ABOUT BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
Bwindi impenetrable forest is located in south-western Uganda, at the junction of the plain and mountain forests. The size is 32,092 ha and one of the largest areas in East Africa which still has Afromontane lowland forest extending to well within the montane forest belt. The forest is a biodiversity hotspot with possibly the greatest number of tree species for its altitude in East Africa. It is also hosts a rich fauna including a number of endemic butterflies and one of the richest mammalian assemblages in Africa. The mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More importantly, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
The region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
WEATHER IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
The forest’s altitude which is 4265ft to 8553ft influences its climate. The park’s proximity to the equator means that temperatures are mostly consistent throughout the year, hovering around 23°C in the day and dropping to roughly 11°C at night. Temperatures tend to be lower at higher altitudes within the forest. Rain falls throughout the year and short downpours are possible even during the dry season. The park’s annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900mm. The peak of the rainy season happens in March to April and from September to November. It however does not experience really dry seasons. The drier seasons; The months of June and July and December to February receive very low rainfall and are referred to as the drier season.
ATTRACTIONS IN IMPENETRABLE FOREST
One of the leading highlights of the forest is the chance to see primates in the wild. Bwindi is the only place in the world in which mountain gorillas and chimpanzees still co-exist. Other animals found in the region include elephants, duiker, bushpig, giant forest hog and several small cat species. More attractions include 160 species of trees, over 100 species of ferns, and over 200 butterfly species. The forest is also famous for the “Albertine rift Endemic”, a group of Birds specific to the Western Rift valley. Over 346 species of birds have been recorded in the region.
Mountain gorillas are one of Africa’s most prominent endangered species. There are approximately 400 gorillas in the protected area accounting for about half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. They consist of about 14 different family groups that are used to human interaction allowing guided groups a chance to see them in the wild.
Bwindi mountain gorillas display thicker and longer hair than other gorilla species. Males can reach a weight of about 195 kg which is about double that of the females. Typical height is about five feet (1.5 m), but they can get slightly taller when fully erect. The arm span can reach about 7 feet 7 inches (2.3 m), which assists in navigation amongst the trees.
Adult males are affectionately referred to as silverbacks. This name comes from the silver or grayish hair that develops along the arch of the back as these males age.
On the trekking day, tourists assemble at the park headquarters. They are briefed about the dos and don’ts when in the vicinity of the gorillas. Tourists are then led off to their tracking sectors from where they embark on the tracking expeditions. Once located, tourists spend an hour interacting and discovering more about these interesting creatures. After the encounter, tourists are guided back to the national park headquarters for their certificates of participation.
Bwindi impenetrable forest consists of the common chimpanzee species (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). They account for over 400 individuals out of 5050 chimpanzees in Uganda. They are second biggest species of primates in the world after mountain gorillas. With about 98 percent of their DNA same to that of humans, they are our closest relatives in the wild. A mature common chimpanzee weighs between 40 and 60kgs and has a height of 1.6m. A mature female weigh from 32 to 47kgs and has a height of 1.3m. They have a coarse black hair apart from the toes, palms, face, fingers and soles of their feet. Chimpanzees have firm grip due their unique thumbs and big toes which are opposite to each other. They live in communities with a dominant male known as the alpha male being the leader. Chimpanzees in Bwindi National Park can be spotted in Buhoma area in the north and Nkuringo sector in the south.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest is a haven for birds. Due to its biodiversity, Bwindi is a home to various birds with over 300 bird species and 24 species endemic to the Albertine rift. Among the various bird species that can be seen here include the African broadbill, fowls, Turacos like the black-billed Turacos and many others.
Bwindi forest has over 100 mammal species among these include bush pigs, forest hogs, forest Elephant, duikers, bush bucks, African golden cats.
The forest also protects about 220 butterfly species and 42 of them are Albertine Rift endemic species. Some butterflies’ species are notably unique in Bwindi impenetrable forest. They include the cream banded swallow tail (Papilio leucotaenia), Graphium gudenusi and Charaxes foumierae as well as the endangered African giant swallowtail (Papilio antimachus).
It is also recognized for its 27 Amphibian species that have been recorded in the park, 11 of which are Albertine Rift endemic while the 6 are of global conservation interest including the Western Rift Leaf folding frog (Afrixalus orophilus) and Ahl’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius castaneus).
Bwindi Impenetrable forest hosts a good number of reptiles. The forest protects 14 snake species and 9 of them are endemic to Bwindi. There are also 6 chameleon species and 14 species of lizards.
Bwindi Impenetrable natural forest used to be home to the Batwa tribe of Uganda. They used to live and survive on the forest’s resources. Due to the conservation programs and efforts, the group was driven out of the forest and they currently live around the forest. Visiting the Batwa offers a great experience and a chance to discover their unique cultural practices and way of living. Batwa present great hunting skills, traditional entertainment, community walks among others to tourists.
The list of tourist attractions and activities that can be enjoyed while visiting Bwindi Impenetrable forest is endless. Due to its biodiversity, it’s Uganda’s number one leading tourist destination, thanks to its mountain gorillas. It can be visited at any time of the year though the most preferred is the dry season when the ground is less slippery.