Bwindi Impenetrable National park was once a Forest Reserve, impenetrable of course, it was gazetted in 1942 and upgraded to park status in 1992. ‘Bwindi’ in the local lukiga language means impenetrable and rightly so for Bwindi is virtually impenetrable. Bwindi is unique because it not only the most diverse of Uganda’s national parks but is also one of Africa’s most diverse forests.

Its 327km2 of forest is ancient and it’s been thriving over at least 25,000 years, in the process accumulating a lengthy species list which includes 350 species of bird, 310 of butterfly, 51 of reptiles, 200 of trees ,88 moths and an exceptional 120 types of mammal including 10 primates.

The latter include chimpanzee, L hoests, Red tailed and Blue Monkey, Black and White colobus and Baboon. Most famous of Bwindi yet unmentioned resident is the mountain gorilla whose estimated number is 240. Although Bwindi terrain is difficult to negotiate it’s well worth the effort to appreciate her biodiversity. Gorilla tracking though is Bwindi’s main attraction. Mountain gorillas can be tracked from two locations Buhoma and Nkuringo.

Buhoma on the northern edge of the forest has three habituated gorilla groups –Mubare, Habinyanja A and Habinyanja B and is by far the busier site.

Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest is 10km away from Buhoma and it takes four hours to wall the opened footpaths between the two sites which is quicker than the bumpy and circuitous drive around the edge of the forest. The Nkuringo trailhead lies on Nteko ridge a remote and undeveloped area with beautiful scenery. The ridge enjoys grand views of the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi forest to the north while the Virunga Volcanoes slash zig-zaggedly across the southern horizon. The entire chain is visible including the active cones in Congo, Nyirangongo and Nyamuragira.

The easy water fall trail is a delightful hike and the community walks by villagers interesting insights into the rural lifestyles including visits to traditional healers, blacksmiths and brewers.

Discover an exceptional wildlife familiarity with visiting the south western Uganda where stand an olden(over 25000 years) outstanding green luxuriant bandage of massive thick tropical rain trees situated across the fault scarps of the western arm of the great east African rift valley nearby to the Albertine region – the Bwindi Impenetrable forest. Derives its name due to its impenetrable (thick) nature of dark, knotted flora over concavely and complex ridged mountainous landscape.

Bwindi national park has three parts: the northern part or Buhoma in Kanungu district, the southern part or Rubuguri in Kisoro district and the eastern part or Ruhija in Kabale district.

The forest is noted to be a habitat of 90 – 120 mammals including several primates, reptiles, butterflies and birds among others. Primate species that can commonly be spotted include mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, black and white colobus, blue colobus monkeys , grey –cheeked mangabey, L,Hoest’s monkeys, baboons amongst others.

Though amongst primates, the white tailed black and white colobus out numbers others, the celebrity primate is the mountain gorillas where by the forest is recorded to inhabit more than half of the world’s totals.

Also this thick jungle is ranked to be the number one birding spot harboring over 350 different bird species of which 23 species are the highly localized Albertine Rift endemics for example the commonly referred to as ground hornbill.

Just outside the forest there live the ancient pygmy people of Batwa tribe who will show you the greatest level of hospitality that you won’t even hesitate not to tell your friends about.

Things to Do in Bwindi

Gorilla tracking is the main attraction since the forest is recorded to contain over six habituated Gorilla groups of which 8 permits that can be pre-booked from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offices in Kamwokya – Kampala are vacant for every group in the course of the day, These groups can be tracked from four trailheads. The groups open for gorilla trekking are Nkuringo, Nshoji, Kahungye and Mishaya in the eastern part, Rushegura, Mubare, and Habiyanja in the northern part and Bitukura and Oruzogo in the eastern part though some of these have not yet been opened officially.

Other activities that are recommended to be engaged in on a gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi also include the guided forest walks that are readily available whereby the most popular trail leads you to a waterfall; for birders, this should be the first destination on your tour itenary not forgetting chimpanzee trackers and other categories of scholar and scientific researchers.

Community walks outside the forest are also always prepared that will provide you with an insight into the lives of both the Bakiga and Batwa (pygmy) peoples living beside the forest.

Once your guide has picked you from Kampala, you can also make a stopover at the Equator near Masaka Town which is an astonishing photographic spot as well as a knowledge acquisition center through the informative talks. Continue with the journey while enjoying tremendous views together with the triangular peaks of the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda and the D.R. Congo.

