Bwindi is a classic, equatorial rainforest with soaring indigenous trees and huge stands of creaking bamboo. This 321km2 gem clings to the steep ridges of the Western Rift Valley in Uganda, lying at 1,160-2,607meters above sea level. A 25,000 year old jungle is best-known for having the highest concentration of habituated mountain gorilla families, currently 18. In contrast, Rwanda’s Volcanoes N/P has only 10, and Congo’s Virunga N/P only 8.
Gazzated in 1991, Bwindi hosts 120 mammals, inclusive of the biggest mammal species on earth-elephants. Other specials include baboons, chimpanzees, forest buffalos and antelopes. One of the things that make this place a world wonder is its abundance of 350 recorded bird species, 23 of which are Albertine Rift endemics like the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird, both of which are fascinating and delightful creatures.
One of the reasons why it is the most popular spot for gorilla trekking in Africa, is the fact that its gorilla permits are still $600, unlike Rwanda where it was doubled three years ago from $750 to $1500. That aside, it is safe and easily accessible both by road and air thanks to the availability of scheduled daily trips and flights (destined to its airstrip-Kihihi).
The guided excursion here entails following gorilla families as they explore their territories in search for edible vegetation and wild fruits. It is not so hard to keep up with their movements because gorillas make lots of stopovers at anything eye-catching in their way. That aside, they can’t do things in a rush due to their bulky weight (weighing an average of 150kgs). The best time to take pictures during this half-day tour is when they appear in a sunlit glade and sit down to eat. It is a remarkable experience to be so close to them as they showcase survival skills that have enabled them to survive in the jungle for over 7 centuries now.
The gorilla families we shall book for you have at least 8 members inclusive of enormous adults, babies, mothers, teens and black-backs, all of whom are led by a very protective silverback. Although your time to observe them and take their photos is limited to one hour, the memory will live with you for eternity. Its hard to forget how their babies spend much of the day learning to climb trees. In an effort to avoid evoking the anger of the alpha male, taking pictures with flash is prohibited.
On the part of the jungle, the impenetrable state of the forest will make you feel like a historical explorer battling through untamed wilderness to reach the ultimate happy ending, in this case it’s the mountain gorillas. The good news here is that there clear tracks to follow, a perfect alternative if you prefer a less exhausting hike. Even better, there porters on standby to carry your luggage as you navigate the forest. This makes the adventure less tiring on your part. It is possible to make all the breaks you want on the way in and out of the forest.
At the climax of your adventure, you will be treated to a small but intimate award ceremony in which you will be honored with a congratulatory certificate.
The great thing about Bwindi is that it offers so much more than just gorilla habituation and tracking. At least 350 bird species are resident here, most of which are forest and montane species. This includes 23 of the Albertine Rift Endemics. Among the four wings of the park, Buhoma attracts the biggest diversity due to its endowment with Mubwindi, a well conserved swamp system. Here, you stand great chances of encountering African broadbill, Black-billed turaco, Black bee-eater, Yellow-streaked greenbul, Handsome francolin, Purple-breasted sunbird, Grauer’s broadbill, Shelley’s crimsonwing, Black-faced rufous, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Black-faced warbler, Blue-headed sunbird, Rwenzori apalis, Regal sunbird and Mountain masked apalis among others.
Carry a pair of binoculars for better chances of spotting species that love to dwell in the canopy as opposed to ground. Also, carry waterproof protective gear for your cameras, Bwindi experiences sudden but brief showers. Why? Its an equatorial rainforest.
Best time to visit Bwindi: All year round especially the dry months; June to August and December to February.
Among the 25+ gorilla families that Bwindi has, only one is open for gorilla habituation. It is an experience that entails spending the day with Bikingi, a group of 11 individuals that aren’t fully habituated(they live in the Southern part of the park). Unlike the habituated gorillas, they are used to their trackers but not to seeing different tourists. As such, they are aren’t as calm, or docile, that’s exactly what makes the experience an exciting alternative. They are truly wild. In the company of a ranger guide, you will track them starting from the nest where they spent their previous night. On finding them, you will walk in their footsteps as you they gradually get used to having you around. Once the bond/rapport is established between you and them, they might invite you into their territory thereby offering you closer views of their traditional behavior. It’s an immersive experience, at times nervy, and certainly exhausting – but totally worth the effort. That’s exactly why it is expensive, at US$1500.
Best time to visit Bwindi: All year round especially the dry months; June to August and December to
Gorilla trekking for Persons with Disabilities
It’s equally possible for Persons with Disabilities to trek gorillas here, thanks to the availability of stretcher beds upon which they can be carried. They are supported by two parallel handles made of hardwood and stainless steel. Upon this structure, two or four strong men will carry you like a royal in ancient times. They will place the supporting poles upon their shoulders thereby rendering more stability throughout the hike. In case of any further inquiries, we are just an email away.