Bwindi National Park

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE GORILLA  NATIONAL PARK:

The 330 square Kilometer Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a national reserve in Uganda with the most unique ecosystem in Africa. It is tucked away in the south western region, towards the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the South. The Impenetrable park is south of the Queen Elizabeth National park, Ishasha sector, bordering with Lake Edward, in which, the River Munyaga and River Ishasha drain their waters from the forests. This world heritage site, is comprised of hills and Valleys, with a true typical African rain forest that hosts over 50% of the World’s population of the endangered Mountain Gorillas.

 

The vegetation at the Bwindi Impenetrable gorilla park comprises of flora that has survived the Pleistocene era, some 2.5 million years ago when some of the world’s rare species took refuge in these rift valley asylums during the great chill.The Bwindi area was formed as a result of the up warping of East Africa’s rift valley during the times of Volcanic activity while also creating the towering Rwenzori Mountains which still have ice covered peaks.

 

The Afromontane forests which also comprise of more than 45 species of ferns  with over 200 other species of trees, Vines, shrubs and nettles also host some rare wildlife that alongside the Mountain gorillas, share the forest. These animals include: Chimpanzees, Forest elephants, Lhoest monkeys, Black and white colubus monkeys, Blue monkeys, giant forest hogs, red tailed monkeys, side striped jackals, African golden cats, African Civets and other wildlife. Other unique wildlife includes; rare horned chameleons, Butterflies, forest duikers and golden cats.

 

The headquarters of the Bwindi Impenetrable National park are at Buhoma, which also acts as the administrative base for tourism activities and wildlife conservation of the area. Most of the activities like gorilla trekking, birdwatching, nature walks and training start from this point.

 

The first Mountain gorilla trekking habituation in Uganda was conducted here in early 1990s and the first gorilla trekking was opened to tourists in 1993 when the two gorilla groups; Mubare group and Katendegere were habituated and became the first groups to open up for Tourism in the country. The process of gorilla habituation involves daily approaching of the wild gorillas for over a year, having to deal with aggressive behavior and charging by the silverback gorillas. This process ends when the gorilla group finally accepts the humans in their vicinity.

 

Other gorilla trekking sites have since been launched which include: The Rujija sector, where research gorilla groups are open for scientific study and monitoring. Also a region rich in forest birding where birders can see the African broadbill lifer.

 

Nkuringo gorilla sector which is in the southern part of bwindi was commissioned in 2004 which at the time, had the largest mountain gorilla group of over 28 individuals which included 2 silverbacks. This has now split to form other gorilla groups which are visited on separate treks. Trails to see the Volcanoes if Rwanda and the Congo are conducted here as well as cultural trips to the local Batwa communities.

 

In the neighborhood, is another gorilla trekking site the Rushaga area that was opened in 2009. This section boasts of 3 gorilla trekking groups and a Batwa cultural community as well as waterfall trails where forest elephants can be seen at the waterholes close to the national park boundaries.

 

The altitude of Bwindi is between 1190 to about 2670 meters above sea level.
Access to Bwindi is either by air from Kampala or Entebbe utilizing private air or by road.

 

Presently, 11 Groups of Gorillas are available for Gorilla trekking and these average 4 – 35 gorillas. However, please note that this information changes with time, due to births, deaths of the gorillas and fights and dis intergration of the groups:

 

(1)Rushegura group of about 10 individuals,

(2)Habiyanja group of 23 Gorillas,

(3)Bitukura group of 13 Gorillas,

(4)Nkuringo group of 18 gorillas

(5)Nshongi group of 28 gorillas.

(6) Bikingi group of …. Gorillas

(7) kyaguriro group of 17 is a research group.

(8) Mubare group of about 5 gorillas.

(9) Kahungye

(10) Mishaya gorilla group

(11) Kahungye

(12) Oruzoogo group with over 20 gorillas.

 

In total, over 100 tourists can view Mountain gorillas on a single in Uganda.

 

Gorilla trekking starts by assembling at the park offices to have the briefing and allocation of the gorilla group. There after, each gorilla trekking group is assigned a tracker, guide and security personnel that would be accompanying the trekkers on the Hike. The trek starts from the area there the gorillas were left feeding the previous day. From the nests from the previous nights accommodation, the trail of chewed up plant material, dung, hairs and the damaged vegetation trail leads to the location of the gorillas that would be feeding, playing, napping or simply relaxing. An hour is allocated for viewing and photographing these gentle Giants before heading to a safe Distance where picnic lunches are provided. The Gorilla safari of the day, ends with a shorter route back to camp for certificates of gorilla trekking.

 

The price of the Gorilla ticket or permit is currently US$600 which includes Park entry fees for the day and entitles one to a maximum of one hour with the Gorillas, guide services and a trekking certificate. In the low traffic months of April, May and November, the price reduces by USD250.

 

The bird count of Birds at Bwindi is over 370 species among these, 23 of the 24 endemic Albertrine Rift bird species. The Butterfly count is presently over 200 species. This Afro Montane Rain Forest also supports very rare plants, and other wildlife including the Rare Lhoeste Monkeys, Blue Monkey, Black and White Colubus, Red tails, Blue Duiker, Giant forest Hog, Forest elephant and Buffalo.

 

Other than Gorilla trekking, activities at Bwindi Include self guided trails around the park offices subject to gorillas not being in the vicinity, A water falls trail to the River Munyaga may point out blue monkeys, black and white colubus, forest birds, Giant forest Hog and snails. There are several resting places on the trail to relax and have a picnic lunch. A  Village walk to have a feel of An African way of life is also possible, in collaboration with the local community.

Accommodations in the Bwindi Impenetrable National parks are based on private tented camps or mid range tourist lodge accommodations with more comfortable facilities.

 

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