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Ultimate Guide to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Attractions, Tours, and Wildlife

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda, covering 331 square kilometers.

It is home to over 348 species of recorded birds, 220 species of butterflies, 120 species of mammals, 10 species of ferns, 163 species of trees, and over 1000 species of flowering plants.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The park was established in 1991 to protect the endangered mountain gorillas.

This national park harbors half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, with the other half occupying the Virunga ranges in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in Congo.

It is a great place for tourists who prefer budget gorilla trekking.

The Four Sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

  1. Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi. Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in the southern part of the park. This sector is home to the famous Nkuringo gorilla family, well known in Bwindi National Park for their playful behaviors because of many juveniles. Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi National Park provides spectacular views of the famous Virunga volcanoes, shared between Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. This area of the park should be visited by young and energetic travelers because the Nkuringo gorilla family lives at higher elevations, making it challenging to trek. Occasionally, the Bushaho gorilla family also crosses into the Nkuringo sector from the Rushaga sector.
  2. Rushaga Sector of Bwindi. Rushaga Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located at the extreme southern part of the park, near Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, making it easily accessible from Rwanda. Rushaga Sector of Bwindi National Park is home to five gorilla families. The habituated gorilla families in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi National Park include Bweza gorilla family, Busingye gorilla family, Mishaya gorilla family, Kayungye gorilla family, and Nshongi gorilla family. Rushaga Sector of Bwindi also offers gorilla habituation experiences with Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families. This is the most popular sector for gorilla trekking from Kigali.
  3. Ruhija Sector of Bwindi. Ruhija Sector of Bwindi National Park is located in the southern part of the park and is home to three gorilla families: Oruzogo gorilla family, Bitukura gorilla family, and Kyaguriro gorilla family. Ruhija Sector offers adventurous hiking and interesting trails with the chance to see a lot of wildlife. Ruhija Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can also be reached from Kihihi airstrip if you plan to use an airstrip. It’s also close to the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, famous for tree-climbing lions, which is a four-hour drive away.
  4. Buhoma Sector of Bwindi. Buhoma Sector of Bwindi is situated in the northern part of the park and is one of the most visited sectors. Buhoma Sector of Bwindi had the first gorilla family to be habituated in the national park. Mubare gorilla family was the first to be habituated in 1992, as soon as Bwindi National Park was established. Other gorilla families in Buhoma Sector include Rushegura and Habinyanja gorilla families. This sector is also close to the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kihihi airstrip. It’s known to have the most upmarket lodges for luxurious tourists. Buhoma Sector of Bwindi also boasts various hiking and nature walk trails like the Munyanga trail, Ivy river trail, Muzabajiro loop trail, and Rushura trail that provide panoramic views and the best picnic sites with lots of wildlife and birds to be seen.

Top Things to Do in Bwindi

Gorilla Families in Rushaga Sector of Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest dates back over 25,000 years and survived the ice age.

There are a lot of activities tourists can enjoy while in Bwindi. See some of them below.

  • Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi: Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is the main activity in the park. The park has 15 gorilla groups habituated for tourist purposes. There are four areas for trekking gorillas in Bwindi: Nkuringo sector, Buhoma sector, Ruhija sector, and Rushaga sector. Eight habituated gorilla families can be visited by visitors daily; the rest of the groups are still being habituated, and you can join in the gorilla habituation experience.
  • Gorilla Habituation: Gorilla habituation involves tourists joining researchers in the gorilla habituation process. The sole purpose of habituation is to train gorillas to get used to human presence so that they can be easily trekked by tourists after a period of time. This activity takes 4 hours, unlike the usual gorilla trekking, which takes only 1 hour. You can learn a lot about mountain gorillas and their behaviors, though it involves an extra cost; the experience is fascinating and worth it. The maximum number of persons in a group that can habituate gorillas is only 4 members.
  • Bird Watching: Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is endowed with over 348 species of birds, with 23 endemic to this area. Birds in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park include Ruwenzori nightjar, Yelloweye black flycatcher, Collared Apalis, dusky crimson wing, red-faced woodland warbler, hornbill guide, African green broadbill, purple-breasted sunbird, Archers robin chat, dwarf honey guide, Shelley’s crimson wing, strip-breasted tit, Grauer’s rush warbler, Kivu ground thrush, francolin short-tailed warbler, regal sunbird, mountain masked Apalis, African wood owl, Montane Oriole, western green tinker bird, Doherty’s bush shrike, short-tailed warbler, Red-throated Alethe, chestnut-throated Apalis, and fine-banded woodpecker, to mention a few.
  • Cultural Experience with the Batwa: The Batwa community in Bwindi used to live in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park for over 500,000 years. The people of the forest used to be hunter-gatherers depending on the forest for shade, food, and medicine. They were forced to exit the forest and join the Bakiga tribe that lives outside the forest. They both have unique cultures and cultural values, different from other parts of the world, that can be explored. You can see how the Batwa use different tree stems and roots to heal several diseases, visit the blacksmith, learn how to weave baskets, and, above all, get entertained with local traditional dances and hymns under the African bright shining stars after a hectic gorilla trekking day.
  • Hiking and Nature Walks: Nature walks in Bwindi give visitors insight into exploring the ancient forests further. Different walking and hiking trails have been set up for these activities. During the walks, you will spot a lot of other primates in Bwindi apart from gorillas, such as red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, black and white Columbus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, and many others, not forgetting various species of birds, butterfly species, and a lot of plant species. Some of the trails are the Muzabajiro loop trail, Munyaga river trail, bamboo trail, waterfall trail, and Rushura hill trail. All these trails lead to unique and satisfying destinations you will love.
  • Mountain Biking: There is a 13-kilometer biking trail established in Bwindi that starts from Buhoma sector to the Ivi river. This trail provides opportunities for wildlife watching, including bushbucks, bush pigs, and primates like black and white Columbus monkeys, blue monkeys, and much more, with lots of birds to be seen on the way. This roughly takes about 6-7 hours round trip.

