Tourist attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable national park : Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in the southwestern part of Uganda along the border with DR Congo next to the great Virunga National Park. Covering an area of 128 square miles, Bwindi impenetrable national park is covered by thick lowland and montane forests. Bwindi forest was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 because of its remarkable biodiversity. Talking about biodiversity, Bwindi has over 345 species of birds, 221 of butterflies and 120 of mammals. Among the mammal species include red-tailed monkeys, Vervet monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Jackals, Golden cats, Giant forest pigs, forest elephants, Colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, Bushbucks, Blue monkeys, Baboons, African civet, Buffaloes, Duikers, Clawless otter, Bats, De Brazza monkeys, Potto, Spectacled and Demidoff’s Galagos.
Bwindi forest has over 160 species of trees, 105 ferns and countless flowering plants. Bwindi forest is a key water catchment zone and a source of water for many streams and rivers like Ihihizo, Ishasha, Ivi, Munyaga and Ntengyere. These rivers then flow to larger lakes like Bunyonyi, Mutanda and even Lake Edward. Because of the thick forests, Bwindi receives good rains throughout the year with cool temperatures even when most parts of the country are undergoing a dry spell. The key attraction in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the endangered mountain gorilla. Half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas is found in Uganda of which three quarters live in Bwindi. Gorilla trekking is therefore the main activity attracting thousands of visitors to the park every year. Gorilla trekking is done in four sectors of the park – Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija. Below are the main attractions in Bwindi forest;
This is by far the most popular activity though it does not have to be so considering how diverse the forest is. Bwindi is the best park to track mountain gorillas in East and Central Africa. About half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas is found in Bwindi Impenetrable forest.
Bwindi also has the highest number of habituated gorilla families. Gorilla trekking begins with briefing early in the morning. The briefing covers important topics such as how to act around the primates, what to expect and what to pack. The actual tracking can take between 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the gorilla family and their location. An advance team of trackers is sent earlier to locate the primates. This advance team of trackers then locates the gorilla family before communicating by radio to the rangers leading the tourists with details about their location. It is because of this advance team of trackers that ensure high chances of seeing the gorillas. is very high. Tourists are allowed only one hour with the gorillas. This is because the animals are semi-wild and prolonged presence of humans may get to their nerves. In the extremely rare cases where a gorilla charges, it is never wise to run away. Gorilla permits in Uganda cost $700.
It is only in Bwindi forest that tourists can go for the gorilla habituation experience. The gorilla habituation experience allows primate lovers more time (four hours) observing the primates instead of the standard gorilla trekking (four hours).
Tourists taking part in the 3 Days gorilla habituation safari get a chance to move with experienced trackers and some of the best primate researchers. The scientists share information about the gorilla habituation process and current issues related to gorilla conservation. This experience costs more than the normal 1-hour gorilla trek at a cost of $1500. Only 4 people can take part in the gorilla habituation experience.
Bwindi is a park with great biodiversity and the park authorities have ensured that visitors also experience the other good things that the park has to offer. To that end, several trails have been established to allow visitors marvel at the forest, its creatures like birds, butterflies and primates. One such trail starts from Buhoma to Nkuringo, from Nkuringo to Lake Mutanda and them from Nkuringo to Kisoro. These trails go through amazing scenery and provide opportunities to mingle with the locals.
The Buhoma Village walk in particular takes tourists to local communities where they can learn about how members of an indigenous African tribe spend their day. The waterfall trail on the other hand exposes visitors to pristine forest with orchids, ferns, birds and butterflies. This particular trail ends with a sighting of beautiful waterfalls containing pure water. The short Munyaga River trail at the valley below Buhoma park office provides opportunities to see birds and primates like L’Hoest’s monkeys and Colobus Monkeys.
For those who feel that cycling is more enjoyable then the nature walks, they can arrange to hire a mountain bike through their lodge and go explore the surrounding areas. The “for a woman” project hires mountain bikes to tourist in the Buhoma sector at a cost with the proceeds used to improve the lives of the local women in the area. The project also provides guides escort bikers through the local villages and in the forest where they can sight some of the forest creatures and waterfalls.
Bwindi forest is one of the best birding destination in Uganda and Africa for that matter. 90% of the species in the park are endemic to the Albertine rift. Seasoned birders can expect to see at least one hundred species in a day. The best way to spot the birds is to follow the River Ivi trail, Munyaga River trail, Ruhija’s bamboo trail and the Mubwindi Swamp trail. The Munyaga River Trail is the best option for birders with little time to spare, Tourist attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
Visiting the Batwa People
The Batwa pygmies are believed to be the oldest indigenous tribe in Uganda. Whereas most of the other tribes in Uganda migrated from various parts of Africa to their current locations, the Batwa had lived in Bwindi forest for over 5,000 years. Unfortunately, the Batwa were evicted from Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National park. The reason for their eviction among others was to protect the Mountain gorillas from diseases by limiting contact with humans. Like we have already discussed before, the Batwa now live outside the park. Visiting the Batwa provides a unique opportunity to be with a true indigenous African tribe and learn about their ancient culture and way of life. While with the Batwa, visitors watch as they showcase their cultural heritage and ancient ways of life in the forest through storytelling, dance and drama.
Apart from the Batwa, other tribes like the Bakiga live on the edges of the forest. Tourists can visit one of these tribes and learn about their culture and economic activities. The Bakiga also have their own unique cultural dances and ways of doing things. They can take you to see their traditional doctors and blacksmiths or teach you how to weave, make local beer and cook local dishes. You will definitely have opportunities to purchase beautiful local art pieces. There are opportunities to give back to the community. You could visit one of the local schools or community hospitals and make a cash donation or arrange to donate items like sewing machines, water tanks and other essentials. It is important to hire a guide who is knowledgeable about the area, local people and customs. Always consult with the park office, your lodge or tour company before making any donations to ensure it reaches the right people, Tourist attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
The best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is open throughout the year including on public holidays. However, the best time to visit the gorillas in Bwindi forest is during the months between June – August and December to February. These are the dry seasons in Uganda and the rains are not so intense in the rain forest. Gorilla trekking, nature walks and hiking tours are excellent during these periods because the forest trails are less slippery (no mud). During the dry season, there is a lot of activity in the park with more tourists. It is a chance to meet and mingle with people from all over the world, Tourist attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
The months between March – April and September – November is the rainy season in Uganda and not really the best time for hiking, forest walks or gorilla trekking but perfect for bird watching because it is the breeding season. Ensure that you travel with warm clothing and footwear to deal with the mud. Unfortunately, the forest gets wet and misty with prolonged drizzles that can get annoying when out tracking the gorillas.