Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is found in the south-western part of Uganda near the Democratic Republic of Congo situated on the border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift.
DRIVE TIME TO BWINDI NATIONAL PARK
The driving time to Bwindi depends on where you come from. If you are from Kigali, Rwanda, its 3-4 hours drive while from Kampala or Entebbe Airport, it is 8 -9 hours drive. The journey is amazing as it enables visitors to view the rolling hills of Kigezi region, Lake Bunyonyi, the Uganda Equator, roadside craft and fresh fruit shops. The changes in vegetation, rivers, and escarpments before reaching Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – the home of mountain gorillas. In terms of kilometers, from Kampala to Bwindi is 550 kilometers on a fairly good road that is currently under construction.
GETTING TO BWINDI FROM RWANDA
For those coming from Kigali to Bwindi Forest park, Virunga express bus service has different bus terminals in Rwanda so board any Virunga bus from any part of Rwanda up to Kigali Virunga Express office in Nyabugogo Taxi Park. They also have Virunga Express costa buses on routes from Gisenyi, Musanze, and Butare daily from Kigali to Kabale at 3:00 pm (Rwanda time)
The Southern Region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a reasonable distance from Kigali Airport.
Where to Stay on a Safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
There are lots of places to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. From luxurious 5 star lodges to budget camping, there are lots of options for tourists visiting the park. Mountain gorilla or birding safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are incomplete without lodging or accommodation facilities for tourists to spend a night. The availability of these facilities is what makes travelers enjoy their safari in the destination with minimal disturbance. Below we profile the best-recommended lodges for safari accommodation in Bwindi.
A. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp: This camp, located on a hillside nestled in the rain forest, is within walking distance of the starting point for the park’s gorilla tracking. A luxury tented camp with eight en suite double rooms, each with two queens sized beds, a private wooden deck and a bathtub with a view of the forest, Gorilla Forest Camp provides a beautiful and relaxing setting
B. Ruhija Gorilla Lodge: Ruhija Gorilla Lodge, located in the middle of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, offers unique luxury accommodation with breathtaking views of the forest. The lodge’s en suite rooms, carefully designed to blend in with the natural environment have comfortable beds, beautiful furnishings, and hot and cold running water. The lodge’s unique setting offers guests peace and tranquillity and a home away from home where they can enjoy the melodies of insects and birds, surprise visits from monkeys and the night time sounds of the jungle
C. The Engagi Lodge: This lodge, located only a short distance from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, has wonderful views. All cottages are en suite and face the rain forest. The lodge’s spacious lounge and dining area offer excellent views, providing the perfect place to enjoy sundowners and dine in the midst of the sights and sounds of the forest.
Batwa Cultural Experiences
The Batwa cultural experience was put in place by the displaced Batwa pygmies to educate their children and to share their amazing heritage and traditions with the world. The Experience takes place outside of the park in an old-growth forest on land that is next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. The Batwa experience begins with a nature-walk, hike through the forest seeing the forest in a new way, through the eyes of the original people of the Forest. Learn how they hunted the small animals they used for food, what things they gathered, how traps and nets were used.
The Batwa Experience will also show you how they lived in huts made of grass, trees, the use of tree-houses, caves. Experience the Batwa village life of old, the sharing, of living as a community, as a people, learn the things that they revered and cared for and almost lost. Visit a traditional Batwa homestead and learn from the women how to prepare, cook and serve a meal. You will also have the opportunity to sample the prepared dishes.
Hiking and Nature Walks in Bwindi
Besides gorilla trekking, Bwindi offers yet another interesting activity-hiking/nature walks where tourists can get to explore several attractions in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The hiking is normally from the north of Bwindi to the South. You can have an overnight stay and continue the next day down to Lake Mutanda where you paddle across in a wooden dugout and continue to the town of Kisoro. A boat ride is also possible at Lake Mutanda.
The hiking time ranges from 5 to 9 hours or less. You can opt to have a Kashasha River Trail: While on this trail, be ready to spend at least 5 hours and it involves steeper inclines especially if you take the Buhoma to Nkuringo route which is 600 meters up at the end of the trail. Knowledgeable and experienced guides will answer all your questions about the wildlife and the birds, plants, flowers, ferns, and trees in the area.
Cycling & Mountain Biking in Bwindi
Enjoy cycling tours and mountain biking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National park as you extend your support to the locals through the Ride 4 a Woman project. The Organization offers a brand-new activity enjoyed at Buhoma that allows a visitor to partake a variety of Bicycle rides within the forest and within the local community. Those people that participate in such activities directly offer to support the neighboring community.
During this bike ride, visitors learn about the lifestyles of the Batwa as well as Bagika people and will see as well as learn things they knew nothing about, tour the fascinating craft center, the traditional medicinal healer with his different medicines collected from the forest, the gin distillery and the banana brewery, Mukono Primary School, as well as the river to see women washing their clothes, in addition, to observe the plentiful of butterflies on the adjacent rock and above all the Batwa-Pygmy community.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is known haven for Mountain Gorilla trekking with over 400 mountain gorillas resident in the highlands of this tropical rain forest. There are 4 locations for gorilla trekking in this park; i.e. Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo sectors with over 35 gorilla families but only 14 gorilla groups are habituated as of 2018. Gorilla trekking permits are available for purchase at the reservations office of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Headquarters or through a reputable tour agent at only USD600.00 per person.
On a typical day of gorilla trekking, you’ll leave early in the morning for your briefing at the Park HQ where after the trek for the gorillas will commence from. Only 8 visitors are allowed to view the gorillas for one hour per day, participants must be aged 15 or over. and they will be accompanied by UWA guides while with the Gorillas. Gorilla trekking is an activity that can last a few hours to almost the whole day, depending on how far the group has moved since it was observed nesting up the previous evening.
Gorilla Habituation Experience
Besides the popular gorilla trekking activity in Bwindi, the Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced gorilla habituation since January 2014. This activity can only be done in Bwindi Forest! Gorilla habituation is done all year round in Bwindi forest as well as booking for its permits, however, we recommend early bookings. A single habituation permit goes for 1,500 US dollars per person inclusive of park entry fees. Once you’ve booked your permit, you are guaranteed to spend four hours with gorillas contrary to one-hour gorilla trekking encounter.
If you are interested in the gorilla habituation experience, please contact us in advance to reserve you gorilla habituation permit as part of your gorilla tour package. You can also contact Uganda Wildlife Authority’s reservations office by mail if you want to book the permit directly.
Bird Watching in Bwindi Forest
Tourists can not only visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for mountain gorillas but also for bird watching experience since the forest is known to be a bird watchers haven with 350 bird species on record which include 25 restricted-range species such as Green Broadbill -Pseudocalyptomena graueri-Vulnerable, Grauer’s Rush Warbler -Bradypterus graueri; Endangered, Chapin’s Flycatcher -Muscicapa lendu; Vulnerable and Shelley’s Crimson-wing -Cryptospiza Shelley- Vulnerable.
Many of the bird watching tours at Bwindi forest are at the Buhoma area along the forest margins and on village paths or in the Ruhija section where forest birding and swamp birding take place with knowledgeable local guides. The gem for forest birding at Ruhija is at the Mubwindi swamp where some rare Albertine endemics and lifers can be observed in their national habitats.
About Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
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 400 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.
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. Spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the source of five major rivers, which flow into Lake Edward. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks are available on a visit to Bwindi forest national park.
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