Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Uganda

Overview of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park settles in the south west of Uganda stretching over an area of 321 km2 with an altitudinal range of 1,160 – 2,607 Km above sea level.  This gorilla safari park extends for 32,092 ha and is among the largest areas in East Africa with Afro montane lowland forest with greatest number of trees at its altitude more than any other similar forest in East Africa.  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is by no means ordinary when it comes to bio-diversity concentration with great counts of trees, wildlife, butterflies and great mammal congregations in Africa.

The Park is known for populations of Mountain gorillas which are listed as critically endangered by IUCN. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is considered to in a grouping of the most diverse forest on African continent with 163 species of trees, 104 species of fern alongside other taxa.

Map of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

The Park is known for populations of Mountain gorillas which are listed as critically endangered by IUCN. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is considered to in a grouping of the most diverse forest on African continent with 163 species of trees, 104 species of fern alongside other taxa. 16 of these species are restricted to forests of western Uganda and one Lovoa swynnertonii is considered to be threatened globally. The park also has 214 species of birds, 7 species of diurnal primates, 120 species of mammals and 202 species of butterflies. The dense undergrowth coupled with mature tropical trees settling on a rugged landscape combine to justify Bwindi as an Impenetrable forest.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also considered to have counts of African montane wildlife most of which is endemic to the highlands of the Albertine rift. In fact, nine species that are threatened globally exist in Bwindi including; common chimpanzee, mountain gorilla, l’Hoest’s monkey Cercopithecus l’hoesti, endangered species of African giant swallowtail, African green broadbill, Grauer’s rush warbler, Chaplin’s flycatcher, African elephant and cream-banded swallowtail. The leopard and buffalo were poached to extinction of recent and in 1960s respectively.

Bwindi was first established as Kasatora and Kayonza crown forest reserves in the north and south sectors respectively stretching to 20,700ha. These two were brought together in 1948 and added to the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest Reserve stretching to 29,800ha. In 1961, they were added to the Central Reserve expanding to 32,080ha and in that same year the whole area was gazetted as an animal sanctuary to ensure protection of Mountain gorillas. The area finally received a park status in 1991 along with Rwenzori and Mgahinga which involved the incorporation of 1,000ha Mbwa tract.

The Park Bwindi derives its name from a horrific legend that has kept the image of the park surrounded by Mystery. It is believed that about a century ago a range of people were transferring from the populated south to the less populated north in search of vast land for farming.  As there was no Vehicles and roads by then, the people would trek for days, weeks and Months until they reach their desired destination. Unfortunately, when one family was moving from the south to the north, they came across a big swamp of which they could not manage to traverse. The swamp spirit offered to help them but at a cost of their favorite daughter Nnyinamukari. The family stood in contemplation for two days and they finally reach a consensus and they gave in their daughter and were given the opportunity to cross to the north. However, the news spread to the communities around and place was heavily feared thus nicknaming it Mubwindi bwa Nnyinamukari (the dark place of Nnyinamukari). The swamp still exists and is called Mubwindi while the entire forest is called Bwindi.

Tourist Safari Attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are descendants of ancestral monkeys and apes that lived in Arabia and Africa in the beginning of oligocene epoch (34-24 millions of years ago). The fossil records reveal the thriving of hominoid primates (apes) in East Africa approximately 18 – 22 million years ago. However, the archive of the mountain gorilla fossils is poor and is in short of clear evolutionary history. It is noted that approximately 9 million years ago, the primate group which evolved into gorillas separated from the common ancestor along with the chimps and humans leading to the emergence of genus gorilla.

Even though the earliest relative of gorilla is not certain, the Procunsul Africanus – the earliest ape is thought be the one. It was approximately 400,000 years when the eastern low land gorillas and Mountain gorillas parted ways and about 2 million years when these two did the same from their colleagues (the western gorillas). The classification of gorillas has sparked off a considerable debate for long. It started in 1867 when the genus was referenced as Troglodytes and later renamed to Gorilla in 1852. The taxonomist Colin Gloves in 1967 proposed the all gorillas should be considered one species Gorilla gorilla with three sub species Gorilla gorilla gorilla (western lowland gorilla), Gorilla gorilla graueri (lowland gorillas found west of the Virungas) and Gorilla gorilla beringei (Bwindi and Virunga endemic mountain gorillas). Following the IUCN review in 2003, the gorillas were classified into two species Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei.

