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Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

A True Rainforest: Uganda Gorilla Safari

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in the southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. The Impenetrable Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1932, upgraded to Bwind Impenetrable National Park in 1991 and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1994. The 327sqkm park is a true rainforest, spread over a series of steep ridges and slippery valleys that form the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley.

Bwindi can be cold especially in the morning and at night with the annual average temperature of 7°C – 20°C. June and July is the coldest period. Bwindi receives upto 2390mm of rain per year concentrated during two wet seasons, short rains in March-May and heavy rains in September-November. Instead of short tropical deluges, rain in Bwindi often falls as long hours of soft drizzle.

Bwindi in the local Lukiga language means ‘Impenetrable’. Without doubt your first impression of the dense jungle will be its almost audible silence. Jungle creatures are very, very shy, but, as you pick your way along the trail, through the dense undergrowth, you’ll realise the jungle is alive. Its thousands of living organisms are discreetly watching and waiting whilst you pass through their home and, from time to time, the complete tranquility will be shattered by a darting forest bird or a group of chattering monkeys leaping through the stands of ancient trees.

Mountain Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Bwindi taking place in four locations (Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga). Bwindi harbours the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world, estimated around 400 gorillas. There are ten (10) groups eight (8) being used for active tourism and two (2) other groups are under habituation and currently being used for mock tourism. Expect to see thousands of living organisms including forest bird and group of chattering monkeys leaping through the stands of ancient trees.

Getting there:

Bwindi lies in the southwestern Uganda, about 530km from Kampala. The park can be reached by road from several directions including.

Kampala – Ntungamo – Rukungiri – Kihihi – Buhoma The quickest and most direct route from Kampala. It follows the 390km roads to Rukungiri followed by 82km on murram roads to Buhoma.

Kampala – Kabale – Kanungu – Buhoma Follow the 414Km tarmac highway to Kabale and takes 5-6hours. The next section follows winding murram roads for 120km passes through Kanungu and Kanyantorogo and takes 4-5hours. A 4WD vehicle is required.

Kampala – Kabale – Ruhija – Buhoma The Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma segment on this route is 95km on a murram road and takes 3-4hours. The Ruhija section is in poor condition and should only be attempted with a 4WD vehicle.

Queen Elizabeth National Park- Kihihi – Buhoma Bwindi is 160km from Mweya and 64km from Ishasha.This route passes the southerly Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, with chances of a stopover game drive to search for the famous tree-climbing lions.

Kampala – Kabale – Nkuringo Nkuringo is 105km from Kabale. The drive takes 4hours on a mountainous murram road. Most visitors overnight in Kisoro (80km from Kabale) before proceeding to Nkuringo. The road from Kisoro is a winding 35km that takes 1-2 hours. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for both approaches to Nkuringo.

By Air Travellers can fly from Entebbe or Kajjansi airfield to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Visitors to Buhoma can charter plans to the grass Kayonza airstrip.

See:

The Impenetrable Forest which is over 25,000 years old is one of the most diverse forests in Africa and habours the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world estimated to be around 340 gorillas.

The forest is also home to over 120 mammal species including Primates, as Chimpanzees, Black-and-white colobus, Baboons, Red-tailed and Blue monkey, Bushpig, Giant forest hog, a small Elephant herd that live in the southeast of the park, though they are shy and rarely seen. Birders will enjoy seeking out the 23 endemic species to the Albertine Rift, and the 14 species unique to Bwindi such as the African green broadbill and Frazer’s eagle owl. Bwindi is rich in butterfly species with at least 200 species residing in the park. At least 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads, 6 chameleons species, 14 lizards, skinks and geckos.

The Bwindi area supports one of the highest rural population densities in Uganda with 350 people per sqkm. The local people neighbouring the park are mostly Bakiga and Bafumbira. Small communities of Batwa (Pygmies) are also present.

Activities:

  • Mountain Gorilla Tracking:  This is the world’s premier wildlife encounters and the most popular activity in Bwindi taking place in four locations. The length of time it takes to go gorilla tracking depends on the movements of the gorillas as well as the weather. Slippery slopes can really slow you down! Be prepared to track from three to ten hours, but rest assured that the success rate of seeing the gorillas is almost 100%.
  • Guided Village Walk: Take a guide walk to the Bakiga and Batwa community and learn about their local customs and practices. You local beer, and dispensing of the local medicine. There will also be a dance performance at the end of the visit.
  • Birding: Takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija. Bwindi impenetrable forest has ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, 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.
  • Guided Forest Walks: With Bwindi’s incredibly diverse forest, forest walks are especially rewarding if you love birding and/or butterfly watching. There are many trails to choose from that range from 30 minutes to eight hours in duration, around the Buhoma area including:
  1. Munyanga Waterfall Trail in the valley below Buhoma provides an ideal short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge. It departs from Buhoma along River Ivi-Nkuringo trail and culminates in the sensational sight of the falls plummeting 33m.
  2. Rushura Hill Trail provides expansive views across the plains of the western rift valley to the west and on clear days Lake Edward and the Rwenzori to the north as well as the conical peeks of the Virunga Volcanoes.
  3. Muzabajiro Loop Trail is a 6km climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill for breathtaking views of Bwindi forest, the Western Rift Valley and the Virunga Volcanoes.
  4. River Ivi Trail follows 14km old road through beautiful forest emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest. It is highly recommended for bird watchers. The trail pases Mukempunu meaning “a place of pigs” – where wild pigs can often be found.
  5. The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail takes around 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. This trail can also be completed as part of the Ivi River Walk.
  6. The Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail 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. The trail takes around 4-6hrs.

