Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
PARK AT A GLANCE
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) in South Western Uganda is the most sought after world class tourist destination as it harbours more than a half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas listed as critically endangered species. Recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1994, Bwindi (which locally refers to darkness or impenetrable) was since 1942 a forest reserve before it was elevated to a full national park in 1991.
The 321 km² national park is characterized by tangled vegetation, draped over a deeply ﬁssured landscape of steep slippery valleys and high-draughty ridges. It’s ever chilly weather and challenging terrain oﬀers unequalled ambience and serenity for the visitors seeking to meet and interact with their closest cousins. A trek through one of this Africa’s most ancient rainforests, in search of the endangered Mountain Gorillas, ranks among the world’s premier wildlife encounters.
The National Park is about 530km from Kampala, the capital city. The park can be reached by road from several directions that include: Through Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya) – via Kihihi to Buhoma. This route passes through Queen Elizabeth National Park’s southerly Ishasha sector, providing a chance for the tourists to stop and search for the famous tree-climbing lions. BINP is about 2.5 hours drive from Mweya and about 1.5 hours drive from from Ishasha.
From Kampala you can also access Bwindi Impenetrable National park via Kabale through Kanungu to Buhoma 5-6 hours journey); Ntungamo via Rukungiri through Kihihi to Buhoma (5-6 hours journey); via Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma (5-6 hours journey); Kabale-Nkuringo (6-7 hours journey); KisoroRubuguri/Nkuringo (2hrs journey) Note: 4×4 vehicle is recommended for Bwindi visit.
Air Travelers’ can ﬂy from Entebbe Air port or Kampala (Kajjansi airﬁeld) to the tarmac airstrip at Kisoro town. Visitors to Buhoma can also charter planes to Kayonza (near Butogota) or Savannah (Kihihi) and Ishasha airstrips. Pre arranged transport arrangements for transfer to the park are recommended.
The forest can be cold especially in the morning and at night; the annual average temperature range is 7⁰C-20⁰C with the coldest period being June and July. Warm clothing is required plus wet weather gear since Bwindi receives up to 2390mm of rain per year.
WHEN TO VISIT
The park can be visited any time of the year.
A range of accommodation facilities catering for up-market, medium range and budget visitors are available. It is advisable to book well in advance.
Flora and Fauna:
Bwindi supports a tremendous biodiversity as a result of three major factors. Its slopes extend over a broad altitudinal range of 1447m to create habitats ranging from lowland forest at 1160m to rare Afromontane vegetation above 2600m. It is also extremely old and part of the exceptionally rich Albertine Rift Endemic area.
When most of Africa’s forests disappeared during arid conditions of the ice age (12,000-18,000 years ago), Bwindi was one of the few ‘refugia’ that persisted. Consequently, while most of today’s forests are no more than 12,000 years old, Bwindi’s vegetation has been weaving itself into tangles over at least 25,000 years, in the process accumulating a lengthy species list. This includes 310 species of butterﬂies, 51 reptiles, 200 trees, 88 moths and an exceptional 120 types of mammals.
Mountain gorillas live in structured groups with deﬁned home ranges. Bwindi has more than ten habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by tourists. These are in the vicinity of Buhoma, at Ruhija, while others are tracked from the southern sector (Nkuringo/Rushaga) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Bwindi National Parks boast of 10 species of primates including the mountain gorilla. Other exceptional primate attraction in this impenetrable forest includes chimpanzee, baboon, L’Hoest, red tailed and blue monkey, black and white Colobus and the nocturnal bush babies.
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for variety of birds, with over 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the short tailed Warbler, Shelly’s Crimson wing, African Green Broadbill and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue & White-tailed Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill.
Is a captivation and unforgettable experience which more than repays the eﬀort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Gorilla tracking can be challenging and one needs to be reasonably ﬁt before undertaking to venture into the activity. Registration at Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga visitor receptions commences at 0730 hours with general brieﬁngs conducted at 0800 hours. Gorilla tracking starts at 8:30am and can last from a few hours to a whole day depending on where the gorillas were left the previous day.
