A UNESCO designated world heritage site that provides habitant to mountain gorilla and chimpanzee, Bwindi is found in South Western Uganda on the edge of western rift valley. It covers an area of 321 square kilometers; it also lies along the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While there is a road that cuts through one section of the park, kabala –Ruhija, and Buhoma road, most areas are accessed on foot.
The park is well known as the home of the world’s mountain gorillas. The Bwindi Forest is described as impenetrable, due to its shear density of vegetation and the vast area it covers. It’s no wonder that in the local language “Bwindi” means a place of darkness because of the thick vegetation, which indeed makes it look impenetrable.
The park is covered by the thick tropical afromontane forest with dense under growth of fern and vines. There are over 324 species of trees, 90 species of mammals, 11 species of primates, 360 species of birds and 23 Albertine rift valley endemic species. Uganda is ranked number one in the world as a destination to experience the thrill of a mountain gorilla safari. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda is an important site for the protection and conservation of these amazing animals.
Attractions for tourists:
The major tourist activity in this park is gorilla tracking. It has ten habituated gorilla groups and eight permits are available for each group, giving a daily maximum of 80 gorilla permits. The park has different gorilla groupings for tracking:
Buhoma: Buhoma is located to the northwest of the park and faces the dark, hilly forests of Bwindi. Three gorilla groups can be tracked from here (Habinyanja (14), Mubare (5) and Rushegura (18).There are also community-run village walks for exploring the culture and lifestyle of the local Bakiga and Batwa tribes. Bird watching is also a major activity with great opportunities to see various Albertine Rift endemics such as the Short-tailed Warbler. Other activities include mountain biking and nature walks to waterfalls and parts of the forest. There are also numerous accommodations to suit all budgets and many local craft stalls.
Nkuringo: Nkuringo, on the southern edge of the park, became Bwindi’s second gorilla tracking trailhead in 2004 with 19 members. Tracking the Nkuringo groups is strenuous, for their forest home lies a full 600m below the trailhead at Ntungamo village on Nteko ridge. Walks along the ridge-top road provide superb views north towards the forested hills of Bwindi and south to the Virunga volcanoes. There are also opportunities to discover the Bakiga culture through village walks, vibrant dance performances and cultural workshops organized by community groups.
Rushaga: Once called the Nshongi trailhead in the southeast of the park, was opened for gorilla tourism in 2009. Many more groups have since been habituated and marketed under the name Rushaga . They include : Nshongi,Mishaya , Busingye , Bweza and Kahungye can be tracked from this point. The trail descends into the depths of the forest directly to the south of the park. Furthermore, this area offers village walks, bird watching and a spectacular waterfall.
Ruhija: On the eastern side, sitting on top of the hill at 2,345m, Ruhija is home to the Bitukura (12), Oruzoojo (15) and Kyaguriro gorilla groups. Ruhija is Uganda’s highest tracking trail, and one of only two areas the other being Rushaga- where elephants reside.
A six-hour bamboo trail leads to Rwamunyoni Peak; at 2,607m, it is the highest point in the park and notable for good birding. Also of interest to birders is the three-hour trail descending to Mubwindi swamp along which one could find the endemic and localized African Green Broadbill.
Bwindi Park is also part of Uganda’s topmost bird watching destinations with more than 350 birds, including many localized albertine rift endemic species.