Around Bwindi and Trail accommodation:

Buhoma:

Bwindi’s busiest tourism site is Buhoma on the northern edge of the forest. It is the trailhead to track three gorilla groups including Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura. Activities at this part of the park include Buhoma community walk and cultural performances with a visit to a typical homestead, traditional healer, a banana beer brewery and local dance groups also perform traditional dance and music. Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, arrange of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests.

Buhoma accommodation:

Mahogany Springs, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp, The Gorilla Resort, Buhoma Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Engagi Tented Camp, and Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp offer excellent luxury accommodation option at Buhoma sector.

Moderate accommodation can be got from The Silverback Gorilla Camp and Eco Marvels Gorilla Resort.

While budget and camping accommodation can be got from Bwindi Guest House, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Bwindi View Canteen and Nature Access Lodge.

Nkuringo:

This second gorilla tracking sector is located at the southern edge of the forest just 10km from Buhoma distance is covered by the Impenetrable forests and the lovely walk between the two sites takes at least four hours. Nkuringo was opened for tourism in 2004 and the trailhead lies on the isolated Nteko Ridge which enjoys grandstand views across Bwindi forest to the North and towards the Virunga Volcanoes in the south.

This sector of the park is extremely beautiful area with good potential for hiking, provides grandstand views across the Kashasha river valley to the Bwindi forest which cloaks its northern slopes. To the south and west, superb panoramas include the western rift valley and the entire length of the virunga volcanic range.

Gorilla tracking is the primary activity at Nkuringo. Visitors should be fit as the park boundary lies in a steep valley 600m below the road. This provides good exercise before and after tracking gorillas. Other activities include hiking Nteko ridge, Nkuringo community walk with a visit to a traditional healer, rural homestead, blacksmith and brewers.

Nkuringo accommodation:

A range of accommodation caters for both up-market and budget visitors. Clouds Gorilla Lodge offers luxury accommodation while Nkuringo gorilla campground and Gorilla Inn Paradise moderate and budget accommodation respectively to visitors tracking Nkuringo gorilla group.

Rushaga:

Shongi trailhead, in the southeast of the park opened for gorilla tourism in 2009. Three groups including 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. This area offers village walks, bird watching and a spectacular waterfall.

Rushaga accommodation:

Visitors tracking Rushaga gorilla groups can be accommodated at Gorilla Safari Lodge, Wagtail Eco Safari Park or Shongi Campsite.

Ruhija:

Ruhija is one of the most beautiful places with fabulous southerly views over forested ridge to the Virunga Volcanoes. Ruhija home to the Bitukura, Oruzoojo and Kyaguriro gorilla groups, is Uganda’s highest gorilla tracking trailhead sited at 2345m hill in eastern Bwindi. This ridge top route offers vistas into deep valleys containing undisturbed rainforest. Watch out for Duiker, primates and both forest and grassland bird species. Birders should take the three-hour descending to visit the Mubwindi swamp. Visitors may also hike a six-hour bamboo trail through the bamboo zone to Rwamunyoni peak at 2607m to find Afro-montane vegetation and panoramic views towards Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga forest.

Ruhija accommodation:

Ruhija Gorilla Lodge and Gorilla Friends Resort Camp offer luxury accommodation in this part of the park, while Trekkers Tavern cottages and The International Trust for Forest Conservation moderate and budget accommodation respectively.

Nyundo:

This community is located a short drive north of Buhoma on the DR Congo border. A visit to this community offers wonderful guided hikes along the hill-tops and rivers to discover waterfalls, glorious views, and the traditional lifestyle and folklore of the Kigezi people.

Nyundo accommodation:

Visitors to this area can be accommodated in Nyundo Valley Hill Bandas.

Weather

Kampala
June 27, 2017, 11:48 am
Partly sunny
Partly sunny
22°C
current pressure: 1020 mb
humidity: 70%
wind speed: 2 m/s SSE
sunrise: 6:49 am
sunset: 6:57 pm
 

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