Bwindi Gorilla Families

Nkuringo Gorilla Families

Top mountain gorilla families in Bwindi National Park

  • Nshongi gorilla family: The Nshongi gorilla family is located in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. The family derives its name from the Nshongi River, where the family was first sighted by rangers. Nshongi gorilla family had 35 members at the time of habituation, but later the number reduced to 25 members when Mishaya broke off with 10 members to form his own family. The group split again with Bweza breaking off to form his own family, and now the dominating silverback is Nshongi.
  • Rushegura gorilla family: The Rushegura gorilla family is dominated by Kabukojo silverback. The group was formed after breaking off from the Habinyanja gorilla family when the dominating silverback Mugurusi died. This group is easy to trek in Bwindi, as it’s sometimes seen around the park headquarters, Batwa villages, and Buhoma camp.
  • Nkuringo gorilla family: Nkuringo mountain gorilla family is found in the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi national park. The family was first dominated by the silverback Nkuringo but was taken over by his son Safari when he died. This is one of the gorilla families blessed with a pair of twins in Bwindi.
  • Habinyanja gorilla family: The Habinyanja mountain gorilla family is one of the oldest mountain gorilla families in Bwindi national park. The family was habituated in 1997 and opened up for tourism in 1999. It derives its name from the area where they were first spotted, dominated by the silverback Mugurisi, meaning old man. Mwirima, the son of Mugurusi, broke off to form his own family, now called the Rushegura family.
  • Mubare gorilla family: Mubare mountain gorilla family is the oldest habituated mountain gorilla family in Uganda. The family was first habituated in 1991 and opened up for tourism in 1993. This family can be trekked from the Buhoma region of Bwindi national park. They derived their name from Mubare hills, where the group was first sighted by rangers.
  • Oruzogo gorilla family: Oruzogo mountain gorilla family was opened up for tourism on the 20th of June 2011. This family can be trekked in Ruhijja region of Bwindi and is dominated by Tibirikwata, the silverback. The family is currently composed of 23 individuals. This family was gifted with twins in 2012 when the female Kabobe gave birth to twins.
  • Bitukura gorilla family: Bitukura mountain gorilla family is found in the Ruhijja sector of Bwindi national park. The most interesting thing about this group is that it’s dominated by a young silverback Ndahura, which is uncommon with gorilla families, as the oldest is usually the one dominating the group.
  • Mishaya gorilla family: Mishaya mountain gorilla family was formed when Mishaya, the dominating silverback, broke away from the Nshongi family with some females to form his own group. Mishaya is known for fighting other groups in order to expand his own.
  • Busingye gorilla family: Busingye gorilla family was formed when Busingye broke away from Kahunjye gorilla family to start his own family. This group was opened up for tourism in 2011 and is found in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park. The name of the group means “peace” in the local language.
  • Kahungye gorilla family: The Kahungye gorilla family was opened up for tourism in 2011 and can be trekked in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park. The name of the group was derived from Kahungye hills, where they were first sighted. The group had 27 members before Kahungye broke away to form his own family, and they are now led by the silverback Gwigi.

