Hitting the thick rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on your actual gorilla trek is remarkably the one thing every trekker ever wishes to do while on safari in Africa. Ideally, it is long awaited day for primate enthusiast and hiking through Bwindi rewards travel endeavors with ultimate gorilla experiences. This popular national park is situated suitably in southwestern Uganda and features among the only four national parks where gorilla treks are always conducted. While on a gorilla safari, expect other trekkers who will hit the trail to search for these Great Apes.
Trailing the Gorillas
Tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was developed along guidelines of ecotourism. Along the trail, a number of dos and don’t do apply and must be observed all the time. You will be briefed on them by one of the park officials and after, you will be assigned to one gorilla family to track.
When you are done with briefing, your park ranger guide then takes you through your adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. On your hike, you follow a group of mountain gorillas while you are mindful of the rules and regulations. You are advised to observe the set rules at all times and listen to what your guide tells. The park ranger guide will always instruct you to follow the trail, how you are to behave and also pay attention keenly on other important instructions. You also ought to have respect for all your colleagues who are with you on the trek the fact that you aren’t alone on the hike to see mountain gorillas. Perhaps some of your colleagues can be slow in walking, there is no need for you to complain as the guide is there for you and he is a leader of your group.
Gorilla treks in Bwindi National Park take you through thick greenish vegetation with unique plants, steep slopes and also via scenic waterfalls. Always the treks are strenuous but very rewarding. Most importantly, the hikes kick start with morning breakfast at visitors’ respective lodge then briefing at the park headquarters.
Sectors of Bwindi Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park consists of four main trailheads where treks usually kick start. They include Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Buhoma area is situated in the northern side of Bwindi National Park and features as one of the most explored sectors in this park. It is also easy to get to this sector from Kabale or Kihihi airstrip thus making it the best for one to explore while on gorilla trek. This sector is the oldest when it comes to gorilla tourism as it is where the first group was habituated-Mubare gorilla family. This family was habituated in 1992 just immediately this protected area was designated a park. The sector also lies close to Queen Elizabeth National Park especially via Ishasha sector which is a main refuge to tree climbing lions. This also offers visitors with yet another amazing experience once they pass via this particular part of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Ron Van Oers [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo], via Wikimedia Commons
Buhoma area generally comes with amazing history and the fact that it is forest area with first group for visitors to track/where gorilla tourism at this park kick started. This sector comprises of comfortable lodges including among others Silverback lodge, mahogany springs, Bwindi Volcano Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp, Engagi Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Buhoma community rest camp, gorilla resort a mention but a few. The available gorilla families to track here include Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Katwe. A side from gorilla trekking, you can also embark on forest walk through trails like waterfall trail, Munyaga, River Ivi trail, Rushura trail, Muzabairoloop trail and others. These trails reward travel endeavors with incredible views over varied birds, primates, butterflies, trees, plant species and others.
Nkuringo trailhead on the other hand comprises of Nkuringo group and Christmas. This sector lies in the high elevation. This area is usually considered to offer challenging experiences. The available accommodation options include Nkuringo gorilla camp. While on gorilla trek at this trail, you can as well take part in cultural visit to Bakiga communities.
Ron Van Oers [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo], via Wikimedia Commons
Ruhija trailhead is situated in the eastern side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and comprises of habituated families like Bitukura, Kyaguliro and Oruzogo. It straddles within elevation of about 2350 meters and features as the coldest part in this park.
tajai from malaysia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Rushaga is another remarkable trailhead where gorilla treks usually kick start in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This tracking area lies in the southern side of Bwindi and comprises of 5 habituated gorilla families of Busingye, Kahungye, Nshongi, Bweza and Mishaya. It is here that you can as well embark on gorilla habituation experience in gorilla families like Bikingi and Bushaho. The notable accommodation options for overnight stay at this sector include Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Gorilla safari camp, chameleon hill lodge, gorilla haven lodge and others.
Duncan Wright [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Gorilla Watching Rules
There are strict rules and regulations that guide the conduct of tourists taking gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. While on the trail to track gorillas, there are set ecotourism guidelines that must be followed. The rules and regulations do apply to all tourists and they include among others;
- Limiting the time spent in the presence of the tourist in company of the mountain gorillas. Only one hour of magical encounter is allowed except for the gorilla habituation experience where tourists are allowed up to 4 hours to watch the gorillas.
- The number of tourists on a single gorilla trek is also restricted! Only 8 visitors are allowed to track a habituated family while on a gorilla habituation experience the number is restricted to 4 hours.
- A distance of 7 meters must be observed at all times away from gorillas.
- No flashlight cameras are allowed while taking photos of these large apes
- Tourists cannot go gorilla tracking when they are sick/feeling ill. This is due to the fact that gorillas can suffer the same communicable diseases that humans suffer.
In conclusion, gorilla treks in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park kick start from any of its 4 main trailheads of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. Each of them have habituated groups for you have enjoyable moments with a group of these most fascinating creatures.