Welcome to our Ultimate Guide to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda for 2023!
If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful and unique national park, you’ve come to the right place.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to over 400 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies, and of course, the famous Mountain Gorillas.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking for a new adventure, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll be sharing all the information you need to plan the perfect visit, from the best time to go and how to get there, to what activities to do and where to stay.
So, let’s get started and discover why Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a must-see destination in Uganda!
SKIP TO A SECTION
About Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
What is the meaning of Bwindi?
So, “Bwindi” is actually a local word from the language of the indigenous people living in the area. It means “impenetrable” or “dark” which perfectly describes the thick and dense forest that covers the park.
It’s a fitting name for sure, as the thick foliage and steep terrain makes it a challenging place to navigate.
But, don’t let that deter you, it’s also a beautiful and unique place that’s well worth the visit.
Why is Bwindi Forest impenetrable?
Bwindi forest got its name for a reason. The forest is truly impenetrable. It’s packed with thick undergrowth, tangled vines, and steep slopes that make it nearly impossible to walk through. The forest is also incredibly dense, with a high number of trees and plants growing closely together, making it hard to see the ground let alone walk on it. It’s no wonder it’s called Bwindi, meaning “impenetrable” in the local language! But, it’s not just hard for humans to navigate, it’s also hard for animals, which makes it a great sanctuary for the endangered gorillas and other wildlife.
Where is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Bwindi National Park is nestled in the southwestern part of Uganda, sitting pretty on the edge of the Albertine Rift in East Africa. It’s right up against the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and is neighbors with the Virunga National Park.
Plus, it’s on the doorstep of the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains. The park covers a total area of 321 square kilometers – that’s a lot of land to explore!
What is the best way to get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
The most common way to get to Bwindi is by road. You can take a bus or rent a car from Kampala or Entebbe, and then make your way to the park. The drive takes about 8-9 hours from Kampala and about 5 hours from Entebbe.
The roads are mostly well-maintained, but some sections can be rough, so it’s best to have a 4WD vehicle.
Another way to get to Bwindi is by air. You can take a flight to one of the airports near the park, like Kihihi or Kisoro and then continue by road to the park.
This is a great option if you want to save time and avoid the long drive from Kampala.
Lastly, you can take a guided tour from Kampala or Entebbe. This is a great option if you want to have everything arranged for you, and it’s also a great way to learn more about the culture and history of the area.
So, it really depends on your preference and time availability. But, whichever way you choose to get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the journey will definitely be worth it!
What to Do
What activities are there to do in Bwindi Forest?
There are so many fun activities to do in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest! Whether you’re interested in wildlife, nature, culture or adventure, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has something for everyone.
- Gorilla Trekking: This is one of the main reasons why people visit Bwindi. The park is home to almost half of the world’s remaining population of Mountain gorillas, and visitors can join guided treks to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. It’s an unforgettable experience, but it’s also quite strenuous and can take up to 8 hours.
- Bird watching: Bwindi is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 400 species of birds, including many that are found only in this area. The forest is also home to a number of other primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys.
- Hiking and Nature walks: Bwindi is a great place to explore on foot, with a number of well-maintained trails that take you through the dense rainforest. There are also guided nature walks available that will give you an in-depth look at the forest’s plants and animals.
- Community visits: Visitors can experience the local culture by visiting nearby communities and learning about their way of life.
- Batwa trail: Visitors can also experience the traditional lifestyle of the Batwa people, who have lived in the forest for centuries.
4 sectors of Bwindi Forest best for gorilla tracking
This is currently the best sector for gorilla tracking in Uganda, and it’s found in the southern part of the park. The reason it’s popular, and why you might also select it for your gorilla tracking tour is because it has five gorilla families to track. A factor that contributes to the sector having the highest number of gorilla permits issued out in the country, which are 40 per day. Something that can make it a bit easier for you to get a permit since they’re many.
Also, it’s the only place in Bwindi where gorilla habituation is allowed. Besides that, you can also see the Bayenda waterfalls, located 30 minutes from the Rushaga headquarters. Also, since this sector is near L. Mutanda, you can as well go canoeing in tree dugout canoes on this Lake.
Found in the northern part of the park, Buhoma was the first gorilla tracking sector in Bwindi impenetrable national park. And it was the most popular destination for trekking the apes before the activity was introduced in other areas.
So because it’s the oldest sector, the infrastructure here is more developed than in the other sectors. Therefore, if you desire top luxury accommodation while on your trip or rather a more civilized destination, Buhoma is your sector. Not that other sectors don’t have luxury lodges, it’s just that the ones found in this area are varied and extraordinary.
Plus, on top of tracking mountain gorillas, you can visit the 3 Munyaga waterfalls found on the Muyanga River waterfall trail. This sector is also the closest to Queen Elizabeth national park (about 2 hours away), so if you plan on visiting this park as well and desire a quick transfer, you’re better off choosing this sector.