To protect the gorillas and visitors, a number of rules and guidelines have been set and must be adhered to. Ensure you adhere to the guidelines as will be briefed by your guide.
Around the Park Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, a range of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests. Mountain biking is also a good activity around Bwindi, this is usually done through a well maintained trail 13km trail of Ivi River from the park oﬃce.
GORILLA TRACKING GROUPS
There are a number of Gorilla groups you can spend an hour with upon location. The number in each Gorilla family usually changes as some family members die and other new members born into the group. There are also instances where Gorilla families split in newer groupings. At the time of tracking, one can confirm the number of members in the family to be visited.
Arrangements can also be made for Gorilla habituation, where you not only visit the gorillas but study and learn about their behaviors and habitat among other. The experience is done with researchers and special prior arrangements need to be made. At Great Value Safaris, we assist with all the arrangements.
Gorillas live in families with lead Silver backs. Below are some of the Gorilla groups available for tracking in Bwindi.
The Bitukura group is one of the gorilla families that have more than one silver back living in harmony. The family can be tracked from Ruhija side of Bwindi forest national park. Family members are 13 with Ndahura as the family head.
With a big number of 17 individuals, Oruzogo family can also be tracked from Ruhija. It’s a vibrant group with playful juveniles.
Kyaguriro is usually found in the deep jungles of the forest and is also tracked from Ruhija side of Bwindi Forest. The members in this family are many to bout a number of 20.
Nshongi Gorilla family is found in Rushaga with a number of 7 members. The group is named after the Nshongi River where the Gorillas were first discovered and accessed for tracking in 2009.
Mishaya group a break away from the Nshongi gorilla group has 12 family members. This group started with few numbers but with time were able to conquer and add to the family by the lead silver back who is known to be a fighter.
Mubare translated to mean in the stones or rocky areas, is where this group d of gorilla that has been tracked since 1993 was found. The gorilla group is found in Buhoma area and has 11 members.
Locally translated to mean near the river (Nyanja) is where this gorilla family was discovered near the swamps of Bwindi Forest. It has 17 members and usually roam in large expanses of the forest in search of meals.
Tracked from Buhoma side, the Rushegura family is another family has a number of 16 individuals. The family tends to be near the park headquarters; however, tracking time may vary from season to season depending on where the gorillas will be located on your day of tracking.
Found in Rushaga side of Bwindi Forest, Kahungye was first discovered in Kahungye hills of the Bwindi forest thus the name. The family was first opened for tracking in 2011.
The 9 member Busingye family separated from Kahungye in 2012, and is open for tracking to visitors.
Another breakaway family in Rushaga, Bweza has 12 members and can also be accessed for tracking.
Rushaga is found in Nkuringo area of Bwindi Forest, Nkuringo translated to mean small round stones found in this part of the park, offers the most challenging trek to the mountain gorillas in this area of Bwindi. The encounter upon location and viewing of this 12 member family erases the thought and feeling of a tough trek that may require one to be physically fit because of the terrain to and from the gorilla trek.
Mgahinga Gorilla National park has a 10 member Nyakagezi gorilla family. This family tends to move between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo forest.
ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS WHILE ON THE GORILLA TREK
Nestled at the gateway to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Buhoma Lodge has been constructed using sustainable local materials. Set just steps away from the gorilla trek start point, with an elevated central lounge, bar and dining area, Buhoma Lodge offers a cozy, social environment and the crackling fireplace that add a mystical atmosphere to cool evenings. The lodge offers multi-course meals which are freshly prepared from local produce. Enjoy morning tea/coffee on your private verandah with sweeping views over the primal forest.
The Lodge is well equipped with:
10 beautifully fitted eco-friendly spacious chalets with private balconies and forest views, one family/honeymoon suite chalet , ensuite bathrooms featuring hot showers and flush toilets (some with bathtubs as well as showers), complimentary WiFi, safes and charging stations in rooms , activities include gorilla tracking, forest walks, birding and cultural interaction.
