, they became refugees and lost their traditional ways and culture, ways of living in their normal and great forest. This experience of the batwa people offers you a life time experience to learn about their day to day life of the first people who lived in the forest, spend time with them and get to know them better.
You get to learn as they guide you through the forest, dance, sing and storytelling of their traditional ways of farming, handling the bow, picking herbal medicine, gather honey and many more. Get a chance of sharing a local meal with them from plants and goat stew. The trail shows you how they live n grass thatched houses, caves, hunted small animals which were used for food. This trail starts with a nature walk, pass through the forest and learn from the first keepers of the forest. This takes 5 hours to a full day and you experience the batwa culture.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is famous for mountain gorilla trekking but also gives you a chance to experience and learn about the culture and ways of the first people to inherit the forest, planning your day in advance gives you an opportunity to support the Batwa developments and these funds can be used to construct local schools and hospitals. These people live outside the forest and in every sector of Rushaga, Ruhija, Buhoma and Nkuringo.
This activity can be an added activity to your gorilla trekking tour and you get a chance to spend time with the first people of the forest called the Batwa. Currently the batwa trail costs $80 and takes place in Mgahinga while that of Bwindi costs $ 100 and takes place in Buhoma sector.
Forest walks in Bwindi forest
Forest walks are all about passing through the impenetrable forest of Bwindi forest national park by foot. A forest walk shows you the full package in the park hence rewarding the tourists with an elite feeling of a natural forest, great melodies of birds singing up in the trees as well as meeting wild animals like the mountain gorillas, baboons, vervet monkeys, duikers, giant forest hogs and the bush pigs. Even though many people come to Bwindi to track mountains, a few who have engaged in forest walks have got a changing experience about this forest. A forest walk is the best way of discovering all the hidden treasures in Bwindi, which most clients have missed out. In order to keep strong, the hikers are reminded of carrying enough water, energy snacks, and soft foods. The dressing should be right in hiking boots, hand gloves, long sleeved pants and shirts to deal with the changing weather. The most famous hiking trails in Bwindi include;
Munyaga River trail; this s one of the easiest trails in Bwindi, which lasts 2 hours starting at the end of Buhoma road via the Bizinge creek separating to the bank of Munyaga river. This trail is round in a way that it rotates back to the starting point without turning back. This trail is the best for bird watching as well as scenic views of river Munyaga that gives visitors a great experience. You can opt for a guide or it can be self guided since its short to arrive at the end point.
Water fall trail: the hike takes 3 hours to reach the waterfall. It was first dug in 1970 with an intension of changing t into a main road that connects to Kisoro town but was not finished. This trail exposes you to the great sceneries of the forest as well as the water falls, you are to see many birds, animals, vegetation and many more. This trail crosses River Manyaga 3 times in the deep forest before the tourists reach at the waterfall.
Rushara hill trail; this is the most active hike in the forest which lasts 3 hours to the highest point of Rushara hill at an elevation of 1915m above the sea level. The trail hikes through the terraced fields and forests and the top of the mountain providing the travelers with great views of the western rift valley, Lake Edward, the national park, Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga volcanoes. This trail ascends and descends via the cultivated fields and new regenerating forest.
Muzabajiro loop trail; this is moderate to hike and includes travelers crossing over the Muzabijiro creek before climbing via canopy forest to Ruhubra hill. The muzabajiro loop was caught by fire in 1992 which destroyed the vegetation. Today, there are lush vines and slippery trunks of dead trees that offer breath taking views of the national park.
The river Ivy trail; this heads to the southern part of the national park and is mostly used by the local people as they go to the local gardens as well as markets. This trail takes 6 hours in follow of the old road in the forest. You get to meet a lot of local people, monkeys, bush pigs, mountain gorillas among others. Hiking can either start from Nkuringo or Buhoma depending on where travelers are having an accommodation.
The Bamboo trail; the trail is located at an elevation of 2,607m above the sea level at Rwamunyo forest and takes 6 hours to reach at the end point. This trail helps travelers to walk through different vegetation types which include bamboo forest, alpine vegetation until when you will meet the montane vegetation which is at the highest point.
