The impenetrable Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1942, upgraded to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1992 and recognized as World Heritage Site in 1994 .In the local Lukiga language, Bwindi actually means ‘Impenetrable’. This double warning is apt, for Bwindi is all but impenetrable; 327Km2 of tangled vegetation draped over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high , draughty ridges .But if the terrain is far from easy to negotiate , it is well worth the effort . A trek through this, one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests, in search of the endangered mountain gorilla, ranks among the world’s premier wildlife encounters.
Bwindi can be cold especially in the morning and at night .The annual average temperature range is 7oC – 20oC with the coldest period being June and July .Warm clothing is required , plus wet weather gear since Bwindi receives up to 2390mm of rain / year. This is concentrated during two wet seasons, short rains in March – May and heavy rains in September – November. Instead of tropical deluges, rain in Bwindi often falls as long hours of soft drizzle.
How to Get There
Bwindi lies in South – western Uganda , about 530Km from Kampala .The park can be reached by road from several directions .
Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya) – Kihihi – Buhoma.
This route passes the park’s southerly Ishasha sector, providing the chance of a stop over to search for the famous tree – climbing lions.Bwindi is 160Km from Mweya and 64 Km from Ishasha.
Kampala – Kabale – Kanungu – Buhoma.This route follows a tarmac highway to Kabale (414Km) and takes 5 – 6 hours .The next section , which follows winding murram roads for 120Km , passes through Kanungu and Kanyantorogo and takes 4 – 5 hours a 4WD vehicle is required.
Kampala – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihihi – Buhoma.This, the quickest and most direct route from Kampala , follows tarmac roads to Rukungiri (390 Km) followed by 82Km on murram roads to Buhoma.
Kampala – Kabale – Ruhija – Buhoma.The Kabale – Ruhija – Buhoma segment on this route is 95 kilometers on a murram road and takes 3 – 4 hours. The Ruhija section is in poor condition and should only be attempted with a 4WD vehicle .The public does not frequently use this road.
Kampala – Kabale – Nkuringo.Nkuringo is 105Km from Kabale.The drive takes 4 hours on a mountainous murram road .Most visitors overnight in Kisoro(80Km from Kabale) before proceeding to Nkuringo .The road from Kisoro is a winding 35Km that takes 1 – 1.5 hours. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for both approaches to Nkuringo.
Travelers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro .Visitors to Buhoma can charter planes to the grass Kayonza airstrip.
A range of accommodation caters for both up market and budget visitors. It is advisable to book well in advance.
- Up market and moderate locations
- Gorilla forest camp
- Montana tented camp
- Volcanoes Bwindi camp
- Gorilla homestead
- Buhoma homestead
- Lake Kitandara camp
- Gorilla resort
- Buhoma Community Campground
- Bwindi View Canteen
A self catering guesthouse can be booked. Contact Us for more Information.
Flora and Fauna
Bwindi supports a tremendous biodiversity as a result of two factors. Firstly, its slopes extend over a broad altitudinal range of 1447m to create habitats ranging from lowland forest at 1160m to rare Afromontane vegetation above 2600m .Secondly, it is extremely old .When most of Africa’s forests disappeared during the arid conditions of the last ice age (12,000 – 18,000 years ago), Bwindi was one of a few refugia that persisted.
Consequently , while most of today’ s forest are no more than 12,000 years old , Bwindi’s vegetation has been weaving itself into tangles over atleast 25,000 years , in the process accumulating a lengthy species list. This include s 310 species of butterfly , 51 reptiles , 200 trees , 88 moths and an exceptional 120 types of mammal including 10mprimates .The latter includes chimpanzee , L’Hoest’s , red tailed and blue monkey, black and white colobus , baboon , and Bwindi ‘s famous resident, the mountain gorilla.
Bwindi is a prime destination for birdwatchers .Its 350 species include seven which are IUCN red data listed and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, species which are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa. An experienced birdwatcher can easily identify up to 100 species in a day.
