BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Specifically situated in the southwestern part of Uganda on the slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The forest is known to be the most biologically diverse in Africa. With over 120 mammal species, making it second in mammal numbers to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The name Bwindi comes from the local word “Mubwindi Bwa Nyinamukari”. Which was commonly referred to as the Mubwindi swamp in the southeast of Bwindi. It all started when parents asked for help and guidance from the swamp spirit. So the spirits told the parents. If they would only sacrifice their most beautiful daughter who was called Nyinamukari. After they threw the girl in the water so they crossed safely to another side. When the news spread, people stopped going to the swamp calling it “Mubwindi Bwa Nyinamukari”
Mountain Gorillas are Uganda’s premier attraction and one of the world’s most exceptional expeditions. Is an encounter with these gentle giants on the secluded slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Not only does Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Harbor more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population (over 450 members) but also 11 other primate species for example the black-and-white colobus, chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Red-tailed, Greater Potto, Demidoff’s galago, Blue monkeys and baboons to mention a few. Other residents of the park include forest elephants and a variety of other antelope species.
Other species in the park
The park also boasts of about 200 butterflies and over 400 bird species which include: Grauer’s broadbill, Handsome francolin, strange weaver, yellow-eyed flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori nightjar, Grauer’s rush warbler, Bar-tailed trogon, Jameson’s, Vanga flycatcher, dwarf honeyguide, white-tailed crested mantled flycatcher, Newman warbler to mention a few. Its altitude ranges from1, 160m and 260m above sea level. In 1991, the 331 sq. km forest was gazetted to a national park status and later in 1994, declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site to protect its biodiversity. The park has about 19 habituated mountain gorilla groups, open for tourism in the four tracking sectors. Which are; Rushaga in the south, Nkuringo in the southwest, Buhoma in the northwest, and Ruhija in the east. All these offer unique mountain gorilla trekking experiences.
Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This is undoubtedly Bwindi’s foremost activity which involves walking through the thick forest under the guidance of an armed ranger and guide in search of these gentle giants. The first gorilla trekking expedition in Bwindi happened in 1993 when the Mubare family was tracked. However, this activity can take between 2-and 7 hours depending on the location of the gorillas. To undertake this activity, tourists require a permit which costs USD 700 per person. And it is advisable to purchase the permit six months before the tracking date due to its high demand. About 19 families are open for tracking and a maximum of 8 adult visitors are allowed for each of the habituated groups each day.3 Days Gorillas and Lake Bunyonyi
Gorilla habituation is a unique experience that involves gently making wild mountain gorillas familiar and comfortable with human presence. Worldwide, this activity can only be done in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where only two gorilla families are open for habituation. These families for instance Bikyingi and Bushasho. And this experience take between 3-6 hours in the presence of the gorillas, costing USD 1,500 per person and allowing a maximum limit of 4 people per group per day.
Holding up to 400 bird species of which 25 are endemic to the Albertine rift, Bwindi is a birder’s haven. With about four trails for birders, Bwindi provides an excellent spot for ticking off the forest rarities. The River Ivi trail which lies between Buhoma and Nkuringo is as rich as the Buhoma forest-edge Munyanga River trail. Leading to the 2607m Rwamunyonyi peak and the Mubwindi swamp trail is the Ruhija Bamboo trail.
Carefully developed trails in the park provide a more relaxed way of exploring the luxuriant rainforest as you get to learn more with the help of a guide. The Munyanga river trail leads to scenic waterfalls. The nature walk also provides an opportunity to see the abundant and amazing flora and flora, making your trek even more interesting. These nature walks can take between 3-and 6 hours depending on the interest of the visitors.
Batwa Forest Experience
The Batwa were the first people and are believed to have lived in the forest for about 60,000 years, hunting and gathering fruits for survival. However, upon acquiring a national park status in 1992, the Batwa were evicted from the park and today, live in the communities bordering the park. To give visitors an insight into the lives of these people, the cultural experience provides a demonstration of how they hunted, cooked, made a fire out of sticks, collected wild honey, and also shared their knowledge about the different plants in the forest. The highlight of this experience is watching the Batwa performing and dancing to their cultural songs.
Mountain biking experiences are best done in the Buhoma sector. This activity is organized by Ride 4 a Woman community group that hires out bikes as well as provides guiding services to the bikers where the guides share their rich knowledge about the places visited as well as the community. Some lodges in the park can also arrange this activity upon prior booking.
Community visits by visitors interested in visiting the villages on the edges of the forest can be arranged with the help of a guide who will take you through the Batwa and Bakiga communities.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The park surely accessed from Kampala through Mbarara, a drive that takes about 7-8 hours. A daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihihi. From Queen Elizabeth National Park, the journey takes about 3-5 hours, passing through Ishasha.
3 airstrips serve Bwindi at Kihihi and Nyakabande in Kisoro. Planes can be chartered from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield.