Bwindi, a UNESCO World Heritage site with the highest number of habituated Mountain Gorilla groups in the world. Lying at an elevation of 1,160m- 2607m above sea-level. It is an awe-inspiring, misty & lush tropical rain forest. It has lots of beautiful autumn colors due to its diversity of both montane vegetation and native trees.
Being a forest walk, the pursuit to most animals here entails trekking on well- maintained trails as opposed as opposed to having a game drive. This offers you a more intimate & personal ecounter with nature.
Bwindi is a truly extraordinary therapeutic and relaxing haven with 400 species ofPlants and 350 species of birds inclusive of 23 Albertine endemics. However, what really draws most people here is its 120 mammals species, including gorillas, forestElephants, baboons, chimpanzees and antelopes.There are 220 magnificent species of butterflies to see and admire, inclusive of thosefound nowhere else on earth like Graphium gudenusi, Charades fournierae and Papilioleutaenia. This, coupled with very pretty display of daisy flowers creates a scene thatwill effortlessly make your six senses excel.
Bwindi is a truly extraordinary therapeutic and relaxing haven with 400 species of plants and 350 species of birds inclusive of 23 Albertine endemics. However, what really draws most people here is its 120 mammals species, including gorillas, forest elephants, baboons, chimpanzees and antelopes.
There are 220 magnificent species of butterflies to see and admire, inclusive of those found no where else on earth like Graphium gudenusi, Charades fournierae and Papilio leutaenia. This, coupled with very pretty display of daisy flowers creates a scene that will effortlessly make your six senses excel.
What brings most people here/Gorilla tracking
Gazatted in 1991, Bwindi as per the 2010 census has over 440 gorilla individuals, a mixof both habituated gorillas that are open to tourists and those that are extremely wildand out of bounds for tourism. Considering there are less than 1,010 left in the world,this makes Bwindi home to over 40% of the world’s last surviving population of Mountain Gorillas. The rest live in Congo & Virunga National Park and Rwanda Volcanoes National Park. Simply put, no matter the time you visit Bwindi, you have a 90% chance of encountering the gorillas.
Better still, in case you do not register luck in finding them on the first day, you will have a second chance the next day free of charge. If you have difficulties in walking, the rangers will organize for you a visit to one of the families that love dwelling in the easilyaccessible lower part of the forest. Better still, you can hire a porter for $10 to carry yourbag for the whole day as you trek. This not only makes your hike easier because youdo not have anything weighing you down, it directly supports the local community andinspires them to protect gorillas from poachers.
How gorilla tracking here unfolds
Your adventure will begin early in the morning, around 7 AM at the park headquarters. Here, you will have a briefing session after which you will set off for the forest. The briefing is meant to psychologically prepare you for what to expect ahead of your 1-6 hour trek in the forest.
The ranger guides who will lead your hike are passionate story tellers. Their wealth of knowledge goes beyond knowing the gorillas, it includes all the other members of Bwindi animal Kingdom: birds, insects, reptiles and mammals.
After walking on well maintained tracks for about one hour, you will get off the beaten path and embark on a hike through a virgin trail. Your guide will carry a machate to help clear the track for you considering the forest is in a fairly impenetrable state. The route you will follow is just what you need to feel 20 years younger. It will challenge you in a variety of ways, but also excite your muscles with climbs you can easily overcome.
While quite exhausting, the hike is absolutely worth it as you to encounter lots of shy fauna that avoid the main trail because its quite busy.
Once in the territory of a gorilla family comprising of 8-32 members, you will come up to within a few feet from them. You will have quality time with them lasting for an hour. Its such an exciting thing watching the babies show off their chest beating skills. They are very playful and cute.
A silverback will add life to the scene by patrolling around as you watch in awe. They are larger than life. When his/their deep set of brown eyes coolly look into yours, you'll be hooked for life.
Soon, juveniles might roll backwards through the undergrowth and land near your feet. You are expected to keep a seven meter distance from them in an effort to stop possible transmission of airbone diseases to them. However, they don't know about this metre rule and mighter wander closer to you. If this happens, don't panic. Seize the opportunity to have a selfie or up close observation of their body features.
The gorilla trek feels like a treasure hunt except for the fact that it always ends on a fruitful note, while treasure hunts are a game of probability.
You will be blown away by the sheer force with which the falls in the forest cascades. It is such a humbling encounter to swim in the beautiful ponds they fill with crystal clear water. Regardless of whether you are passionate about botany or not, you will love discovering the variety of tree species in the park. They have lots of fascinating shapes, fragrances and features.
The forest is dotted with countless species of butterflies and stunning views of the hallmarks of the rift valley. All this can be seen on your way back from the forest.
Cost of Gorilla Permits
One of things that make gorilla adventures in Bwindi worth travelling athousand miles to experience is the fair pricing of permits. It still costs $600 for foreign non residents, $ 450 for foreign residents and 250,000UGX for East Africans. This is a big advantage compared to Rwanda where is has been doubled from $750 to $1,500. This follows the rebranding of Rwanda as a high end destination over the last three years.
Most people come here for gorilla tracking but even you want a more rewarding experience, the the gorilla habituation is a must!
Habituation is the process by which a wild animal is made to be more accommodative to tourists. During this guided half day tour, you will pursue an extremely wild gorilla family and witness what happens behind the scenes as ranger guides communicate with them using friendly body language and loud vocalisations.
