The Impenwtrable Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1942, upgraded to the Bwind Impenetrable National Park in 1992 and recognised as a World Heritage Site in 1994. in the local Rukiga language, Bwindi actually means ‘Impenetrable.’ This double warning is apt, for Bwind is all but impenetrable; 327km2 of tangled vegetation draped over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high, draughty ridges. But if the terrain is far from easy to negotiate, it is well worth the effort. Atrek thruogh this, one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests, in search of the endangered Mountain Gorillas, ranks among the world’s premier wildlife encounters.
Flora and Fauna
Bwindi support a tremendous biodiversity as a result of two factors. Firstly, its slopes extend over a broad altitudinal range of 1447m to creat habitats ranging from lowland forest at 1160m to rare Afromontane vegetation above 2600m. Secondly, it is extremely old. When most of Africa’s forests disappeared during a rid conditions of the ice age (12,000-18,000 years ago), Bwind was on of a few ‘refugia’ that persisted.
Consequently, while most of today’s forests are no more than 12,000 years old, Bwindi’s vegetation has been weaving itself into tangles over at least 25,000 years, in the process accumulating a lengthy species list. This includes 310 species of butterflys, 51 reptiles, 200 trees, 88 moths and an exceptional 120 types of mammal including 10 primates. The latter includes chimpanzee, baboon, L’Hoest’s, red tailed and blue monkey, black and white colobus and Bwindi’s most famous residents, the mountain gorilla.
Gorilla tracking is a captivationand unforgetable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Bwindi has seven habituated gorilla groups that are tracked by tourists. Three of these are in the vicinity of Buhoma and one at Nkuringo.
- The Mubare group (‘M’ group) was opened for tourism in 1993 and consists of 6 members with one sliverback.
- The Habinyanja group (‘H’ group) was opened for tourism in 1998 and is composed of 18 individuals with 2 sliverbacks.
- The Rushegura group (‘R’ group) is composed of 19 members and was opened for tourism in 2002
- The Nkuringo group (‘N’ group) was opened for tourism in 2004 and is composed of 19 members and one sliverback.
- The Nshongi group was opened for tourism in September 2009 and composed of 36 individuals with 3 sliverbacks.
- Bitukura group (‘B’ group) was opened for tourism in December 2008 and is composed of 13 individuals.
- Kyaguriro group (‘K’ group) with 17 members
Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought after tourism activity. You should book well in advance to ensure that permits for your requested dates are available.
Gorilla tracking can be challenging and you need to be reasonably fit. Registration and briefing at Buhoma park office and Nkuringo commences at 0745 hours tracking states at 8:30am and can last from a few hours to the whole day depending on where the gorillas are in the forest.
Around the Park
Though gorilla tracking is the main attraction, a range of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rainforests. These walks can be arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00am and in the afternoon at 1415hours
- Munyanga River Trail in the valley below Buhoma (park office) provides an ideal short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge.
- Waterfall Trail leads hrough one of Uganda’s most pristine tracts of rainforest, passing beneath tree ferns, epiphytic ferns and orchids to visit three sparking waterfalls.
- Rushura Hill Trail provides expansive views across the plains of the western rift valley to the west and (on clear days) Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains to the north.
- Muzabajiro Loop Trail climbs to the summit of Rukubira Hill for breathtaking views of Bwindi forest, the western Rift Valley and the Virunga volcanoes.
- River Ivi Trail follows an old road through beautiful forest emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest. It is highly recommended for bird watchers.
Any time, though conditions are more challenging during the rainy season.