Are you looking for that one exceptional safari destination that rewards visitors with life changing experiences? If so, then look no further than Bwindi National Park! This spectacular protected area sprawls in southwestern Uganda just at extreme western rift valley. The 331 square kilometer park boasts of its expansive Bwindi Impenetrable Forest one of a few tropical rain forest that still exist in Africa and it survived throughout the last ice age. Its altitude ranges between 1160 and 2607 meters.
Bwindi Forest National Park boasts for its amazing biodiversity and among many include over 120 species of mammals which comprise of rodents, bats, elephants, antelopes and many more as well as several primate species including over 400 mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, red tailed monkeys and others. And for bird lovers, there are over 350 bird species for you to sight, 23 of which are endemic to Albertine rift and over 14 of them can’t easily be spotted in any part of Uganda.
The notable avian species for you to sight while on birding safari in this park include African green broadbill, brown necked parrot, white tailed blue flycatcher, Turacos, hornbills, Frazer’s eagle owl and others. Over 220 butterfly species also call this park their home as well as 27 frog species. Besides, it also offers refuge to over 1000 distinct flowering plant species, over 163 and 104 of them are tree and fern species respectively which makes it one of East Africa’s diverse protected areas. And for those of you who love cultural experiences, this park is surrounded by the Batwa pygmy and Bakiga communities and they are popular for their incredible cultural performances.
What to do in Bwindi National Park
Mountain gorilla tracking
Bwindi National Park is remarkably one of the only 4 spectacular protected areas in the entire world where the critically endangered mountain gorillas live and one area where you can catch a glimpse at them while in their natural habitat. Over 400 of them call this park their home and this represents about half of all those that live on earth today. Gorilla trekking is such amazing and thrilling primate adventure any visitor on safari in Uganda shouldn’t miss. To strike your imaginations with these dramatic creatures, Bwindi National Park comprises of 4 major tracking areas where treks usually start from and they include Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga. Each of these sector features its own habituated groups and about 11 families have been set aside for this lifetime experience. To be part of this life changing adventure, you need $600 to secure your permit. You can book your permits through a recognized tour operator or directly through Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Treks start with early morning briefing at your respective tracking sector and only persons above 15 years are allowed to go for this thrilling experience in a group of only 8 visitors and only an hour is given for you to strike your imaginations with these amazing creatures in the wild. Besides, appropriate packing is a must for this adventure and in your packing list, don’t miss to include hiking boots that are waterproof and lightweight to allow you hike through the steep slopes and thick forest, rain jacket/poncho, first aid kit, gardening gloves, insect repellents and walking stick and this can be got at the park headquarters or at your respective safari lodge.
For some of you who wish to explore this park in depth, nature walks should be a must in your bucket list. To embark on this remarkable experience you will be in one the many marked trails and you will have your dreams achieved. While on hiking tour, you get opportunity to catch a glimpse at different butterflies, primates, birds and explore various tree species. Nature walks at this park include the river Munyanga trail and this is considered to be a short trail walk and ideal for those of you who have less time to spend at the destination. While on nature through this trail, you will be amazed by spectacular views of butterflies as well as explore most of fern tree species and not to forget stunning views of the crystal clear waterfalls. Muzubijiro trail on other hand fills visitors with spectacular views of the magnificent Bwindi impenetrable forest, the Virunga Volcanoes, western rift valley and allows you to explore most of its incredible fern tree species. The Ivy River trail is distinct on its own way and for bird lovers; this is a perfect trail for you to catch a glimpse at several bird species. It takes you nearly the entire day as it is the longest trail in this park. The Rushura trail is dramatic on its own way as it offers remarkable views of the Great Western Rift Valley floor as well as the Congo Virunga National Park, Rwenzori Mountain, Lake Edward and many other areas. Buhoma village walk is amazing as it is the best for you to experience the rural homestead setting, pay a visit to local traditional healers, experience how the banana beer is made locally made or embark on traditional and cultural experiences where you will be amazed by incredible performances from the Batwa or Bakiga. You may also embark on the Bamboo trail walk that rewards visitors with over 14 renowned vegetation zones and don’t forget splendid views of Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga forest.
With over 350 avian species, Bwindi National Park is a true birder’s paradise in East Africa. If you are interested in bird watching tours, expect to spot bird species such as the African green broadbill, rusty faced woodland, bar tailed trogon, dusky crimson, Kivu ground thrush a mention but a few. For amazing birding tours, this park is perfect for you to visit during wet season as most birds are attracted as well as the dry season and interestingly, you can incorporate this experience with gorilla trekking.
When to visit Bwindi National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can be visited at anytime of the year. However, depending on what your travel interests are, it experiences two dry seasons starting from June to September and from December to February and this is noted to be ideal for one to engage in gorilla trekking. The wet season is equally perfect especially if you are interested in birding tours. This season starts from March to April and October to November.
Accommodation in Bwindi National Park
A trip to any destination is complete when there are accommodation options for visitor overnight stay and Bwindi National Park has got wide range of safari lodges and you won’t fail to make a choice whether you are interested in luxury, standard or budget. They include among others the Gorilla Forest Camp, Chameleon Hill Lodge, silverback lodge, Lake Kitandara camp and others.
How to reach to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi National Park can be reached both by road and air. By road, it is about 8 to 10 hours’ drive. You will kick off from Kampala to Kabale and then drive for about 120 kilometers to Buhoma. By air, you can take a flight from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro and then you connect to the park.
In conclusion, Bwindi National Park isn’t only famous for its thrilling gorilla adventures but also other exciting activities that are all worth including in your travel plan.