Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is situated at the edge of the Albertine rift valley in southwestern Uganda is an ancient mist covered tropical mountainous rain forest that survived the ice age about 25000 years ago. It is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, 120 mammals, and 364 birds including 23 Albertine rift endemics, 10 primates including chimpanzee, 200 butterflies and over 400 plants. Deep in the middle of the forest, there’s a huge Mubwindi swamp, fresh water streams and beautiful waterfalls in Buhoma center, the park headquarters.
If you’re planning to visit Uganda then no itinerary is complete without seeing mountain gorillas. These giant primates are Uganda’s number and most famous tourist attraction. Gorilla trekking is once in a life time wildlife experience. Mountain gorillas are the largest primates and share 95% of their DNA with humans. There are some characteristics you’ll never know about mountain gorillas until you trek them like how peaceful the Silverbacks are or how the gorillas react when they feel disturbed. The one of kind safari memories can only come from trekking the gorillas.
As many tourists travel to Uganda wanting to see gorillas, many questions are asked about them. So here we intend to answer why you must see gorillas.
Take advantage of discounted gorilla permits
The reason in order to see gorillas, first of all is booking a gorilla permit. Get online with a tour operator in advance of at least 3-4 months which allows enough time for processing the permits. Note however make sure to get a permit after you have confirmed with the lodge for accommodation.
For a cheaper gorilla safari you can plan to see gorillas in rainy/low season when the price of a gorilla permit is reduced from $600 to $450. Although the perfect time to trek gorillas if you book a gorilla safari is the dry season during the months of December to February and June to September, being a peak season however with many visitors the cost of a gorilla tour can be high. So the discount on permits allows those traveling on low budget or backpacking to afford planning gorilla safari.
Bwindi has many habituated groups of gorillas to trek. An estimated 400 gorillas live in Bwindi forest of which 14 are habituated gorilla families for tourists to track has made gorilla trekking safaris very popular. There are four trekking centers which include Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo. Briefing about gorilla etiquette is must attend at the centers early morning before you begin trekking. Visitors with fitness challenges can be helped out to trek gorillas that can be easily located. A gorilla trek can take 30 minutes or 8 hours depending on where the trackers locate the gorillas. Visitors are assured of a diverse experience since each center has unique gorilla families. You also have a high degree of solitude when observing and photographing gorillas because only 8 people are allowed to trek them for one hour per day. Such limited tourist with gorillas helps to safeguard them from human diseases, disturbance as well as conserve their natural habitats.
Contribute to conservation of gorillas and their natural habitats
Mountain gorillas are threatened and their future is uncertain due to poaching and severe expansion of agricultural farmlands which reduces the natural habitat that they live in. Gorilla trekking safaris were established in 1994 and now days generate a lot of dollar money which is used in conservation and to benefit local people giving them the confidence to protect gorillas and their habitats. Even if a gorilla permit isn’t the cheapest thing to buy, knowing you’re saving gorillas gives excellent value for money.
Affordable accommodation and lodgings can be found neat the gorilla trekking centers or off the beaten track around Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda which gives you a chance to do community walks and canoeing. From luxury, mid-range to budget lodges and camps. You just need to make a choice of how close your lodge is to the gorilla trekking centers.
Getting to Bwindi can be a challenge but it’s easier depending on the schedule of your itinerary. Accessing the park by road can be long taking 8-10 hours drive from Kampala. But the journey is even more exciting with stopovers at equator crossing, visiting craft shops and museums such as Igongo cultural center and Bakiga museum along with amazing scenery and rural life.
If you want to travel on your own and spend less on transport, you’ll probably use public transport. Buses based in Kampala travel daily to southwestern Uganda. You should know the towns or points to board off and get another transfer to the park. For car hire, tour operators in Kampala offer affordable car hire deals.
Travelers without time, charter flights can be arranged and fly for only 40 minutes from Entebbe or Kajjansi in Kampala to kihihi airstrip in kisoro town. From there, you drive for 30 minutes to your lodge.
Lots of other activities to add to your gorilla trekking
The cultural encounters indigenous BaTwa pygmies are so dramatic. So much of their culture to discover the shortest people on earth, they inhabited the forests from ancient time before they were evicted in 1994 due to tourism. Their gruesome past can terrify but now they live a promising life outside the park. Visit their homestead in Buhoma area to experience their traditional dances and cuisine, hunting skills as well as pottery and craft making.
Waterfalls in Buhoma are breathtaking and worth to visit on a nature walk. And on a visit to Bwindi for gorillas its worth taking a village walk, interact with people to hear some of the amazing stories as well as create your own experience. Bwindi forest is the top eco-tourism destination in Uganda. Most of the locals are doing great projects to earn a living and also conserve gorillas. Whether it’s growing tea, fruits and veggies, planting trees, keeping bees and rearing livestock, making and selling crafts, everyone has a conservation story to share.