Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

In the south-west of Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park stretches from lowland forest up to a montane forest belt. Believed to have been a refuge for species during the last Ice Age, it is now famous for its population of wild Mountain Gorillas. 

The main activity in Bwindi is gorilla trekking, and it is easy to see why. The forest is home to almost half of all Mountain Gorillas found in the world today and the chance to get up close to these amazing animals is an experience worthy of the once-in-a-lifetime descriptor. 

However, those who only come to Bwindi for gorilla trekking and leave soon afterwards risk missing out. If you take a little more time to explore the forest, you'll discover the unique flora and fauna of the park, find the best hiking trails, and learn about the fascinating people who make the forest their home.

Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Uganda is home to half the world's mountain gorillas.

Explore Bwindi’s incredible biodiversity

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a place of incredible bio-diversity, including 10 primate species, 120 mammal species, and 220 species of butterfly, any of which are endemic to the park. 

Unfortunately, many of these species are globally threatened. Bwindi is an important front line in conservation efforts. Ecotourism activities, such as guided nature and wildlife tours, have been highlighted by UNESCO as one of the most important ways to support the future conservation of the park.

Nature Walks

Nature walks in Bwindi take you through the verdant forest, and there are a number of routes to choose from depending on your interests, fitness, and time constraints. 

If you're keen to get in some good trekking during your trip, Bwindi has some of the best trails in the south-west. 

There are 6 trails to choose from, each taking you through a different part of the forest. En route, you'll discover some of Bwindi's lesser-visited landmarks including the Muyanga waterfall, Habinyanja swamp, and the ‘African Corner’ named after a piece of rock that is said to depict a map of Africa.

Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Spot the Butterflies!

For fans of butterflies, Bwindi is a dream. The forest is the most important place in all of Africa for montane forest butterflies, hosting 202 different species representing 84% of Uganda’s total, including eight only found in the national park.

Take a walk through the forest to catch a glimpse of the incredibly rare African giant swallowtail, or Cream-banded swallowtail.

Activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi is home to a plethora of spectacular wildlife.

Bird Watching

Bird lovers are also in for a treat. The forest has 348 different species of forest birds recorded in the park, 23 unique to the region. Some highlights are the African green broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher, and Shelley’s crimson-wing. The main nesting season is in May and June, with abundant food for the birds from May to September. Migratory birds can be found in Bwindi from November to April. 

Many of the bird watching tours on offer take place in the Buhoma area, along village paths and in the forest margins. They also take place in the Ruhija area of the park where knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the park to discover a variety of forest and swamp birds in their natural habitat. Wherever visitors choose to go in Bwindi, the birds are always plentiful and easy to spot. 

Entebbe Botanical Garden is home to the red-chested sunbird.

Entebbe Botanical Garden is home to the red-chested sunbird.

Explore the forest by bike

In the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, visitors have the chance to explore the park by mountain bike. There is a 13km trail leading cyclists around the forest to the shores of the Ivi River. The trail takes around 6-7 hours, including time to stop and soak in the incredible scenery and admire the wildlife.

This mountain biking experience is organised by Buhoma Community Rest Camp and is part of a community initiative called ‘Ride 4 a Woman’ which supports local women struggling with HIV, domestic violence, and poverty. By renting a bike, visitors directly support the great efforts of the organisation in helping women and the local community.

Due to the success of the organisation, they have expanded to now offer a sewing and weaving cooperative for women. Visitors are welcome to spend time with the women and try their hand at weaving.

In 2012, the Uganda Wildlife Authority opened mountain biking trails.

In 2012, the Uganda Wildlife Authority opened mountain biking trails.

People of Bwindi

  • Buhoma Exploration, an afternoon well spent

    Buhoma has grown since 1993, but it remains a compact and welcoming village, sustained by the gorillas and the forest that seems to push against the collection of lodges and houses in the valley bottom.

    Most wildlife activities depart by 9am and are often finished by early afternoon, meaning that if you are still feeling active, you have a few hours in which to explore your surroundings.  

    There are not a great deal of options, but most are available in and around Buhoma. You can follow a formal village tour that includes a visit to the blacksmith, brewery and traditional healer.

    Alternatively, visit the Ride 4 A Woman compound, a worthy non-governmental organisation established by local women to support those who are victims of domestic abuse. Initially generating income through the hire of bicycles, the group has now developed into a sewing and weaving co-operative. Members produce a great range of traditional and modern products that are available to buy; visitors are also welcome to try their hand at weaving and to chat with the women. 

  • Batwa experience, supporting a disintegrated community

    The Batwa people are the original human inhabitants of the Forest. An ancient race of hunter gatherers, they lived off, and in harmony with, the forest until the creation of the national park in 1992 led to their expulsion and banishment to a modern world they knew little of. 

    Since that time, they have lived on the forest fringes, unable to hunt, often squatting in the gardens of villagers, uneducated and unable to make a future for themselves. The result has been similar to that experienced by indigenous communities worldwide in similar circumstances: widespread alcoholism, prostitution and the disintegration of an ancient way of life.

    While it has always been possible to ‘visit’ Batwa communities since the establishment of the park, these experiences have been tragic and tawdry observation of desperation, with any cultural element staged for a perceived tourist appreciation.

    Happily, in recent years, that has changed. By visiting Batwa cultural projects run by the Batwa Development Programme, it is possible to learn about and support this fascinating, vulnerable, culture in a sensitive and appropriate manner.

    One of the best ways is to take a guided walk into boundary forest purchased by the programme and set aside for the use of the Batwa (excluding hunting), accompanied by an interpretive guide from the neighbouring Bakinga community. 

    Climbing a hundred metres or so above Buhoma, you will then be met by a Batwa welcoming community comprised of varying representatives of the community from the young to the very old. They will then skip ahead along the trail (while you wheeze and stumble), stopping to re-enact living tableaux of the life they used to live from preparing traps, to building houses and even disposing of the dead.

    This is not a happy ending. The Batwa arguably should live in the forest and they probably never will again, so a seam of sadness runs through the experience. But the guides undoubtedly enjoy the experience and the sights and sounds of your hours on the trail will live with you for a long time while your money helps support sustainable medical and educational lifelines for the Batwa community.

Discover Bwindi

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