SILVER BACK LODGE
Silverback Lodge is perched on high, atop the valley overlooking Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The view is absolutely stunning and the best place to enjoy après-tracking cocktails. Bird watching and sometimes primate viewing is possible right from the front door of your room.
The 12 rooms are set as 1 single room, 4 double rooms, 7 twin rooms.
These were built and designed using local materials, such as forest vines, sisal rope and purple slate stone. Each room has an en-suite bathroom (with hot water showers) and comfortable chairs on the veranda for viewing the flora and fauna that make up the surroundings in the valley.
CHAMELEON HILL LODGE
Chameleon Hill Lodge is situated in the south western part of Bwindi Forest National Park in Kisoro where you can easily access Mgahinga Gorilla and Bwindi Forest National Parks.
Located on the shores of one of East Africa’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Mutanda, you will enjoy spectacular views across the lake with its islands and surrounding hills with views of the Virunga Volcanoes in the back drop.
Chameleon Hill Lodge has 10 luxury chalets designed to provide guests with privacy and tranquility. Each room has its own unique charm and character, with its own color scheme and private garden, equipped with a modern en-suite bathroom and they all share stunning views across the lake.
BUHOMA COMMUNITY REST CAMP
Buhoma Community Rest Camp is a budget facility owned and fully run by the local community in and around Bwindi Forest. The camp offers 6 well-furnished and self-contained (en suite) safari tents, 3 self-contained cottages, and 2 non-self-contained twin cottage Bandas. All the Bandas are built with local materials and are of African architectural design. At Buhoma community camp are is a 6-bed dormitory and several camp sites. Western and African cuisines are prepared by Ugandan chefs using locally grown organic foods.
THE HAVEN LODGE
Buhoma Community Haven Lodge opened in December 2014 to help Buhoma Community Rest Camp cater for clients interested in something more than budget accommodation.
The lodge’s spacious site lies above Buhoma village, a 5-minute drive from the main road, and this elevated location guarantees best views across Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
The haven Lodge offers 2 beautifully designed twin/double cottages and 1 family cottage, all self-contained (en suite) and merging simple elegance with local materials. The 5 course meals blend Western and African Cuisines using locally grown organic foods.
GORILLA SAFARI LODGE
Gorilla Safari Lodge is a relaxed and luxurious lodge on the boundary line of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest next to the starting point of gorilla tracking.
Offering eighteen spacious cottages, fitted with solar powered lighting, en-suite bathroom with hot and cold water. The rooms have flush toilets with individual verandahs offering excellent views of the unspoilt tropical rain forest.
Five cottages have two rooms both en-suite with an inter-joining door making them ideal choice for families or large groups of people travelling together. The lodge is also equipped with a spa, restaurant, bar, lounge and campfire overlooking the forest.
Engagi Lodge was built using local materials and a local workforce.
The Lodge consists of Just 8 enSuite cottages, spaced out and hidden in the foliage. Each cottage has either double or Twin beds, a bathroom with flushing toilets and hot and cold running water. All have private verandahs where guests can enjoy their morning tea or coffee as they watch out over the forest canopy.
The main lodge building is divided into bar, sitting room, dining room and an outdoor veranda viewing platform.
RUHIJA GORILLA SAFARI LODGE
Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge offers superb chalet accommodation, fine dining, an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities, a well stocked bar, Wine Cellar, Free WiFi Internet Connection, DSTV, Hair dryer, Gift Shop, Tea and Coffee making Facilities, traditional entertainment, a mini library with magazines and books about the beautiful continent of Africa.
The Lodge currently has 14 twin sharing rooms (Four (4) Superior cabins with the capacity of (Eight in twin sharing, Four (4) Deluxe cabins with capacity of 8(Eight in twin sharing), Six (6) Standard rooms with capacity of 12 (twelve in twin sharing).
Each of the eight en-suite cottages faces the Forest and allows views of the forest canopy, with breathtaking views of the Virunga Mountain ranges. Each Room is fitted with twin beds with en-suite bathroom, flush toilets, overhead shower that supplies hot and cold water, an extra blanket and a hot water bottle for those cold nights. The restaurant offers different choices of multi-national exquisite worldwide foods with superb authentic flavor ranging from Chinese, Indian, European as well as Traditional Ugandan foods.
