Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda on the rim of the Rift Valley. The hillsides which are mist-covered are sheltered by one of the ancient and very biologically varied rainforests in Uganda that dates back to more than 25,000 years, comprising of about 400 varied plant species. The park is one of the most visited in Uganda and the local communities near the area receive 10% of the income earned on permit as they enter the park. There are activities like gorilla tracking, forest walk, bird watching and community walk. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Reserve was gazette in the year of 1942 and later in 1992 it was upgraded to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and in 1994 it was recognized as a World Heritage Site in Uganda. In local language (Lukiga), Bwindi actually means ‘Impenetrable.’ This repeated warning is apt, for Bwindi is all however impenetrable; 327 km2 of tangled plant life draped over a deep fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys & high, draughty ridges. However if the terrain is far from easy to manage, it’s well worthy the effort. Bwindi is usually cold in the morning and at night. The annual average temperature ranges 7oc-200c with the coldest period being June and July, warm clothes are required, plus wet weather gear since Bwindi receives up to 2390mm of rain per year. This is concentrated during two wet seasons, short rains in the March-May and heavy rains in September –November. Instead of short tropical deluges, rain in Bwindi often falls for long hours of soft drizzle. How to get there Bwindi lies in south-west of Uganda, about 530km from Kampala to the park. The park can be reached by road from several directions Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya)-Kihihi-Buhoma. This route passes the park’s southerly Ishasha sector, providing the chances of stopover to search for the tree climbing lions. Bwindi is 160km from Mweya and 64km from Ishasha. Kampala-Kabale-Kanungu-Buhoma This route follows a tarmac high way to Kabale(414km) and takes 5-6hours. The next section which flows winding murram roads 120kmpasses through Kanungu and Kanyantorogo and it takes 4-5hours and a4WD vehicle is required. Kampala-Ntungamo-Rukungiri- Kihihi-Buhoma This is the quickest and most direct route from Kampala to Buhoma. Tarmac covers 390km to Rukungiri followed by 82km murram road , African massage to Buhoma. Kampala-Kabale-Ruhija-Buhoma The Kabale –Ruhija-Buhoma segment on this route is 95km on a murram road which takes 3-4hours on amurram road. This section requires a 4WD vehicle strictly .The reason being the road is not usually used by the public. Kampala-Kabale-Nkuringo Nkuringo is 105km from Kabale and the drive takes 3hours on mountainous murram roads. Most visitors prefer prefer having anight in Kisoro (80km from Kabale) before proceeding to Nkuringo. The road from Kisoro is winding35km that takes 1-1.5hrs.A4wD is recommended for both approaches. And to either ways Nkuringo or Rushaga groups. Air transport Travellers can fly from Entebbe to Kampala (Kajansi air field) to a modern tarmac air strip at Kisoro. Visitors to Buhoma can chatter planes to the grass of Kayonza air strip. ACCOMODATION Buhoma A range of accommodation caters for both upmarket and budget visitors. It is advisable to book in advance to avoid any inconviencies . Up-market and moderate locations; • Gorilla forest camp • Mantana tented camp • Volcanoes Bwindi Camp • Gorilla Homestead • Buhoma Homestead • Lake Kitandara Camp • Gorilla Resort • Wagtail eco camp Budget locations • Buhoma community campground • Bwindi view canteen Ruhija Aself catering guest house can be booked through Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters in Kampala. Flora and Fauna Bwindi supports tremendous biodiversity as result of two factors. First of all, its slopes extend over abroad altitudinal range of 1447m to create habitats ranging from lowland forest at 1160m to rare Afromontane vegetation above 2600m.Secondly,it is very old. When most of Africa’s forests disappeared duing the arid conditions of the last ice age(12,000-18,000 years ago), Bwindi was one of the a few ‘refugia ‘ that persisted. Consequently, while most of today’s’ forests are no more than 12,000years ago, Bwindi’s vegetation has been weaving itself into tangles over at least 25,000 years ,in the process accumulating a lengthy species list. In addition to the endangered impressive mountain gorillas there are also 346 bird species and more than 200 butterfly species, about 324 species of trees, ten of which are only found in this area in the whole of Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has more than 350 gorillas, forest elephants which rarely seen, duikers, bush bucks, antelopes, and primates like baboons, L’Hoest’s, red-tailed and blue tailed, black and white colobus monkeys. Apart from gorilla tracking which is the main activity, you can also visit the waterfalls, and from the waterfall that’s where power from the community is got. then go for community walk, visit the medicine man, and then visit the Batwa community