Its until you have pursued this experience that you will understand why Bwindi is considered one of the largest remaining hardwood forests in the wood. Setting foot in it is like walking back in time. Vervet monkeys screech, butterflies flutter their wings, elephants trumpet and moss grows like a green velvet rug on the massive trunks of trees.
Trails in Bwindi
In the interest of ensuring effective management, Bwindi's 321km2 expanse is divided into four wings where gorilla tracking and nature walks excel.
Our lodge is less than one hours drive from two of these wings; Nkuringo and Rushaga. Each of these has at least four gorilla groups, each comprising of 8-40 members. Both wings have a vast network of trails that are very well thought out. They have a good balance of steep and gentle stretches, some of which are as long as 14 kilometers, others as short as 500meters but packed with diverse wildlife.
This all the more makes these two arenas a great family day out destination for all the generations!
- Nkuringo Region
Located in the southern hemisphere of Bwindi, Nkuringo has good courses with plenty of challenges for those who love to push themselves to limits. You can gaze at lots of rare tree most of which belong to a generation that started growing 25,000 years ago. This includes rare species like Newtonia buchananii, Prunus Africana, Strombosia scheffleri and Podocarpus spp among others.
Most of the trees in this primary forest are not labelled but luckily, there are lots of guides who will add life to your experience with their well researched findings about montane trees.
Gorilla groups in Nkuringo
If gorilla tracking is the reason for your visit, we recommend allowing yourself to wander around as it is possible to stumble upon more than one of the the four habituated gorilla families here. If it is Nkuringo Group, brace yourself to see 12 members inclusive of 2 silverbacks, 1 a blackback, 2 adult females, infants, 2 sub-adults and 3 juveniles. If it is Bikingi Group, you will see 15 individuals; 1 silverback-2 sub adults-5 adult females-5 infants and 2 juveniles. While christmas group is made of 9 members, Bushaho Group boasts of 9, inclusive of 3 adult females,1 blackback,1 sub-adult-1 juvenile and 1 infant.
Follow the signs and before long you will be ascending the steep mountain side. The trail itself is fun and scenic, allowing several opportunities to view Nkuringo village from above the trees.
There are a series of ladders and bridges that you have to pass on your way up which could be very difficult if it had rained recently.
A visit to this trail is the perfect way to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon. Enjoy a leisurely stroll you are likely to register random sightings of the other mammals of Bwindi like forest elephants.
Stop and stare up into so many magnificent trees, many of which are as high as 24 ft, that's the same height as a towering building with four floors.
Rushaga has lots of interest for grown ups. Such includes listening to evocative sights and sounds of great blue turacos. Lots of blooming flowers and ferns add colour to the scene. You will also see several indegenious tree species just beginning to bud into leaf. Several trees species here thrive by strungling and sucking life out of aging trees slowly.
This trail is also a fab place to be out with kids. There is plenty of space where they can run around and see birds, monkeys, play in the natural pools, get lost in the maze, watch gorillas swinging from one branch to another and follow one of the gently descending slopes. They will have so much fun.
Gorilla groups in Rushaga include:
Bweza Group. Like most of the gorilla groups in Bwindi, it is composed of members of all age brackets, ranging from babies that are few weeks old, to silverbacks that have fathered over two generations of gorillas. The group is led by a Silverback called Kakono and has 12 members; 2 silverbacks, 4 blackbacks, 2 infants, 3 adult females and 1 sub-adult. While Kahungye group is headed by silverback Rumanzi and has 17 members including 3 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 3 blackbacks, 2 infants, 3 sub-adult and 3 juveniles. Busingye group has 9 individuals inclusive of 3 infants and a sub-adult gorilla teen.
Nshongi group is named after a River where they were first discovered over 20years ago. It is led by Silverback Bweza and comprises of one Silverback, 3 adult females, 1 infant, 1 sub-adult and 1 juvenile.
Lastly, Mishaya group has 7 members. Despite weighing over 170 kgs, it's team leader-Mishaya prefers to spend more time in the trees than on the ground. His preference is fueled by the need to see any rival gorilla group invading his territory.
If you tire of walking around in Rushaga's forest, you can wander down the meandering rivers where birds of prey hover as they stalk small fishing looking for food. Here, you will be entertained by the random appearance and dissapearance of monkeys. There are plenty of seats where you can to relax and enjoy the views of glorious sunshine as it filters through the canopy to reach the floor of the forest.
Gorilla tracking for PWDs
Thanks to the creation of stretcher beds and sedan chairs supported by four handles, it is possible for Persons With Disabilities to track gorillas too. Upon these beds, you will be ferried into the forest by four able-bodied men.
As you take in the beauty of the park, the ranger guide accompanying you will explain the fascinating adaptations of wildlife species that are unique to this gem. You will also discover the surrounds in search of forest elephants, buffaloes and other forest species and learn of their incredible struggle against the elements of Africa's harsh wilderness.
You will get up close and personal with lots of birds especially fish eagles that soar over rivers in search for food. In the end, you will see how these absolutely social, superbly adapted gorillas interact with each other to spot out rival gorillas spying on them.
A few things to bear in mind:
Ensure to purchase your trek permits in advance, there is a limited number available for each day.
As you enter the rain forest, the temperature drops and it gets cooler. So carry warm clothing and rain jackets.