The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda.
Located in the South Western part of Uganda, Bwindi sits on 331 square kilometers of low lying and montane forest and borders the Parc National des Virunga of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the verge of the Albertine Rift Valley. Back in then in the year 1994, the Bwindi Forest set aside as an accepted World Heritage site for UNESCO and then gazetted and acknowledged a National Park. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is rich and has a wide range of flora and fauna species; over the 348 bird species, the 27 frog species, 120 mammal species, 220 butterfly species, geckos, chameleons and a number of species that are endangered. There are over 1000 species of flowering plants that include among others the 104 fern species and163 tree species. Among the endangered plant species are the Brazzeia Longipedicellata and the brown Mahogany to mention but a few many of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley Region.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park just like the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and the Virunga National Park of Congo is famous for its gentle giants; the Mountain Gorillas. The Gorilla Beringei Beringei which is the Bwindi population is a group of over 340 individual Mountain Gorillas that are settling in this park. This makes up for a half of the population of the mountain gorillas in the world. In 2006, an increase in the number of gorillas was recorded; from the 300 gorillas in 1997, to 320 in2002 and then later to 340 by 2006 during a census. Poaching, habitat loss and diseases are said to still be the major danger threatening the existence of these Mountain Gorillas.
There are about 12 gorilla groups that are habituated and have been set aside for tracking. The Mubare group was available and open for tourism in 1993 where it became the first group ever in Uganda. The other 2 gorilla groups here are still being habituated and this takes about 4 hours with only 8 persons allowed per day. Gorilla tracking permits in Uganda can be got at US $600 while the Gorilla Habituation permits are only US $1500. These are way cheaper than those of Rwanda which go for US $1500 yet the experience here is much more rewarding and has a lot more to offer.
You can access the Bwindi Forest National Park North of the Queen Elizabeth National Park which is about 3 hours, then via Mbarara from the Kampala City Center, a drive that takes 6 to 8 hours. However one can also access the park from the southern part of Kabale which takes an hour or two. The roads meet at Butogota which is 17 kilometers away from the entry point at Buhoma. It is advisable however that 4×4 vehicles are used because they can withstand the terrain especially when it comes to the rainy seasons.
The accommodation facilities at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park are several however they all depend on the Gorilla group you are or will be tracking. Here is a list of some of the lodging facilities ranging from moderate, budget and luxury found in Bwindi;
- The Gorilla Safari Lodge.
- The Rushaga Gorilla Camp.
- The Bwindi Backpackers Lodge.
- The Travelers Haven.
- The Buhoma Lodge.
- The Clouds Mountain.
- The Silverback Lodge.
- The Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.
- The Engagi Lodge.
- The Buhoma Community Rest Camp.
- The Chameleon Lodge.
The 4 different gorilla groups that are available to be tracked include the following as seen below;
- The Habinyanja group which has 23 gorillas and 2 silverbacks.
- The Nkuringo group which consists of 20 gorillas and 2 silverbacks.
- The Mubare group that has 16 gorillas and 1 silverback.
- Then the Ruhegura group that has 9 gorillas and 1 silverback.
This experience is one that you really shouldn’t want to miss out on so whenever you are in Uganda, the African jewel pass by the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and have yourself an unforgettable memory.