Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
PARK AT A GLANCE
Altitude: 1,160m - 2,607m above sea level.
Bwindi was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994.
The Mubare gorilla group was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Nine groups are now habituated for tourism, and one for research.
Spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys, Bwindi is the source of five major rivers, which flow into Lake Edward.
Areas of Interest
Buhoma is located to the northwest of the park and faces the dark, hilly forests of Bwindi. Three gorilla groups can be tracked from here, and there are also community-run village walks for exploring the culture and lifestyle of the local Bakiga and Batwa tribes. Bird watching is also a major activity with great opportunities to see various Albertine Rift endemics such as the Short-tailed Warbler. Other activities include mountain biking and nature walks to waterfalls and parts of the forest. There are also numerous accommodations to suit all budgets and many local craft stalls.
Nkuringo, on the southern edge of the park, became Bwindi’s second gorilla tracking trailhead in 2004. Tracking the Nkuringo groups is strenuous, for their forest home lies a full 600m below the trailhead at Ntungamo village on Nteko ridge. Walks along the ridge-top road provide superb views north towards the forested hills of Bwindi and south to the Virunga volcanoes. There are also opportunities to discover the Bakiga culture through village walks, vibrant dance performances and cultural workshops organized by community groups.
Shongi trailhead, in the southeast of the park opened for gorilla tourism in 2009. Three groups (Shongi, Mishaya and Kahungye) can be tracked from this point. The trail descends into the depths of the forest directly to the south of the park. Furthermore, this area offers village walks, bird watching and a spectacular waterfall.
On the eastern side, sitting on top of the hill at 2,345m, Ruhija is home to the Bitukura, Oruzoojo and Kyaguriro gorilla groups. This is Uganda’s highest tracking trail, and one of only two areas (the other being Rushaga) where elephants reside.
A six-hour bamboo trail leads to Rwamunyoni Peak; at 2,607m, it is the highest point in the park and notable for good birding. Also of interest to birders is the three-hour trail descending to Mubwindi swamp along which one could find the endemic and localized African Green Broadbill.
This community, a short drive north of Buhoma, sits on the DR Congo border and offers wonderful guided hikes along the hill crests and rivers to discover waterfalls, glorious views, and the traditional lifestyle and folklore of the Kigezi people.
Wildlife and Birding
Bwindi has a population of around 340 gorillas of which an estimated 116 are habituated. Gorillas are intelligent, majestic, gentle giants that share over 90% of their genetic material with humans. All of Bwindi’s habituated gorillas are known individually by the rangers and have been given names in order to identify them. The males can weigh more than 500lb and some silverbacks exceed 6ft!
Other Forest Species
There are least 120 mammal species living in the forest, making Bwindi second only in mammal numbers to the vast Queen Elizabeth National Park. The eleven primate species found here include black-and-white colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys, baboons and chimps. There are also forest elephants and several species of antelopes. Of Bwindi’s 200 butterfly species, 42 are endemic to the Albertine Rift.
Bwindi offers some of the finest montane forest bird watching in Africa, and is an unmissable destination for any birder visiting Uganda. There are an estimated 350 bird species with 23 endemic to the Albertine Rift and 14 recorded nowhere else in Uganda. Globally threatened species such as African Green Broadbill and Shelley’s Crimsonwing are also found here. Other birds include the Handsome Francolin; Black-billed Turaco; African Broadbill; Black and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters; Western Green Tinkerbird; Purple-breasted, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds; Short-tailed and Black-faced Rufous Warblers; Mountain-masked and Collared Apalis; Mountain and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls; and Many-colored Bush-Shrike, among others.Go back to Uganda national parks page