Here are frequently asked questions to guide you in planning your visit to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
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Are you planning and interested in visiting Uganda for a gorilla safari in Bwindi Forest, these answers to frequently asked questions on exploring Bwindi forest will help you plan well your trip for a great experience during your next holiday to Bwindi, in South Western Uganda.
Why Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the only 4 national parks home to the endangered mountain gorillas in the world, other national parks include Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
Bwindi Forest National Park is one of Africa’s oldest forests with a diverse biodiversity with various species which include 350 birds, 310 butterflies, 200 trees, 51 reptiles, 88 moths and 120 mammals, the park is also home to several primates including chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkey and the major one the Mountain Gorillas.
The global population of mountain gorillas is 1064 individuals and half of these can be found in Bwindi forest, the park has over 15 habituated gorilla family groups open for gorilla tracking with 8 gorilla permits allocated to each group per day.
Entrances to Bwindi Forest?
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest is done in 4 sectors which include Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Buhoma sector is located in the northern part of Bwindi and Ruhija sector in the North Eastern part of Bwindi both sectors are located close to Queen Elizabeth National Park making it easy to combine gorilla safaris in Uganda with wildlife tours if you are trekking at these sectors.
In the southern Part of Bwindi it is where Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors are located close to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for gorilla trekking and Golden monkey tracking.
Each sector has different habituated mountain gorilla families open for gorilla trekking with Rushaga sector having many families compared to other sectors.
Where is Gorilla Habituation Done in Bwindi?
Gorilla Habituation in Bwindi forest is done in the southern part of Bwindi at Rushaga sector and areas between Rushaga and Nkuringo sectors. With this if you are interested in doing the gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi you are required to stay in lodges in the south at either Nkuringo or Rushaga.
The gorilla habituation experience involves walking/hiking through Bwindi forest to search for semi habituated mountain gorillas and once you find them you will spend 4 hours encounter with them as you participate in activities geared to make these mountain gorillas get used to human presence so that they can be trekked normally after a given period of time.
The experience gives you an opportunity to spend more hours with mountain gorillas that is 4 hours compared to one hour during normal tracking. Gorilla habituation is always on high demand given they are only 4 permits available per day and tracking is only done by 4 people per day so it is recommended you book your permit atleast 2-3 months in advance.
A Gorilla Habituation permit costs USD1500 per person per trek for Non foreign residents, USD1000 for Foreign Residents and USD220 for East African Citizens.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bwindi?
The best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is during the drier months. The peak months are December to February, June to October. Traveling during the peak months makes it easier to for travelers to hike through the park. The dry season gives a clear view of gorillas given the vegetation cover is not too much high grown.
How Do I Get to Bwindi Forest?
By Road; This will depend on which sector you will be doing your gorilla trek in Bwindi Forest; Bwindi can be accessed through the main high-way road from Entebbe/Kampala which approximately 8-9 hours drive. The northern sectors of Ruhija and Buhoma can be accessed by turning off along the Kabale-Kisoro road you will see the sign posted of Uganda Wildlife Authority which you will follow up to the designated sector for your trek. The southern sectors of Rushaga and Nkuringo trailheads can be reached using the road turning off at Muko along Kabale-Kisoro High way.
By Air; You can fly from Entebbe International Airport or Kampala’s Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip to access the southern sectors of Rushaga and Nkuringo and then to Kihihi airstrip for the northern sectors of Ruhija and Buhoma. Scheduled and chartered flights are available and operated by domestic airline operators of Aero link and Fly Uganda. You will need to plan with your tour operator for a transfer from the airstrip to your Lodge you are booked for your stay.
Are there Rules and Regulations to be observed during gorilla trek?
Yes, there are set measures that you have to observe at all time while on gorilla trek and they include among others-only an hour of face to face encounter with gorillas, only 8 visitors per gorilla group, maintaining a distance of 7 meters at all times away from gorillas, no flashlight camera is allowed during gorilla trekking, no tracking gorillas if you are ill, only persons above 15 years are allowed to track gorillas and many others that will be briefed to you at the park headquarters.
Where to stay during your Visit?
Wondering about where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park? There is plenty of places where you can enjoy an overnight stay. These lodges are commonly classified as budget, mid range and high end safari lodges.
How is it Safe to Visit Gorillas?
Mountain gorillas are generally calm, humble and gentle but like other creatures when irritated they can charge against you and even cause harm. Because of this, all trekkers are encouraged to always observe the set rules and regulations for gorilla trekking.
What gear is needed for Gorilla Trekking?
When it comes to gorilla trekking not every gear is needed but you have to pack appropriately starting with essentials first. The key items for you to consider on your packing list include long sleeved shirt/t-shirts, water proof hiking boots, sweater, rain jacket or poncho, day pack, energy giving snacks, bottled water, insect repellents, first aid kit a mention but a few.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Gorilla Trekking
If there are a few unique and the most rewarding primate adventures you shouldn’t miss to take part then gorilla trekking is one of a kind. Unlike other wildlife safaris, gorilla tours take visitors on foot in search of massive mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Like other wildlife experiences, there are some significant questions that need to be addressed and they include;
What is gorilla trekking?
This is frequently asked by most tourists on gorilla safari and perhaps very few have got answers. However, gorilla trekking is entirely an on-foot wildlife adventure with strict measures. To take part in this life changing experience, only 8 visitors are allowed to track 1 habituated family and only an hour is given to trekkers to strike their imaginations with a group of these endangered apes while in their natural habitat.
What makes gorilla trekking the most sought after experience?
The plight of mountain gorillas gained fame in the 1960s and this can be attributed to incredible conservation work of Dian Fossey at a time. She was such a great conservationist who tirelessly worked to safeguard the lives of mountain gorillas. She conducted research for about 18 years on gorillas and also set Karisimbi research center in the Rwandan Volcanoes National Park.
Where can I go to track mountain gorillas?
With only 1004 mountain gorillas that are left in the entire world, to track these magnificent creatures you have to pay a visit to Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, treks are only possible in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park while in Rwanda you can pay a visit to Volcanoes National Park and the Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
What is the best time to track gorillas?
Gorilla trekking can be done at any time of the year. However, you need to consider which season is ideal for this lifetime experience. The 2 important seasons you need to consider before embarking on this adventure include the dry and wet season. The dry season is experienced twice a year-from June to September and December to February. This season is the most preferred time by most trekkers on gorilla safari to Africa. This season is characterized by low rainfall and the habitat usually remains relatively drier thus making gorilla trekking a bit easier. The wet/rainy season on the other hand is ideal for tracking these creatures the fact that it is a period when there is plenty of food for gorillas to depend on. It usually starts from March to May and from October to November but the challenge with this season is that the habitat tends to be muddy making it more challenging for trekkers to hike through the dense vegetation and slippery ground.