Gorillas are so powerful and humongous that they leave man realizing how small and insignificant he is. Sadly, they are critically endangered; there are less than 900 of them left in the World. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has more than half of these; the rest live in Rwanda and Congo. The park is an unspoiled dreamland where you can relax surrounded by huge walls of vegetation. It is a garden of amazing indigenous trees inclusive of brown mahoganies that are as old as time and as tall as an eight floor-high sky scraper. Its size is 321 sq. km and its altitude is 1160m – 2607m above sea level.
The place is a vast peaceful sanctuary great for pottering about while taking photos of various wildlife especially monkeys and birds. While relishing all this beauty, you will be treated to fresh breezes and the alluring sight of over 100 flower species each with a strong fairy-tale fragrance. If you have been searching for the most rare flowers, chances are that you will find some here.
Be warned though, this destination’s terrain is largely hilly. Exploring it involves a lot of walking on rough and at times steep ground. Hefty hiking is unavoidable. Luckily, there are lots of clean natural ponds in it where you can take a dip after the hike. For easy management, the Park is split into three wings from which tourists can track gorillas. They are; Buhoma, Nkuringo, and Ruhijja. Each of these has between 1-4 gorilla families, each with 6-25 members.
Ruhijja and Nkuringo wing
These two wings are largely hilly and thus have very steep valleys. In other words, they offer tough climbing challenges and are recommended for those who are physically fit and hard-core adventurers. Among the things that attract tourists to Ruhijja is the picturesque view of Virunga it offers. Seated not so far from the border of Uganda and Congo, Virunga is Africa’s oldest National Park (established in 1925).
Buhoma and Rushaga wings
Buhoma and Rushaga have a rather gentle terrain. Their most unique features are crystal clear rivers and waterfalls that are a delight to swim in.
How to get Bwindi
There are over 50 tour companies that offer trips to Bwindi. For good recommendations, visit Association of Uganda Tour Operators, an umbrella organization for service providers of Uganda’s tourism sector.
Gorillas share 97% DNA with humans. Simply put, they are as vulnerable to human infections as humans are to theirs. Unfortunately, there are so many times when locals living around Bwindi National Park interface with gorillas, especially when the latter wander off the forests into the community gardens. This prompted the birth of Conservation through Public Health, an NGO focused on promoting biodiversity conservation by enabling people, gorillas and livestock to coexist through improving their health and livelihoods. This is being achieved through a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on preventing and controlling disease transmission between closely genetically related species such as people and gorillas, and cattle and buffalo, and promoting a better quality of life that reduces local communities’ dependence on fragile habitats to meet their basic needs.
Good hiking boots are a must have. If you will be gorilla tracking in the wet months like April, it is advisable to wear waterproof boots, as the floor of the forest is wet.
Buhoma has an endless list of accommodation facilities, unlike the other wings. This is partly because it was the first to be developed for tourism and research. Generally, while budget accommodation in Bwindi Park costs 50,000 UGX, high end accommodation costs roughly $300. Rates tend to drop slightly in low peak months like February to June.