Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a large primeval forest located in south-western Uganda in the Kanungu District. The Bwindi forest is on the edge of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
The name Bwindi is derived from the Runyakitara word Mubwindi and means “a place full of darkness”. This name comes from the extensive stands of bamboo interspersed amongst the larger forest hardwoods. The bamboo and thick ground cover of ferns, vines, and other plant growth severely hinder direct access on foot. The forest is on the edge of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley, only a few kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo border and about 25 kilometers north of the Virunga Mountains.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a prime Uganda safari destination, with thick vegetation like its name suggests. Every day when tourists go out for the famous gorilla trekking adventure, the ranger guides have to cut vegetation for trackers to access way to where gorillas nested the previous night. It is the true African jungle with droplets of the sun coming through the thick forest cover giving you a feeling of being in paradise with zero pollution from several emissions common to our daily environment. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for its Mountain Gorilla populations and gorilla tracking.
Bwindi is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Gorilla tracking is done daily after purchasing a gorilla-tracking permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. You are advised to book your permit at least 3 months prior to secure your day especially if you prefer a certain location. Only 8 individuals from 15 years of age are permitted to visit a gorilla family per day. You need to be in good health condition otherwise you will not track because humans and Gorillas can easily pass diseases to each other. You will be briefed by your guide way before tracking and advices to stay at least 8m from the gorillas, do not use flash photography and do not look directly in the eyes of the gorilla for an extended period of time.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is divided into different trail heads where gorilla tracking tours happens. The gorillas habituated for tourism are in families based at different trailheads. When you choose to visit Bwindi, be sure to know which trailhead you are allocated before you book your hotel. After knowing your allocated trailhead then you can book the hotel in that location. Currently 20 gorilla families are habituated for tourism. The trail heads include; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. This unique experience can only be done in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
THE PARK AT A GLANCE
Altitude: 1,160m – 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 was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Nine groups are now habituated for tourism, and one for research.
Spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys, Bwindi is the source of five major rivers, which flow into Lake Edward.