A lot has been written and said about Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. But for a long time, all the stories have been pivoted around encountering the mountain gorillas. It would be an injustice to attempt to unveil the wonders of Bwindi impenetrable national park without hinting on the mountain gorilla trekking experience.
However, we are going to attempt to open your eyes to the wonders of Bwindi Forest beyond the gorilla trekking experience. This remote national park is one of the growing tourism destinations pulling lots of tourists from every corner of the world. Located in south western Uganda close to border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bwindi is the ultimate destination frequented by tourists looking to gorilla watching experiences in Africa. Recently the park was listed by the CNN as one of the top 25 destinations to visit this year!
Before we dive into the wonders of this ancient rainforest that dates back to over 25,000 years ago, here is a little insight into the gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi.
Encountering the Gorillas in Bwindi
You can only imagine what it can be like, to be in the presence of a creature that can force you into ghost mode in just a couple of seconds with one strike but at the same time so gentle that you can even be tempted to caress it.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and other stakeholders jointly put in place guidelines to safe guard visitors from the possibility of the gorilla human conflict. Among these guidelines include the 8 meters distance from the mountain gorillas, the health protocol, limited number of trekkers among several other requirements.
Regardless of these guidelines, gorilla trekking has remained one of the top wonders of Bwindi impenetrable national park. A true success story in the universe of conservation has been realized and the mountain gorillas are off the IUCN’s Critically Endangered Animals List. The mountain gorilla’s subspecies is the only gorilla subspecies that has registered a population increase in the last decade.
While many other wildlife species around the world are registering a decline to the point that some are being threatened into the critically endangered zone; Bwindi forest has proven that it is possible to reduce human-wildlife conflict to the point that wildlife ceases to simply survive but increase in population.
The mountain gorillas were edging extinction in just two decades ago. But the conservation efforts through gorilla trekking have paid off to the point that you can only wonder how such a major leap was made from the critically endangered zone to the endangered zone.
Chimpanzees In Bwindi Forest
Bwindi impenetrable forest is the only place currently in the whole world where chimpanzees and mountain gorillas are naturally sharing the same forest. Little is always shared about the co-existence of the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in Bwindi because for conservation purposes; chimpanzees in Bwindi have not been habituated.
One of the major wonders of Bwindi is encountering the chimpanzees and the mountain gorillas in the same forest. However, there are less than 10% chances that you will hit this jackpot. But this remains one of the natural wonders of Bwindi in case you hit the jackpot.
When visiting Bwindi, chances are you will mostly hear the shouts of the chimpanzees. None habituated animals often consider human beings to be threats. Whenever they sense them in their environment, they simply run away.
Until now there are no special tours for encountering both chimpanzees and gorillas in the same forest but the lucky ones have had this once in a lifetime opportunity to encounter both in the same forest through a gorilla trek coupled with nature walks in different sectors.
Birding in Bwindi impenetrable forest
Uganda is one of the best birding destinations in East Africa hosting over a 1000 bird species. If you zoom in on Uganda, Semuliki is one of the leading birding destinations in Uganda. But for the best of the birding experience in Uganda, nothing compares to Bwindi forest.
Bwindi impenetrable forest hosts 23 of the 24 Albertine rift valley bird endemics. It is a birders’ haven that has forever been hidden in the shadows of mountain gorilla trekking. It is quite common to find a video about gorilla trekking in Bwindi but a story is rarely told about the birding experience in Bwindi.
On a number of occasions, the birders have encountered a number of other unpopular animal species of Bwindi such as the forest elephants, and the forest Buffaloes. Safety is always at the forefront, no tourist is allowed to explore the park without the company of an armed game ranger.
CNN has ranked Bwindi among the most beautiful places in the whole world but majority of the people have also thought that it was because of gorilla trekking. But there is more to Bwindi impenetrable forest than trekking for the mountain gorillas.
Swimming is often discouraged in most of the natural places around Uganda. Some people are uncomfortable swimming in lakes. But Bwindi has a number of steams that form a number of swimming pools that introduce you to the true experience of nature.
Gorilla trekking does not introduce you to this side of Bwindi impenetrable national park. It takes a full day guided nature walk to experience the full blast of swimming in the Bwindi pools. It is relatively a better experience than swimming at lake Bunyonyi.
Precautions always have to be taken since you will be visiting unfamiliar places. A first aid kit always comes in handy. A satellite phone as well as air medical evacuation in case anything happens to you. In order to better experience Bwindi, it is highly recommended that you try the activities that not often put on display.
There is more to the wonders of Bwindi impenetrable forest but the best of them can only be experienced. We recommend getting in touch with a licensed tour operator to organize a Bwindi off the beaten path excursion.