Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in South Western Uganda and occupies 331 Sq Km. It lies on the edge of the Western Rift valley (Albertine rift) and shared by Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro districts.
The park occupies different vegetation zones but predominantly a tropical rain forest. This is one of the few remaining forests in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age. Bwindi Impenetrable national park is home to roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas (about 420 mountain gorillas). In the world today, it is estimated that there are only 1020 remaining mountain gorillas.
Apart from the rare mountain gorillas, the park also has over 120 mammal species including 11 primates, 200 species of butterflies and about 324 different tree species. These primates include the black-and-white colobus, with its lovely flowing white tail, L’Hoest Monkey, Red Tailed monkeys among others.
The forest is also rich in birdlife (360 species) with 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics being present in the park. Among the notable bird species include the Short-tailed Warbler, Gruer’s Rush Warbler, Bar-tailed Trogon, Yellow-eyed black Fly-catcher, Dusky Crimson Wing, White-tailed Blue Monarch, Wilcock’s Honey-guide, Rusty-faced woodland Warbler Kivu Ground Thrush, among others. These birds cannot be easily cited anywhere in East Africa.
Ihimbo hot springs is another tourist attraction. It was discovered by the Bakiga settlers in the 1950s, and the boiling water that bubbled from the spring rapidly acquired national fame for its therapeutic powers. One legend tells of a flat chested girl who bathed there and emerged with an enviably voluptuous bosom. It is alleged that another man who lost his leg in accident and regained it after swimming in the hot water.
Because of it’s popularity, Ihimbo has attracted up to 1000 individuals annually from all around the country.
Visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can also visit Kanungu town to see the church where more than 500 members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (MRTCG) vanished from the fire after being convinced that they were going to heaven through fire. This event occurred on 17th March 2000 and it is one of the massive religious massacre events in the whole world.
Bwindi Impenetrable National park can be accessed by both road and air transport. From Kampala via Mbarara highway the drive takes 6-8 hours. From Queen Elizabeth National Park the journey takes 2-3 hours and from Kabale the park can be accessed in a period of 1-2 hours. For those who prefer traveling to the park by air, private charter flights can be arranged for you at Kayonza airstrip from where transfer to the park can be made.
Gorilla Tracking is the main tourism activity in the park. There are 17 habituated gorilla groups that can be visited by tourists. The first four gorilla families to be habituated are Mubare group (10 gorillas, 1 silverback), Habinyanja group (18 gorillas, 1 silverback), Rushegura group (10 gorillas, 1 silverback) and Nkuringo group (19 gorillas).
GUIDED FOREST WALKS
In the park, there are four hiking trails. On these trails you have the opportunity to see and learn about different tree species, birds, butterflies, and other scenic features in the forest such as the Munyaga waterfalls on Munyaga River, as well as the spectacular views of Lake Edward and the Rwenzori mountains.
Visitors to the park participate in captivating and memorable traditional performances presented by Women and orphan groups and this is usually done in the evening.
Bwindi is the bird watchers paradise! It holds 346 species of birds and contains 90% of the Albertine endemics which cannot easily be found in any other part of East Africa. The Ruhija and Buhoma areas offer any experienced tourists an opportunity to identify about 100 bird species in just one day!
UWA TIPS ON GORILLA TRACKING
Keep your voice down or be quiet while tracking. You will see and hear the gorillas if you observe that.
Don’t get closer than 7 metres (21 feet) to the gorillas
Don’t point or waive your arms to the gorillas- this can be seen as a threat.
Move slowly. If approached by a gorilla, back away slowly to keep 5m separation.
Don’t use flash while taking photos. This could threaten the gorillas and bother other visitors.