A country also within the Eastern region of Africa. Uganda is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, with fantastic natural scenery; half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population is in Uganda. The natural attractions are among the best in the region, and as tourism is still being re-established, there simply aren’t the crowds found elsewhere. Take your pick from the highest mountain range in Africa, the Rwenzori Mountains; one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, Murchison Falls; or perhaps the highest primate density in the world, in kabale forest National park – Uganda has all this and more. It’s a beautiful country with a great deal to offer, and sooner or later the tourist hordes will ‘discover’ its delights – make sure you get there before they do.
Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest is a true equatorial jungle, inhabited by four Gorilla groups – each led by a silverback male. It is the richest, most species-diverse forest in Uganda, as the area is one of the few large expanses of forest in East Africa where lowland and montane communities merge. Massive trees are entangled with creepers and parasitic plants such as mistletoe and orchids. Giant thickets of bamboo thrive in the humid atmosphere and where sunlight breaks through the elegant heliconia, or lobster claw and spreads its colourful petals. Amongst the dense vegetation the Colobus Monkey jumps from branch to branch, chattering its warning to its fellows hidden by the foliage. Chimpanzees, in families of 20 or 30, make the rounds searching for fruit and edible plants.
The park is located in south western Uganda, covering parts of Rukungiri, Kisoro, and Kibale Districts. It was gazetted in 1991 with an area of 331 sq.km. It is situated in a hilly countryside that, together with some remnant lowland forest outside the boundary, constitute an important water catchment area for many rivers; supplying the agricultural land of the surrounding region.
At least 120 species of mammal are recorded in one of the richest ecosystems in Africa including Gorilla, Chimpanzee, and 8 other species of primate, also Elephant, Bush Pig, Giant Forest Hog, many species of bats and rodents. No less than 346 species of birds are listed including rare forest birds, at least 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads, 6 chameleons, 14 lizards, skinks or geckos, and at least 202 species of butterfly. There are also several endangered species of birds with limited ranges. This forest is a sanctuary for almost half the world’s population of mountain gorillas; the rarest race of gorilla. Established as a safe habitat for several families of mountain gorillas it is now the location of an important scientific conservation program.
All clients wanting to go Gorilla trekking must obtain a permit, and the days of just turning up at the Park Office at Buhoma and hoping there are permits still available are long gone; the popularity of Gorilla trekking has seen to that. This is not an issue for Gorilla Trails, as all our clients would have their permits purchased in advance to ensure no problems with availability. By booking in advance your itinerary can be structured to work most effectively around available dates.
Gorilla Trekking starts in the morning with a briefing at the Park Headquarters about what the days trek will involve and to check that everyone is well enough to take part. No-one with a cold or flu or signs of other transmittable illnesses will be allowed to trek due to the risks posed to the families of Gorillas. After the initial group briefing you are split into groups of 6 and introduced to your trek leader. He will speak to you about your particular group of Gorillas and the etiquette of observing and photographing Mountain Gorillas. An assortment of vehicles will then transport the trekking groups to the starting points; this drive can range from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the locations of the Gorilla Groups.
Due to the terrain in Bwindi all of the treks will start off with a steep (and in many cases slippery!) climb up a hillside and most people will find the use of a walking stick beneficial to help with their balance. In 2005 one of the Gorilla Groups tended to feed and live in the secondary forest, whereas the other two groups were found in the thicker darker primary forest. As a rule the groups in the primary forest required longer walks to reach them, but of course this is constantly changing depending on the movement and dynamics of the families.
When you get close to the Gorilla you must leave all of your bags and other luggage and only carry your camera/video onwards to the family. This is to stop the Gorilla being spooked by bags and other extra equipment that has been shown to make them nervous. After dropping the bags you proceed slowly to the group with your guide and then spend a wonderful hour (strictly monitored) with the group. No flash photography is allowed, so your camera must be carefully checked to ensure the ‘no flash’ option is selected