CRESTED CRANE BWINDI LODGE
The Crested Crane Bwindi Hotel is a beautiful family friendly accommodation near the world’s renowned Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Located a short drive away from the Buhoma section of the national park, the hotel is also close to the Queen Elizabeth National Park surrounded by picturesque of African landscape.
The hotel Consists of spacious and luxuriously finished executive cottages that offer both an elegant bedroom and a separate lounge which feature a large ensuite bedroom with dressing table, work station, sitting area and terrace or balcony. Cottage balconies over-look the spectacular green neighborhood and the impenetrable forest of Bwindi.
Facilities at the Hotel include: Private Bathroom, wifi, Free Toiletries, Private Entrance, Outdoor Dining Area, Drying Rack for clothing, Sitting Area, Wardrobe/ Closet, Towels, Taxi Service, Laundry Service, Swimming Pool, Linens, Safe Deposits, Private balcony or Terrace, 24-hours Front Desk, Tile/ Marble floor, Wake-up Service.
MUTANDA LAKE RESORT
Mutanda resort is spaciously set up and stretches into Lake Mutanda. The cottages each come with Private Veranda and ensuite bathroom. Rooms range from Single. Double/twin and family/triple rooms with comfortable beds and mosquito nets.
Perched on Lake Mutanda Peninsula in the shadow of the Virunga Mountains, the resort offers comfortable accommodation combined with the most beautiful views. It is a perfect base for gorilla trackers, lake loungers, volcano hikers, bird lovers as well as those looking for a mystical place in nature.
NKURINGO BWINDI GORILA CAMP
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge is situated on the South of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park with stunning views over Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the magnificent Virunga Volcanoes and the Great Albertine Rift Valley. There are 18 individually hand-crafted cottages, each offering the tranquility of the rainforest, the atmosphere of a mountain chalet and the warm hospitality Ugandans are known for.
The main areas of the lodge comprise of a cosy restaurant serving fantastic homemade meals and freshly baked bread, a bar and a coffee-shop with amazing views over the mountains beyond.
The 8 Garden Cottage rooms are privately hidden away in the lush gardens. Each individually crafted cottage has a fireplace for the colder nights, is powered by solar and has a large veranda.
The 4 (four), 2 (two) Bedrooms villas are ideal for families or groups of 4 people, each room is independent but the can be interconnecting. They are also joined by a large veranda with beautiful views overlooking Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Each room has a sitting area and fireplace for the colder night.
MAHOGANY SPRINGS HOTEL
The Superior Suites at Mahogany can be Twin, Double or Triple. These suites are spacious with large double doors and beautiful windows. Each Suite has its own private exquisitely designed terrace with panoramic views of the surrounding area. There are power points in the rooms as well as a dressing table/desk. All suites have large en-suite bathrooms with a gorgeously designed open terracotta shower. For added comfort and peace of mind all the suites have an advanced mosquito net system that wraps around the entire area of the beds.
The Lodge has a honeymoon suite fitted with bath tub in addition to shower; Presidential suite can be Twin, double, triple or quadruple. It has two bedrooms, 2 ensuite bathrooms, spacious living room and a large private terrace. The lodge also has a living room and bar, where you may relax, read a book or take a drink by the fireplace.
The restaurant offers a la carte menus for every meal which change daily providing endless dining options and a wide range of cuisines to cater to all pallets. The food combines flavors from all over the world, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European.
CLOUDS MOUNTAIN GORILLA LODGE
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is situated in Nkuringo, bordering the south western corner of the Bwindi National Park. It is at 2100m with a sweeping panoramic view of the magnificent Virunga Volcanoes and the Great Rift Valley.
Guests at Clouds stay in large cottages built of local volcanic stone. Each one has a large sitting room with double-sided fireplace, vast overstuffed armchairs, hand-woven carpets, private verandah and comfortable bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. There are 5 double cottages and 2 family cottages (each with 2 private bedrooms and en suite bathrooms.