Bwindi forest national park is renown for being the home to the endangered mountain gorillas and most visited national park in Uganda for gorilla trekking during Uganda gorilla safaris and recommended as must visit place while traveling with Congo gorilla safaris.
Bwindi Impenetrable National park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. Composed of 331 square kilometers (128 sq. mi) of both montane and lowland forest, it is accessible only on foot. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-designated World Heritage Site.
Bwindi impenetrable national forest provides habitat for 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, and many endangered species. Floristically, the park is among the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species, including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns.
The park is also a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and many birds such as hornbills and turacos. It is most notable for the 340 Bwindi gorillas, half of the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Four habituated mountain gorilla groups are open to tourism: Mubare; Habinyanja; Rushegura near Buhoma; and the Nkuringo group at Nkuringo
History about this park
In 1991, the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve, along with the Mgahinga Gorilla Reserve and the Rwenzori Mountains Reserve, was designated as a national park and renamed the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It covered an area of 330.8 square kilometers (127.7 sq. mi). The national park was declared in part to protect a range of species within it, most notably the mountain gorillas. The reclassification of the park had a large impact on the Batwa pygmy people, who were evicted from the forest and no longer permitted to enter the park or access its resources. Gorilla tracking became a tourist activity in April 1993, and the park became a popular tourist destination. In 1994, a 10-square-kilometre (3.9 sq. mi) area was incorporated into the park and it was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Location of the park
Kabale town to the south-east is the nearest main town to the park, 29 kilometers (18 mi) away by road. The park is composed of two blocks of forest that are connected by a corridor of forest. The shape of the park is a legacy of previous conservation management. The park is at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest parts of the Kigezi Highlands, which were created by up-warping of the Western Rift Valley. Its topography is very rugged, with narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills. The forest is the source of many rivers that flow to the north, west, and south. Major rivers that rise in the park include the Ivi, Munyaga, Ihihizo, Ishasha, and Ntengyere rivers, which flow into Lake Edward. Other rivers flow into Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi.
Climate of Bwindi forest
Bwindi has a tropical climate. Annual mean temperature ranges from a minimum of 7–15 °C to a maximum of 20–27 °C. Its annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimeters. Peak rainfall occurs from March to April and from September to November. The park’s forest plays an important role in regulating the surrounding area’s environment and climate.
What to see
The Bwindi impenetrable national park is inhabited by about 340 individual mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains. A 2014 census of the mountain gorilla population in the park showed that its numbers had increased modestly from an estimated 900 individuals. This research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla’s diet is markedly higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, the Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel farther per day than Virunga gorillas, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods.
Gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking experience is the park’s main tourist attraction limited to only 8 tourists per particular gorilla group per day and it generates much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit. Selected gorillas families have been habituated to human presence, and the number of visitors is completely controlled to prevent risks to the gorillas and degradation of the habitat. The gorillas rarely react to tourists. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the gorillas. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the only countries where it is possible to visit mountain gorillas. Guided walks through the forest include a walk to a waterfall, and walks for monkey watching and birding.
Gorilla habituation experience in Rushaga
Gorilla habituation experience is only done in Uganda that you can be with a Mountain Gorilla Family for 4 hours on a Gorilla Habituation Experience along with researchers in Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest. There are presently two family groups being habituated that meaning that they becoming used to human contact and will not run away from visitors trekking them.
Cultural encounters in Bwindi
Bird watching in Bwindi
Bird watching is another great activity to enjoy on your trip to Bwindi. The park boasts of about 350 bird species including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo
Mountain biking in Bwindi
Mountain biking follows a well-maintained trail from the park headquarters at Buhoma to the Ivi River. Along this 13km trail you may see wildlife such as bushbucks, black-and-white colobus and red-tailed monkeys. The six-seven hour round trip departs in the morning, and is organized by Buhoma Community Rest Camp under the “Ride for a Woman “community development initiative.
Hiking / Nature walks in Bwindi
There are six main nature trails in Buhoma for those who wish to explore the “impenetrable forest”:
Muyanga Waterfall Walk departs from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo trail and culminates in the sensational sight of the falls plummeting 33 meters.
Rushura Hill Walk passes through one forest shared by two countries. On a clear day you can view Lakes Edward and George and the Rwenzori Mountains as well as the conical peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes.
Muzabajiro Loop is a 6km walk around a hill, where you will encounter primates and birds and enjoy a view of the Virungas.
The Ivi River Walk is 14km and takes around seven hours. The trail passes a place known as Mukempunu – meaning “a place of pigs” – where wild pigs can often be found.
The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail takes three to four hours, and crosses right through the park, connecting the two villages and offering impressive views of the misty hillsides as you ascend the hills towards Nkuringo. You can leave our luggage with your driver, who will meet you at the other side. This trail can also be completed as part of the Ivi River Walk.
The Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail takes 4-6hrs. After crossing the Munyaga River, it takes in a fairly steep ascent of the Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge overlooking Buhoma River. Found along this trail is the legendry “African Corner” named after a rock piece depicting a map of Africa. Following the steep ascent, keen hikers can enjoy a more relaxed gentle slope to the mighty Habinyanja swamp. Birders on this trail should watch out for the Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others.