Activities in Bwindi National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the oldest in East Africa and stretches from lowland forest right up to the montane forest belt. It is thought that Bwindi served as a refuge for species to survive during the last Ice Age, resulting in what is now biodiversity hotspot featuring species not found anywhere else on the planet.
The main attraction of 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 a genuine once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.
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.
Explore Bwindi’s incredible biodiversity
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a haven for wildlife lovers. Here, visitors have the chance to get up close and personal with a huge range of incredible species, many not found anywhere else on the planet.
Unfortunately, many of these species are globally threatened. This makes Bwindi 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.
The Bwindi forest has the highest diversity of tree species in East Africa, with over 200 species including 10 that are endemic. There are also over 100 species of ferns in Bwindi.
The beauty of this natural landscape is unforgettable, with guided nature walks along the 6 main trails taking you through the forest where you will discover hidden gems such as the Muyanga waterfall, Habinyanja swamp, and the ‘African Corner’ named after a piece of rock that is said to depict a map of Africa.
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.
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 of the 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.
Learn about the people of Bwindi
The Batwa people are the original human inhabitants of the forest, having lived there for countless years in harmony with nature using traditional methods of hunting and gathering. They are known as the ‘keepers of the forest’. When the national park was established in 1992, they were forced out of the forest in the name of conservation and given little choice but to try to find ways to survive with little education, unable to carry out their traditional way of living.
Today various organisation such as the Batwa Development Programme have helped amplify their voices after many years of suffering due to poor representation and a lack of support for their culture and lifestyles. Now, the Batwa people are able to share their cultural practices and valuable knowledge of Bwindi with visitors in an appropriate, sensitive and beneficial manner.
For example, the Buhoma Village Walk is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the local community. Visitors are led through the village by a friendly and knowledgeable guide on a three-hour cultural tour. Highlights include learning about local craftmanship such as intricately designed baskets, seeing how the unique banana beer is made, meeting a traditional healer and learning how plants from the forest are used in natural remedies, sharing in a traditional meal, visiting a local school, and more. This experience is incredibly enriching, and gives you a deeper understanding of a very different culture and way of life.
You can also take part in the Buniga Forest Walk, where a Batwa guide will take you on a guided tour of the forest, usually lasting around 2 hours, and showing you how they used to live. The walk merges ancient culture with nature, demonstrating how the Batwa lived in harmony with their surroundings. It is a wonderful experience full of interactive learning, where you can make meaningful connections with local people.
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 woman 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.
Ready to explore Bwindi?
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