Bwindi Forest is a large tropical forest situated in the southwestern part of Uganda in Kanungu district. Bwindi Forest is located at the edge of the western Albertine rift expanding to the border of DR Congo and Virunga mountains. The name Bwindi came from the local word Mubwindi which means darkness.
Bwindi Forest is home to the highest population of mountain gorillas in the entire world. The forest is also a home to animals such as elephants, buffaloes, duikers, bush pigs, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, olive baboons, l’hoest’s monkeys, vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and birds among others. The forest hosts 120 mammal species,10 primate species, 348 bird species, and 220 butterfly species.
Bwindi Forest has more than 1000 plant species among which include 160 tree species, and 104 fern species. Some of the tree species in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park include African brown mahogany trees, Newtonia buchananii, cecropia trees, Aningeria adolfifriederici, ceiba trees, Symphonia globulifera, Podocarpus, and ebony trees. Plant species in bwindi include Red stinkwood, Newtonia, Strombosia schefflera, Symphonia globulifera, Myrianthus holstii, East African yellow wood, Xymalos, Neoboutonia Macrocalyx, Monospora, Teclea nobilis, and Allophylus abyssinicus.
Things to do in Bwindi Forest
Gorilla trekking: Gorilla trekking is arguably the most done tourism activity in the Bwindi Forest. Bwindi Forest has the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world hence attracting thousands of travelers. There are 19 gorilla families available for trekking in Bwindi Forest and to trek any of these you need a permit from Uganda wildlife authority.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest starts at different park headquarters where rangers teach the trekkers about different rules and regulations of the trekking activity. Grouping is done where only 8 people are led by armed ranger guides through different trails of the park looking for the apes. The trekking activity takes 2-7 hours of meeting different park animals, birds, and vegetation but once the trekkers locate the gorilla family 1 hour is given to them to encounter the apes and this gives them a chance to learn about their habits, watch them do daily activities and take photos.
Gorilla habituation experience: Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is the only place that offers gorilla habituation in the world. Bwindi Forest is home to 2 semi habituated gorilla families that are undergoing habituation in Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors. Habituation in Bwindi is done among 2 gorilla families and these are Bishaho family and Bikingi family. Gorilla habituation in Bwindi park only restricts the person to a maximum of 4 each day.
Just like mountain gorilla trekking, gorilla habituation starts with a briefing at the park offices where trekkers are taught about the rules and regulations of the habituation activity. Armed ranger guides lead the trekkers in the jungle until they locate the semi habituated gorilla family assigned. Searching for the gorilla family takes 2-7 hours and once it’s located, the trekkers are given 4 hours to be around these apes, watch them do day to day activities, monitor and record their behaviors, and get a chance to take photos and record videos.
Birding: Bwindi Forest is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. The forest is home to 348 bird species of which 23 are endemic to the albertine region. Most of the birding activities in the forest are done in Buhoma along Buhoma waterfall trail and bamboo zone and Ruhija region along Mubwindi swamp.
Birds in Bwindi Forest include Wood Warbler, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Neumann’s Warbler, Lagden’s Bush-shrike, Cassin’s Honeybird, Evergreen Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, Kivu Ground Thrush, Dusky Crimson-wing, Rwenzori Batis, Strange Weaver, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, African Pitta, Regal Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Collared Apalis, Yellow-crested Helmet Shrike, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Red-throated Alethe, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Stripe-breasted Tit, Rwenzori Nightjar, Montane Masked Apalis, Handsome Francolin, and Rwenzori Turaco.
Other notable species in Bwindi Forest include Handsome Francolin, White-browed Crombec, Turner’s Eremomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Brown Woodland Warbler, Green Hylia, Buff-throated Apalis, Cardinal Woodpecker, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Common Bulbul, Compact Weaver, Coppery Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Dusky Tit, Stripe-breasted Tit, Red-headed Malimbe, Klass’ Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Great Blue Turaco, Grey Apalis, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Green Crombec, Honeyguide Greenbul, Grey-headed Sparrow, Crowned Hornbill, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Grey-throated Barbet, Tiny Sunbird, Green-throated Sunbird, Grey-backed/Green-backed Camaroptera, Grey-headed Negrofinch, White-breasted Negrofinch, Collared Sunbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and Yellow-mantled Widowbird.
Nature walks: Besides the famous activities such as gorilla trekking, birding, and gorilla habituation, there are amazing nature walk activities in Bwindi Forest. There are several trails in the different sectors of the park you can use for nature walks and these include Ivy river trail, Kashasha trail, Habinyanja trail, Munyaga river trail, and Muzubijiro loop trail among others. Nature walk activities in Bwindi give participants an opportunity to encounter different primates, mammals, birds, water sources, and different vegetation cover.
When to visit Bwindi Forest
Bwindi Forest can be visited at any time of the year however there are months that are better than the rest. There are 2 seasons at this national park and these include the dry season which occurs from June to September and December to February as well as the rainy season from March to May and October to November. The dry season is the best to visit Bwindi Forest because there is always little or no rainfall, the trekking trails are dry, the vegetation in the forest is thin with clear views of the animals and the roads leading to the forest are passable.
The forest can still be visited in the rainy season to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities and some of the forest activities. The rainy season however comes with a lot of rainfall which makes the walking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of forest animals and roads leading to the park are impassable. Bird lovers can visit Bwindi Forest during the rainy season to encounter more bird species since the migratory ones are in the park.
Accommodation in Bwindi Forest
Accommodation in Buhoma sector: Buhoma Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Bwindi Forest Lodge, Mahogany Springs Lodge, Bwindi View Bandas, Ride 4 women Guest House, Silverback Lodge, Buhoma Rest Camp, Haven Lodge, and Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge.
Accommodation in Rushaga sector: Rushaga Gorilla Lodge, Four Gorillas Lodge, , Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, Nsongi Camp, Rushaga Gorilla Haven Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Resort, and Wagtail Eco Safari Lodge, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge,
Accommodation in Nkuringo sector: Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, , Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Backpackers Lodge, Mutanda Eco Community Centre, Gorilla Heights Lodge, Nshongi Camp, Crested Crane Bwindi Hotel, Lake Mulehe Gorilla Lodge, and Virunga Campsite
Accommodation in Ruhija sector: Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Ruhija Community Rest Camp, Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Broadbill Forest Camp, Agandi Lodge, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Cuckoo Land Tented Lodge, Ecomarvels Gorilla Lodge, and Trekkers Tavern.