Is it safe to visit Bwindi?

Visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is very safe compared to most national parks.

You will be accompanied by an armed game ranger to trek mountain gorillas, and the forest is actually very safe to explore.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can only pose a threat during mountain gorilla trekking.

Gorillas are wild animals, so you must be very keen and follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations to avoid being attacked by mountain gorillas, which can lead to severe injuries or even death.

Though visiting Bwindi is safe, you will be recommended to take measures against malaria, as this is a tropical forest where mosquitoes breed, especially in the rainy season.

You can take antimalarial medication or carry a strong insect repellent to avoid mosquito and other insect bites.

Most hotels within or near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have security personnel who ensure the safety of their clients.

Tourism police have also been allocated in different parts of the park to ensure that tourists are safe while trekking gorillas, and they are always on standby in case of any danger.

Uganda has ensured that trekking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is safe, as some part of the money obtained from gorilla trekking is used for conservation efforts and safety measures in Bwindi National Park.

Where to stay

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge

While at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, tourists can choose from various accommodations, ranging from budget to mid-range and luxurious.

However, you should ensure that you book a hotel near the area where you obtained a permit from.

Some of the lodges at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park include Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Mist Camp, Trackers Safari Lodge, Buhoma Community Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Friends Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Resort Lodge, and many others.

When to go

Compliments to your Nkuringo Gorilla Tours

Mountain gorillas in Uganda can be trekked all year round, but the best time to visit is from June to September and December to February during the peak seasons.

During these months, the hiking trails can be easily conquered with ease, and there are no rains to disrupt gorilla trekking.

Visiting in the rainy season will require tourists to come prepared with long-sleeved clothes, good hiking boots, garden gloves, energy snacks, raincoats, insect repellents, and many other things you might need.

For bird lovers, the best time for visiting Bwindi is from November to April when migratory birds are present within the park.

Bwindi Gorilla Permits

Gorilla permits in Uganda cost $700 per person, and Gorilla habituation costs $1500 per person.

During the peak season, tourists are encouraged to book gorilla permits 3 months in advance due to high demand.

When booking a permit, you will need to arrange accommodation within the area where you will be trekking gorillas from.

Map of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Map of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Advantages of Gorilla Tourism in Bwindi

Gorilla tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has led to employment opportunities.

Many people have been employed in the park as game rangers, wardens, and guides.

The lodges where tourists also sleep have created employment opportunities.

Gorilla tourism has also contributed to the conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas.

Gorilla doctors and researchers have been able to study and learn more about mountain gorillas through gorilla tourism.

The regular presence of people trekking mountain gorillas also deters poachers.

Gorilla tourism in Bwindi has generated revenue through the sale of gorilla permits, which cost $700 per person.

Uganda receives a lot of money annually from gorilla tourism, making tourism a significant foreign exchange earner in the country.

Gorilla tourism has also helped to market Uganda as a tourism destination.

Through gorilla tourism, many tourists have been able to visit other national parks in the country like Kidepo Valley and Queen Elizabeth with the help of tour operators who market the country.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has led to community development through the construction of roads, schools, and hospitals in the communities surrounding the park.

Mountain gorillas are not only of great advantage to Bwindi but to the ecosystem as well.

They disperse seeds of the fruits they eat all over the forest.

When the seedlings grow, they replenish the forest and help other animals, including gorillas in the forest, as well as humans living near gorilla habitats because the plants sustain the environment.

Importance of Bwindi Gorillas

Nkuringo Gorilla Trekking Safaris
Rafiki, the late Nkuringo gorilla family silverback

Mountain gorillas are essential because, without them consuming large amounts of vegetation as food daily, there would be disruptions in the natural food chain, which could affect other animals in the area.

Gorillas hold great importance for the people living near mountain gorilla habitats.

They benefit significantly from ecotourism when visitors from all over the world come to see these famous apes.

Countries where gorillas are trekked earn substantial income from gorilla trekking annually.

Additionally, gorillas play a crucial role in seed dispersal within the rain-forests they inhabit, creating spaces for seedlings to grow and replenish the forests.

This is beneficial to humans as well because they depend on this regrowth to sustain the environment.

Mountain gorillas are also vital for the study of the great ape family, which includes humans.

They contribute to sustainable tourism and ecological balance.

Getting There

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be reached from Kampala within 7-8 hours by road.

Tourists can also fly into Bwindi from Entebbe International Airport to Kihihi Airstrip in Bwindi.

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