Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Home of The Mountain Gorilla
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is Uganda’s prime tourist hotspot in a 331km2 national park which protects a rocky landscape of steep hills and valleys abutting the Congolese border south of Ishasha and north of Kisoro. Rolling eastward from the Albertine Rift Escarpment, the tangled forested slopes of Bwindi provide shelter to one of Africa’s most diverse mammalian faunas including more than half of the remaining global mountain gorilla population.

Unsurprisingly, the main tourist activity in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is gorilla trekking, which was first established at the Buhoma park headquarters in 1993, but now operates out of four trailheads –the others being Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga – all of which are served by a selection of tourist lodges. Today 11 habituated Gorilla groups can be tracked in Bwindi.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is also one of the finest birding destinations in Uganda, while other attractions include forest walks in search of smaller primates such as black and white colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey.

Flora and Fauna

Due to its altitudinal span of 1160m to 2607m and an antiquity of the more than 25,000 years. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park flora has 160 tree species and more than 100 fern species.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest harbors at least 120 mammal species, more than any national park except Queen Elizabeth National Park. Its most famous residents are the mountain Gorillas, which number around 400 individuals split across 25-30 troops. Another 10 primate species are present, a list that includes a healthy population of chimpanzees, and substantial numbers of olive baboon black and white colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey red-tailed monkey and blue monkey.

A total of 350 bird species has been recorded in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a remarkably high figure when you consider that it includes very few water-associated birds. At least 14 species recorded nowhere else in Uganda, among them the African green broadhill, brown necked parrot, white-bellied robin chat, Frazer’s eagle owl and white-tailed blue flycatcher. Bwindi is also a home to at least 200 butterfly species.

Orientation

Tourism to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest focuses on four separate locations. Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Each of these four destinations functions as a self standing Gorilla tracking destination.

Activities In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Gorillas Tracking

Mountain Gorilla Tracking is the major attraction in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are seven Gorilla groups that live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and these include;

  1. Mubare Group: Habituated in 1991, this group is found in the Buhoma area of the park
  2. Rushegura Group:  This group is found in the Buhoma area
  3. Habiyanja Group: Habituated in 1997, this group is found in the Buhoma area
  4. Mishaya Group: This is is found in the Rushaga area and was originally part of the Nshongi group
  5. Nshongi Group: This group is found in the Rushaga region and consists of 25 gorillaz
  6. Nkuringo Group: This group comprised of 19 gorillas and is found in the Nkuringo area of Bwindi
  7. Bitukura Group: This group is found in the Ruhija area

Hiking

As in Mgahinga, there are other things to see in Buhoma area of Bwindi beside the gorillas. There are a number of hiking trails in the park, but visitors must arrange a day in advance for a guide to accompany them. Three trails begin in Buhoma, including the Muyanga River Trail which is an ideal short walk for visitors with little time to spare.

Alternatively, try the Waterfall Trail, which follows the Muyanga River upstream as it tumbles down the steep slopes south-east of Buhoma, flowing through a series of waterfalls before entering the camp area.

The Rushuura Trail will afford you some fantastic views across the western Rift Valley floor with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Park National des Virungas providing a particularly spectacular back drop.

Birding

Buhoma is an ideal place from which to watch primates and birds. You’ll see many monkeys along the roads, around the periphery of the park, and at the forest edge.

This is also the richest site for birds in the park, with some 190 species on record. Of particular interest are the Kiva ground thrush, white-bellied robin chat, red-throated alethe, collared apalis, short tailed warbler, yellow-eyed black fly catcher, Rwenzori Batis, blue-headed sunbird, strange weaver , and Shelley’s crimsonwing.

The Mubwindi swamp in the centre of the park is a three hour hike from Ruhija. The scenic walk passes through a beautiful forest and affords fine views of Virunga volcanoes.

