Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
While the generic idea of a safari in Africa would comprise of an endless plain with dry grass, big predators stalking helpless prey and a heat warming sunset to cap it off, there is quite a lot more to offer in this continent. You might not even believe what you are in store for when you step a little high up into the rolling forests on Uganda, where one of the most majestic and endangered species of primates resides. Not only this, it is completely different from anything you would’ve seen in your life. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of those national parks that is one of a kind. An 8-hour drive from Entebbe will bring you to the rolling hills in Southern Uganda where the Bwindi national park is located. It is in the vicinity of several other national parks with a similar terrain of mountains and deep valleys with lush vegetation like the Mgahinga National Park as well as the Virunga National Park. However, the Bwindi national park is the most famous, the most diverse and the largest of its kind in Uganda.
Rich Fauna You’ve Never Seen Before
While the experience of watching these mountain gorillas in the wild should be enough to bring you to Bwindi, there are other reasons why this will be a visit that will be irreplaceable. The forest is lush and dense; the canopy so thick it allows light through only in patches; there are no paths, no directions or signs. Add to that the untouched growth of wild foliage filled with vines, creepers and trees a hundred years old. It is also known to have the richest faunal community in East Africa, while also boasting some staggering diversity. Over 200 species of trees, 100 species of fern, 350 species of birds and 200 species of butterflies adorn this mystical landscape. The bird species include 22 out of the 36 endemic Albertine Rift species – something no other sector in East Africa can boast. A singular walk inside the Bwindi national park will instantly transport you to a world that you have not imagined before.
The Ideal Place To Visit the Majestic Gorillas
Encompassing 33,000 Hectares of a lush and literally impenetrable forest, it is home to some of the most diverse species of flora and fauna. What adds to the mystifying nature of the forest is the fact that 60% of the entire national park is above 2000 meters from sea level. That is where you find the famous and endangered Mountain Gorilla. Amidst the clouds and the impenetrable foliage, the mountain gorillas live in harmony and co-exist with one another. These primates have an intimidating demeanor but live a gentle and remarkable life in the forests. With less than 900 mountain gorillas surviving in the world, the forests of Uganda house more than half of those. The Bwindi national park houses over 350 of these mountain gorillas.
Often called The Place of Darkness due to its dense canopy, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park makes for the ideal location for these mountain gorillas to thrive. Its 330 square kilometers provide ample space for these gorillas to peacefully coexist, something that was not available so freely until a few years ago when habitat loss was one of the biggest factors that led to falling numbers of the species. So make sure you have that piggy bank filled up to the brim before making all your bookings – the fees for a trekking permit in Uganda are sky-high, and a lot of that money is recycled into maintaining and preserving the habitat that these gorillas call home.
When it comes to the habituation experience with Gorillas, there are 15 gorilla groups that can be viewed in Bwindi. Owing to the tremendously confusing terrain and expanse of the Bwindi national park, it is divided into four sectors that are the most popular for gorillas: Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and the Ruhija.
Different Sectors for Gorilla Habituation
Situated on the northwestern side of the Bwindi national park, this is the most popular tourist sector when it comes to gorilla tracking. This is also the reason behind the abundance of lodges in this area. The gorilla groups that can be visited over here are the Habinyaja, Rushegura and the Mubare group. The Mubare group was the first group to be habituated in Bwindi. The reason behind high tourist numbers is due to the vast choices in accommodation from budget to luxury lodges, along with the spectacular view of the valley from this side of the forest. It is also pretty close to the headquarters and therefore not as challenging to connect to this sector when compared to the other sectors that are known for Gorilla trekking. It can be considered as the most basic yet beautiful of gorilla habituation opportunities owing to its proximity as well as overall elevation (lowest in comparison to the other areas). It is ideal for first-time travelers.
Habituated families of gorilla such as the Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro group reside in this sector that is located on the Eastern side of the national park. The Kyaguriro group is habituated only for research purposes. At an elevation of 2350 meters, this sector is home to the highest hiking trail in Uganda – Rwamunyoyi Peak. Apart from the gorillas, there are elephants as well as hundreds of birds that can be viewed in this sector. Due to its elevation as well as scant gorilla groups, this sector is usually less congested. It is connected with the Buhoma side and is a 2-hour drive from that sector. It also has a range of accommodation to offer for tourists but will require a smart travel plan due to the inaccessibility during the rainy season. Therefore, it is best to ask a local guide to figure out these facilities for you.
Considered as the World’s capital city for mountain gorillas, this sector located in the southern part of the national park is home to six different gorilla groups. Five of them are famed for gorilla tracking and one for habituation. These are the Bweza, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye and Busingye group. The group open to the habituation experience is the Bikingi group. Permit costs and trip costs for all of these might vary from season to season. The GHE or Gorilla Habituation Experience that one can avail in this sector makes it very very popular and famous globally. However, make sure you are in healthy and fit condition because this sector is historically known as one of the most strenuous gorilla treks that are available. So make sure you come well prepared and well equipped for long treks through dark and misty trails that die away into the deep forest.
This sector, also in the south of the national park, is home to two groups of gorillas. The group for trekking is the Nkurigo group and the group for habituation is the Bishaho group. This sector is also a strenuous climb and makes for a challenging task to traverse the rolling hills along with the overgrowing vegetation and dense canopy. There is a great reward, however, owing to the Nteko ridge upon which this sector is located. It provides spectacular views of the entire Bwindi forest in the north and the Virunga volcanoes in the South.
All these sectors are divided for the ease of making choices when it comes to visiting the gorillas. However, if you are uncertain, pick any one that suffices your needs. It will certainly exceed your expectations.
Our efforts to maintain, preserve and foster these habitats will go a long way in ensuring that the future generations have the pleasure of witnessing these majestic creatures in the wild. This makes it that much more important to visit these national parks and contribute to the funding that goes into the preservation and restoration of these lands. What’s more, you witness a silence that engulfs the trekking experience as you wait to spot the surprisingly graceful movements of these gorillas. They come out of the thick vegetation and disappear just as quick. Hours of patience coupled with the scrupulous knowledge of local tribesmen and porters will bring you to the moment that you came to Uganda for, and it will never cease to amaze you for the rest of your life.