This is an awesome and pleasant jungle alongside an old forest with beautiful landscapes throughout Bwindi forest and another leading travel destination in Africa and Uganda. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is breathtaking and gets its intriguing name from the vegetation that is so thick that it is nearly impenetrable. It offers the exciting opportunity to see the mountain gorillas up close, leaving a long lasting memory and a joyous feeling.
Located in the heart of Virunga Massif, you are quickly awed by the beauty of your surroundings and the anticipation of encountering the largest apes. At the same time, your determination will propel you forward through the challenging terrain as you make your way through the jungle and forest to discover the beauties of the National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is situated along the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley and north of the Virunga Volcanoes with Rwanda.
It offers a massive, enticing outlook through the slopes of the hills of Bwindi massif with its swath of steep mountains covered in thick steamy jungle. These forests is magnificent, magical, and otherworldly as you make your way through it, your excitement and anticipation builds as you prepare to look into the silverback’s eyes.
Being one of Africa’s most ancient habitats, it survived the last Ice Age as most of the continent’s other forests disappeared and is the only place where chimpanzees and gorillas coexist in the same habitat with forest elephants and extremely rare birds. The park has managed to house over 400 Gorillas due to sound conservation practices, resulting in a very interesting experience for Gorilla Trekking and viewing the amazing scenery of the Virunga massif, the Rwenzori backdrop, views of Lake Albert, plants, wildlife, birds, and primates.
Vegetation in Bwindi Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a tropical rain forest in East Africa consisting of the lowland and montane vegetation zones meeting together. It was able to protect the jungle during the ice age and served as a water hub for most of the wildlife species that relied on the forest; unlike other areas that lacked forest or vegetation cover.
Bwindi has numerous vegetation types that are widely categorized into medium altitude. Moist ever green and the Afro montane forest have a highly limited vegetation category in Africa. The park is covered by mixed forest which is concentrated around its altitudes and is characterized by canopy from plant species like red stinkwood, newtonia, symphonia globulifera, and East African yellow wood and strombosia scheffleri. Beneath the main forest there are species like xymalos, neoboutonia macrocalyx, monospora, myrianthus holstii, and teclea nobilis and allophylus abyssinicus.
The vegetation diversity provides a large feeding area for the mountain gorillas, forest elephants and other ground-dependent wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The forest elephants have also been attributed for the creation and maintenance of the open places within the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. These elephants are attracted to the existent swampy areas within the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest during the dry season.
The water catchment area in the forest provides a platform for agriculture, (no comma needed here) for the nearby local communities as well as the major source for several rivers like Ivi, Munyaga, Ihihizo Ishasha and Ntengyere, that drain into Lake Edward with rivers Ndego, Kanyamwabo and Shongi flowing southwards to Lake Mutanda. The park has 400 plant species and intense wildlife diversity made of numerous ferns, colorful orchids, epithetic ferns, and lush fogy rainforests alongside a wide variety of bird species, wildlife and butterflies.
Apart from the gorillas, one can experience the beauty of the wildlife, along with flora and other numerous coexisting fauna in the park, as well as the various vegetation types that are defined by their altitudes offering a unique biodiversity.
Wildlife in Bwindi Forest National Park
With a great biodiversity of vegetation in the park, it is a great habitat for the animals and birds .120 species of mammals including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, black and white colobus, red-tailed guenon, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest guenon, baboons, nocturnal prosimians, forest elephants, duikers, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, several small species of cats alongside 360 species of birds and over 200 species of butterflies.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has a variety of wildlife calling it home, but most notable are the impressive endangered Mountain Gorillas that can only be seen in Africa in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Only about 1000 Mountain Gorillas remain in the world and half of them inhabit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Habituated Gorilla Families in Bwindi Forest National Park
The forest boasts 18 habituated gorilla families located in different sections of the Park, with four gorilla families in Buhoma (Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe), four in Ruhija (Oruzogo, Bitukura, Kyaguriro and Mukiza), seven in Rushaga (Busingye, Bweza, Bikingi, Kahungye, Mishaya, Nshongi and Kutu) and three in Nkuringo (Nkuringo, Bishaho and Christmas).
Top things to do in Bwindi Forest National Park
Regarding biodiversity, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has the most unique with plant species that can’t be found in any other park. It boasts various animal species, butterflies, birds and of course, the endangered Mountain Gorillas that are the biggest attraction for travellers to this park. Below are some of the activities you can choose to participate in during your visit to the park.
- Gorilla Trekking
A Gorilla Trek is one of the most thrilling experiences a traveler can have on a jungle adventure. The trek starts when you reach the briefing point at any tracking location. Tracking gorillas takes time, patience and good knowledge of the forest’s ways and the habits of the mountain gorillas.
Mountain Gorillas are mind blowing and many are often at a loss of words when they find themselves finally standing just a few meters away from them. You will have an hour to enjoy these truly magical moments that will forever be ingrained in your mind and can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
Bwindi Forest is mostly frequented for Gorilla Trekking and is the main reason that most visitors come to this park as it provides an incredible backdrop for this once in a lifetime adventure.
