Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
(A majestic forest home to half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas)
In the southwestern corner of Uganda sits the most biologically diverse forests in Africa – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The forest is part of the Rift Valley Mountains that stretch over three countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and the most famous reason to visit this group of forests is to see the mountain gorillas.
On a global scale, the number of mountain gorillas left in the wild is shockingly low, but Bwindi National Park protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – which is roughly half of the world’s population! Visiting Bwindi gives you the opportunity to trek through the forest to see one of the several habituated gorilla groups and this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The forest itself is one of the oldest in Uganda (dating back 25,000 years) and its diverse landscape is home to approximately 120 mammals (including two species of elephant), several primate species (including mountain gorillas, baboons and chimpanzees), and around 350 species of birds. Depending on how long you stay, a visit to the park can combine all of wildlife experiences, as well as experiencing the lush and vibrant flora and fauna of the park.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi
The gorilla groups in Bwindi are all located in different areas of the park. Therefore, which gorilla group you see will depend on where you are staying in the park (Northern or Southern Bwindi) and how far you want to trek (some can be shorter hour walks, others can be full day treks through the forest).
Across all of Bwindi National Park there are about 20 habituated gorilla groups. The numbers in each family group vary, but range between a smaller group of 6 to a larger group of 20. Each gorilla group has interesting relationships and unique stories, which your guide will explain during your trek through the forest. Some of these stories are pretty brutal, such as large silverbacks attacking and killing younger males who may currently, or in later years, pose a threat to their status.
To see the gorillas, you will need a Gorilla Permit. You must be over 15 years old to do a gorilla trek. The gorilla permits are currently selling at a cost of $700 per person (US dollars). Mountain Gorillas are an endangered species so, for this reason, it is crucial that the permits are in place to protect and preserve their privacy.
Permits also help to save mountain gorillas from diseases that can be caused by too many visitors or crowds.
As a gorilla trek is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is important that you are aware of the rules and equipment required to make your trek as comfortable as possible. You will need your passport (for registration before trekking), trekking boots, a warm jacket for the cool early mornings, some waterproof jacket and trousers, thin gloves, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a hat, sunglasses, strong sun protection, mosquito repellent and money for tipping (for the ranger and the porters if used).
The trek will take an average of around 2 and 5 hours and will possibly be on steep terrain. It is therefore important to have reasonable fitness and be free from any colds or flu.