The gorilla is naturally a shy vegetarian ape which is less offensive as it appears to be. However when provoked, it rises to erect position and beats their cupped hands on their chests in an attempt to frighten the attackers. Gorillas are the largest and powerful of all apes with an average height of 1.7 m (6 ft.) for adult male and weight of approximately 140 to 275 kg. While the female gorillas are approximately 40 to 50% smaller than their male counter parts. Both female and male gorillas are strong enough to pull out small trees and rip tree branches. They pass most of the day foraging with resting breaks.

Bwindi Impenetrable National park contains 400 of the 880 mountain gorillas that currently thrive in the wild with none thriving in captivity. Twelve gorilla families have been habituated for gorilla trekking encounter in different regions of Bwindi including;

Buhoma- Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura.

Ruhija- Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguriro.

Nkuringo – Nkuringo Gorilla group.

Rushaga – Nshongi, Kahungye, Mishaya, Busingye and Bweza.

Read more

Tourist Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla tracking
The gorilla trekking is the most key activity that sets Bwindi Impenetrable National Park above many protected areas. With 400 out of 880 mountain gorillas that currently thrive in the wild with none thriving in captivity, Bwindi is an ideal have for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda. This activity is carried out in its four regions where fully habituated gorilla groups are known to be thriving including; Nkuringo area with its Nkuringo gorilla family, Rushaga area with its Bweza, Busingye, Mishaya, Kahungye and Nshongyi gorilla families, Ruhija area with its Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguriro gorilla families and Buhoma with its Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura gorilla families. A range of 8 people are permitted to track each gorilla family per day with maximum of I hour direct encounter with them. The gorilla trekking activity commences at 8am local time at Uganda Wildlife Headquarters in any of the four regions depending on the permit that you have with a short briefing from the UWA staff about the gorilla trekking encounter. The duration of this activity tend to range between 2 – 8 hours. Tracking gorillas requires a traveller on Uganda gorilla safari to have a gorilla permit which is issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority at a price of 600USD in the high season or 350USD in a low season (November). Gorilla tracking in Bwindi is possible throughout the year though dry season offers an easier trek.

Nature walks.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has six main nature trails that are designed to enable Uganda safari undertakers to explore Bwindi on foot.
Munyange waterfall walk: This is in Buhoma and it exposes you to impressive waterfall that is situated on River Munyange. It is short trail ideal for traveller with limited time. The trail exposes you to birds and primates at the forest edge.
Rushura Hill Walk: This directs to Rushura Hill and upon reaching the top, it offers an opportunity to explore lakes Edward and George not forgetting the peaks of Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga ranges. The rift valley floor can also be explored.
The Muzabajiro Loop: The Muzabajiro loop is a 6km walk that moves around the hill with an opportunity to encounter birds and primates with the views of Virunga volcanoes. The trail offers you magnificent views of Bwindi Impenetrable forest. The trail exposes to different fern species and the top offers ideal encounters for picnics.
The Ivi River Walk: The 14km River Ivi walk goes for seven hours passing through a place of pigs locally known Mukempunu. Wild pigs are always encountered on this trail.
The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail: This trail takes 3 – 4 hours traversing the park to connect the villages of Buhoma and Nkuringo. The trail offers impressive views of the forest covered with mist as you draw towards Nkuringo.
The Habinyanja Trail: This trail takes 4 – 6 hours crossing the Munyanga River taking a steep ascend of Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge with views of River Buhoma. The trail exposes you to the legendary African corner named after the rock piece that resembles the map of Africa. Habinyanja swamp offers good birding opportunities spotting birds like; Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others.  Read more

How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Accessing different regions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where gorilla trekking takes place including; Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Rushaga can be done from the following points;

