BWINDI NATIONAL PARK
Bwindi National Park was formerly known as the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. It is a magnificent green swathe of dense rainforest on the steep ridges of the Western Rift Valley in southwest Uganda, very close to the border with the D.R.C. This ancient rainforest succeeded in surviving the last Ice Age and is one of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. A recently proclaimed World Heritage site, its unique and precious flora sustains roughly half of the worldwide population of mountain gorillas – believed to be only around 600. Of these, there are three groups of habituated gorillas in Bwindi that can be visited on a gorilla track.
The Bwindi chimpanzee population is roughly estimated at 350-400. The nearby Virunga Volcanoes Conservation Area (Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, Rwanda and the D.R.C) has a population of 300 mountain gorillas, but no chimpanzees, making Bwindi the only forest in Africa in which these two apes live together.
Apart from gorillas and chimps, Bwindi is home to nine other primate species, including baboons, black and white colobus, red colobus and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey and L’Hoest’s monkey. Bwindi covers 331 square kms of intensely thick and tangled forest – hence the name ‘impenetrable’ – over a series of hills ranging in height from 1000-2000 metres.
The flora is known for its exceptional bio-diversity. There are more than 320 species of trees, 10 of which occur nowhere else in Uganda, and over 100 species of ferns and vines. The park (rainforest) receives some 2 000mm of rain every year and it’s wet, so come prepared. Apart from gorilla tracking, there are a number of other hikes and trails within the park, all accompanied by an experienced guide.
It’s a great way to fill time while you wait for your prearranged date with a gorilla and to learn about the other animals, birds, butterflies, trees and plants. The campsite and accommodation is in a stunning spot right beside the park head quarters. Over the last few years facilities have improved steadily. There is now a lively village housing the park guides and trackers as well as providing visitors with snacks and drinks.