dances. and there cultural Bwindi is the best place where you can find endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda. Bwindi is a prime destination for bird watchers. It has 350 species including 7 which are IUCN red data listed and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics species which are difficult or impossible to view in East Africa. An experienced bird watcher can view up to 100 bird species aday. Local people The local people the park are mainly Bakiga , Bafumbira and small families of the Batwa(pygmies). Bwindi area supports one of the highest rural population densities in Uganda with 350 people per square km. Around the Park Buhoma Bwindi‘s busiest tourism site is Buhoma on the northern edge of the forest. It is the trailhead for tracking three gorilla groups and a wide arrange of accommodation is available. Though gorilla attraction is the main attraction, a range of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s lovely rainforests. These walks can be arranged to depart at 9:00am and 2:00pm. • Munyanga River Trail in the valley below Buhoma provides an ideal short walk to view birds and primates along the forest edge. • Waterfall trail leads through one of Uganda’s most pristine tracks of rainforests, passing beneath tree ferns , epiphytic fern and orchids to visit three sparkling 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 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 the beautiful forest emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest. It is highly recommended for birdwatching. Buhoma community walk and cultural performances The local community operate avillage walk which takes up to three hours. This immerses visitorsin the village life. The sites visited include atypical homestead, traditional healer and a banana brewery. Local dance groups perform their traditional dances and music in the evenings can also be arranged. Nkuringo As the crow flies ,Buhoma is just 10km from Bwindi’s second gorilla tracking location at Nkuringo on the southern edge of the forest.However this distance is covered by the impenetrable forest and the lovely walk between the two sites which takes 4hours.The Nkuringo trail head lies on the isolated Nteko ridge which enjoys grandstand views across Bwindi forest to the north and towards the virunga volcanoes in the south. Gorilla tracking is the main activity at Nkurigo.Visitors should be fit as the park boundary lies in asteep valley 600m below the road.This provides good exercise before and after tracking gorillars. Nkuringo community Walk Villagers at Nkuringo operate community walk that visits traditional healer, rural homestead, blacksmith and brewers. Ruhija Visitors with their own vehicles should consider crossing the centre of the park from Buhoma park headquarters through Ruhija(a 4WDis essential). The ridge-top route offers visitors into deep valleys containing undisturbed rainforest . Watch out for duiker,primates and both forest and grassland bird species. At Ruhija , birders should take a three hour hike to visit the Mubwindi swamp. Visitors should also climb through the Bamboo zone to find Afroontane vegetation and panoramic views towards Lake Bunyonyi and Mafuga forest. Gorilla Tracking Gorilla tracking is a captivating and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. Bwindi has 4 habituated Gorilla groups that are tracked by tourist. 3 of these are in the vicinity of Buhoma and one at Nkuringo. Buhoma 1. The Mubare group ( ‘M’ group) was opened for tourism in 1993 and consist of ten Gorilla with one silver back 2. The Habinyanja group ( ‘H’ group ) was opened for tourism in 1998 and composed of 21 Gorilla groups with 2 silver backs 3. The Rushegura group ( ‘R’ group) was opened for tourism in 2002 and consist of ten Gorilla with one silver back 4. The Nkuringo group ( ‘N’ group) was opened for tourism in 2004 and consist of 19 Gorilla with one silver back Ruhija In this area we have two trekking groups, one being Bitukura and Oruzogo which was recently habituated in 2011 so making this section to be with 2 groups. Nkuringo Nkuringo , since 2004 has one group which has never split up to now. Rushaga/Rushegura They started habituation in 2000 and it was open for tourists in 2002. It now has 5 groups of Gorilla families, at first it was Nshongi which later spilted into two forming Mishaya and Kahungye. From kahungye they split into two forming Busingye and another group was formed after the battle of two silverbacks that led to the formation of another group called Bweza so that’s how Rushaga family came up with five groups with the biggest group comprising of 25 individuals and the smallest with 11 members. Gorilla tracking is Uganda’s most sought after tourism activity. You book well in advance to ensure that permit for your requested dates are available. Gorilla tracking can be challenging and you need to be reasonably fit. Registration and briefing at the park offices at Buhoma and Nkuringo commences at 07:45.tracking starts at 08:30 and can be last from a few hours to the whole day depending on where the gorillas are in the forest.