Attractions in Bwindi

Gorilla tracking

Buhoma is the trail head for three habituated Gorilla groups all of which currently have two silverbacks. These are the Mubare group consisting of eighteen individuals with one silver back, the group is one of the oldest Gorilla families in Uganda and it was opened for tourism in 1993, Rushegura group fourteen individuals and Habinyanja consisting seventeen individuals with two silverbacks Rushegura group 14 individuals which was opened in 1997 and the tourist visits commenced in 1999. Following the death of Habinyanja dominant silverback Muskuru, a territorial dispute between his two sons Rwansigazi and Mwirima led to the latter splintering off to lead the Rushegura group, which was already habituated to tourism at the time of its formation in February 2002.

Nature walks from Buhoma

Several guided nature walks, ranging from 30 minutes to 8 hours in duration, lead from Buhoma, offering the opportunity to enjoy the calm and broader biodiversity of the forest, and to see a variety of monkeys and birds. For monkeys and general scenery, the best guided walks is probably the 3-hour Water Trail, which leads for 2km along an abandoned road before ascending through a beautiful area of forest to the 33m-high waterfall on the Munyaga River. The Mazubijiro loop trail and Rushara Hill Trail, each of which takes about 3 hours, offer good views across to the Virunga Mountains, the 8-hours Ivo River Walk, which leads to the Ivo River on the southern boundary of the park , offers a good opportunity for seeing a variety of birds, monkeys and duikers.

Bird watching

Birders with a limited amount of time in Buhoma are strongly urged to stick to the Munyaga River Trail, which starts on the edge of the park behind the Gorilla tracking trailhead, and follows the same old road through the forest south of Buhoma south of the waterfall trail. The open road provides better birding opportunity than the narrow forest and on a good morning the visitor could hope to see around 50 species. Among the great remarkable birds commonly seen along this road include the black-billed turaco, barred long-tailed cuckoos, bar-tailed trogon, black bee-eater, white-billed robin-chat, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, McKinnon’s grey shrike and yellow-whiskered greenbuls.

In addition to the outstanding birding, this road supports a dazzling array of colorful butterfly and the L’Hoest’s monkey.

Village walks

This stroll through Buhoma and its margins immerses visitors in the customs and practices of the Bakiga and the Batwa people. The tour takes in varied activities as brewing local beer, farming and dispensing traditional medicine and concludes with dancing displays by members of the Batwa community.

Batwa visits

A day-long encounter that takes place in a patch of private forest contiguous with the national park and provides a fascinating insight into the traditional forest life and lore of the hunter-gatherer culture

Dance performances

Dedicated to helping orphaned and disadvantaged Bakiga children living around Buhoma, traditional dances supplemented by rather contrived but enjoyable gorilla dances arranged at the lodge.

Getting There

By air

Travelers can travel from Kajjansi airfield near Kampala or the latter Entebbe airport to a current tarmac airstrip found at Kihiihi airport which lies 40km from Buhoma on the Ishasha Road which takes about 90 minutes.

By road

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be approached by travelers by road transport; the park is located in the south-western region of Uganda around 465km (8h 50min) via Mbarara from Kampala.

From Kampala

Buhoma is approximately 465km west of Kampala and 190km west of Mbarara by road. The best route following the surfaced Kabale Road for 65km past Mbarara to Ntugamo, then turning right on the newly surfaced 45km road to Rukungiri. A number of different dirty roads through the highlands of northeast Kigezi connect Rukungiri. The drive usually takes up to 8 hours.

From Kasese

Two main routes connect Kasese, Fort Portal and Queen Elizabeth National Park to Buhoma. The most direct and fascinating route, via Mbarara Road at Katunguru, then sprints past the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and north through Kihihi. This 170km route takes four hours, but travelers transfer to Ishasha to look for tree climbing lions. Another alternative via Ishaka, Kagamba and Rukungiri is extensive coming from Katunguru.