- Gorilla Habituation Experience
In Uganda this experience can only be encountered in the Rushaga tracking location of the Park. Here, you will spend 4 hours with the Mountain Gorilla Family with not more than 4 participants.
There are presently two family groups being habituated, meaning that they are becoming used to human contact and will not run away from visitors trekking them.
- Batwa Community Visit
The Batwa People are the pygmies who were the first inhabitants of the forest for years as hunter-gatherers. The Batwa experiences in the Buhoma area and the Buniga Forest Walk, near Southern Bwindi, give you a glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Batwa as you help restore their heritage and keep their cultural practices alive.
- Hiking through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Hiking through the forest is led by a ranger-guide and can be done from Nkuringo tracking location to Buhoma or Vis versa and is famous with those who choose to trek gorillas twice, once in Buhoma and once in the South of the Park.
- Bird Watching in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of Africa’s number one birding sites with many species endemic to the forest. As one of the prime birding destinations in Africa, it is home to over 347 species of forest birds. Of those recorded in the Park, at least 70 out of 78 montane forest bird species occurring in the Albertine Rift region are found in the forest and 22 of the 36 endemic species in the region.
- Mountain Bike Rides
Opt for a fascinating village walk or travel with a well-trained guide by bike, where you will ride into the Forest on paths such as the Ivy River Trail. The average Bike Ride is 3 hours or longer in length with much to see along the trail or road.
- Village Walks
Conduct a 3-hour cultural walk through the village as you learn their ways of life and cultures of the people. You will be accompanied by a local guide who is knowledgeable about the local cultures and customs.
Best place to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Accommodations consist of the pocket-friendly, but still awesome and luxurious lodgings around and near the forest. A traveler shall have to choose which lodge to stay at depending on the sector he/ she is going to do activities in and the budget at hand.
- Buhoma sector
This is the most visited area for tracking to gorillas due to variety of lodges for accommodation and for the less strenuous terrain. The lodges include:
- Mahogany Springs
- Silverback Lodge
- Haven Lodge Buhoma
- Buhoma Community Rest Camp
- Ruhija sector
This sector is about 2 hours away from Buhoma. If tracking here, you can also choose to stay in Buhoma with an early morning rise to Ruhija for tracking. Lodges here include:
- Ruhija Gorilla Lodge
- Gorilla Mist Camp
- Bakiga Lodge
- Trekkers Tavern Cottages
- Rushaga sector
This sector has the highest number of gorilla families and the only sector in which you can conduct a Gorilla Habituation Experience where you get to spend 4 hours with the mountain gorillas. Lodges here include:
- Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge
- Rushaga Gorilla Camp
- Gorilla Valley Lodge
- Nkuringo sector
This area has the most strenuous trek with a difficult terrain and should be undertaken by the able bodied and physically fit. You can stay at:
- Clouds Lodge
- Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
- Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge
- Bwindi Backpackers Lodge
Best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Uganda is known as a year-round travel destination for any tourist planning to travel here due to its climate and unique weather patterns, location to the equator and Lake Victoria. Uganda mainly has two rainy seasons; October to November and the long rainy season which takes place from mid-March through the end of May.
The best time to visit Bwindi Forest National Park for the gorillas is June, July, August, September, January and February when the roads and the trials in the park are less slippery and passable.
How to get to Bwindi Forest National Park
The park can be accessed by air for the luxury travellers who don’t want to spend a lot of time riding in a passenger vehicle and by road for the travellers who want to appreciate the beautiful scenery.
- By Road
Determining which route to use depends on which sector of Bwindi you could be going to and a 4wd vehicle would be recommended because these routes tend to be so slippery during the wet season. The following are the different routes;
- To Buhoma sector;
This route will start from Kampala through Masaka – Mbarara – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihihi – Kanyantorogo – Butogota and lastly to Buhoma. But is you are coming from Queen Elizabeth National Park, you may have to through Ishasha to Kihihi – Kanyantorogo-Butogota and then to Buhoma
- To Ruhija sector;
This will also start from Kampala through Masaka – Mbarara – Ntungamo – Kabale and then keep on Kisoro road for some 20kms where you will find a big sign post on right showing Bwindi Forest National Park – Ruhija 26km & Buhoma 76km. This route can also be used by those coming from Kabale as well as those from Kisoro.
- To Rushaga & Nkuringo sectors;
These two sectors can be accessed through Kisoro town. But if you are coming from Kabale you can use a shorter route before Kisoro town at a point which is around 45km from Kabale on Kisoro road. This point has a number of sign posts indicating the different lodges in Rushaga sector.
- By Air
Some travelers can choose to fly to cut the time they spend on the road or because they have less travel days. A scheduled flight can be booked with Aerolink from Entebbe International Airport or from Kampala at Kajansi airfield to the airstrips in Kisoro if you are tracking the southern sector or Kihihi and Kayonza for travellers tracking for the northern area.