The Kashasha river trail; the trail starts in Buhoma ending in Nkuringo and takes 5-6 hours to the end of the trail and is 600 meters above the sea level.
Cultural encounters& village walks in Bwindi impenetrable national park
Buhoma community visits
This is located at the hillsides of Bwndi forest, with the mist over the summits, Buhoma is a histrionic setting for your cultural safari. This is a 3 hours village walk which starts with a visit to the hand craft shop that sells homemade artifacts like the beeswax candles, fabrics, and the wood carvings, all these are produced by talented local craftsmen and women. The batwa community nearby performs dances and songs about their former life in the forest, these will introduce to you the unique culture as well as the traditional healer who treats the sick with the local medicinal plants.
The Nkuringo Community Conservation and development Foundation.
This foundation is set in a lush hillside that borders Bwindi forest with the best views towards Congo; Nkuringo is good place to visit for those who want both great scenery and a cultural experience. This visit takes you to Nicholas the black smith who reminds time to the Stone Age with the sound of sheepskin bellows that disgorges the air in to the charcoal fired furnace, this is an initiative that supports the local artisans and the local batwa community through its crafts shop. They train the orphans who perform at nearby lodge and make the arrangement to sponsor them.
The Buniga forest Nature walk
You get discover the hidden beauty treasures of Buniga forest and its fauna and flora along the trail, led by locals who are the regional guides. This forest is one of the three pocket forest near to Bwindi forest. The trail was created by Nkuringo community Conservation Development Foundation with the aim of protecting the forest and manages it for ecotourism activities. The profits from the tours benefit the nearby communities and encouraging them to actively participate in its conservation.
Nkuringo cultural centre
Here you learn new skills during your holidays to Uganda. You enjoy a cultural evening workshop after tracking gorillas or bird watching in the forest. Enjoy African cooking, dancing and weaving as well as drumming. Engage in a guided village walk during the day to meet the residents; get to learn about the life in Rubuguri and also participate in crafts demonstration. You can as well visit the primary school to watch this region’s most famous cultural attraction; the Kiga dance. This centre provides employment opportunities for the local residents and the profits are used for the community projects.
Rubuguri Village walk
This village can be reached by country a road hugging to steep hillsides, the village walk takes you past the swamp to a small home stead, where you will have the chance of meeting the residents and learn about the life in the Rubuguri and also participate in crafts demonstration. You get to visit a local school to meet the pupils and teachers, watch the region’s most famous cultural attractions; the Kiga dance. These dancers are said to be the best in the region.
Mountain biking in Bwindi
Mountain biking in bwindi impenetrable national park follows a well maintained trail from the park headquarters at Buhoma to the Ivy River. As you bike along the 13km trail, you may see wildlife like the bushbucks, black and white colobus and red tailed monkeys. The six to seven hour round trip starts in the morning, and is organized by Buhoma community rest camp under the initiative for Ride for a woman community development initiative.
The bikes can be rented for a day with a guide or without; it’s advisable to take a guide to have more fun and not to lose direction while cycling. These guides are well trained in wildlife, birds, trees and plants of Bwindi impenetrable Forest. You can have a half day or full day bike tour in Bwindi. Mountain biking around and in Buhoma area is offered by Ride for a women, which is a self help group that guides you on a biking safari through the forest, handle the rentals, repair the keep the bikes in safe and good running condition.
The renting of a mountain bike and a guide supports the local community and more particular the women organization and at the same time you benefit from seeing the villages, communities and the ancient rain forest from the back of a mountain bike.
The forest trail mountain bike safari takes 3 hours guided through Bwindi impenetrable Forest and the main emphasis is on birding as you enjoy the ancient forest. You ride to river Ivy and return back with a lot to see along the ways like the squirrels, monkeys, duikers, chimpanzees as well as mountain gorillas. Always carry some snacks and a lot of water.
The village Bike Ride takes 2 hours and follows the route that takes to the village home stead’s of Buhoma sector. On this bike, you learn about the ways of bakiga and batwa people and learn things that you were unaware of. Visit the craft center, the gin distillery, river, banana brewery as well as the traditional healer.
ARON WISHLEY Founder & Director
NIMA SEDAN Chief Executive Officer
JOHN FALMI Head Manager