Distance from Kampala: 550km. Estimated transit time: 8-10 hours
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda and covers 331 sq km making it one of the largest natural forests in East Africa.
As part of the Albertine Rift Valley, the park is one of Africa’s most important conservation areas and was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in December 1994. Since 2003, the Albertine Rift Valley has been named a biodiversity hotspot -- a place that needs special attention to maintain conservation efforts.
The landscape is rugged, with deep valleys running between steep sided hills and ridges. There is both lowland and montane rainforest with dense undergrowth of herbs, vines and shrubs, hence the name 'Impenetrable'. This area is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa with the richest faunal community in East Africa.
The forest is home to many rare species and encompasses one of the last remaining habitats of Mountain Gorillas Gorilla gorilla beringeri. More than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (approximately 325 of the remaining 770 or so individuals). Mountain gorillas are only found in the wild.
There are estimated to be upwards of 120 species of mammals (more than other Ugandan national parks except Queen Elizabeth). Among these are forest elephants and 10 species of primates, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and baboons. Bwindi is also the only park in the world where chimpanzees and gorillas co-exist in the same environment. The rare giant forest hog is also found here, although sightings are rare!
For bird watchers, Bwindi is one of the most enticing areas in Uganda to visit with an estimated 360 species of birds, including 23 of the 24 endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and another 14 species found nowhere else in Uganda, including the African Green Broadbill. The pristine rainforests of this park are also home to approximately 300 species of butterfly (including two endangered species of Swallowtails), 200 native tree species and many species of reptiles and amphibians.
The rugged mountainous terrain makes gorilla trekking strenuous work and visitors should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking (good physical condition is a must), although generally the hike to find the gorillas is less than three hours each way, with a maximum one hour spent with the gentle giants themselves. Kindly note that Bwindi is a tropical rainforest. It rains at different times but nearly everyday so you will need a rain jacket or poncho.
No-one with signs of communicable diseases like flu or cough will be allowed to trek. The three groups of gorillas habituated for trekking are the Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushegura. Each group has approximately 15-20 individuals. A fourth family, Nkuringo, was opened for trekking in 2004, although access to this group is from Kisoro not Buhoma. Two additional groups, one near Nkuringo and another at Ruhija were also opened up.
At present, a maximum of 72 permits daily are available for gorilla trekking. For advance booking, 2-12 months is recommended to avoid disappointment. We take up bookings up to 2 years in advance. Permits are $500 each and are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis. Permits are non-refundable, although in some cases will be transferable. Some permits may be available on short notice. Discounts on permits apply for Residents of East Africa and Citizens of Uganda.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of local Ugandan culture, visits can be arranged to the local community to see traditional costumes and jewelry making. You may also want to visit the Batwa (Pygmy) families in the area. Village walks are available for a nominal price. Locally produced craft items can be purchased from the park tourist office, local craft shops and Lodge gift shops.
- Gorilla Forest Camp - up-market
- Clouds Lodge (Nkuringo) - up-market
- Gorilla Resort - mid-market
- Engagi Lodge - mid-market
- Buhoma Homestead/Lodge - mid-market
- Nkuringo Safari Lodge (Lake Mutanda) - mid-market
- Buhoma Community Bandas - budget
- Travellers Rest (Kisoro - Bwindi/Nkuringo sector) - budget