Bwindi Impenetrable forest national Park- Gorilla Trekking tour Uganda
When planning an expeditious trip to hike mountain rwenzori national park in Uganda, its advisable to add gorilla trekking on the travel bucket list and explore the great apes of Uganda with the experienced tour guide of Rwenzori mountaineering service. Book the 12 Days Uganda gorilla trekking & Rwenzori mountain hiking tour to explore the various landscapes of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Rwenzori Mountains.
Bwindi Forest national park is ranked among the top tourist attractions in Uganda housing the endangered apes( Mountain Gorillas) , it’s one of the two parks in Uganda where you can track the endangered apes the other park is Mgahinga gorilla national park. Bwindi national park is located in the south western part of Uganda. The park covers an area of about 331km2 and it’s located in Kanungu district near the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo next to the Virunga national park on the western side and Kabale town to the southeast and kabale is the nearest town to the park. Bwindi receives heavy rains from March to April and from September to November.
Bwindi forest plays a key role in regulating the outside area's environment and climate and it’s known as a world heritage site being established as a national park in 1991 and in 1994, it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage. Bwindi national park is popularly known for housing the endangered mountain gorillas with the highest number of these endangered apes over 400 of these remaining apes are hosted only to this park over 900 estimated endangered gorillas left world-wide. Gorillas are highly endangered because of poaching, habitat loss and diseases.
Gorilla tracking generates a lot of money to the government of Uganda due to the huge number of people who leave their beautiful homes and offices and come and spend some quality time with these endangered apes. To be among the eight members allowed to visit one gorilla family per day you must possess a gorilla permit which cost usd 600 per person and you are allowed only one hour with the endangered apes. Gorilla permits are purchased from Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kamwokya, Kampala - Uganda, although tour operators like active african vacations can purchase the gorilla permit once you have booked a trip with them.
If you wish to track the gorillas, you are advised to book your gorilla permit in time at least 2-3 months prior to you arrival dates as well as booking your accommodation, sometimes gorilla permits get finished too early, book in time to avoid disappointments.
Not only gorilla, but the park is also a home to Over 120 mammals with over 350 species of birds, including 23 endemics. Bwindi is the only park where you can find the gorillas co-exist with the chimpanzee in the same environment.
Getting there - Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park
You can use the Kampala-kabale –kanungu-Bukoma this is an 8-9 hours journey, Kampala-Ntungamo –Ruhungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma (7-8 hours) or still you can use the Kabale –Ruhija-Buhoma (6-7 hours) and the other alternative is from Kampala –Kabale- Kisolo to Nkuringo or Rushaga (9-10 hours. All these alternative routes can help you to access the park, you have a lunch en-route and stopovers to admire nature and some attractions like the equator crossing at Kayabwe, or branch at Lake Mburo national park.
Things to do in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park
- Gorilla tracking, in Bwindi impenetrable national park is the major activity and is done in the 4 sectors of the park; Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija sectors. The sectors have different gorilla groups/families which are all open for public viewing. On your gorilla trekking date, you are required to go the headquarters of the sector you will be tracking where you will be briefed about the activity by the park guide, divided into groups of 8 people per group and allocated the group family you will be tracking, and have your trekking permits verified. You will then set out into the forest to look for these lovely and gentle giant primates. The activity takes about 4 hours and at times lesser or even more depending on the location of the gorillas. The gorillas keep moving around the forest to look for food and go by their daily life. Before the trek, some guides are sent to the forest to look for them and will keep in touch with your guide to make the search easier and make sure you see them. When you find them you will be given an hour before you leave the park to watch how they spend their day and take photos, for those who are lucky, you will have a chance to be touched by a gorilla.
- Bird watching ,The park has about 350 bird species with 23 being endemic to the Albertine rift valley which make its one of the birders places to go list. Bwindi impenetrable national park is a bird watchers haven which is composed of various natural habitat that support the survival of the birds in this habitat and therefore as you trek gorillas you will as well have a chance to spot various bird species. Birding is done along the main trail, in MuBwindi swamp in Ruhija (from which the park derives its names), and following the waterfall trail and along the bamboo zone. Some of the bids the live in the park include; Short-tailed Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue, White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, Red-headed Bluebill, Chapin’s flycatcher African green broadbill, Western Green Tinker bird, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Kivu ground-Thrush, Montane Oriole, fine-banded woodpecker, short tailed warbler, Regal sunbird, collared Apalis, African Blue, common Bul-bul, African Emerald.
- Nature walk and hiking along the trails of Buhoma, This is the perfect way to experience the Bwindi impenetrable forest. The sounds of the forest and the gentle cover of morning mist makes your walk enchanting. Along the way you will see plenty of flora and fauna, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, lots of colorful butterflies, orchids, tree ferns, epiphytic ferns. There are various trails with in the park you can follow as you move around, some of which include; Munyanga River Trail; this is an easy trek that begins at the end of Buhoma road and it will take you near the banks of river Munyaga and back to the park office. This trails takes around 15 to 20 minutes. Waterfall Trail; this is a moderate trek that is excellent for birds and monkeys. On this trail you will be able to cross river Munyage 3 times, hike through the forest and to the three waterfalls. Rushura Hill Trail; the trail leads to Rushura hill and at the top you will have a view of the congo border, the rift valley, and lake Edward as well as the Rwenzori mountains if the weather is clear. It takes around 3 hours. Muzabajiro Loop Trail; this is a moderate walk and the trail crosses the Muzabijiro creek and begins ascending through high canopy forest to the open slope of Rukubira Hill. The trail is lusy with vines and silvery trunks of dead trees that that will offer you beautiful views of Bwindi, the rift valley, virunga Volcanoes. River Ivi Trail; this trail takes about 6 hours and good for spotting duikers, birds and monkeys. The trail goes through the rainforest, ascending and descending gently through beautiful areas with several viewpoints overlooking lush valleys. It brings you to the wide River Ivi, which is the park’s southern boundary.
