Bwindi

Bwindi

Things to do - general

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.

This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.

The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.

History of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

In 1932, two blocks of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were designated as Crown Forest Reserves. The northern block was designated as the “Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve”, and the southern block designated as the “Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve”. These reserves had a combined area of 207 square kilometers. In 1942, the two Crown Forest Reserves were combined and enlarged, and renamed the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest. This new protected area covered an area of 298 square kilometers and was under the joint control of the Ugandan government’s game and forest departments.

In 1964, the reserve was designated as an animal sanctuary in order to provide extra protection to its mountain gorillas and renamed the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve. In 1966, two other forest reserves became part of the main reserve, increasing its area to almost 321 square kilometers. The park continued to be managed as both a game sanctuary and forest reserve.
In 1991, Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve along with Mgahinga Gorilla Reserve and Rwenzori Mountains Reserve was designated as a national park and renamed Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It covered an area of 330.8 square kilometers. The national park was declared in part to protect a range of species within it, most notably the mountain gorilla.

Gorilla tracking in Uganda became a tourist activity in April 1993, and the park became a popular tourist destination. In 1994, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List and a 10 square kilometer area was incorporated into the park. The park’s management changed: Uganda National Parks, since renamed Uganda Wildlife Authority, became responsible for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. In 2003 a piece of land next to the park with an area of 4.2 square kilometers was purchased and incorporated into the park.

Top Things to Do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Discover the Things to do and See in the Ancient Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a park that is home to Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, other Primates, Forest Elephants, and rare Birds not found elsewhere.  Foremost, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Gorilla Country with over 400 Gorillas that live there and are thriving because of sound Conservation Practices.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is famous for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris, however there is more to this Uganda National Park. The more is not discovered by most Visitors to the Park since they focus on Gorilla Treks. Hikes, Climbs, Biking, Birding, intercultural visits just to name a few. The ancient forest offers many things to do and see – Discover that is not so impenetrable, but a place of Discovery like no other in East Africa.

Gorilla Tracking:

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for Gorilla trekking in Uganda that is the reason that most visitors come to this park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park provides an incredible backdrop for this once in a lifetime adventure.  There are four trail heads from which one tracks one of the gorilla families for which we have obtained permits for you.

More Gorilla Families have been habituated for visitors. That means that there are over 100 daily gorilla permits available in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.   Be sure to wear the right clothing for gorilla trekking in Uganda and bring the things needed.

Gorilla Habituation Experience in Rushaga:

It is only in Uganda that you can be with a Mountain Gorilla Family for 4 hours on a Gorilla Habituation Experience along with researchers in Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest – this amazing experience – to be with a Mountain Gorilla Family as it is being habituated is a one of a kind experience in Africa.

There are presently two family groups being habituated, meaning that they becoming used to human contact and will not run away from visitors trekking them.

You can fly into Kigali Rwanda and 3 hours later be in the Rushaga Region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  You have the choice of budget, moderate and upmarket lodging and can stay either in Rushaga or scenic Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Mountain Bike Rides – Buhoma Area:

Ride 4 a Woman which is a community support group offers mountain bike rentals and guided bike in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the Buhoma area of the park.

You can even do the Village Walk on a bike with guide.  There are Birding Bike Rides, or simply a ride into the Forest 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.

The guides are all well-trained, some specialize in birding, others in culture but all know Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which they all love and want to conserve.

The Batwa Forest Experience:

The Batwa were the original people of the forest, they were here for thousands of years before the Bantu People, and the Cultivators of the Land arrived.

The Batwa People – are pygmies – were hunter-gatherers and lived in the forests of Southwest Uganda and beyond. They left a small ecological footprint on the forest and lived in harmony with nature.  You can visit the forest (actually outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) with the Batwa People and learn of their traditional ways of hunting and gathering.

The Batwa Experience takes place in the Buhoma area – if you are in South Bwindi you can visit the Buniga Forest with the Batwa people there.

The Buhoma Village Walk:

Here you have a 3 hour cultural walk through the village – you learn the ways and culture of the people that live in the Buhoma area on the edge of Bwindi Forest. The Village Walk is with a guide who is friendly and knowledgeable about local culture and customs.

You will see how people make local crafts such as baskets with the most intricate designs – beer made from Bananas, and a distillery that makes the local Waragi Gin from Bananas, meet a traditional healer and learn of what is gathered in the ancient forest and how it is taken and applied to ailments – you will be amazed –

See how the growing of local produce is done and harvested, food preparation over charcoal or open fire, visit a school, and meet the Batwa Pygmy community as they perform a dance for you just to name a few.  It is certainly a cultural learning experience and the cost of the walk supports the local community – so a win win for everyone. (3 hours in length and difficulty level is easy – Location – Buhoma Area)

Hiking through the Forest:

The Hike through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be one day or longer hike from the north of Bwindi to the South – called Nkuringo- there one can stay overnight and continue the next day down to scenic Lake Mutanda where you paddle across in a wooden dugout and continue to the town of Kisoro.