The local people neighboring the park are mostly Bakiga and Bafumbira .Small communities of Batwa (Pygmies) are also present. The Bwindi area support one of the highest rural population densities in Uganda with 350Km people /Km2
Around The park
Bwindi’s busiest tourism site is Buhoma on the northern edge of the forest. It is the trailhead for tracking three gorilla groups and a wide range of accommodation is available .Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction , a range of other walks provides more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests. These walks can be arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00 and in the afternoon at 14:15.
- Munyanga River trail in the valley below Buhoma provides an ideal short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge.
- Waterfall trail leads though one of Uganda’s most pristine tracts of rainforest , passing beneath tree ferns , epiphytic ferns and orchids to visit three sparkling waterfalls
- Rushura Hill Trail provides expansive views across the plains of the western rift valley to the west and (on clear days) Lake Edward and the Rwenzori to the north.
- Muzabajiro loop trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill for breathtaking 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.
It is highly recommended for bird watchers.
Buhoma Community Walk and Cultural Performances
The local community operates a village walk which takes up to three hours .This immerses visitors in village life .Sites visited include a typical homestead , the traditional healer and a banana beer brewery .Local dance groups also perform traditional dance and music in the evenings by arrangement .Proceeds from these events are used for community development projects
As the crow flies , Buhoma is just 10 Km from Bwindi’s second gorilla tracking location at Nkurigo on the Southern edge of the forest .However this distance is covered by the impenetrable forest and the lovely walk between the two sites takes at least four hours .The Nkurigo trailhead lies on the isolated Nteko Ridge which enjoys grandstands views across Bwindi forest to the north and towards the Virunga volcanoes in the south.
Gorilla tracking is the primary activity at Nkuringo .Visitors should be fit as the park boundary lies in a steep valley 600m below the road .This provides good exercise before and after tracking gorillas.
Nkuringo Community Walk
Villagers at Nkuringo operate a community walk that visits a traditional healer, rural homestead, blacksmith, and brewers.
Visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Park should consider crossing the centre of the park from Buhoma park headquarters through Ruhija (a 4WD is essential).This ridge top route offers vistas into deep valleys n containing undisturbed rainforest .Watch out for duiker, primates and both forest and grassland bird species .
At Ruhija, birders should take the three hour hike to visit the Mubwindi swamp. Visitors may also climb through the bamboo zone to find Afromontane vegetation and panoramic views towards Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga forest
Gorilla tracking is captivating and Unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest . Bwindi has four habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by tourists .Three of these are the vicinity of Buhoma and one at Nkurigo.
- The Mubare group (‘M’) was opened for tourism in 1993 and consists of 10 gorillas with 1 silverback.
- The Habinyanja group (‘H”) was opened for tourism in 1998 and is composed of 21 individuals with 2 silverbacks.
- The Rushengura group (‘R’) is composed of 10 gorillas and 1 silverback) and was opened for tourism in 2002.
- The Nkurigo group (group) was opened for tourism in 2004 and is composed of 19 gorillas and 1 Silverback.
Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought after tourism activity .You should book well in advance to ensure that permits for your requested dates are available.
Gorilla tracking can be challenging and you need to be reasonably fit. Registration and briefing at the park offices at Buhoma and Nkurigo commences at 07:45. Tracking starts at 08:30 and can last from a few hours to the whole day depending on where the gorillas are in the forest.
To protect the gorillas and visitors, the following rules must be adhered to:
- No one with a communicable disease, such as flu or diarrhoea, is allowed to visit the gorillas.
- Do not surround the gorillas but remain aim a tight group.
- Leave a distance of at least 5m between you and the gorillas .If they approach you, move back slowly
- Flash photography is strictly forbidden
- Do not eat or smoke within 200m of the gorillas
- If you need to sneeze or cough, turn away from the gorillas and cover your nose and mouth.
- Burry all human faeces in a hole dug at least 30cm (one foot) deep and ensure that is properly filled in afterwards.
- All litter must be removed from the park for disposal
- Do not spit on vegetation or soil while in the park
- No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas
- When with the gorillas, avoid making loud noises or sudden movements
- Contact time with gorillas is strictly limited to one hour.
- Please observe all instructions from your guide.