Bwindi impenetrable national park is a very important park found in Kanungu district - southwestern region of Uganda. This Park is situated on the edge of AlbertineRift Valley and shares a border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Virunga National Park. Bwindi national park's importance derives from it being one of a few destinations to provide refuge to almost half of the total mountain gorilla population in the world. Only navigable by foot, the park stretches over an area of 321 square kilometers of lowland and montane forest.
The park’s name Bwindi originates from the local word “Mubwindi” meaning a place filled with darkness. It was called by this name arising from the dark and almost impenetrable nature of the forest and the thickly interspersed vegetation of bamboo, ferns, trees and veins. This also makes the forest a hard one to navigate and you can only access it on foot while following an experienced ranger guide.
The park is well known for hosting more than 1000 mountain gorillas that roam around Bwindi Forest every day. This number almost accounts for half of the surviving mountain gorillas in the world and it's usually referred to as the “Bwindi population”. The other half resides in the neighboring Virunga Mountain range. Conservation efforts in the park have contributed positively to the survival of mountain gorillas and their number has risen significantly from less than 250 to now over 1000 individuals worldwide.
Gorilla trekking is the park's major tourist activity and earns a respected amount of revenue for the country at large. Tourists with intentions to visit the mountain gorillas in Bwindi are required to secure a trekking permit. A permit gives you access to trek habituated gorillas’ families that have grown comfortable being around humans. Trekking may take 3 to 6 hours as you navigate the dark forest trails in search of the mountain gorillas.
An encounter with these beautiful gigantic creatures leaves most people who meet them testifying how it is one of the most precious memories to experience on an African safari.
The park does not only offer safe custody to the gorillas but to also other wildlife species. The forest is one of the richest places in the world with plant and animal diversity. Above 350 bird species with a few endemics to the Albertine rift valley, 120 plus mammal species, and an estimated 200 butterfly species can be encountered in the park.
Species found in the park include chimpanzees, African elephants, small antelope species, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, the giant forest hog and Vervets. The fish species haven’t been recorded that live in the park’s many rivers and streams. Several carnivores also roam the forest from side-striped jackal, African civet and African golden cat as the main sightings.
Gorilla trekking is the chief tourist activity with thousands of guests visiting the park to meet and interact with the renowned mountain gorillas. Visitors are advised to book gorilla permits 4 to 6 months prior to their visit to the park since permits are limited and on high demand. In addition, earlier booking allows better planning and limits shortcomings associated with last minute bookings.
Birders are presented with a beautiful opportunity to encounter over 120 bird species in the forest and encounter a few of the Albertine rift endemics that are found in the park. Birds include the Rwenzori turacos, African green broadbills, Cassin’s grey flycatchers, black-billed turacos, handsome francolins among others.
Interested guests can also arrange expeditions to meet the Batwa who were the original residents of the forest and lived by hunting and fruit gathering. A community experience gifts you a glimpse into how they lived, music and dancing and scrimmage hunting to demonstrate how they used to hunt before they were evicted from the park.
Visitors can easily visit the park at any time of the year, although guests are mostly recommended to visit during the dry season. This runs from June to early August but is also the peak season with larger crowds of guests. The rainy season is also a good time to visit and offers the best bird watching and lower rates for permits and lodging in the park. However, the rainy season comes with shortcomings of hard-to-navigate trails filled with mud, rains and pesky insects.