Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is situated in the South Western part of Uganda adjacent to the boundary of the Western Rift Valley. Bwindi is known to be a home to over 300 mountain gorillas. Tourists come from all over the world to track the gorillas; it’s such a wonderful experience for a lifetime.
Apart from the great Mountain gorillas, the forest is a home to over 346 species of birds and about 200 species of butterflies. Surprisingly the tree species are over 340 of which the 10 can’t be discovered anywhere in Uganda. This is an amazing area to visit. The gorillas are habituated and so there is less time to see them. Gorilla Permits per person costs $ 500.This may sound a lot of money but no individual has ever complained after catching a glance at the gorillas in their natural home. Remember tracking the gorillas is a lifetime encounter.
Gorilla Trekking Itinerary
Day 1: Enjoy an early morning breakfast and leave for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for gorilla tracking. The journey is adventurous with a beautiful countryside. You will see plantations, farms and cattle grazing. Have lunch in Mbarara. As you approach Kabale, you will see so many hills and how people cultivate their land. Just in case you see something interesting, the vehicle can be stopped at anytime and take photos. We arrive and check in to your preferred lodge. These range from super luxury, luxury, Moderate as well as budget. Whichever you choose, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the impenetrable forest.Imagin sleeping by the sounds of birds and water flowing through the forest is surely an experience of a lifetime. Have dinner and prepare for the great day tomorrow of tracking the gorillas.
Super Luxury Accommodation:Gorilla Forest Camp/Mahogany Springs lodge/Clouds Lodge
Luxury Accommodation:Buhoma Lodge/Gorilla Safari Lodge/Silverback Lodge
Moderate Accommodation:Lake Kitandara Tented Camp/Wagtail Safari Camp/Buhoma Community Rest Camp/Gift of Nature Lodge/Trekkers Tavern Cottages
Budget Accommodation:Buhoma Community Rest Camp/Bwindi View Bandas/Nshongi Gorilla Resort
Day 2 – Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: Have a lovely breakfast at your lodge and set off to the park’s Headquarters for an orientation about gorilla tracking. You are split into groups depending on the one assigned along with a ranger to guide you through the hike.Bwindi has about 9 gorilla families and these include Rushegura, Kyaguriro, Oruzogo, Nshongi, Habinyanja, Kahungye, Nkuringo, Mubare and Bitukura. Hiking through the dense forest will give you a chance to meet different species of birds, butterflies, primates, fauna and flora. Some level of physical fitness is required because you need to climb hills. Just in case you get tired, there are porters to carry you at a fee. The hike takes about 8 hours or less depending on where the gorillas were the day before. But you can’t imagine the joy you will feel when you come face to face with the mountain gorillas; they are watched at a distance of 5 meters. You will see them do their daily routine; mothers feeding their young ones, some resting and others playing. Unfortunately gorillas can’t be discovered in zoos, they are only found in Africa particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Congo.
After tracking the gorillas, you may decide to stay in Bwindi and visit the Batwa people, these are known as the pygmies who will entertain you and tell you African stories. You will love their traditional ways and values. You will get a chance to see how local brew is made, visit women craft shops, their community school and have a chart with their traditional healer. As a way of appreciation, they will entertain you with their cultural dance. If not, you may choose to visit magnificent Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale for a wonderful time with the sights and melodies of different bird species at your desired lodge. Among the activities include swimming in a free Bilahazia lake, Canoeing, fishing and exploring the so many islands that surround the lake. The experience is memorable.
Day 3: An exquisite breakfast and check out of the lodge. Drive off to Kampala and have lunch in Mbarara.The first stop over is made at the Equator to visit the craft shops and take photos as well. Another must stop over is at Buganda Royal Drum Makers, you may buy for yourself a souvenir. We arrive in Kampala and check in to your hotel or proceed to Entebbe Airport. If you still have time, you may enjoy nightlife in Kampala where the party never ends. You will dance to African music and enjoy our drinks. You will easily make friends since Ugandans are known to be hospitable. Our guide will be ready to drive you back to your hotel and prepare for your flight tomorrow.
About the Mountain Gorilla
Research and study on Gorilla species states that gorillas have 97% DNA that is identical to humans just the chimpanzees. It is thus by no wonder that these giant apes’ name Gorilla is translated from a Greek word Gorillai that means ‘tribe of hairy women’!
There are two species of gorillas and of a couple of sub species from each. The mountain gorilla (scientific name gorillai beringe beringe) is sub-specie from the famed Eastern Gorilla. Distinct traits of the mountain gorilla are the dark longer hairs that are carefully adapted to the cold weather from the high altitude mountains. Other gorilla species with such physical traits can not survive the extremely cold temperatures!
All gorillas feed on wild fruits, tender shoots and leaves and the mountain gorilla is no exception. The giant vegetarian can consume up to 34kgs of leaves every day –for adult males and occasionally supplement the diet with small insects such as ants.
Like other primates, the mountain gorillas live in social groups united by a unique bond of the adult males and females. Stable groups are each under the leadership of a silver back male who defends the group from danger and other makes decision on the trails to take every day! A group, commonly referred to as a family comprises of 5-30 gorillas-4 females, 2 adult males and juveniles.
Uganda Gorilla Treks
The mountain gorilla came to the limelight in 1902 when Robert Von Beringe found and observed the behavior of the strange primate in the foot slopes of the mountain in Bwindi National Park. He is the first European to recognize these primates that are now classified as critically endangered specie. A census in the late 1980s showed that only 320 mountain gorillas were found in Bwindi forest National Park alone. Nevertheless, the population of the mountain gorillas in Bwindi has improved by more than 18% in the past decades thanks to the intense efforts in conservation of the gorilla habitat by Uganda Wildlife Authority and other international partners. Several travelers from al over the world come every year to visit the giant apes from Bwindi and Mgahinga Parks and the money that is collected on Gorilla permits is injected into several conservation efforts.
In Africa, the mountain gorillas are found in two regions-Virunga mountain ranges in central Africa and the foot hills of Rwenzori Mountains where Bwindi Impenetrable forest is found. In the Virunga volcanoes, there are an estimated 380 mountain gorillas according to a census held in 2003. More than 30 gorilla families are spread in the 3 different national parks of Mgahinga in South western Uganda, Virunga National Park in eastern D R Congo and the Volcanoes Park in north western Rwanda. The second gorilla habitat is in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park also located in South Western Uganda with an estimated 320 gorillas divided into more than 6 families.
Reliable gorilla trekking statistics estimates the rate of increase in mountain gorilla population at 17% between1993 and 2003 and a total of 700 mountain gorillas surviving in the wild habitat of central Africa. Nevertheless, the giant primates are still classified as critically endangered species on the IUCN Red list of endangered species. The mountain gorillas are threatened by the increased habitat loss, civil war in central Africa, poaching and infections from tourists and other humans! The outbreak of the Ebola Virus in central Africa 2004 might have affected nearly 5000 lowland gorillas in the wild and killed several of them! Only a population of 700 left in the world makes research and conservation efforts a high regard into preserving these great sights for the future generations!