- Mountain hiking, Volcanoes dominate the beautiful landscape, towering over the beautiful scenery with Muhavura at 4127m, Gahinga at 3474m, Sabyinyo at 3669m. Hiking any of the mountains is a full day activity and Visitors to the park can choose to hike any of these mountains of which the tops will offer beautiful views of the Virunga massif.
- Community walk like the Batwa pygmies and Bakiga live around the forest so you can interact with them and learn more about how the Africans live, The people who live around the park are the Bakiga and the Batwa. The Batwa lived in the forest before it was made a national park. The Batwa trail and Batwa experience in Buhoma are the most popularized and well known cultural experiences but there are more interesting and rewarding cultural experiences and community tours in Bwindi that will expose you to the local Bakiga community culture and the Batwa communities that is all interesting to learn about. These people used to hunt, gather fruits and herbs from the forest.
When is the best time to visit the Gorillas in Bwindi
Bwindi impenetrable national park is visited all year round. But south western Uganda has 2 seasons; The drier seasons which run from months of June through August and December through February. During this season, the days are sunny and wild life viewing is at its best. This is the best time to trek gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park. Be sure to carry warm clothing it sometimes gets very cold, especially at night. And when shines it can sun you out, so water is a requirement too. There are fewer mosquitoes so chances of getting malaria are much lower during the drier months. Because it is also peak season in June and July, it is common to encounter other tourists in the park or along the gorilla trekking routes. Most of the road around the roads around the park don’t have tarmac but are easier to pass through during the dry months.
The Rainy seasons run from months of March through May and September to November. During these months, it is usually misty and wet. And it can sometimes drizzle for days. These are the best month for bird watching because there are migratory birds in the park during this time. Gorillas can also be trekked during this time although the access roads may be hard to travel and the trails become slippery making the tracking quite difficult. Some camps and lodges might be closed especially between March and May. Warm clothing is very necessary during this season. During these months the roads around the park are not easily accessible, so, for those on self-drive tours I would advise you to hire a strong 4WD vehicle.
Packing list for gorilla trekking safari in Uganda
Many gorilla trackers are unaware about what they should come with for a gorilla tour to Uganda (Bwindi national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park) since gorilla tracking is done in the forest, you will find some difficulties, and sometimes the forest is muddy with a lot of stinging plants so you must pack appropriately to avoid difficulties. Going for gorilla tracking needs early preparation.
Try to read on the travel guide to Uganda for more information about the things to pack for a safari to Uganda. You are advised to pack only those things that will give you a perfect experience while on your tour to Uganda. Below are some of the vital packing lists for your successful gorilla safari not only to Rwanda but also to the entire gorilla tracking destinations.
- Pack comfortable study pair of walking shoes/boots, this is very vital, they will help you during the trek. Pack comfortable shoes that will give you momentum to traverse the forest. Sometimes the forest is muddy with stinging plants so you should also not forget to wear shocks to be more comfortable while trekking to find the gorillas deep into their natural habitat.
- Don’t forget to pack ear plugs more especially if you are not comfortable with the sounds of the forest. The forest is a home to very many forest dwellers so you may not feel comfortable, the ear plugs will make you concentrate and have a memorable experience.
- Jacket/sweater this must be included on the packing list and it is more important if you bring water proof jacket. African weather is unpredictable and Bwindi is a tropical rain forest it can rain at anytime even during the dry season month it still rain for 1-2 hours once or twice a week so you are advised not to forget a jacket, it should be noted its most of the time cold in the morning and during the evening.
- Insect repellent is a must pack for gorilla tracking not only in Bwindi impenetrable national park but in all the gorilla parks. Since tracking is done in the thick forest and some of the lodges are built within the forest, there is no way you can avoid from insect bites, so to avoid mosquito bites which can cause you malaria an insect repellents are very vital, and remember no one is allowed to visit the gorilla when sick, gorillas can easily get affected from human diseases.
- Carry Sunscreen, lotion as well a hat in order to have a successful gorilla tracking experience in Uganda. Sunscreen will prevent you from the small insects that may fall into your eyes while in the forest, lotion also prevent insect bites while in the forest on a gorilla trek, smear all your body before you hit the forest. Also wearing a hat is the only way you can protect from the boiling sun of Africa and it simply makes you a smart traveler. .
- During your gorilla trek, don’t forget to pack bottled water and packed lunch. Some gorilla families are not easy to allocate and since gorilla tracking is unpredictable the trek may go from half to full day, so go when well prepared.
- Gloves, these are mostly garden gloves, they are vital and a must pack for gorilla trips, remember in the forest there are a lot of stinging plants and nettles, so to avoid touching on thorns on some plants and leaves and some poisonous plants, gloves will help you a lot, they will protect you from germ and any other item that may be dangerous to your body, hence a must pack for gorilla tracking tours.
- Don’t forget to pack a photo of film-camera and battery; you may fail to get the battery that matches your camera while in Kampala.
- Carry long sleeved shirts or blouses this will prevent you from insect bites and thorns