If you’re both a primate lover and a birder, Ruhija (which is located in the Eastern part of the park) should be your destination. Apart from having mountain gorillas, this sector has the Mubwindi swamp that’s famously referred to as a birder’s paradise, with plenty of birds such as the African green broadbill, Strange Weaver and Grey Cuckooshrike.
In fact, this sector was renowned for birding before the gorillas were introduced there, so you can kill two birds with one stone – trek the gorillas and go bird watching.
This sector is also found in the South and it’s well-known for being the most stunning in Bwindi. Not only is it made up of rolling hills that its name literally means in the local language, but it also offers scenic views of the Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo from atop the Nkuringo hill.
That aside, tourists attest to the fact that the gorillas in this sector are the most interesting to trek. Though you should keep in mind that they’re also the most strenuous family to track, and therefore, your fitness levels should be above par for you to opt for this sector. However, if you’re fit and desire a challenge, this is the sector for you.
Just like the first two sectors, Nkuringo also has waterfalls called the Suma Falls. And on your way to see these falls, you can pass through a village that’s home to a man famous for having 16 wives (he’s truly still practicing the culture of our forefathers). Other activities you can do here are: visiting the Batwa and Bakonjo tribes as well as the crafts centre.
Can I enter Bwindi Forest without a guide?
Technically speaking, you can enter Bwindi Impenetrable Forest without a guide, but it’s not recommended. The forest is dense and hard to navigate, so it’s easy to get lost. Plus, there are certain areas of the park that are off-limits to visitors without a guide.
Also, having a guide can greatly enhance your experience in the forest. They have knowledge of the area, the wildlife, and the culture, and they can help you spot things you might have missed on your own. They also know how to keep you safe and how to minimize your impact on the environment.
Also, all visitors are required to have a guide when going for Gorilla trekking. The guides are trained and licensed by Uganda Wildlife Authority and know the area and behavior of gorillas, so they can ensure safety for both visitors and gorillas.
So, while it’s technically possible to enter the forest without a guide, it’s definitely not the best idea. It’s much better to have a guide who can help you make the most of your visit and ensure your safety.
Meet our guides
SAFARI DRIVER GUIDE
When to Go
What is the best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is open year-round, so you can plan your visit whenever is most convenient for you.
The best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest really depends on what you want to do there. Certain activities are better at different times of the year.
If you’re interested in gorilla trekking, the dry seasons of June to September and December to February are the best time to visit. During these months, the gorillas are easier to find, and the trails are less muddy.
If you’re interested in bird watching, the best time to visit is during the rainy seasons of March to May and October to November. This is when the forest is most lush and green, providing the perfect habitat for a variety of bird species.
And, if you’re interested in both, the months of June-September and December-February are good months to balance both the activities, as the gorillas are easier to find and trails are less muddy while the forest is still lush and green.
So, it really depends on what you want to do. Just keep in mind that even during the dry seasons, it can still rain frequently, so be sure to pack your rain gear and be prepared for wet conditions.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of accommodations available in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to choose from. Some of the most popular options include:
- Luxury lodges such as Bwindi Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp and Mahogany Springs.
- Mid-range lodges like Buhoma Lodge, Silverback Lodge and Gorilla Mist Camp
- Budget accommodations like Buhoma Community Rest Camp, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp and Bwindi View Bandas
- Homestays can also be arranged with local families in the communities surrounding the park
So, no matter your budget, you’ll be able to find a comfortable place to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
But please note, some accommodation may be closed during the low season.
We’re sure that after a long day of exploring the forest, you’ll appreciate a comfortable bed to rest in!
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Gorilla trekking is the main activity that visitors come to the park for, and it’s definitely worth it to see these gentle giants up close.
How many gorillas are there in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to around 400 mountain gorillas, which is almost half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas.
Keep in mind that the number of gorillas can change over time as gorillas move, die or new ones born, so it’s best to check with the park authorities for the most recent information.
The gorillas live in family groups and are habituated to the presence of humans, which allows visitors to get quite close to them during guided treks.
What conservation efforts are in place to protect the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
Conserving the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a top priority, and there are several efforts in place to protect these amazing animals.
- Gorilla tracking: All visitors who want to track gorillas in Bwindi must first purchase a permit, the revenue of which goes towards conservation efforts. The park also limits the number of visitors who can track gorillas each day to minimize the impact on the gorillas.
- Anti-poaching: The park works closely with local communities to combat poaching and illegal hunting of gorillas and other wildlife. Rangers also patrol the park to deter poachers and protect the gorillas.
- Habitat protection: The park also works to protect the gorillas’ habitat by managing the forest’s resources and monitoring the health of the ecosystem.
- Research and monitoring: Researchers are studying the gorillas in the park to learn more about their behavior, health, and population trends. This information is used to inform conservation efforts and management decisions.
