Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a 25,000-year-old forest and guaranteed to offer everything you could ask for from a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 120 species of mammals, inclusive of over 440 mountain gorillas of which over 200 are habituated. Although it is the most visited mountain gorilla park in the world, it is far from overcrowded as wide as 321 sq kilometres. This makes wildlife spotting fantastic as you don’t have to worry about the possibility of anyone obstructing your views.
Lying on a highland found at 1,160m - 2,607m above sea level, this gem has a thriving concentration of 10 primate species including chimpanzees, black & white Colubus, l'Hoest monkey and olive baboons. However, its real charm is its gorilla portfolio. All its habituated gorillas can be seen any time of the year. They are clustered into 17 families which live in its four wings, Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma and Ruhijja. Regardless of which one you chose, you are assured of finding over 8 gorillas belonging to different age brackets; infants, black backs, juveniles, mothers and silverbacks.
The gorilla adventure here will give you that distinct feeling, that you humans are still closely related to gorillas despite having undergone evolution. A big alpha male might come down from the trees and lay relaxed on the ground chewing, right next to you. Even though you will be very close, you will not feel threatened as all members of the family are not violent to humans. This follows a successful habituation they underwent. The proximity will allow you to discover why gorillas are said to be as smart as chimps although quite laid back.
During your time here, you will see so many things.... a roaring river being one of them! You will find waterfalls that drop down 10 meters and tumble down to ponds with crystal clear waters.
To ensure you register a 95% probability of finding the gorillas, an advance team of rangers will go into the forest to monitor the direction towards which they are moving. On finding them, he will guide the ranger leading your group on how to easily to the particular family you have been allocated to visit. You will follow them as they move around. You will see so many both in the trees and on the ground. You will see many males male posturing and pant-hooting - even some farting!
Other mammals found here
Forest elephants are rare to come by especially in the rainy season, but they’re here too, as are bushbucks and forest duikers.
Bwindi is a preferred habitat for 350 recorded bird species, inclusive of 23 Albertine Rift Endemics that are "a must-see" like Neumann's warbler, Rwenzori Turaco and blue-headed sunbird.
Nature walks are productive, although some bird species tend to be more skittish upon noticing noisy visitors. To this effect, you are advised to observe silence. This will double your chances of encountering Black bee-eater, Blue-headed Sunbird, Many-coloured bush-shrike, Olive-breasted greenbul, Olive-breasted greenbul, Purple-breasted sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Shelley's Crimsonwing, Blue-headed Sunbird, Grauer's broadbill....the list goes on. Most of these are residents in Mubwindi, a swamp in the Northern part of Bwindi. It is a lovely place for nature walks as it a green forest full of waterfalls, narrow rapids, and emerald ponds that produce colourful rainbows on sunny days.
If you didn't have good binoculars, you mostly see black silhouettes among the tree branches. However, if you look through your camera lenses attentively, you could see several species eating, flying and nesting. If you want crisp photos, a telephoto lens is well worth carrying in.
Best time for birding
If you wish to see the maximum number of species, March and September won't disappoint you. During this time, food is abundant in the forest. Migratory birds can best be seen from November to April.
Gorilla Habituation in Bwindi
If you have a real interest in gorillas, you are better off doing this day-long experience instead of the regular tracking experience where your time with gorillas is limited to one hour. In the company of a ranger guide, you will follow wild gorillas as they hunt for food. The longevity will enable you to watch these peace-loving primates do everything from eating, napping, playing etc. It is delightful to watch their behaviours being so close up.
The guides here are professional, friendly, knowledgeable and always ensuring that your experience is the best it could be.
Although gorillas are very loud, they distance themselves from noisy settings. To this effect, you are advised to keep silence. This will enable you to quietly sneak up to any of them without being noticed. By the time they move on, you will have seen a lot.
If it is your lucky day, you might also come across seldom seen bush elephants!