Travel info for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda

A mountain gorilla refuge

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Kanungu, Uganda

GPS: -1.0376228364108, 29.717415293029

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Meaning “impenetrable” in the local Lukiga language, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest 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 situated in southwestern Uganda, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the Albertine Rift.

The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was classified in 1991. Four sectors of the park are dedicated to the observation of this endangered species in their natural habitat by small groups of visitors. These gorillas in the wild have grown accustomed to the presence of humans. Their DNA is 98 to 99% identical to that of humans and these primates are among the most fascinating creatures on the planet.

A true tropical jungle, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is not only home to the mountain gorilla, but is also known as one of the best birding areas in Africa, as well as an area for viewing the black and white Old World colobus monkeys who seldom descend to the ground, chimpanzees and butterflies. From its lowest point, the Ishasha Gorge at 1,200 metres above sea level to its highest point, the 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, viewing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat will forever be etched into your memory.

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  • The forest offers an amazing ecosystem and biodiversity; there are no roads inside the park
  • One of the oldest and most diverse tropical forests in Africa with more than 1,000 plant species recorded
  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is among the last sanctuaries for the endangered mountain gorillas
  • You will meet face-to-face with gorillas in the wild (they are composed of 12 different families: Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Nkuringo, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Bweza and Busingye)
  • The area is also home to varied fauna such as chimpanzees, baboons, l’Hoest’s monkeys, side-striped jackals, African golden cats, African civets, African forest elephants, antelopes, bats, reptiles, wild pigs and more
  • There are more than 300 species of birds such as eastern yellow-billed hornbill, turaco, passerine, and owls, 200 varieties of butterflies including the Old World swallowtail and 27 types of frogs, including many endemic species
  • The forest has multitude of flora including flowering plants, native trees, shrubs, ferns, and vast stands of bamboo
  • 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 night-time guided nature walks; the 13km mountain bike tour from Buhoma camp to the Ivi River; visits to villages and cultural encounters with the people of the mountain, known as Kigas, and the Batwas Pygmies
  • The Batwa Pygmies are an endangered nation and were the oldest inhabitants of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest before they were expelled in 1964 by the state of Uganda in exchange for a small financial compensation. The Batwa Pygmies are now dependent on the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust
  • This densely populated rural area of Uganda with an 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 hunter-gatherer communities whose traditional way of life has always been based on the exploitation of forest and agricultural resources.
  • 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 in 2019 and another seven 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 viewed 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), when it 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 ( reservations@wildlife.go.ug). 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.
  • It is important that you dress to meet the challenges of the forest. The thick vegetation and rugged terrain can cause injuries. No sandals, sleeveless tops and shorts. Instead, make sure your body is well covered and wear rubber boots. A raincoat can 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

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

Where to stay

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