DISTANCE IN KM
ORIGIN BUHOMA HRS. RUSHAGA RUHIJA NKURINGO
Kampala 527 Km. 10 Hrs. 510 km 473km 517 km
Mweya 160 Km. 5 Hrs. 309 km 218 km 316 km
Ishasha 63 Km. 2 Hrs. 212 km 121 km 219 km
Kibale 280 Km. 7 Hrs. 429 km 338 km 436 km
Lake Bunyonyi 122 km 3-4hrs. 73 km 48 km 80 km
Kigali 232 Km. 5 Hrs. 169 km 170 km 214 km
Volcanoes National Park. 236 Km. 7 Hrs. 93 km 140 km 93 km
Mgahinga NP 204 km 7 Hrs. 53 km 100 km 53 km
Kabale 110 km 4 hrs 85 km 48 km 92 km
  • 4 x4 Wheel drive is recommended due to the nature of the roads most especially in the rainy seasons.
  • The park can also be accessed using public transport. Buses from Kampala connect to Butogota passing through the towns of Rukungiri and Kihihi. Though one should know that the departure and arrival time is not specific.
  • The gorilla safari destination of Bwindi can also be connected to by Air. Aero link conducts scheduled flights to Kihihi and Nyakabande Airstrip in Kisoro from the International Airport of Entebbe. The Kihihi Airfield and Kayonza Airstrip provide easy connection to northern sector of Buhoma and Ruhija in the East while Nyakabande in Kisoro is ideal for southern sector of Nkuringo and Rushaga.

Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

There is variety of accommodation facilities in Bwindi ranging from Luxury, Midrange and Budget located in different areas of the park.

Buhoma Area.

Buhoma Community Rest Camp.

Location: Buhoma, at the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This eco-friendly camp is perched on a hillside at the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and worthy of stay on your Gorilla Safari in Uganda. It’s Buhoma’s best value offer, and gorillas can be seen in the grounds if lucky. Private, covered safari tents connected by paths winding along the hillside all look out onto the densely-forested park gradients, and private verandas provide visitors with the chance to make the most of these exceptional views. An open-fronted restaurant doubles up as a bar and common room where one can connect to fellow guests, read a book, or take a cup of tea to warm yourself on the chilly mountain evenings.

Lodge Amenities

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • common room
  • Electricity
  • Hot and cold running water

Room Description

Furnished twin and double safari tents stand on platforms overseeing the jungle. The tents have sheets, mosquito nets and terraces. En suite and common bathroom facilities, hot showers plus flushing toilets are available.

Available rooms include:

  • Eight tents with en suite bathrooms
  • Five tents with shared bathrooms
  • One dormitory with six beds

More Accommodation

More Overview

The Park is known for populations of Mountain gorillas which are listed as critically endangered by IUCN. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is considered to in a grouping of the most diverse forest on African continent with 163 species of trees, 104 species of fern alongside other taxa. 16 of these species are restricted to forests of western Uganda and one Lovoa swynnertonii is considered to be threatened globally. The park also has 214 species of birds, 7 species of diurnal primates, 120 species of mammals and 202 species of butterflies. The dense undergrowth coupled with mature tropical trees settling on a rugged landscape combine to justify Bwindi as an Impenetrable forest.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also considered to have counts of African montane wildlife most of which is endemic to the highlands of the Albertine rift. In fact, nine species that are threatened globally exist in Bwindi including; common chimpanzee, mountain gorilla, l’Hoest’s monkey Cercopithecus l’hoesti, endangered species of African giant swallowtail, African green broadbill, Grauer’s rush warbler, Chaplin’s flycatcher, African elephant and cream-banded swallowtail. The leopard and buffalo were poached to extinction of recent and in 1960s respectively.

Bwindi was first established as Kasatora and Kayonza crown forest reserves in the north and south sectors respectively stretching to 20,700ha. These two were brought together in 1948 and added to the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest Reserve stretching to 29,800ha. In 1961, they were added to the Central Reserve expanding to 32,080ha and in that same year the whole area was gazetted as an animal sanctuary to ensure protection of Mountain gorillas. The area finally received a park status in 1991 along with Rwenzori and Mgahinga which involved the incorporation of 1,000ha Mbwa tract.

