Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned national park located in southwestern Uganda. It is known for its exceptional biodiversity, particularly as a sanctuary for mountain gorillas, situated in Kanungu, Rubanda and Kisoro Districts, near the border of Democratic Republic of Congo. The park covers an area of approximately 331 square kilometers (128 square miles).
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is most famous for its population of endangered mountain gorillas. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas reside within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, sheltering more than 500 mountain gorillas, which makes it a crucial habitat for their conservation.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This Park is a biodiversity hotspot, with wide range of flora and animal species. It features dense rainforest vegetation, characterised by a diverse array of trees, ferns, vines, and orchids. Apart from gorillas, the park also harbors other primate species like chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and various bird species, including endemic and rare ones. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exceptional value for the conservation of gorillas and its unique ecosystem. Various conservation organisations and the Ugandan government work together to protect the park and its wildlife from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.
What to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows visitors to get up close and personal with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Gorilla trekking requires a permit, which must be obtained in advance. Permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and are limited in number to ensure the gorillas’ protection. It is highly recommended to book your permit well in advance, as they can sell out quickly, especially during peak seasons.
Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking groups are limited to a maximum of 8 people to minimize disturbance to the gorillas. Each group is assigned a trained guide who leads the trek and provides information about the gorillas and the park. The guides are knowledgeable about the gorillas’ behavior, habits, and conservation efforts.
Gorilla trekking can be physically demanding and requires a moderate level of fitness. The treks can range from 1 to 6 hours or more, depending on the location of the gorilla family being visited. The terrain can be steep, muddy, and dense, as the park’s name suggests, so it’s important to be prepared with appropriate footwear and clothing.
Once you reach the gorilla family, you will have a designated time (usually around 1 hour) to observe and photograph them from a close but safe distance. This intimate encounter allows you to witness their behavior, interactions, and social dynamics. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience to be in the presence of these gentle giants.
The park is also rich in cultural heritage. Several indigenous communities, such as the Batwa pygmies, have lived in the area for generations. Visitors can participate in cultural encounters, where they can learn about traditional practices, music, dances, and crafts of these local communities.
Gorilla habituation in Bwindi Impenetrable park.
Gorilla habituation is a unique and immersive experience offered in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, allowing visitors to spend an extended period of time with a gorilla group that is undergoing the habituation process. Gorilla habituation is the process of gradually acclimatizing a gorilla group to human presence. It involves a team of researchers, trackers, and guides spending extended periods of time with a specific gorilla family, allowing them to become accustomed to human presence without feeling threatened.
Unlike regular gorilla trekking, which allows for a 1-hour visit with habituated gorilla groups, gorilla habituation experiences last for up to 4 hours. This extended period provides a more in-depth and immersive encounter with the gorillas. In Bwindi National Park, there are specific gorilla groups designated for habituation. These groups are selected based on their proximity to the park boundaries and their behavior towards humans. The groups undergo a gradual process of habituation over a period of approximately 2 to 3 years.
During the habituation experience, visitors have the opportunity to observe and interact with the gorilla group under the guidance of experienced trackers and researchers. The guidelines and rules for gorilla habituation are similar to regular gorilla trekking, including maintaining a safe distance, avoiding direct eye contact, and following instructions of the guides.
Rules and Guidelines of gorilla trekking in Bwindi national park.
To ensure the safety of both visitors and gorillas, there are specific rules and guidelines that must be followed during the trek. These typically include maintaining a minimum distance of 7 meters (about 23 feet) from the gorillas, avoiding direct eye contact, speaking quietly, and not touching the gorillas or any other wildlife.
What to Bring during gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable National Park?
It’s important to pack appropriately for the trek. Some essential items to bring include sturdy walking / hiking shoes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a rain jacket, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and plenty of water. Porter service is also available at the park entrance if you wish to hire someone to assist you with carrying the backpack.
Best time to do gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The park can be visited year-round, but the dry seasons (from June to September and December to February) are generally considered the best times for gorilla trekking. During these periods, the trails are less slippery, and the weather is generally more pleasant. However, it’s important to note that rain can occur at any time due to the park’s rainforest climate.
Bwindi national park can be accessed by road from major towns in Uganda, such as Kampala and Entebbe. The journey takes around 8-10 hours by road, depending on the starting point. There are also domestic flights available from Entebbe International Airport to Kihihi or Kisoro airstrips, which are closer to the park.