The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is located in southwestern Uganda, along the Democratic Republic of the Congo border and next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. The 321 km2 Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.
The Park’s primary geology consists of granite, shale, phyllite, quartzite, quartz and schist. The landscape of Bwindi is very jagged, with confined valleys, crisscrossed by rivers and steep hills. Altitudes in the Park range from 1 190 to 2 607 m above sea level with the highest point being Rwamunyonyi Hill at the eastern edge of the Park and lowest part being at its most northern end.
The forest, an important water catchment area, has a dense network of streams and is the source of many rivers. These rivers include the Ntengyere, Ivi, Ishasha, Ihihizo and Munyaga and rivers, they empty into Lakes Edward, Mutanda and Bunyonyi. Bwindi forests are afromontane, with more than 220 tree species, more than 50% of Uganda’s tree species, and more than 100 fern species.
The Park provides habitat for 120 species of mammals of which 10 are primates, and more than 45 are small mammals. 400 Bwindi Gorillas, half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas, are found in the Park. Other animals found in the Park include the Colobus Monkey, the Common Chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s Monkey, the African Elephant, the giant Forest Hog, the Vervet Monkeym the side-striped Jackal, the African Civet, the African Golden Cat and small Antelope species.
Bwindi is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with 348 species of birds recorded. These include the Hornbill, the Turaco and the African Green Broadbill. There are also over 200 butterfly species including the Cream-banded Swallowtail, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, and many endangered species.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can be accessed by road from Queen Elizabeth National Park, 2 to 3 hours drive away, from Kampala through Mbarara, 6 to 8 hours drive away or from Kabale town, 1 to 2 hours drive away. All these roads then meet at Butogota, 17 km from the Buhoma entrance-gate. There is also a daily bus thatleaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihiihi.
Visitors can also fly from Entebbe or from Kampala at Kajansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip. Charteded planes are also available to fly visitors to the airfields at found at Kihiihi, Kayonza and Nyakabande.
There is a wide range of accommodation options catering to every visitor’s budget and needs, courtesy of Bwindi and surrounding establishments. There is Bwindi Guest House, set close to the entrance into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Guest House offers a broad range of self-contained or shared accommodations, a dining room, hot water, Wi-Fi, 24 hour security and free parking.
The other option is the Silverback Lodge, situated in the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park which offers extensive views of the Park.
At Buhoma Lodge, one of only two lodges lying within the National Park, visitors are offered ten comfortable chalets with private verandas that allow spectacular views of the forest canopy of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The chalets are also fitted with roomy en-suite bathrooms, insect proof window screens and eco-friendly solar lighting. The Lodge also offers an open air lounge and bar area serving a wide selection of local and imported beverages, a dining room serving four course meals, freshly prepared from local produce, as well as spa facilities.
There is also the Crested Crane Bwindi Hotel, a family friendly accommodation set 14.7 km from the Buhoma gate. The Hotels offers 10 beautiful rooms as well as a restaurant that affords guests panoramic views of the valley and the forest. Other options include the Cuckooland Tented Lodge and the Gorilla Resort,
Best times to visit
Bwindi is open to visitors all year round. However, the best time to visit for wildlife viewing and gorilla adventure safaris is from June to August and December to February when there is less rain which usually makes the forest trails impassable and slippery.
Weather and climate
Bwindi enjoys a tropical climate with annual mean temperature ranging from a minimum of 7 to 15 °C to a maximum of 20 to 27 °C. The rainfall received ranges from 1 400 to 1 900 millimetres with peak precipitation occurring from March to April and from September to November.
Other safety considerations
Though there is no known risk of malaria in the Buhoma, Nkoringo and Bwindi Forest as there are no mosquitoes due to the altitude, visitors are still urged to take the necessary precautionary measures when it comes to malaria as the areas surrounding the forest are prone to the illness. The precautions include taking malaria prophylactics, covering bare skin at dawn, using insect repellent for the mosquitoes and sleeping under treated nets. Though the Park is relatively safe, kidnappings, rare as they are, do occur.