Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. This primeval forest known for its exceptional biodiversity in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Mist-covered hillsides blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests. The forest 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. Bwindi Impenetrable forest also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. Around 350 species of birds call this forest home.

Residing in this stunning “impenetrable” rainforest, Bwindi protects over 400 gentle mountain gorillas. Almost half of the world’s total gorilla population. Feeding on nutritious roots, leaves and fruits from the park’s tree and fern species, the gorillas form a sublime backdrop amidst lush emerald green foliage. Ranked as one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests, trekking through this lush abundant thicket is a captivating experience; made all the more spectacular when you silently come upon these majestic beauties. This is a spectacularly humbling experience that you will never forget. Gorillas can be tracked year-round, although they are easier to track in the dry season. The hike requires a reasonable amount of fitness. Hiking through the forest will be through the spectacular rainforest and bamboo covered slopes
of the park. All treks are accompanied by expert guides and trackers. The hiking can sometimes be tough and long, but when you catch a glimpse of a magnificent silverback and his family, your journey will be well worth the effort. When sighted, visitors will be in the company of the gorillas for one hour, an extraordinary experience.

A great way to experience the mountain gorillas of Bwindi is to spend two treks with them. During the Habituation experience, guests enjoy one trek in Buhoma in the north of the park. The second is in Nkuringo on the southern side of the park. During the guests stay at two different lodges. Driving from Buhoma to Nkuringo takes 7-8 hours. A great alternative to the drive is to hike through the rainforest. The hike is about a 6-7-hour trail that passes through rivers, streams, and over the hilly mountains, taking in the sights and sounds of the forest along the way. This experience is subject to availability.

Unique to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the Gorilla Habituation Experience. This is the process by which wild gorillas are habituated to the presence of humans. The entire habituation vis a lengthy process, taking a number of years. As mountain gorilla families undergo habituations, a maximum of eight visitors (4 per group) per day are allowed to visit them. Aside from being able to spend more time with them (4 hours instead of one), the experience provides the visitor a chance to learn about the process by which gorillas are habituated, and affords greater insight into their lives.

Five different forest trails offer the opportunity to experience the beauty and tranquility of the forest whilst searching for smaller primates and birds. The Waterfall Trail, a 3-hour trek from Buhoma, leads into the forest along an abandoned road. The trail crosses the Muyanga River several times before reaching a 33m high waterfall, the perfect place to cool off from the trek. The Muyanga River Trail takes around 30 minutes and lies outside the national park. This short trail follows the Bizenga River to its confluence with the Muyanga before returning to Buhoma Road.

The Mazubijiro Loop Trail and Rushara Hill Trail both take around 3 hours and offer good views across the Virunga Mountains.The Ivo River Walk is the longest trail, taking around 8 hours. It leads to the southern boundary of the park to the Ivo River and offers good chances to see primates, birds and immerse yourself into the forest.

No matter what time of the year, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an experience of a lifetime. However, during the drier months of June – August and December – February, the trails are drier, therefore trekking is easier. The sunny days are good for gorilla photography. In the Wet season from March – May and September – November, it tends to be misty and wet, making hiking difficult.

As the daily number of permits issued is limited, it is highly recommended to book these well in advance. It is also recommended to select lodging close to the area of your trek, to avoid long car rides to reach the trailheads. Buhoma in the northern side of the park, and home to the park headquarters has three gorilla families in the area – Rushegura, Mubare and Habinyanja. Ruhija, is in the northeast, about an hour and a half drive from Buhoma. Here there are two habituated families – Oruzogo and Bitikura. There is no recommended accommodation in this area, so guests would stay in the Buhoma area. Nkuringo in the southwest of the park, is home to only one family – Nkuringo. Rushaga in the southeast of the park, is around an hour’s drive from Nkuringo. This area is home to three habituated families – Nshongi, Mishaya and Kahungye. There is no recommended accommodation in this area, so guests would stay in the Nkuringo area.

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