Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are those different ventures in which travelers can engage in to spice up their safari. Bwindi Impenetrable national park is ranked amongst the most visited national parks in the world. Gorilla trekking is the headlining activity that most tourists visit the park for, those endangered species are a true wonder once encountered. It is however not just gorilla trekking that can be done while in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the park has a lot to offer! Its mist-covered forests, the people and their cultures, the other primates that co-exist in this impenetrable forest, the rear birds and so much more all call for one to visit this park, not forgetting the relaxing accommodation facilities that are tacked away in the wild! No wonder it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are a number of activities that can be done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Whereas some of them might require levels of physical fitness, others might not. Below are some of the activities that can be done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park;
Gorilla Trekking is an activity that involves walking/hiking in a group of at least 8 with a ranger in the thick forest in search of the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorillas are much sought after by a number of tourists that visit the park and hiking the thick forest in pursuit of the endangered species is very rewarding when finally, in contact with them. Tourists get a maximum of one hour to observe and interact with them at a safe distance of 7meters. The minimum age required to track gorillas is 15.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest currently has four sectors that tourists can track gorillas from i.e. Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhijja. Given the nearness of the park from Rwanda, 4-5hrs drive from Kigali compared to 8-9 hours from Entebbe, gorilla tracking trips with starting points in Rwanda or wholly there can be carried out. The best time to visit the gorillas in their natural habitat is June-October and December-March because of the dry season. It should be however noted that this is also the busiest/peak season, gorilla tracking permits, therefore, tend to sell out faster. These permits are availed by Uganda wildlife Authority at a cost of $700 only, or one may choose to have their tour operator of choice purchasing them on their behalf.
Gorilla Habituation is an experience that sees people spending longer times(4hours) with the gorillas compared to the usual one-hour maximum. This gorilla habituation is done so as to have the gorillas familiarize with the humans. Gorilla habituation is currently done in the Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors. It is for this reason that gorilla habituation can only be done in the southern part of Bwindi Forest.
The cost for gorilla habituation is higher than that for tracking. Gorilla habituation permits go for $1,500 for Foreigners and $1,000 for Foreign Residents and East Africans pay UGX 750,000. The cost is, however, worth it given the experience; imagine spending four long hours interacting with those near-human primates!
Bird Watching is one of the topmost done activities. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to over 320 species of birds, with 23 recorded endemics like the Short-tailed warbler and the Blue-headed Sunbird. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma waterfall trail along the bamboo zone and the Mubwindi swamp in Ruhijja. For an all-around birding safari, contact your preferred tour operator to have it all planned out for you.
There are about six nature walk trails for those who would like to explore this impenetrable forest. This can be an alternative activity for those who can’t make it for the gorilla trekking or those that are not of an age but would like to discover the forest.
- Muyanga waterfall trail; This departs from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo.
- Muzubijiro Loop; Take a 6km walk around a hill and encounter primates along the way and various birds. Enjoy the views of the Virunga while at it.
- Rushura Hill trail; walk through a forest shared by two countries. On a clear day, enjoy views of Lakes George and Edward and the peaks of the Virunga mountains and the Rwenzori.
- The Ivi Riverwalk takes about seven hours covering a distance of 14km. You will meet various animals but most of all wild pigs at a place commonly known as “Mukempunu” translated as “a place of pigs”
- The Habinyanja(Raleigh) trail takes about 4-6 hours. This trail takes a steep slope overlooking the Buhoma River, you will pass the “African corner” named after a rock shaped as the map of Africa. Birders should be on the lookout of birds like the Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck, Black Bee eaters among others.
- The Buhoma-Nkuringo trail takes 3-4hours and it crosses right through the two villages availing impressive views and allowing one visit more than one sector.
Explore the vibrant and diverse culture of the Bakiga and Batwa local communities through visits, local dances, village walks and craft shop visits. A visit to a local blacksmith will take you back to the stone age period, while a visit to the Batwa pygmies will have you enjoy their dances and stories as they share on how they live their day to day life. There is a lot to offer in Bwindi in terms of culture, for you can choose to have an African cooking workshop, weaving, or learn how to make juice and gin out of bananas after all which you can have a share. Visiting a local primary school can also be an option.
This follows a well-maintained trail from Buhoma to the Ivi River and it gives you an opportunity to view various animals in the park like the white-and-black colobus monkeys, bushbucks, among others.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park has a lot to offer, gorilla trekking is, however, the epitome of it all. Make plans to visit this natural wonder and you will live to reminisce about it. Get in touch with your most trusted tour operator to help you put together an itinerary just for you. You might choose to have an all through Bwindi trip or have it spiced up with one or more national parks in the region, whatever you choose, enjoy your stay when you do visit.