Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Home Of The Mountain Gorilla
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) covers an area of 321 km² between 1,160m and 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 at Buhoma was the first to be habituated for tourism in Bwindi in April 1993.
A total of fifteen groups have now been habituated for tourism and are tracked from four trailheads. Uganda’s foremost tourist attraction, and indeed one of the world’s most remarkable wildlife encounters, is tracking mountain gorillas through the remote Bwindi Impenetrable forest of south-western Uganda. These magnificent apes are both rare and endangered; their total population numbers less than 800 animals divided between the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable and the nearby Virunga volcanoes. With fifteen groups habituated for tourism, the Impenetrable Forest is the world’s primary mountain gorilla tracking destination.
There is however much more to Bwindi than gorilla tracking. Forest trails lead to scenic waterfalls and rift valley viewpoints while community walks through local villages provide insights into the lives of the Batwa (Pygmy) and Bakiga people living beside the forest. Bwindi is also one of Uganda’s top birdwatching destinations with many Albertine Rift endemics present, notably in the high, draughty Ruhija sector.
One of Africa’s oldest and richest forests – one of few that predate the arid conditions of the last ice age, 12,000-18,000 years ago – the Bwindi Impenetrable has been weaving itself into tangles across the fissured and folded margin of the Albertine Rift Valley for some 25,000 years. In the process it has accumulated a remarkable biodiversity, thanks also to an 1147m altitudinal range that accommodates habitats ranging from lowland forest at 1,160m to rare Afromontane vegetation above 2,600m. Species counts include 310 butterflies, 88 moths, 200 trees, 51 reptiles and 120 types of mammal. The latter includes several primates, among them chimpanzees, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey, and, the star of the Impenetrable show; the mountain gorilla.
Bird life is also exceptionally rich with 357 species dominated by forest birds. These include 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the short-tailed warbler, Shelley’s crimson wing, African green broadbill and the blue-headed sunbird, and seven IUCN Red Data List species. Fourteen species, including the brown-necked parrot and the white-bellied robin chat, occur nowhere else in Uganda.
More Info On The Activities
Mountain gorilla tracking
The highlight of a visit to Bwindi – and the climax of the long journey to the Impenetrable Forest by air, car and steep, forest trail – is a magical hour in the company of a family of mountain gorillas. Tracking the gorillas can last from a few hours to a whole day, depending on how far the group has moved since it was observed nesting up the previous evening. Bwindi has fifteen habituated gorilla groups that are tracked from four trailheads.
Three of these groups are found in the vicinity of Buhoma in northwest Bwindi; four at Ruhija in the east; and eight at the park’s southern trailheads at Nkuringo and Rushaga. Eight permits are available to track each of the fifteen habituated groups, giving a daily maximum of 120 permits. Registration commences at 07.30 hours followed by a briefing at 08.00 hours and tracking starts at 08.30. Note that visitors participating in gorilla tracking must be aged 15 or over.
Bwindi’s four trailheads all offer excellent birding opportunities with the prospect of checking off forest rarities. The River Ivi Trail between Buhoma and Nkuringo is recommended, as is Buhoma’s forest-edge Munyaga River Trail. Ruhija’s Bamboo Trail, leading to the 2607m Rwamunyoni peak, and Mubwindi Swamp Trail are renowned for Albertine Rift endemics including the localised green broadbill.
- Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to explore one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests. The following walks can be arranged to depart in the morning at 09.00 and in the afternoon at 14.00.
- Munyanga River Trail, in the valley below the Buhoma trailhead, provides a short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge.
- Waterfall Trail leads through one of Uganda’s most pristine tracts of rainforest, passing beneath tree ferns, epiphytic ferns and orchids to visit three sparking crystal clear waterfalls.
- Rushura Hill Trail provides expansive views across the plains of the Albertine Rift Valley and (on clear days) to Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains to the north.
- Muzabajiro Loop Trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill for breathtaking views of Bwindi forest, the Albertine Rift Valley and the Virunga volcanoes.
- River Ivi Trail follows an old road through beautiful forest emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest.
- Community walks through forest edge villages at Buhoma and Nkuringo provide insights into the lives of the local Batwa (Pygmy) and Bakiga peoples. The Buniga Forest Walk at Nkuringo is conducted by Batwa guides who demonstrate their traditional forest lore.