Bwindi Forest National Park, Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Uganda
Bwindi Forest National Park is located in the South Western part of Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo close to Virunga National Park and covers an area of 331 square kilometers (128 sq mi) of both Montane and Lowland Forest.
The Park inhabits 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, and many endangered species with the Mountain Gorillas being the most prominent. It also comprises of 163 species of trees, 104 species of ferns and 1,000 flowering plant species.
The Park is prominently known for Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and there are 14 habituated Mountain Gorilla Families that can be tracked with 12 open for tracking and two still in habituation. These are tracked in various sectors which include; Buhoma Sector, Rushaga Sector, Ruhija Sector and the Nkuringo Sector.
Other than the Mountain Gorillas in the forest, other mammals can be seen and these include; the Colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, hornbills and Turacos.
How to Get to Bwindi Forest National Park
Bwindi Forest National Park is located in the South Western Part of Uganda and getting to the Park, travelers can either Fly there or use the Road. Travelers can transfer from the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda or from Kigali International Airport in Rwanda. In Uganda;
Travelers can transfer from the Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to the Airstrip in Kisoro and travelers interested in tracking the Mountain Gorillas in Buhoma can fly direct to the Kayonza Airstrip.
Travelers transferring to Bwindi Forest have numerous routes they can take and these include;
- From Kampala to Kabale through Kanungu then Buhoma. This will take you a period of 5-6 hours in a distance of 414 kms.
- From Queen Elizabeth National Park via Mweya for a distance of 160 kms and a period of 3 hours.
- From Kampala to Ntugamo-Rukungiri-Kahihi-Buhoma for approximately 390 km of tarmac and 82km of murram roads
Best time to Visit Bwindi Forest National Park
Travelers interested in visiting Bwindi Forest National Park can visit the Park any time around the year although the Best Time to Visit the Park is during the dry season in the months of June to August and December to February.
Activities at Bwindi Forest National Park
Bwindi Forest is a very amazing Safari Destination to visit in Uganda due to the remarkable Safari Encounters it offers to all kinds of travelers from all over the world and these vary according to one’s tastes and preferences. They include;
Gorilla Trekking is the most prominent Safari Activity in the Park and involves travelers purchasing a valid Gorilla Trekking Permit then transfer to the headquarters to be briefed on the Dos and Don’ts around the rare species of Mountain Gorillas in their natural forest vegetation habitat.
Then after, you will distributed in groups of 8 people to track a specific Gorilla Group then with a skilled ranger guide, you will transfer to penetrate the forest to track the Mountain Gorillas in their habitat for a period of 3-5 hours and when you meet them only an hour is allowed to stay in their presence taking various photos to keep for memories.
After trekking the Gorillas, you will transfer back to the headquarters where you will be awarded a Certificate to prove that you tracked the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.
Gorilla Habituation Experience
In Bwindi Forest National Park, the Gorilla Habituation experience is carried out and this is longer than the Tracking Process. It will take you a period of 4 hours in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas and this is carried out in the Rushaga Sector of Bwindi.
You will transfer with Researchers in the forest watching a certain Gorilla Group interacting with their natural habitat. There are two Gorilla Families habituated in Rushaga and these include; Bikingi Gorilla Family and Bushasho Gorilla Family Group.
Cost of the Gorilla Trekking Permit in Uganda
The Gorilla Trekking Permit in Uganda costs US $600 person interested in tracking the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Forest. This can be obtained direct through the Uganda Wildlife Authority after emailing/ contacting them or through booking your Safari Tour with an authorized Tour Operator Agency.
Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations
- Keep a Distance of 7 meters away from the Mountain Gorillas in their habitat
- Don’t make noise/ sturtle while around the Mountain Gorillas
- Don’t sneeze in front/ facing the Mountain Gorillas
- Take photos with a camera without a Flash
- Don’t litter rubbish in the park
- Don’t smoke in front of the Mountain Gorillas
- If approached by a Mountain Gorilla, scot and look down for staring in their eyes is provocative hence might regard you an enemy.
- You must be older than 15 years to be allowed to track the Mountain Gorillas
- Only an hour is allowed to stay in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas taking numerous photos to keep for memories.
- In case you are ill/ sick, cancel your trekking experience for the Mountain Gorillas are vulnerable to human illnesses/ diseases.
- If you want to poo, talk to the ranger and excuse yourself from the group and transfer to the nearby bushes where you will dig a hole of 30 cm ( 1 ft) deep then later cover it with soil.
What to Pack for gorilla Trekking in Uganda
As you are preparing to go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda at Bwindi Forest National Park you should carry the following Gear to enjoy every encounter around the Mountain Gorillas in their natural forest vegetation habitat. The Gear includes;
- A Rain Jacket
- Woolen Gardening Gloves
- Hiking/ Trekking Boots
- Long Sleeved Shirts/ T-Shirts
- Long Pants not Jeans
- Camera with no Flash
- Sweater for Evenings
- Cap/ Hat
- Bottled water and Snacks
Other than Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi, travelers can watch birds fly from one place to another in the forest. The Forest inhabits various bird species and these include; African green pigeon, African harrier hawk, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Crowned hornbill, African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, Red-headed Bluebill, Giant kingfisher. All birders around the world should visit Bwindi Forest and watch the Abertine Rift and Endemic Species.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Bwindi Forest National Park is also a very appropriate destination for all travelers interested in Hiking around the forest. There are six various Hiking Trails in the Forest and these include;
- Muyanga Waterfall Walk; this begins from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo trail then towards the beautiful falls of 33 meters.
- Rushura Hill Walk; follows through a forest spanning within two countries offering exceptional views at Lake Edward, Lake George and Mountain Rwenzori as well as Virunga Volcanoes.
- Muzubijiro Loop; this is a 6 kms walk around a hill offering sightings of numerous primates, Virungas in a distance and birds.
- Ivi River Walk; this is a 14 kms walk following through the Mukempunu known as a “place of pigs”. It takes you a period of 7 hours.
Cycling/ Mountain Biking
Bwindi Forest National Park is also a very ideal safari destination for all cyclists around the World. These tours are very appropriate for all and the profits gained from them are given to support the local communities as well as the women around Bwindi Forest. The Biking/ Cycling Tours are managed by a Women’s Group which offers trained guides. The Tours include the Ride for a Woman which has numerous trails and these include; the Forest Trail which takes you a period of 3 hours, A Bike Ride to River Ivy, Village Bike Ride. Along the trails, the cyclists will learn about the lifestyles of the Batwa People and Bakiga people. All travelers interested in cycling/ Biking at Bwindi Forest National park should not hesitate but rather take on this opportunity for the best.
Bwindi forest National Park is very appropriate for travelers interested in experiencing Cultural Encounters in Uganda as they watch the amazing Batwa people and learn about their livelihood. You will meet them and join them as they dance away the day as well as do other activities like basket weaving, food gathering, hunting etc.