The country’s oldest forest, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park straddles the extreme southwestern part of Uganda and is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular protected areas in East Africa, boasting a truly theatrical landscape of volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges.
Of course, it’s most famous for being the home of almost half the world’s remaining population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, making it the ‘go to’ spot for a once-in-a-lifetime gorilla tracking adventure. But there are several other compelling reasons to add Bwindi to your travel bucket list!
It’s not just about the gorillas
Almost 120 species of mammal, 350 bird species, 27 frogs and 220 butterfly species call Bwindi home, not to mention more than a 1,000 plants, trees and ferns, many of which are rarely found in any other part of East Africa. This astonishingly diverse array of flora and fauna means the Forest is a veritable haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers, many of whom travel thousands of miles to see creatures including rare forest elephant, giant forest hog, and the globally threatened Africa Green Broadbill in their natural environment.
A visit to the region also offers an unparalleled insight into the Batwa Pygmy tribe, a tribe of hunter-gatherers who lived in Bwindi’s caves and trees for more than 4,000 years. Following the gazetting of the National Park in the early 1990s, the Batwa were evicted from their traditional homes, and today, only an estimated 4,000 remain in south-west Uganda, about 1,000 of them in the Kanungu district, which includes Bwindi. In 2000, a survey conducted by an American physician, Dr Scott Kellerman, and his wife, Carol, revealed the tribe was dying out, along with its unique culture and intimate knowledge of the forest.
Moved by their findings, the Kellermans founded the Bwindi Community Hospital in Buhoma Village to support the Batwa, as well as helping to found schools, homes, health clinics and water programs nearby. A community preservation project, The Batwa Cultural Experience, has also been developed by the Batwa, and a visit here provides an unforgettable opportunity to experience their vibrant culture and traditions including story-telling, dancing and ululating melodies.
The best time to visit
Bwindi is entirely a tropical rainforest and receives a staggering annual rainfall of around 1,500mm, mostly during the wet season. This runs from March to May and from October to November, with the dry season running from June to September and then December to February. While it’s possible to undertake safaris throughout the year, the dry season is usually considered the peak season for gorilla trekking.
Where to stay
Tucked away on a on a flat ridge deep within the heart of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is an idea base to explore the Bwindi region. Featuring just eight private luxury tents, the Camp was re-launched by boutique luxury travel operator Sanctuary Retreats in 2018, following the completion of an extensive refurbishment program.
The atmospheric Camp’s small size ensures it retains an intimate, exclusive feel, enabling guests to experience Africa’s magic with the lightest of footprints, while enjoying practically every mod con. Even better, its unique location means the Camp is frequently visited by gorilla families, making it the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with Uganda’s endangered mountain primates. Buhoma Village is also close by, with plenty of opportunities for guests to visit the Bwindi Community Hospital and meet local Batwa villagers.
If you’re contemplating ticking a visit to Bwindi off your bucket list, this could be just the year to do it. In 2019, you can take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats’ great-value extended stay offer. Normally priced from US$395 per person per night twin share, save when you stay at one or more Sanctuary Retreats luxurious African safari camps or lodges, including Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, for 4 nights or more.
- Stay 4 – 6 nights at any combination of Sanctuary Retreats African camps and lodges including Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp and save 30%.
- Stay 7+ nights and save up to 35%.
Terms and conditions apply.