Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Realm of Mountain Gorillas
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda and is one of the largest natural forests in East Africa, covering 331 sq. km. As part of the Albertine Rift Valley, the park is part of one of Africa’s most important conservation areas and was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in December 1994.
Bwindi is an exceptionally varied eco-system and is rich in wildlife, encompassing one of the last remaining habitats of mountain gorillas. More than half of the world’s population of critically endangered wild mountain gorillas live in Bwindi (approx. 350 of the remaining 706 or so individuals).
The landscape here is rugged, with deep valleys running between steep sided hills and ridges. There is both lowland and montane rainforest with dense undergrowth of herbs, vines and shrubs, hence the name ’Impenetrable’. Altitude varies from 1160 metres (Ishasha Gorge) to 2607 metres (Rwamunyonyi Peak). For most travellers, the prime reason for a visit to Bwindi is to track, search for and view mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Ideally at least two days should be spent here to enjoy the diversity of nature walks and savour the spectacular forest scenery.
This rich and varied landscape is home to many species found no-where else on earth. There are estimated to be 120 species of mammals (more than any other national park in Uganda except Queen Elizabeth). Among these are forest elephants and 10 species of primate, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and baboons. Bwindi is the only park where chimpanzees and gorillas co-exist together. A rare giant forest hog can also be found, although sightings are rare!
For bird watchers Bwindi is one of the most exciting areas in Uganda to visit with an estimated 360 species of birds, including 23 of the 24 endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and another 14 species found nowhere else in Uganda, including the African Green Broadbill. The pristine rainforests of this park are also home to approximately 300 species of butterfly (including two endangered species of Swallowtails), 200 native tree species and many species of reptiles and amphibians (including one species of frog that may be new to science).
Gorilla tracking is the main activity undertaken at Bwindi (refer to activity details below for further information), though Bwindi is also a birdwatchers haven! Cultural performances can be organised in the evenings by local women’s groups, proceeds from which go directly to improve the welfare of the families around the park. Bwindi also has a variety of nature walks/hiking trails, ranging in duration from short to full day walks.
After a tiring but very rewarding day tracking gorillas there is no better way to relax than by sipping a cold drink from the comfort of one of the forest lodges near Buhoma village. Gaze out to the tree-covered skyline of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and be serenaded by the sounds of African nature.
A long day’s drive, Bwindi can be reached from Kampala in a day with an early start. Bwindi is some 540 or so km from Kampala, usually taking between 8-10 hours driving time, depending on road/traffic/weather conditions. From Kampala to Kabale the road is bitumen and takes 6-7 hours. A further 120 km from Kabale to Buhoma Park Headquarters via Kanungu on a murram surface takes around 3 hours and may require a 4WD vehicle. Alternative routes run via Ruhija, which is only 95 km or 3 hours, or from Ntungamo via Rukungiri and Kanungu. Hiring private transport with knowledgeable driver/guide provides the most reliable and flexible transport to Bwindi.
- For those that make the effort – take a trek and savour one of life’s most memorable experiences with a sighting of mountain gorillas in the wild
- Limber up and follow one of Bwindi’s scenic nature trails – ranging from the short Munyaga river trail to the full day River Ivi trail
- Grab your binoculars and spot some of the 348 species of birds that frequent the park – an experienced birder can identify up to 100 species in a day!