Advise for the gorilla trackers

As time for the trek is approaching, before 8:00 am you are advised first to report to the ranger station either in Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura or Nkuringo for registration depending on which group you will be tracking the gorillas with. Talk to one of the many rangers around to brief you about the activity. Let the guides take you through the trek (½ – 5 hours) into the forest while pushing your way through the undergrowth and parting thick creepers, to track the gorillas.

It will be a memorable feeling spending your time in such an impenetrable forest with the few last remaining (about 650 in the whole world) mountain gorillas our 98% close cousins.

Getting to Bwindi Forest

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in south western Uganda about 530 km from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The park is accessible by tourists on their gorilla trekking safaris by car drive or scheduled charters flights. However, road trips require 4WD vehicles.

This impenetrable forest is in the south of Queen Elizabeth national park which can take 2-3 hours drive. If you are in Kabale town, it can take 1-2 hours drive or also Bwindi can be reached direct from the Uganda capital city Kampala through Mbarara which can take a nonstop drive of 6 ½ – 8 ½ hours.

Or you can travel by bus or Ugandan so called taxis (Matatu) from Kampala to Kabale for roughly Ush 15,000 and then hire a car at about 100,000 to Butogota that is 18km to Buhoma or take a pick up because most public means of transport in those regions are unpredictable.

Most routes require the use of 4×4 vehicles most especially in wet seasons and a reasonable degree of fitness as well as a sturdy pair of walking shoes for most activities in the forest.

By flight

You can fly from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfields to kisoro at Kihihi airstrip. Kihihi airstrip is about 15 km away from Bwindi and it takes 40 minutes drive on dirt roads to the park.

Tourists going to the Buhoma sector in the south and the main headquarters of Bwindi will land at Butogota near green tea plantations and drive for 30 minutes to the park.

Alternatively, fly from Entebbe within 2hours to another airstrip in Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park.

By car

You’ll find no difficulty in organizing with a tour operator to match your road trip needs. There are no fixed departures but rather tailor made according to your budget and proposed routes.

You can get to Bwindi from Queen Elizabeth National park within 3 hours via Ishasha sector on a game drive spotting tree climbing lions. Ishasha is about 64 km from Buhoma the main gorilla trekking sector north of Bwindi. Visitors at Mweya safari lodge in Queen Elizabeth national park will reach Bwindi with 5 hour drive covering 160 km on dirt roads.

Tourists in Lake Mburo national park can also drive for 4-6 hours to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park via Mbarara-kabale.

The longer and direct route from Kampala city or Entebbe via Mbarara-kabale-Nkuringo Road takes about 7-9 hours. Visitors intending to use this route, usually depart very early before 08:00am to avoid traffic jam. This route passes through rural Uganda with amazing en route attractions such as Mpambire village drum, Igongo cultural museum and Bakiga museum.

Another route to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is that from Kampala via Kanungu- Butogota-Kihihi entering Buhoma gorilla trekking center. It takes 6-8 hours on average speed 80 km per hour.

The route from Kampala via Ntungamo-Rukungiri to Buhoma takes 7-8 hours. Whether it’s a rainy or a dry season you will still need 4WD vehicle.

If you want to trek gorillas in the southern sector of Bwindi for instance at Rushaga or Nkuringo, you will drive for 6-7 hours via Kabale-kisoro towns to your lodge near the gorilla trekking point.

Where to Stay in Bwindi Forest

You can use the clean and simple bandas in Buhoma or utilize the 3 privately run campsites in the area along with some middle and up-market tented camps. Bwindi forest is a thick hilly jungle in western Uganda and a home to mountain gorillas. It has been a choice gorilla safari destination for many and it’s still because of its natural beauty never fades. If you like primates and gorillas in particular, I believe one day Bwindi forest will make your dream of seeing mountain gorillas come true. No gorilla trekking tour to Bwindi Forest that has ever been disappointing because seeing gorillas is a must in just a single trek in all the four park sectors-Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. As may have heard about different gorilla safari lodges and campsites but not every lodge is budget. And those planning to track gorillas at affordable rates and sleep in cost friendly lodges and campsites, here are some of the gorilla safari lodges to consider when you visit Bwindi forest on budget.

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