Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Uganda’s foremost tourist attraction. Here one can find half of the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas; 400 in the park. In total, there are 120 mammals, including numerous other primates such as Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus, Blue Monkeys, Grey-cheecked Mangabey, and L’hoest’s Monkey. Bwindi’s diverse rainforest also protects 350 species of birds, over 200 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, 163 species of trees and 100 species of ferns. Many of these are endangered species. Bwindi has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Many consider the encounter and subsequent eye contact with a mountain gorilla, the most exciting and poignant wildlife experience in the whole of Africa, and possibly in the world.
The park is 3,315 square kilometers in size and provides unequalled access to the popular Mountain Gorillas. There are 4 tracking trailheads. One of the trails leads to the highest peak, Rwamunyonyi, at 2,607 meters. There are 10 groups of mountain gorilla families that have been habituated and only 8 tourists booked per group per day. This limits and controls the encounters with humans. These trails also provide access to other attractions in the park such as rivers, waterfalls, swamps and a high level of wildlife concentration throughout. Birding is a huge attraction at Bwindi as well; great opportunities exist to see various Albertine rift endemics, including the short-tailed warbler.
The experience of tracking the Mountain Gorillas is unequalled in terms of a wildlife encounter. It is challenging to trek through the Mountain Forest, but the payoff is huge. Personal fitness is important for undertaking such an adventure, as many hours of trekking through the thick hilly forest may be required. Briefings are given before all gorilla tracking begins; these take place at 7:30 am at one of the reception areas of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo or Rushaga. Depending on where the Gorillas are on any particular day, the tracking can last from a few hours to the whole day.
Bwindi’s greatest attraction and as such its biggest activity is Gorilla Tracking, but as Bwindi is one of the loveliest rainforests in the world, there are many opportunities to explore the ecosystem itself on foot. These walks produce encounters with other the primates, as well as the huge variety of birds, butterflies and flora and fauna that exist.
Guided Walks are daily and depart at both 9 am in the morning and 2:15 in the afternoon. The details are as follow:
- Munyanga River Trail below the park office at Bulhoma is an ideal short walk to view primates and birds along the edge of the forest.
- Waterfall Trail leads through the magnificent rainforest, viewing tree ferns, epiphytic ferns and orchids…ending at the waterfall itself.
- Rushura Hill Trail across the plains of the western rift valley to the west, provides incredible views. Both Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains can be seen on a clear day.
- Muzabajiro Loop Trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill. Here one has breathtaking view of Bwindi forest, the western Rift Valley and the Virunga volcanoes.
- River Ivi Trail through the beautiful forest is highly recommended for birders. Emerging from the forest at Nkuringo on the southern edge, one encounters many of the hundreds of birds and butterflies in the park.
There are 5 alternate routes to access Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:
1)the most popular route is via Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya, Kihihi-Buhoma)
2) Kabale, Kanungu, Buhoma,( 5-6 hours)
3) Ntungamo, Rukungirir, Kihihi, Buhoma ( 5 hours)
4) Kabale Ruhija, Buhoma (5-6 hours) and
5) Kabale to Nkuringo (6-7 hours)
Foreign Non Residents: $40 US for Adults, $20 US for Children
Foreign Residents: $30 US for Adults, $10 US for Children
Vehicle Entrance Fees: Saloon cars $10 US, Minivans $15 US and 4 WD vehicles $15.
Gorilla Tracking Permits:
Foreign Non Residents: $600 US per person .
Foreign Residents: $500 US per person