This is the most popular hike along two trails of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. There are however other trails and nature walks, most from easy to moderate in and near the Forest that can be explored on foot and requiring from an hour to all day long.

Hiking through the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is always with a guide.  The through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Hikes have become more popular over the last few years, especially with those who choose to trek gorillas twice, once in Buhoma and once in the South of the Park.

Hikes and Trails in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:

Not only can you hike through the forest, there are many hikes and nature walks in and outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that match various fitness levels.

Trails can be found in Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.  Some of these are birding hikes, while others focus on the scenery of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The Hikes and Nature Walks can be added on to your Gorilla Trek or gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Let us know at the time when you plan your safari with us about your hiking plans.

Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it is one of the prime birding destinations in Africa.  There are over 347 species of forest birds 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.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been picked as Number One Birding Site for African birding safaris to Uganda.

Now visitors come from far and wide to spot some of Africa’s rarest birds and at the same time, they can track the Mountain Gorillas.

The Stunning Scenery of Nkuringo:

One cannot leave out the Stunning scenery found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – especially the Nkuringo area.

There are now 6 gorilla group families in the area, new lodges have opened and visitors are not only enjoying visiting the Mountain Gorillas but taking in the breathtaking scenery found in the area.

The Virungas in the distance is an amazing sight to behold.

From Nkuringo you can travel either to Lake Mutanda to Lake Bunyonyi where you continue to enjoy more scenic wonders.

Rushaga – Best Area for Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Rushaga for most visitors was not even on the map a few visitors a few years, overnight it has become the area in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with the most gorilla groups to track.

It is also the area for the Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience with two Gorilla families.

Rushaga, unlike Buhoma or Ruhija can easily be accessed from Kigali Rwanda, a mere 3 – hour drive there. There are countless of add-ons that can extend your time on Safari in Uganda and Rwanda that will enhance your time of Gorilla Trekking.

What to See in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The park is most recognized for the 340 Bwindi Mountain Gorillas, half of the world’s population of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, although it is sanctuary for the chimpanzees, many birds and the colobus monkeys.

This Afromontane forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, and the diversity of species is an attribute of the park. The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals ten of which are primates and more than 45 small mammal species, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species.

In terms of fauna, the Bwindi area is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern sector which has a lower altitude is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. These include two species internationally recognized as endangered that is; Brown mahogany (Lovoa swynnertonii) and Brazzeia longipedicellata.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance. The park has a large variation of altitude and habitat types, there by supporting a variety of species of trees, reptiles, butterflies, birds, moths, and small mammals.

Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The park is inhabited by a population of about 340 individuals of Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), commonly referred to as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas remaining in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains which is shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The major threat to these mountain gorillas is poaching, habitat loss and disease, however, since 1997; there has been a gradual increase in the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi from 300 individuals to about 340 individuals in 2006.

Recent research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla’s diet is patently higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel further per day, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods.

Additionally, Bwindi gorillas are much more likely to build their nests in trees, nearly always in, a small understory tree. There are no mountain gorillas recorded in captivity explaining why they are indeed an endangered species with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals.

Country Uganda
Languages spokenEnglish, Luganda, Bachiga
Currency usedUganda Shillings (UGX)
Area (km2)321km2

Culture and history info

In 1932, two blocks of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest were designated as Crown Forest Reserves. The northern block was designated as the "Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve". The southern block designated as the "Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve". These reserves had a combined area of 207 square kilometers. In 1942, the two Crown Forest Reserves were combined. They were enlarged, and renamed the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest. This new protected area covered an area of 298 square kilometers. It was under the joint control of the Ugandan government's game and forest departments.

In 1964, the reserve was designated as an animal sanctuary. This was in order to provide extra protection to its mountain gorillas. It was then renamed the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve. In 1966, two other forest reserves became part of the main reserve. This increased its area to almost 321 square kilometers. The park continued to be managed as both a game sanctuary and forest reserve.

In 1991, Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve was designated as a national park. It was Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It covered an area of 330.8 square kilometers. The national park was declared in part to protect a range of species within it. Most notably among them were the mountain gorillas. The reclassification of the park had a large impact on the Batwa pygmy people. They were evicted from the forest and no longer permitted to enter the park. They could not access Bwindi Impenetrable National Park resources. Gorilla tracking became a tourist activity in April 1993. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park became a popular tourist destination. In 1994, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List. A 10 square kilometer area was incorporated into the park. The park's management changed. Uganda Wildlife Authority became responsible for the park. In 2003 a piece of land next to the park with an area of 4.2 square kilometers was purchased. This was also incorporated into the park.

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