The Park Bwindi derives its name from a horrific legend that has kept the image of the park surrounded by Mystery. It is believed that about a century ago a range of people were transferring from the populated south to the less populated north in search of vast land for farming.  As there was no Vehicles and roads by then, the people would trek for days, weeks and Months until they reach their desired destination. Unfortunately, when one family was moving from the south to the north, they came across a big swamp of which they could not manage to traverse. The swamp spirit offered to help them but at a cost of their favorite daughter Nnyinamukari. The family stood in contemplation for two days and they finally reach a consensus and they gave in their daughter and were given the opportunity to cross to the north. However, the news spread to the communities around and place was heavily feared thus nicknaming it Mubwindi bwa Nnyinamukari (the dark place of Nnyinamukari). The swamp still exists and is called Mubwindi while the entire forest is called Bwindi.

Attractions

Tourist Safari Attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are descendants of ancestral monkeys and apes that lived in Arabia and Africa in the beginning of oligocene epoch (34-24 millions of years ago). The fossil records reveal the thriving of hominoid primates (apes) in East Africa approximately 18 – 22 million years ago. However, the archive of the mountain gorilla fossils is poor and is in short of clear evolutionary history. It is noted that approximately 9 million years ago, the primate group which evolved into gorillas separated from the common ancestor along with the chimps and humans leading to the emergence of genus gorilla.

Even though the earliest relative of gorilla is not certain, the Procunsul Africanus – the earliest ape is thought be the one. It was approximately 400,000 years when the eastern low land gorillas and Mountain gorillas parted ways and about 2 million years when these two did the same from their colleagues (the western gorillas). The classification of gorillas has sparked off a considerable debate for long. It started in 1867 when the genus was referenced as Troglodytes and later renamed to Gorilla in 1852. The taxonomist Colin Gloves in 1967 proposed the all gorillas should be considered one species Gorilla gorilla with three sub species Gorilla gorilla gorilla (western lowland gorilla), Gorilla gorilla graueri (lowland gorillas found west of the Virungas) and Gorilla gorilla beringei (Bwindi and Virunga endemic mountain gorillas). Following the IUCN review in 2003, the gorillas were classified into two species Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei.

The gorilla is naturally a shy vegetarian ape which is less offensive as it appears to be. However when provoked, it rises to erect position and beats their cupped hands on their chests in an attempt to frighten the attackers. Gorillas are the largest and powerful of all apes with an average height of 1.7 m (6 ft.) for adult male and weight of approximately 140 to 275 kg. While the female gorillas are approximately 40 to 50% smaller than their male counter parts. Both female and male gorillas are strong enough to pull out small trees and rip tree branches. They pass most of the day foraging with resting breaks.

Bwindi Impenetrable National park contains 400 of the 880 mountain gorillas that currently thrive in the wild with none thriving in captivity. Twelve gorilla families have been habituated for gorilla trekking encounter in different regions of Bwindi including;

Buhoma- Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura.

Ruhija- Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguriro.

Nkuringo – Nkuringo Gorilla group.

Rushaga – Nshongi, Kahungye, Mishaya, Busingye and Bweza.

Read more

Activities

Tourist Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla tracking
The gorilla trekking is the most key activity that sets Bwindi Impenetrable National Park above many protected areas. With 400 out of 880 mountain gorillas that currently thrive in the wild with none thriving in captivity, Bwindi is an ideal have for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda. This activity is carried out in its four regions where fully habituated gorilla groups are known to be thriving including; Nkuringo area with its Nkuringo gorilla family, Rushaga area with its Bweza, Busingye, Mishaya, Kahungye and Nshongyi gorilla families, Ruhija area with its Oruzogo, Bitukura and Kyaguriro gorilla families and Buhoma with its Habinyanja, Mubare and Rushegura gorilla families. A range of 8 people are permitted to track each gorilla family per day with maximum of I hour direct encounter with them. The gorilla trekking activity commences at 8am local time at Uganda Wildlife Headquarters in any of the four regions depending on the permit that you have with a short briefing from the UWA staff about the gorilla trekking encounter. The duration of this activity tend to range between 2 – 8 hours. Tracking gorillas requires a traveller on Uganda gorilla safari to have a gorilla permit which is issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority at a price of 600USD in the high season or 350USD in a low season (November). Gorilla tracking in Bwindi is possible throughout the year though dry season offers an easier trek.

