BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a magical national park in Southwestern Uganda and it is approximately 8-10 hours’ drive away from Kampala and about 3-4 hours’ drive from Kigali. This park is surrounded by Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro district and it is close to the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is by far an exceptional Uganda safari park to consider a must-visit for authentic African experiences.
In 1991, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was designated as a national park mainly to host some of the endangered mountain gorillas that currently account for a total of not more than 1063 in the world. In 1994, it became a UNESCO Heritage Site and today, this protected area extends to cover an area of about 331sq.kms largely featuring a lush tropical rain-forest that hosts diversity of its wildlife species. This park lies between elevation 1160 and 2607 meters.
History of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been in existence as one of the Uganda’s safari parks since 1932 when 2 of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sections were set as Crown Forest Reserves. The Northern section was gazetted as the Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve while the Southern section featured as Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve. The 2 magical forest reserves extended to cover an area of 207sq.kms and later, they were enlarged and their name changed to Impenetrable Central Crown Forest which occupied an area of 298sq.kms. At the time, it was managed jointly by the Ugandan government game and forest departments.
Around 1964, the reserve was gazetted as an animal sanctuary and its establishment was primarily to offer extra safety for the endangered mountain gorillas. It was later renamed the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve and in 1966, 2 more forest reserves were incorporated to make up the main reserve thus extending its area coverage to about 321sq.kms and they were run as a game sanctuary and forest reserve.
The Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve, Mgahinga Gorilla Reserve, and Rwenzori Mountains Reserve were later gazetted as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1991. This extended its area coverage to about 330.8sq.kms. Its establishment was primarily to offer refuge to a diversity of its wildlife species especially mountain gorillas.
However, its formation impacted on the lives of the Batwa who lived in the forest for years and later displaced. In 1993, gorilla trekking featured as famous safari activity and it is this that made the park a famous gorilla destination up to date. Today, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park hosts about 459 mountain gorillas with about 20 habituated gorilla families which can be trekked in any one of the 4 main tracking regions in the park that is Ruhija sector in the east, Buhoma region in the North, Rushaga and Nkuringo areas in the South.
Tourist attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The diversity of wildlife species is what distinguishes Bwindi Impenetrable National Park from the rest of the destinations. The park hosts an estimate of about 120 mammal species including a range of primates such as the endangered mountain gorillas which exist only in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo; L’Hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys. There are also several African civet, giant forest hogs, elephants, side stripped jackals, amphibians, about 200 butterfly species, reptiles, and many others.
Over 350 bird species are estimated to be in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which makes it a unique bird-watching safari destination. On Uganda birding tour in this protected area, expect to identify birds such as Grauer’s rush warblers, bar-tailed trogon, rusty faced woodland warblers, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, short-tailed warblers, western green tinker bird, Wilcock’s honeyguide, white-tailed blue monarch, white-bellied robin, Shelley’s crimson wing, western bronze napped pigeon, purple breasted, regal sunbirds, dusky crimson wing, Kivu ground thrush, black-billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, African green broadbill, common bulbul, African emerald, chestnut throated Apalis.
Activities to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is the reason why the majority of tourists visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Tracking to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in Bwindi is by far a lifetime experience and one can be part of this magical experience starting from anyone of 4 regions of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that is Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija.
Every gorilla trekking region has its habituated gorilla families where Buhoma in the North is comprised of Habinyanja family, Katwe group, Mubare and Rushegura; Ruhija sector in the east has gorilla families like Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mukiza and Kyaguriro; in Rushaga sector, the groups to track include Mucunguzi, Kutu, Bweza, Busingye, Kahungye, Bikingi, Nshongi, Rwigi and in Nkuringo sector, the habituated families include Christmas, Nkuringo group and Bushaho.
Each gorilla permit in Uganda costs US dollars 600 and 500 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents respectively then sh.250000 for the East African citizens. However, following the recent increase which is due to begin on 1st July 2020, trekkers will require 700 US dollars for foreign non-residents and US dollars 600 for foreign residents to book gorilla permits. East African citizens will continue paying shs.250000. You can reserve your permit and also arrange your gorilla safari together with Mega Wild Safaris.
Bird watching in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park rewards birders with amazing bird sights of forest bird species. On birding tour, the birds to expect to sight here include Grauer’s rush warblers, bar-tailed trogon, rusty faced woodland warblers, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, short-tailed warblers, Shelley’s crimson wing, western bronze napped pigeon, purple breasted, regal sunbirds, dusky crimson wing, Kivu ground thrush, black-billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, African green broadbill, western green tinker bird, Wilcock’s honeyguide, white-tailed blue monarch, white-bellied robin, common bulbul, African emerald.
There are designated trails to embark on while on birding tour and they include the Bamboo zone, Buhoma waterfall trail, Bwindi swamp trail, Kashasha River trail, Ivy River trail. Remarkably, each of these trails reward birders with lots of astonishing sights.
Nature walks are by far the best way to explore and experience what Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has to offer. It takes you through different trails, each trail comes with lots of astonishing sights especially the bird species, butterflies, plant species and many more. Depending on the trail, a nature walk can last you about 3 to 4 hours. The key trails for you to set off for nature walk in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park include the Buhoma Nkuringo trail, Rushura Hill walk, Muzubijiro loop, Ivy Riverwalk.
- Cultural tours
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is surrounded by communities, each local community has something unique for visitors on Uganda safari to explore. The best cultural experiences in Bwindi can be got on a community walk in the Batwa Community or Bakiga Community where you get a chance to enjoy their unique dances, learn about their traditions, lifestyles.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is situated on the hilly side of the Uganda-Kigezi region and embarking on cycling/mountain biking is such a memorable experience. Biking tours in Bwindi are amazing and you get a chance to explore the nearby communities, spot out butterflies, birds, primates among others.
Where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
When choosing accommodation for your night stay in Bwindi Impenetrable forest, it is important to do so depending on your travel needs. Each sector in Bwindi National Park has its own lodges. In Buhoma sector, you can choose from the following-Buhoma Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Engagi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge, Bwindi Lodge; in Ruhija sector-the notable lodges include Bakiga Lodge, Agandi Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp; Nkuringo region is comprised of Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Clouds Mountains Gorilla Lodge and Rushaga region features lodges like Gorilla Valley Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort, Chameleon Hill Lodge.
Best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Visiting Bwindi Impenetrable forest has no specific best time. For any plans to spend a holiday in this pristine national park, you need to consider the dry and wet season. The dry season is perfect for game viewing/drives-visitors get a clear view over diverse wildlife species. The wet or rainy season is ideal for bird watching and this normally occurs in March, April, May, and October, November.
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