Top Things to Do in Bwindi National Park

Tourist Activities Conducted Within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Gorilla National Park is one of the must-visit destinations by majority of tourists that visit Uganda, mainly because it is a haven to more than 480 of the critically endangered Mountain gorillas that are found in only three countries in the whole World-Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Uganda. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was established in 1991 and is surprisingly the only place in Africa where Mountain gorillas and Chimpanzees can be found.

Interestingly, most tourists know Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for only gorilla tracking but there is more to this destination than meets the eye. Did you know you can actually also enjoy bird watching, nature walks/Hiking, the Batwa cultural experience, mountain biking and the Gorilla Habituation Experience?

It is the only place you will enjoy this unforgettable experience in a lifetime. Some of the attractions to expect here include over 1000 flora species including 160 tree species and 100 fern species, about 120 mammal species such as Forest elephants, primates like Red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, Mountain gorillas, Vervet monkeys, Olive baboons, L’Hoests monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, forest buffaloes, Duikers,  bushbucks, serval cats and the giant forest hogs among others.

If you are a birder, then this is real Paradise with over 340 species of birds like the handsome francolin, Chestnut-throated Apalis, the Rwenzori Batis, African green broadbill, mountain-masked Apalis, white-browed Crombec, the yellow-faced woodland warbler and the white-tailed flycatcher.

Provided are the detailed activities tourists can actually relish when they visit this wonderful destination;

  • Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla trekking is and will always be the number one activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is undeniably the number one reason why tourists visit the country. This destination offers a phenomenal backdrop for this exceptional activity and there are 11 habituated gorilla families distributed across the four sectors-Rushaga, Buhoma, Ruhija and Nkuringo thus only 88 permits are available per day.

  • Gorilla Habituation Experience

You can enjoy Gorilla trekking from all the four National Parks where the Mountain gorillas are found but the Gorilla Habituation Experience can only be enjoyed from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park whereby instead of the usual one hour offered during gorilla trekking, tourists get up to four hours to spend with a gorilla family still undergoing habituation. Currently, only two groups (in the southern sectors of Nkuringo and Rushaga) can be visited for this experience and costs only $1500 per person.

  • The Batwa Cultural Experience (Cultural Encounters)

The Batwa pygmies were the first inhabitants of the Park and lived in the forest as hunter-gatherers. Much as they lived in the forest for many years, these people left small ecological footprint on the area and lived in harmony with nature but after it was gazetted into a National Park in 1991, they were displaced to the edges of the Park with no representation, no voice but living as beggars and squatters. Visiting the Park will therefore introduce you to some of the ancient ways like making bamboo bowls, building if grass-thatched huts, harvesting honey, making fire by rubbing sticks and use of trees and plants for herbal medicine among others.

Also, tourists can participate in a three-hour cultural walk through Buhoma villages and learn some of the cultures and customs of the people such as demonstrations of making local crafts such as baskets. Also see how local produce is harvested, food is prepared traditionally (with firewood) and also visit the local schools in the area.

  • Bird watching

There are over 350 species of birds that call Bwindi Impenetrable National Park home, making bird watching one of the must-do activities in the Park. Some of the lovable species of birds in the Park include Ruwenzori Batis, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Chestnut-throated Apalises, White-tailed fly-catcher, Shelley’s Crimson-wing, Mountain Greenbul, Handsome Francolin, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Green Tinkerbird and the White-browed Crombec among others.

  • Nature walks/hiking

There are 12 hiking trails in the Park lasting from one day or longer ones lasting several days and require you to spend overnights. Some of the trails include the Muyanga waterfalls walk, Muzubijiro loop, the Rushura Hill walk, the Ivi River walk, the Buhoma-Nkuringo and the Habinyanja (Railegh) Trail rewarding tourists with the views of different primates, waterfalls, mountains and the beautiful bird species such as the African black ducks, Pel’s fishing owls, Rwenzori Batis and black bee-eaters among others.

  • Mountain biking

Biking is mainly conducted within Buhoma sector by the Ride 4 a Woman, a community support group that also offers bikes for rent also guides tourists within and around the Park. The guides take you through different landscapes, the village and into the Forest through different trails such as the Ivy River Trail and most rides last 3 hours or longer depending on the trail used.

The Batwa Group Of People In Uganda

The Twa or Batwa are pygmy people who have lived in the Albertine Rift Valley region since immemorial time. They are great story tellers and dancers. The Batwa are nicknamed as the “keepers of the forest” because they spend most of their time in the forest. In Uganda, Batwa have their origin in the impenetrable forests of Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga which is dating back nearly 60,000 years, making them one of the oldest groups of people inhabiting the earth. Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Park are best two Uganda safari destinations famous for gorilla tracking, Batwa Experience and Batwa trail. Traditionally, the Batwa are hunter and fruit gatherers for survival.

The Batwa people are also found in Rwanda, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. However, to conserve the forests, the Batwa were removed from the forest and given no compensation, making them like refugees. They have relocated in areas far from the forests and many of them have found new sources of income as others became destitute. By the year 2000, the number of Batwa was about 80.000 people distributed in different countries.

batwa-making-fire

Traditional way of making fire by the Batwa

It is unfortunate that the Batwa have little access to formal education and their communities have limited representation in local and national government. The following Batwa cultural activities are true cultural experiences which link conservation and development as an eco-tourist project.

The Twa Cultural Experience in Bwindi Forest, south western Uganda:

The Batwa Cultural Experience is a 100 acre forested site next to Bwindi Forest in Uganda, the best destination for gorilla trekking in the world! This is an ecotourist site created by the Batwa Development Program (BDP), a registered organization founded primarily by donations of Kellermann Foundation. The project was created with the objective to educate the children and to sensitize the world to the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Batwa. Moreover, it generates income through ecotourism activities.

Traditionally, batwa people have unique performance in music, dance and drama which is enjoyed by tourists who visit Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks for gorilla trekking safaris. We have what we call “The Batwa Experience” in Bwindi and the “Batwa Trail” in Mgahinga National Park where you spend a day with the Batwa people, learning more about their cultures and historical ways of life.

The Batwa or Twa trail of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda:
Mgahinga National Park is found in the far south western Uganda at the boarder of Uganda and Rwanda.

Batwa Lived in Nests

Batwa Lived in Nests

The Batwa Trail runs across the lower slopes of the two volcanoes Muhavura and Gahinga, a forest containing rich biodiversity including the endangered mountain gorillas. Led by local Batwa guides, visitors experience the forest through the unique perspective of the Batwa. Moreover, this activity has relaunched the small and little known Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is only 33.7 square kilometers (and therefore the presence of gorillas cannot be stable in this small area).

During cultural encounter tour, the Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and demonstrate bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, a 200 meter-long lava tube beneath Mountain Gahinga that was once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture. This is truly a unique experience for visitors to learn about the traditional culture of the indigenous people.