Nature walks.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has six main nature trails that are designed to enable Uganda safari undertakers to explore Bwindi on foot.
Munyange waterfall walk: This is in Buhoma and it exposes you to impressive waterfall that is situated on River Munyange. It is short trail ideal for traveller with limited time. The trail exposes you to birds and primates at the forest edge.
Rushura Hill Walk: This directs to Rushura Hill and upon reaching the top, it offers an opportunity to explore lakes Edward and George not forgetting the peaks of Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga ranges. The rift valley floor can also be explored.
The Muzabajiro Loop: The Muzabajiro loop is a 6km walk that moves around the hill with an opportunity to encounter birds and primates with the views of Virunga volcanoes. The trail offers you magnificent views of Bwindi Impenetrable forest. The trail exposes to different fern species and the top offers ideal encounters for picnics.
The Ivi River Walk: The 14km River Ivi walk goes for seven hours passing through a place of pigs locally known Mukempunu. Wild pigs are always encountered on this trail.
The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail: This trail takes 3 – 4 hours traversing the park to connect the villages of Buhoma and Nkuringo. The trail offers impressive views of the forest covered with mist as you draw towards Nkuringo.
The Habinyanja Trail: This trail takes 4 – 6 hours crossing the Munyanga River taking a steep ascend of Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge with views of River Buhoma. The trail exposes you to the legendary African corner named after the rock piece that resembles the map of Africa. Habinyanja swamp offers good birding opportunities spotting birds like; Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others.  Read more

Getting There

How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Accessing different regions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where gorilla trekking takes place including; Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Rushaga can be done from the following points;

DISTANCE IN KM
ORIGIN BUHOMA HRS. RUSHAGA RUHIJA NKURINGO
Kampala 527 Km. 10 Hrs. 510 km 473km 517 km
Mweya 160 Km. 5 Hrs. 309 km 218 km 316 km
Ishasha 63 Km. 2 Hrs. 212 km 121 km 219 km
Kibale 280 Km. 7 Hrs. 429 km 338 km 436 km
Lake Bunyonyi 122 km 3-4hrs. 73 km 48 km 80 km
Kigali 232 Km. 5 Hrs. 169 km 170 km 214 km
Volcanoes National Park. 236 Km. 7 Hrs. 93 km 140 km 93 km
Mgahinga NP 204 km 7 Hrs. 53 km 100 km 53 km
Kabale 110 km 4 hrs 85 km 48 km 92 km
  • 4 x4 Wheel drive is recommended due to the nature of the roads most especially in the rainy seasons.
  • The park can also be accessed using public transport. Buses from Kampala connect to Butogota passing through the towns of Rukungiri and Kihihi. Though one should know that the departure and arrival time is not specific.
  • The gorilla safari destination of Bwindi can also be connected to by Air. Aero link conducts scheduled flights to Kihihi and Nyakabande Airstrip in Kisoro from the International Airport of Entebbe. The Kihihi Airfield and Kayonza Airstrip provide easy connection to northern sector of Buhoma and Ruhija in the East while Nyakabande in Kisoro is ideal for southern sector of Nkuringo and Rushaga.
Accommodation

Accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

There is variety of accommodation facilities in Bwindi ranging from Luxury, Midrange and Budget located in different areas of the park.

Buhoma Area.

Buhoma Community Rest Camp.

Location: Buhoma, at the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This eco-friendly camp is perched on a hillside at the entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and worthy of stay on your Gorilla Safari in Uganda. It’s Buhoma’s best value offer, and gorillas can be seen in the grounds if lucky. Private, covered safari tents connected by paths winding along the hillside all look out onto the densely-forested park gradients, and private verandas provide visitors with the chance to make the most of these exceptional views. An open-fronted restaurant doubles up as a bar and common room where one can connect to fellow guests, read a book, or take a cup of tea to warm yourself on the chilly mountain evenings.

Lodge Amenities

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • common room
  • Electricity
  • Hot and cold running water

Room Description

Furnished twin and double safari tents stand on platforms overseeing the jungle. The tents have sheets, mosquito nets and terraces. En suite and common bathroom facilities, hot showers plus flushing toilets are available.

Available rooms include:

  • Eight tents with en suite bathrooms
  • Five tents with shared bathrooms
  • One dormitory with six beds

More Accommodation

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