A Complete Guide to Visiting Bwindi Forest of Uganda

A visit to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is complete when you include mountain gorilla trekking in your travel plan. Trekking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a lifetime experience and offers trekkers a chance to see the rare mountain gorillas in the wild. The massive and humble creatures remain endangered species with only 1004 individuals still thriving on earth. Bwindi National Park is shared by the southwestern districts of Kanungu, Kisoro and Kabale just at border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This park attracts thousands of visitors on Uganda gorilla trekking safari. It boasts of its untamed tropical rainforest and winding through it rewards visitors with magical encounters with the great apes while in the wild.

Visitors on gorilla safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park gather at anyone of its four regions; Ruhija, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Buhoma. It is from these regions where trekkers are briefed on the set gorilla trekking etiquette before they start a search to see gorillas in the wild. Trekkers on Uganda gorilla safari to Bwindi National Park are assigned to one of the 20 groups that have been habituated for gorilla watching. Every day, 8 visitors are allocated to a gorilla family that they are to visit within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The groups that have been habituated for gorilla visits include;

  • Bitukura, Oruzongo, Mukiza, Kyaguriro in Ruhija region east of Bwindi National Park;
  • Mubare, Katwe, Rushegura, Habinyanja in Buhoma area;
  • Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, Mishaya, Bweza, Mucunguzi, Kutu, Rwigi, Bikingi in Rushaga region
  • In the Nkuringo region the habituated gorilla groups include Nkuringo, Christmas and Bushaho.

Best time to visit Bwindi to see gorillas

A visit to Bwindi to see gorillas can be done at any time of the year. However, the dry season is considered the best time to visit Bwindi to see mountain gorillas in the wild. The dry season starts in June, July, August, September and December, January, February. Gorilla safaris in Bwindi National Park can also be done during the wet months of the year beginning March, April, May and October, November.  Each season has its own significance when it comes to gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi National Park. The dry season comes with low rainfall and the habitat remains relatively drier thus making it easier for trekkers to track these creatures. The wet season is characterized by heavy rainfall which makes it a bit challenging to hike through the jungles to search for these massive apes but comes with plenty of forage for them to feed on.

Gorilla trekking permits

With about 160 gorilla permits, visitors on gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi National Park can obtain their permits at $600. However, from 2020, gorilla permits will be obtainable at $700 per person. You can secure one through a local destination management company or reservation office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Each gorilla permit allows trekkers to explore only one habituated family.

Things to pack for gorilla trekking in Bwindi

Visitors on a gorilla safari are advised to pack appropriately starting with essentials. Your packing list should have rain jacket/poncho, waterproof hiking boots, insect repellents, camera with no flashlight, waterproof day pack, long sleeved shirt/t-shirt, valid passport, visa, gardening gloves, socks, sun screen, sun hat, binoculars, walking stick but this can be got at the park headquarters, snacks, bottled water, sweater to mention but a few.

Briefing and length of the trek

Gorilla treks in Bwindi National Park starts with an early morning. The session starts with a briefing from the local guides on the set safety measures and guidelines to watching the mountain gorillas in the wild. It is important to reach the designated outposts within Bwindi in time.

At 8:00am, trekkers start a search for the assigned gorilla group that has been given to you by the park officials. Accompanied by a park ranger guide, embark on the hike through the natural habitat where mountain gorillas live.

Treks normally cover 2-6 hours depending on the movement of the gorillas within the forest. Once you find these creatures, you have only an hour to strike your imaginations! You can take as many photos as you like! You will also learn about their behaviors of the gorillas first hand and feel free to ask the guide what you would like to know. Please note that you need to keep the voices low and you can take the pictures without flash photography.

Gorilla trekking etiquette

Trekkers on gorilla safaris in Bwindi National Park are required to observe the set rules and regulations while on a trek to see mountain gorillas in the wild. They include;

  • No flashlight camera is allowed when taking pictures of gorillas,
  • Always keep a distance of 7 meters away from gorillas
  • You have an hour to have a face to face encounter with these great apes
  • Take nothing but pictures!
  • Learn their behaviors and follow the guide’s advice during the encounter with the gentle giants.
  • Only eight visitors are allowed to trek one habituated group
  • In case of illness, you are not allowed to trek gorillas. While tracking the gorillas, when a call of sneezing comes in, please cover your nose and mouth in case you need to cough;
  • Keep your voices low while on search for gorillas.

Accommodation options at Bwindi National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park comprises of diverse accommodation choices ranging from budget to luxury. Visitors on gorilla safaris can spend a night at Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Clouds Gorilla Lodge, Bakiga Lodge, Mahogany Spring Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, Buhoma Community Rest Camp and many others.

Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Travelers on Uganda gorilla safari can get to Bwindi National Park by road or by flight. By road, it can take you 8-10 hours to drive from Kampala or Entebbe to this park or connect from Kigali through Katuna/Chanika border. The other alternative is taking a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro/Kihihi airstrip.

In summary, Bwindi National Park is one of the magical gorilla destinations in Africa worth visiting to see the rare mountain gorillas in the wild.

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