Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the best place in Uganda to go on a trek to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
The park protects around 500 of the world’s mountain gorilla population and has 19 habituated groups/families. The forest is also a bird-watchers’ paradise with 350 species recorded, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
The 331sq-km World Heritage Site that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of Africa’s most ancient and most biologically diverse rainforests. It harbours ten tree species which don’t occur anywhere else in Uganda.
Beside the endangered mountain gorillas, this biologically diverse nature reserve also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several other primate species such as olive baboons, black and white colobus and chimpanzees, as well as forest elephants and antelopes.
In terms of weather, given that it is a pristine rainforest, rain never lets up in Bwindi or it can pour down anytime without warning. However, the heaviest rains fall from March to May and September to November.
The forest’s mild climate is easily enjoyed in the drier months (June to August and December to February).
Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Visitors can get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park either by road (to see more of the country) or by Air as there are two scheduled daily flights into and out of Bwindi.
By Road – Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours) or from Kampala via Mbarara (8-10 hours).
A daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihihi. A matatu (public minibus), a hired car or boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) can be taken from Butogota to the park’s gate at Buhoma.
By Air – Travelers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to either Kihihi or Kisoro airstrips – all in the viscinity of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Planes can also be chartered to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips.
Bwindi is well served by three airfields at Kayonza and Kihihi for the northern sector and Nyakabande in Kisoro for those going to track gorillas in the southern sector of Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Things to do and see in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the jewel in Uganda’s nature tourism offering. For visitors who are here to track the mountain gorillas, there are 4 locations of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. The 4 locations have a total of about 19 gorilla families/groups as of December 2018.
To go and see the gorillas, visitors have to buy and secure their gorilla permits in advance either by booking directly at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters or you can talk to one of our safari consultants at Uzuri Uganda Safaris to help you book your permits. Permits can be paid for up to two years in advance.
Only 8 visitors are allowed to track/trek to see one of the 19 gorilla families/groups across Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for one hour per day. Participants must be aged 15 years and above, and they will be accompanied by UWA guides and rangers while with the gorillas.
Tracking the gorillas can last from a few hours to a whole day, depending on how far the specific group/family you have been allocated has moved to since it was last seen nestling up the previous evening. During the drier months, gorillas travel far in search for food so treks will last longer.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a birder’s heaven – home to many endemic and rare bird species. This forested heaven boasts about 350 species, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics of which 14 are not recorded anywhere else in Uganda.
The forest trails around Buhoma in the north are alive with opportunity as birders stand the best chance to catch a glimpse of olive long-tailed cuckoo, bar-tailed trogon, dusky tit, Abyssinian (Kivu) ground-thrush, white-bellied robin-chat, equatorial akalat, grey-chested iladopsis, red-throated alethe and a lot more birds.
After birding Buhoma, you can continue onto Ruhija and head to Mubwindi Swamp for very serious birders.
The walk down to the swamp is not for the faint-hearted but its where the most coveted of Bwindi’s Albertine Rift endemics can be found. The rare Grauers’ broadbill, one of Africa’s most sought-after birds can only be found here and a very remote forest in eastern DR Congo.
Other species to look out for in Ruhija include western tinkerbird, white-headed wood-hoopoe, barred long-tailed cuckoo, black-billed turaco, red-chested flufftail, localized Grauers’ swamp warbler and Carruthers’ cisticola.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a perfect place for Hikers and Nature Enthusiasts. The park is world-famous for the over 500 endangered Mountain Gorillas that call it home.
The forest is dense, lush and enchanting. Beyond visiting to see the Mountain Gorillas, visitors can go on walking safaris/nature walks to see Bwindi from a very different perspective.
Visitors can do this by taking anyone of the many trails, or take one of the two paths that take you from the northern sector of the park to the south. You will find a diversity of Flora and Fauna that is quite different from what you are used to in your part of the World.
The trails you take on a Bwindi walking safari have been used by local people for hundreds of years, others for thousands such as the First People of the Forest – The Batwa Pygmy who left a low ecological footprint behind them.
Visitors can choose any one of the seven trails including; Munyanga trail, Waterfall trail, Muzabijiro loop, Rushura hill trail all in the Buhoma sector. Others are the Ivy river trail which connects the Buhoma sector to Nkuringo sector, Kashasha river trail connecting Nkuringo to Buhoma, Bamboo trail and Mubwindi swamp trails found in the Ruhija sector.
Before Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was declared a National Park and World Heritage Site in 1992, the Batwa people shared the forest with the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The indigenous people were the original dwellers of the ancient forest and were known as the ‘keepers of the forest’.
The Batwa lived in harmony with the forest and survived by hunting small game using bows and arrows and gathering plants and fruits for both food and medicinal purposes.
In 1992, their lives changed forever when the forest became a national park and heritage site in order to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas that reside within its borders.
The Batwa were expelled from the forest and as a result, they became homeless. With the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other well-wishers, the Batwa cultural experience was created to educate the Batwa children about their cultural heritage and to share their culture with the world.
A day spent with the Batwa gives visitors an opportunity to:
- Hike in the forest with the people of the forest.
- See how they lived and hunted in the traditional manner.
- Talk to a medicine man and learn about the medicinal properties of the forest flora.
- Hear ancient legend and traditional songs.
Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Where you will stay in Bwindi depends
- on your budget for a gorilla safari and
- where we have secured your gorilla permits.
As you already know, gorilla trekking can happen in the four sectors that make up Bwindi Impenetrable National Park namely Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Accomodation types or levels of comfort can be booked in all the four sectors ranging from Budget Lodge, Mid-range Lodge to Luxury/High-end Lodge.
They include; Buhoma Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Clouds Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Engagi Bwindi Lodge, Haven Lodge Buhoma, Bakiga Lodge, Buhoma Community Camp, Bwindi Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Lodge among others.