- Community conservation: The park also works with local communities to promote conservation and sustainable development. This includes educating communities about the importance of gorillas and other wildlife, and providing alternative livelihoods to reduce the pressure on the forest’s resources.
These conservation efforts have helped stabilize and even increase the population of gorillas in the park, and it is worth to mention that the park also has strict rules for visitors when on a Gorilla trek, to ensure the safety of gorillas and visitors alike.
What is the cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
The cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest varies depending on the time of year and whether you’re a foreign or local visitor, ranging from $150 to $700.
For foreign non-residents, the cost is currently $700 per permit per person per trek, while for foreign residents, the cost is $600.
For East African citizens and Ugandan citizens, the cost is significantly lower at $450 and $150 respectively.
It’s important to note that these prices are subject to change, so it’s best to check with the Uganda Wildlife Authority for the most up-to-date pricing.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the permit fees for Gorilla trekking goes towards conservation efforts to protect the gorillas and their habitat, so you can feel good knowing that your money is going towards a good cause.
Keep in mind that, the permits are limited in numbers per day and they sell out quickly especially during peak seasons, so it’s best to book in advance to ensure you get a permit.
How difficult is gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest?
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest can be challenging, the forest is dense and steep, and you’ll be hiking through thick undergrowth, tangled vines, and steep slopes. It can be quite a workout, but it’s worth it to come face-to-face with a family of gorillas.
The difficulty level of the trek depends on the location of the gorillas and it can vary from easy to strenuous, some families are found in relatively easy terrain while others in more challenging areas.
But, don’t worry, the guides are well trained and know the terrain well, they will be there to help you along the way and make sure you’re safe. And, if you’re not feeling up for the challenge, you can always opt for a shorter and easier trek.
How long does a gorilla trek in Bwindi Forest take?
A gorilla trek in Bwindi Forest can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day, it really depends on the location of the gorillas on that particular day.
Once the park rangers and guides locate the gorillas, the actual trek to reach them can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the distance and the terrain. The gorillas move around in the forest, so the location of the gorillas can change, and the guides will have to track them down.
Then, once you reach the gorillas, you will have one hour to spend with them, observing and taking photos.
How old do you have to be to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi?
There is no specific age limit for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, but it’s important to keep in mind that it can be physically demanding and the terrain can be challenging.
Children are allowed to go for gorilla trekking, but it’s important for them to be able to handle the physical demands of the hike, and be able to understand and follow the park’s rules and regulations, such as keeping a safe distance from the gorillas and not making loud noises.
You will also have to consider the age of the children and their ability to withstand the long hike and the weather conditions, as it can be hot and humid in the forest.
It’s always best to check with the park authorities and your tour operator before you book, so they can advise you on what’s best for your situation. And, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the safety of the gorillas and visitors is of utmost importance.
Are there any rules for visitors when on a gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
There are a few important rules that visitors must follow when on a Gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to ensure the safety of both visitors and gorillas. These rules include:
- Maintaining a safe distance from the gorillas, usually 7 meters
- Keeping noise levels low and avoid sudden movements
- Not eating or smoking in the presence of gorillas
- Not touching or getting too close to the gorillas
- Not using flash photography
- Staying in your assigned group and following the guide’s instructions at all times
- Not leaving any trash in the forest
- Not going to the gorilla family with an illness or open wounds
It’s important to understand and follow these rules, as gorillas are wild animals and their behavior can be unpredictable. By following these rules, you can help ensure the safety of the gorillas and other visitors, as well as help preserve the natural habitat of the gorillas.
Your guide will explain the rules and regulations before your trek, and will also give a detailed briefing on the do’s and don’ts while on the trek. It’s always best to listen to your guide and follow their instructions, they know the gorillas and the terrain well and will keep you safe throughout the experience.
When is the best time of day to see the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Forest?
The best time of day to see the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Forest really depends on the gorillas themselves and their daily routines. Gorillas usually wake up early in the morning and start their day with feeding and moving around, they also take a rest in the afternoon and resume feeding again in the evening.
That being said, the park rangers and guides usually go out early in the morning to locate the gorillas and make sure the visitors get to see them at their most active time.
Morning treks are typically more successful because the gorillas are less likely to be resting in the trees, and the light is also better for photography.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the gorillas move around in the forest daily, so the location of the gorillas can change, and the guides will have to track them down, this is why the timing of the trek can vary.
In any case, whether you choose to go in the morning or the afternoon, be prepared to spend the whole day in the forest, as it can take a while to find the gorillas, and the trek itself can last up to 8 hours.
Ready to See Bwindi for Yourself?
Whether you’re planning to hike through the dense rainforest, track gorillas, or simply relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has something for everyone.
So, pack your bags, and come and explore this unique and beautiful destination in Uganda.