From Kabale

From Kabale to Buhoma around 108km follows a dirt roads most of the way, and it takes three hours. Pursue the Kisoro Road out of Kabale for 18km to Hamura, then turn right at the signpost for Buhoma and processed for 60km via Kanungu to Kanyantorogo where you turn left to Bugota.  A far scenic but slightly slower alternative is to travel through Ruhija, talking the signposted shortcut left turn 5km before Bugota. It is 50km around 2hours drive from Buhoma to Ruhija, passing through the park and some good scenery for much of the way, and ideally using the shortcut that avoids Bugota and cuts about 6km from the route passing through town and it’s a base for Gorilla tracking in Ruhija.

Safari Lodges in Bwindi

Luxury Lodges

Buhoma Lodge

This magnificent lodge, also situated inside the park gates 100m from Gorilla forest camp, has a particularly atmospheric 1st –floor lounge-dining room & comfortable stilted cottages with wide balconies facing the forest & en-suite hot tub & shower. Mesh windows & gum pole-&-plaster walls

Gorilla Forest Camp

This long served tented camp remains the absolute top place to stay at Buhoma, thanks to its superb location in the forest glade at the top of a 91-step staircase 500m inside the park entrance. It’s worth the climb to sleep in a large, individually secluded en-suite tent with twin queen-sized beds, fitted nets, a large bathroom with hot tub and shower, and a comfortable private balcony. The forest here takes on through, even the occasional gorilla, while great blue turacos, emerald cuckoos and tinker barbet call from high in the canopy.

Mid-range Lodges

The Haven

This isolated and rather suburban-feeling hilltop lodge 1km from the park gate by road lies in neat but rather selective gardens that seemed from the tangled forest over which it offers remarkable views. The tilled rooms, though not large, have a modern feel, & come with nets, en-suite hot shower & private balcony. It represents Buhoma’s best deal for comfort-conscious travelers on a moderate budget.

Budget Lodges

Buhoma Community Rest Camp

Located just outside the park gate around 5minutes walk, the camp has a great jungle environ & greatly low rates than almost anywhere else in the region. The camp is located in Buhoma of region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The lodge was constructed to develop the local community. The lodge is well fitted with 6 safari tents and simple en-suite bandas.

 

How much does a Gorilla permit cost?

The prices of Gorilla permits in Uganda are fixed at 600 USD for both the high and low season. In the past the price would be lowered in the off peak seasons of February, March and April to 450 USD but due to increased demand for the permits it’s no longer the case.

The increase in demand for the Uganda Gorilla permits is primarily due to the fact that the Gorilla permit in Rwanda was increased from 750 USD to 1500 USD per permit effective 6th May 2017. That’s a 100 percent increment in the price of the permit.

Selected gorilla trekking tours

3 Day Uganda Gorilla Tracking Tour
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The Kibale Chimpanzee tracking Safari Experience

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13 Day Gorilla Tour and Big Five Safari

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Gorilla Trekking and Wildlife Safari

4 Day Gorilla Trekking Safari in Uganda
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4 Day Gorilla Trekking Safari in Uganda

5 Day Gorilla Tracking and Wildlife Safari
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Go on this budget Uganda safari that combines Gorilla Tracking with wildlife game drive and boat Safari

Gorilla Trekking and Chimpanzee Tracking Safari
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Gorilla Trekking and Chimpanzee Tracking Safari to Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

6 Day Uganda Gorillas, Chimps & Game Drive Safari
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6 Day Uganda Gorillas, Chimpanzee, Game Drive & Boat Safari

8 Day Gorilla Trekking, Wildlife & Chimpanzee Tour
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8 Day Gorilla Trekking, Wildlife & Chimpanzee Tour

Uganda Safaris - Uganda Holiday Adventure
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Uganda Holiday Adventure includes gorillas, wild game drives, boat safaris, chimpanzee and culture.

3 Day Bwindi Gorilla Tour
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3 Day Bwindi Gorilla Tour, Uganda to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

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