Community walks in Bwindi
Bwindi is famously known for gorilla trekking to the outside world but the park has more to offer. Other than gorilla trekking, there are community walks in Bwindi and these take you to areas that are surrounded by the park. Communities around Bwindi are occupied by the Bakiga people and Batwa pygmies.
The Batwa pygmies decided to0 settle in the areas around the park after they had been evicted by the government of Uganda when it was gazetting Bwindi. The Batwa people are the most visited by tourists and this is because of their past. The Batwa used to live in Bwindi jungle alongside wild animals until they got evicted.
Community walk in Bwindi will take you to the Batwa people and it’s the Batwa guides who lead you throughout the whole visit. They first take you around the jungle telling you different stories of how they used to live in the forest. They will show you different paints they ate, fruits, how they collected honey, and how they used bows and arrows to kill animals.
The Batwa guides will take you to their community where you will take a visit to a local school, homes where you will meet locals doing daily activities, you can be part of food preparation, and you can taste their drinks such as bushera. You will listen to stories of long ago from elders and in the end, you will be entertained by the community women through dances and drama.
Other activities in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking: Gorilla trekking is the major activity done in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. The park is home to over 19 mountain gorilla families that are seen in four gorilla trekking regions Nkuringo, Buhoma, Rushaga and Ruhija. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is done by those that have gorilla trekking permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority and they must present them at the briefing point in the morning.
Trekking Bwindi mountain gorillas start early in the morning with a briefing at all the sector headquarters. Trekkers are checked, grouped, allocated gorilla families to trek, and given armed ranger guides to lead them into the jungle. To find a mountain gorilla family can take 2-7 hours in this park and the moment the gorilla family is spotted, armed ranger guides give trekkers 1 hour to be around the members.
Gorilla habituation: Gorilla habituation is an activity that gives travelers a chance to be around mountain gorillas for 4 hours and be part of the activities that make these apes get used to human presence around them. Just like gorilla trekking, gorilla habituation starts early in the morning at the headquarters of Nkuringo and Rushaga with a briefing, and then armed ranger guides are joined by researchers and conservations to love with you to the jungle.
The search for these mountain gorillas can take like 2-7 hours but during the search, trekkers are able to meet some of the park mammals, primates, birds, and plants. When the mountain gorilla family is spotted, it’s approached in a non-harming manner and then armed ranger guides give 4 hours to be with these apes which give you an opportunity to be around the apes, watch them do daily activities, take photos and learn about their habits.
Birding: Apart from community walks, birding is another activity that can be done in Bwindi. Travelers on a birding safari to Uganda shouldn’t miss out on checking those of Bwindi because the park is said to be one of the best birding regions in the country. There are over 350 bird species in Bwindi and these can be seen in different sectors of the park although Buhoma and Rushaga are said to be the best birding regions.
Birds of Bwindi include southern pochard, palm nut vulture, hammer kop, little grebe, olive pigeon, red-eyed dove, great blue turaco, African jacana, black crake, scaly francolin, yellow bill, black swift, klass cuckoo, white brow3ed coucal, black swift, crowned hornbill, giant kingfisher, grey throated barbet, malachite kingfisher, lesser honeyguide and brown eared woodpecker among others.
Hiking and nature walks: Hiking and nature walk in Bwindi are the best ways to explore the vast forest on foot. Different nature walk trails have been constructed in Bwindi and some of them are bamboo zone trail, Buhoma-Nkuringo trail, ivy river trail, and mubwindi trail to mention but a few. Walking through these trails you must have permission and it’s the armed ranger guides that lead you through the trail showing you different part attractions and protecting you from dangerous wild animals.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Bwindi for community walks, gorilla trekking, and other activities is the dry season. The dry season occurs from June to September and December to February and is characterized by little or no rainfall that keeps the trails dry, the vegetation is short with good views of the animals and the roads connecting to the park are in bad conditions.
Tourists can still visit Bwindi and engage in community walks in the rainy season of March to May and October to November. This season would be good for budget travelers because the accommodation facilities are at a huge discount. Travelers should come knowing that in the rainy seasons, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of the animals and the roads leading to the communities are in poor conditions.
Accessing Bwindi for a community walk
Travelers visiting Bwindi for a community walk can access the park using road transport or air transport. Road transport to Bwindi can be from Kampala or Kigali and it takes one day to access the park. Travelers from Kigali can access Bwindi fir community walks n 4-5 hours by crossing to Uganda using Katuna border in Kabale or Cyanika border in Kisoro to any of the trekking trails regions of the park. Those from Kampala take 9-10 hours to access bwindi by using Kampala, Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro or Kanungu road to any of the sectors of bwindi.
Travelers that love traveling in a luxury style or those that hate traveling for long distances can access Bwindi by using air transport. Different airline companies such as Bar Aviation Uganda, Aerolink Uganda, and Fly Uganda have scheduled flights to the park all you need is to book a seat. Flights to Bwindi start from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe international airport to Kihihi airstrip or Kisoro airstrip.