Bwindi is one of Uganda’s must visit. For most travelers, a trip to Uganda is incomplete without a visit to this home of the great apes.
It’s geographically placed in the south western part of Uganda along Uganda’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo and north of Kisoro town.
Stretching eastwards from the Albertine Rift Escarpment, Bwindi forest shelters the most diverse mammalian fauna in Africa including the rare species of Mountain Gorillas. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park covers a total area of 331 square kilometers.
With certainty, Gorilla trekking is the main tourist activity offered in this Park. The first Gorilla family was approved for trekking in 1993 at Buhoma Park headquarters (Buhoma sector) but currently the park is divided into four parts with the other three being Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga sector. Of recent, over eighteen Gorilla families are habituated and approved for trekking excursions.
Flora and Fauna
Bwindi at altitudes that range between 1160m and 2607m is one of Uganda’s parks with a diverse biodiversity. It is recorded with over 160 tree species and 100 fern species.
More than flora, Bwindi is home to 120 species of mammals, second to Queen Elizabeth National Park among parks with the highest mammals.
Besides the 10 primates in the park including Chimpanzees, Bwindi is renowned for its Mountain Gorillas. The population of Gorillas in the park is about 400 individuals or more.
Other primates include black and white colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, Red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and olive baboons. To add on that, 350 species of birds inhabit Bwindi’s luxuriant habitats including forest and water bird species.
Among the species in the Park, 14 species are not found anywhere else in Uganda, these include brown necked parrot, African green broadbill, Frazer’s eagle owl, white-tailed blue flycatcher, and white-bellied robin chat.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south western can be reached by road transport or air transport means. All details are highlighted below.
From Kampala to Bwindi via Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara highway, it takes about 6-8 hours for the drive to Kabale town. From Kabale, continue south wards and the roads converge at Butogota, a town which is 17 km from Buhoma gate.
There are two main routes that connect from Kasese or Fort Portal to Buhoma, the direct route is via Mbarara Road to Katunguru and then sprints past Ishasha sector north through Kihihi.
It’s about 170km and it takes about four hours for the drive. The alternative route is from Katunguru via Ishaka, Kagamba and Rukungiri.
It’s 108 km from Kabale to Buhoma following a dirt road, it takes about three hours for the drive.
Continue with the Kisoro road out of Kabale and drive 18 km up to Hamura, then turn right at the Buhoma signpost and continue with the drive for 60 km through Kanungu to Kanyantorogo.
From this town, you drive up to Butogota. If you heading to Ruhija, you turn left and drive for 5km before Butogota. It’s 50 km from Buhoma to Ruhija and takes about 2-3hours for the drive.
Travelers can as well reach Bwindi by use of air transport means. Private charters set off from Entebbe international airport up to Kihihi airstrip. This airstrip is about 40 km from Buhoma and it takes about 90 minutes to drive up to there.
Top Activities in the Park
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
Mountain Gorilla Trekking is a unique experience every traveler would wish to be part once in a life time.
This usually involves meeting with the Gorillas face to face in the Jungles, these apes are herbivorous in nature – mostly feed on tree leaves, coconuts, fruits and grass.
In Bwindi this expedition is offered in four sectors including Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. Of all sectors, Rushaga is recorded with the highest numbers of Gorillas/ Gorilla families.
Gorilla trekking is often done in a group and for conservation purposes, only eight visitors are allowed in a group to trek one habituated Gorilla family per day.
After the briefing conducted at Park office to highlight trekkers about Gorilla trekking, the journey to the jungle starts in a group with ranger guides via trails that lead you to the Jungle.
Time taken and distance moved in the Jungle depends on where these apes spent their last night.
After locating them you are allowed to stay in their presence for only one hour while seeing them feeding, playing, resting and strolling around. During this one hour period, you are free to take a lot of photos and videos.
It’s recommended for any trekker to come with packed food from your lodge and water for drinking. After one hour session, next on agenda is to start the descending Journey back.
Other than Gorillas, Bwindi is ideal for bird watching excursions and birders prefer having these encounters in Buhoma. This side of Bwindi is recorded with over 190 species.
You can sight species like the red-throated alethe, collared apalis, short tailed warbler, yellow-eyed black fly catcher, Ruwenzori Batis, blue-headed sun-bird, Shelley’s crimson wing and white-bellied robin chat.
You can as well take the three hour hike from Ruhija in Mubwindi swamp. This scenic walk pass through beautiful forests and rewards sights of multiple bird species along with views of towering Virunga volcanoes.
Bwindi stars various hiking trails suitable for those who are enthusiastic about hiking. Visitors are advised to arrange or book for these expeditions in advance or a day before.
For those after this, there are three trails that begin from Buhoma including the easiest Muyanga River trail.
The waterfall trail follows the Muyanga River as it streams down the steep slopes south-east of Buhoma. The river continues through a series of cascading waterfalls before it enters the camp area.
Another trail to try is the Rushura trail, it is strenuous but rewarding with panoramic views across the western Rift Valley and towering volcanoes in DR Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Nature walks from Buhoma
A number of guided nature walks are offered in Bwindi. These walks range from 30 minutes to 8 hours.
They all start from Buhoma and grants opportunities to sight variety of Wildlife species including primates and bird species.
For those after monkeys, you can take the three hour water trail along the abandoned road through beautiful areas of the forest then to the 33 high waterfall on Munyaga River.
Rushara hill trail and Mazubijiro loop trail are both finished in three hours and offer scenic views of the Virunga Mountains.
The longest trail is the eight hour Ivo River Walk that leads you to Ivo River on the Bwindi southern boundary. While on this trail expect sights of birds and monkeys.
The Batwa were hunters and gatherers who used forests as their shelters, tree leaves as medicine and bush meat as food.
They migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, part settled in Rwanda and others settled in the western wing of Uganda. After Gorilla trek, you can visit these people in their local communities for cultural encounters.