Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Safari Guide
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
Pros & Cons
Excellent gorilla trekking with almost guaranteed sightings
Superb bird-watching available with knowledgeable guides
Community projects including a village visit
Some access roads are bad in the rainy season
Very expensive gorilla trekking permit and limited availability (but cheaper than in Rwanda)
Wildlife & Animals
The main attraction in Bwindi is its mountain gorillas. Of its population of approximately 400 individuals, more than a hundred are habituated. Bwindi has more than 120 mammal species, but most of these are small forest creatures. Elephant is present, although they are rarely seen. More regularly encountered are bushbuck and several types of duiker.
Bwindi contains a huge number of threatened species and is therefore considered a hotspot in conservation. Butterflies are something of a specialty, with an impressive list of 220 species, of which three only occur in the park. Bwindi is home to ten primate species including the rare l'Hoest's monkey and black-and-white colobus. Chimpanzee are present but not habituated and therefore rarely seen.
Bwindi should be on every birder’s itinerary. The park offers some of the best montane-forest (mountain-forest) bird watching in Africa. There are an estimated 350 bird species, with 14 not recorded anywhere else in Uganda. There are 23 birds unique to the Albertine Rift (which is 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) including Neumann's warbler and blue-headed sunbird. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
Bwindi is open for gorilla trekking all year long, but the best times to go are from June to August and December to February. At these times, the forest trails are drier and therefore less slippery. Also, your chance of a dry gorilla viewing experience is higher during these months. This might result in a better experience and photography will be easier.
June to August and December to February – Dry Season
Gorillas are easier to track, and the trails are drier
There are more sunny days
It is hazy, and the views are less spectacular
March to May and September to November – Wet Season
Gorillas can be tracked any time of the year
Many localized forest birds are in breeding season and easily located by call
Some access roads may become hard to travel as the trails become slick
The chance of tracking gorillas in the rain is high and this might interfere with the experience and taking photos
It tends to be misty and wet
Weather & Climate
Bwindi has a wet, yet mild, climate. Temperatures remain consistent year-long due to its short distance from the equator. Daytime temperatures of around 23°C/73°F are usual, with a significant drop at night to around 11°C/52°F.
Bwindi receives a lot of rain throughout the year. The months of June and July receive the least rain. From March to May and October to November the rainfall is highest. Waterproof clothing and hiking shoes are essential.
Dry Season – June to August and December to February
June, July & August – June and July are the driest months, but it can still rain. By August the rains start to increase. The average temperatures range from 23°C/73°F in the afternoon to 11°C/52°F in the morning. It gets even colder at higher altitudes.
December, January & February – A short drier spell, but rainfall can occur at any time. The rains slow by December and increase in February. Daytime temperatures average around 24°C/75°F, with morning temperatures around 11°C/64°F.
Wet Season – March to May and September to November
March, April & May – Rainfall increases and usually peaks in April. Navigating the road to Bwindi can become difficult, so a 4x4 is essential. The forest trails become slippery and more difficult to hike. Daytime temperatures average around 23°C/73°F, with morning temperatures around 12°C/54°F.
September, October & November – These months are wetter, with October and November experiencing high rainfall. Sometimes it drizzles continuously for days. Daytime temperatures are around 23°C/73°F. Forest trails can become slippery after rain
There are four discrete trailheads for gorilla trekking in Bwindi. These are Buhoma and Ruhija in the north, and Rushaga and Nkuringo in the south. They are several hours apart by road. If visited as part of a Ugandan tour, Buhoma, the main gorilla trekking trailhead, can be reached from Queen Elizabeth NP in two to three hours (from the Ishasha sector) or five to six hours (from more northerly sectors). It is five to seven hours by road from Lake Mburo NP to the various trailheads. If coming straight from Entebbe or Kampala, the trip by road will take about eight to ten hours. During the rainy season, travel by 4WD vehicle is necessary for some trailheads. Bwindi can also be reached by scheduled or chartered flight. Kihihi is the closest airport to the Buhoma and Ruhija trailheads, Kisoro for the more southerly Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is where most visitors enter the country. It is about 46km/29mi from the capital city of Kampala. It is possible to fly by domestic carrier from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi Airfield) to Kihihi or Kisoro near Bwindi. Chartered flights to Bwindi can also be booked.