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Kanungu, Ouganda

GPS: -1.0333194328729, 29.693506799338

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Meaning “impenetrable” in the local Lukiga language, Bwindi is one of the most beautiful forests in East and Central Africa. It owes its nickname to the density of its wild vegetation combined with the steepness of its valleys. Rich in exceptional biodiversity, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the Albertine Rift.

Classified as a national park in 1991 in Kanungu District, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to many endemic species of fauna and flora. Its thick and intricate jungle contains around 400 mountain gorillas. This represents just under half of the world’s population (estimated at around 1,000 individuals). Four sectors of the park are dedicated to the observation of this endangered species in their natural habitat, in small groups, within a strict and highly regulated framework: Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. Accustomed to the presence of humans, these gorillas, whose DNA is 98 to 99% identical to that of humans, are among the most fascinating creatures on the planet.

A true tropical jungle covering 321 km², the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also one of the best birding areas in Africa for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and butterflies. From its lowest point (Ishasha Gorge at 1,200 metres above sea level) to its highest point (Rwamanyonyi Peak at an altitude of 2,600 metres), this protected area has some of the most diverse forest on the continent. Bwindi primary forests contain several hundred species of flowering plants, trees and ferns on the edge of the famous Great Rift Valley. Its terrain is notoriously hostile due to the mountainous relief, lack of roads and a large amount of nettles, brambles and thorns that put off many African reserve enthusiasts. Since the end of the 1990s and the implementation of the first environmental protection measures, the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest seems to have increased significantly. Thanks to the daily involvement of the park’s services and rangers, this emotional visit will remain in your memory forever.

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  • An amazing ecosystem and biodiversity; no roads inside the park
  • One of the oldest and most diverse tropical forests in Africa (over 1,000 plant species recorded)
  • Among the last sanctuaries of the world’s largest endangered primate species, the mountain gorillas
  • The intimidating and impressive meeting with the groups of mountain gorillas living in the wild (they are composed of 12 different families: Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Nkuringo, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza and Busingye)
  • A very varied fauna (chimpanzee, baboon, l’Hoest’s monkey, side-striped jackal, African golden cats, African civets, African forest elephants, antelopes, bats, reptiles, wild pigs…)
  • More than 300 species of birds (eastern yellow-billed hornbill, turaco, passerine, owls…), 200 varieties of butterflies (Old World swallowtail…) and 27 types of frogs, including many endemic species
  • A multitude of floras in a dense vegetation (flowering plants, native trees, shrubs, ferns, bamboo forest…)
  • The tea plantations; the morning mist covering the hills and treetops; the Muyanga Falls (33 metres high); the Munyaga, Ivi and Buhoma rivers; the view of Lakes Edward and George, the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virunga volcanic range
  • Hiking on one of the six main trails in the park (Muyanga Waterfall Walk, Rushura Hill Walk, Muzubijiro Loop, Ivi River Walk, Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail and Habinyanja Trail); the guided nature walks organised by night; the 13 kilometres mountain bike tour from Buhoma camp to the Ivi River; village visits and cultural encounters with the local Batwa Pygmy and Kiga peoples
  • The Batwa Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer people, are the oldest inhabitants of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They were expelled from the forest in 1964 by the state of Uganda in exchange for a small financial compensation.
  • This densely populated rural area of Uganda (average of 230 people per square kilometre on the forest edge) remains an area of tension. Conflicts often arise between the park authorities, who want to preserve the forest, and local communities whose traditional way of life has always been based on the exploitation of forest and agricultural resources.
  • Mountain gorillas are the largest primates on the planet. They are the direct descendants of the Gigantopithecus, a giant gorilla that could reach 3 metres in height and weigh 300 kilograms. These great apes are thought to have disappeared about 300,000 years ago (in Chibanian or Middle Pleistocene era) and lived mainly in the Asian jungle. Fragments of teeth (molars) and mandibles (lower jaws) have been found in caves in Southeast Asia.
  • A male gorilla has 10 times the natural strength of a human being. It spends 6 hours a day feeding and much of its time digesting. Silverback male gorillas are much larger and more massive than females. They regularly compete for the leadership of a group of gorillas in order to breed with several females.
  • The global population of mountain gorillas in the wild is estimated to have increased from 786 individuals in 2010 to over 1,000 in 2018. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest saw the birth of three baby gorillas during 2019 and seven again the following year. Unlike other gorilla subspecies, it is no longer considered Critically Endangered (its classification has been revised in 2018 to Endangered). However, poaching, corruption, armed conflict, human-transmitted infectious diseases, mine development, exploration of drilling areas and forest habitat degradation are all threats to the future survival of the mountain gorillas. The construction of new roads or tourist facilities in the area could also have a negative environmental impact on mountain gorilla populations as well as on other wildlife species. At the national level however, Uganda’s forest cover has increased by 12% since 2005 due to reforestation efforts.
  • The other protected reserves in the region where mountain gorillas can be seen are all located within the Virunga Mountains (or Mufumbiro). These include Volcanoes National Park (northwestern Rwanda), Virunga National Park (northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (southwestern Uganda).
  • Avoid travelling to this region during the rainy season (between March and May and September to November), which is particularly difficult to access.
  • The permits required to view the gorillas are sold at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a government office in Kampala. It is advisable to book at least 3 months in advance ( Bear in mind that 8 to 12 permits are issued per day for each of the four gorilla groups. Visits are made in small groups of up to 8 people.
  • The service of a porter in addition to the obligatory guide can be judicious to facilitate its movements in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (the rangers are in charge of opening the way with machetes).
  • Make sure you are well shod before exploring the omnipotent vegetation and rugged terrain of the national park (the gradient can be significant in some places). Long clothing and a rain coat will be useful when venturing into this wet forest.

Where to eat

  • Little Ritz Bar & Restaurant
    (tasty snacks)
  • Amagara Café
    (various dishes)
  • Bwindi Bar
    (refreshing stop)

Where to go out

  • Lake Bunyonyi
    (sublime and peaceful)
  • Kabale Golf Course
    (enchanting setting)
  • Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
    (at the foot of volcanoes)

Where to sleep

  • Edirisa Museum Hostel
    (association structure)
  • Entusi Resort and Retreat Center
    (community centre)
  • Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort
    (in the middle of Lake Bunyonyi)

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