Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is number one destination to see mountain gorillas in Uganda. This ancient tropical forest with an area of 331 sq km is located in South Western Uganda at the edge of the Albertine rift valley.
Mountain gorilla population in the whole world is estimated to be 880 individuals. Bwindi impenetrable forest holds half of them about 480 individuals. The other gorillas live in Virunga massifs shared by Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Hence when you come to Bwindi, you have higher chances of seeing gorillas in their natural habitat.
Mountain gorillas live in groups/families which have been habituated for tourists, a total of 13 gorilla families have been accustomed to humans in Bwindi forest national park. These families are located in four different sections of the forest which include Buhoma (main park headquarters), Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija.
Each gorilla family can be visited by one group of 8 tourists per day. Tourists spend one hour with gorillas. Human contact with gorillas is limited for strict conservation despite the high demand by tourists for gorilla tracking. This means that one ought to book a permit at least 3-4 months ahead of your tracking dates. Each permit costs US$700 per person and the tracking permit fees are used to fund conservation, pay park human resource and also fund local community development projects such as agriculture.
Depending on tourists trekking capacity and energy, it is very possible to book for a gorilla family that suits your fitness levels which also give a different experience therefore, one can specially book for a particular gorilla family of his/her interests depending on its location. Booking for a gorilla tracking permit can be done with a local tour operator or the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Each section of the park is well managed with accommodation faculties well established for tourists to stay in. There are professional Uganda wildlife authority guides, rangers who give tourists a quality gorilla tracking experience in addition to other wildlife such as birds, mammals, reptiles and primates that live in the forest.
Although Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is typically made of very thick and hard to pass through dense forest canopies, it’s the most accessible by tourists with nature trails that have been created by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. However thick the forest is, it does not deter clearer views and photography of gorillas because gorilla families in Bwindi are well known to be sociable and the fact that one family has at least more than 8 individuals.
Bwindi is also good place for adventure lovers because the forest is known to have survived the ice age about 25000 years ago hence contains high biodiversity of species including those endemic to the Albertine rift valley. So there is much more to see while on your gorilla tracking safari. The forest provides home to 120 mammals, 346 species of birds including 27 Albertine rift endemics, over 200 butterflies, 27 reptiles and geckos and over 1000 plant species.
In addition to the high biodiversity of species, Africa’s shortest men the Batwa pygmies are also found on the park boundary. These former forest dwellers exhibit unique cultural traditions that most tourists find t interesting to go for a Batwa cultural tour after gorilla tracking.