The award winning Bwindi impenetrable national park is without doubt Uganda’s most coveted tourism destination. For decades, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been a star attraction, pulling a slew of tourists from all corners of the world to trek the highly sought after mountain gorillas.
Bwindi is located in the famed Kigezi highlands, south western region of Uganda, covering districts of Kanungu, Rubanda and Kisoro. It is about 530kms from Kampala, Uganda’s capital,spanning 321km2 and is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, which are, according to the 2018 gorilla census totaling to approximately 1,000 individuals.
This UNESCO world Heritage site, perched on the further end of the Albertine Rift, was created in 1991 by Uganda National parks department as part of the Bwindi Afro-montane forest principally to save the critically endangered mountain gorillas which were facing massive extinction at the time.
The national park is part of Bwindi impenetrable forest from where it derives its name; it is home to specifically mountain gorillas, ferns, vines and shrubs all part of more than 320 different tree species and plants intertwined forest canopy that rationalize the name-impenetrable forest.
Bwindi also protects over 220 butterfly species, 350 recorded bird species, chameleons, 27 frog species, geckos and many other amphibians.
Bwindi impenetrable forest is believed to have survived nearly 1200years and receives close to 2390m ofrain during wet season months of March to April and from September to November.
Mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park.
Apparently there are about 1,000 individuals left worldwide residing in only two places in the world; Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga volcanic range, comprising of Mgahinga national park in Rwanda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park In D.R. Congo.
The number of mountain gorillas plummeted in the 1970s / ‘80s due to numerous civil wars, diseases, poaching, human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss, and they were then regarded as critically endangered.
Since this time, their plight was highlighted in numerous movies, authored in books which raised concern and prompted conservation efforts world over.
Thanks to the conservation efforts by various organizations and conservationists, their fortunes have improved over the years and now statistics show that mountain gorilla population has almost tripled in just a few years (from 400 in 1980s to more than 1200 in 2018).
In the year 1993, two years after the creation of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda habituated its first gorilla family, Mubare family in Buhoma sector, and this marked the commencement of what would later become the most coveted travel experience in the country; gorilla trekking.
Over the years, interest in mountain gorilla trekking grew by leaps and bounds and, today, there are up to16 families habituated for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park alone, well distributed in 4 distinguished gorilla regions.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of the most sought after wildlife encounters which gives tourists an insight into the life of these rare primate species.
Gorilla trekking is an intense experience that can last between 2 to 8 hours of hiking steep muddy slopes and penetrating through the thick forest vegetation. Only 8 trekking permits per gorilla family are given out daily by Uganda Wildlife Authority as a move to limit the number of visitors and therefore promote conservation of mountain gorillas as well as this UNESCO world Heritage site.
Birding in Bwindi national park.
Birding is another thrilling adventure in Bwindi; nearly 300 bird species arerecorded to be thriving in this forest. 24 of the 26 Albertine endemics dwell in Bwindi impenetrable forest and these include yellow eyed fly catcher, short tailed warbler, rusty faced woodlandbar-tailed trogon, white tailed monarch,Kivu ground thrush, the dusky crimson wing,Wilcock’s honey guide and among many others.
Nature walks / trails in Bwindi.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is perfect for simple hiking expeditions and nature walks besides gorilla trekking tours. There are 4 popular nature trails within the park that lead trekkers to the most outstanding eco-systems in the forest. These include; – Munyanga forest trail. This is a popular trail with short forest walks down to River Munyanga plusother water falls, namely Muzabajiro, Ruiziand Rushura.
The trail to Ruizi River is perfect for bird watching while Rushura trail has numerous unique plants and flora such as orchids, vines and ferns.
Rushura trail also providesstunning views of Rwenzori snow-capped peaks, Lake Edward and the Albertine rift valley.
Muzabajiro trail on the other hand gives clear viewsof Virunga ranges, the rift valley escarpment and the entire forest canopy.
Bwindi’s cultural tours.
Bwindi national park is another home of the Batwa people, other than Mgahinga national park. Usually recommended after a gorilla trek, this activity is a must do for anyone who finds their way to Bwindi national park. Visitors join the local guides who take them around neighboring communities to mix and mingle with the indigenous Batwa people. Enjoy their folk songs, historical dances and craft work.