01 Jun Gorilla Habituation Experience in Bwindi
It is only in Uganda where you go on a mountain gorilla habituation experience and presently with two gorilla groups found in the Rushaga area that is Bushaho and Bikingi of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Gorilla habituation is a teaching process for wild gorillas with an aim of getting them familiar with human presence in their jungle forests. The major aim for habituation is to promote mountain gorilla trekking tours in Uganda making sure gorillas live in harmony with human visitors, and don’t attack tourists who go gorilla trekking in Africa.
Mountain gorilla habituation is a long process involving gorilla adaption. This is only done by gorilla researchers and well-experienced rangers who meet with the gorillas every single day to train and monitor their progress. Habituation involves giving names to each gorilla and training them to acknowledge these names, while closely observing their behavior. This is very challenging at the beginning as gorillas tend to run away from researchers moving deep into the forests. It is a very slow process that can take years.
Birding in the park
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bul bul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Blue bill. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija.
Cultural encounters in Bwindi
- Buhoma Community Tours / Mukono Development Association
The three-hour village walk begins with a visit to the handcraft shop – selling handmade artifacts such as fabrics, beeswax candles and wood carvings, all produced by talented local craftsmen and women. The neighboring Batwa community performs songs and dances about their former life in the forest, introducing you to another unique local culture. You will also meet the traditional healer who treats the sick with medicinal plants, and the teachers and pupils of the local primary school. Finally, you can learn how bananas are used to make juice, beer and gin – and taste the results!
- Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF)
NCCDF supports local artisans and the local Batwa community through its crafts shop. They train orphans who perform at a nearby lodge, and can make arrangements for visitors to sponsor them. Set in a lush hillside bordering Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with dramatic views towards Congo, Nkuringo is a wonderful place to visit for those who want both a cultural experience and beautiful scenery.
- Buniga Forest Nature Walk
Discover the gorgeous hidden treasures of Buniga Forest and its diverse flora and fauna on this trail, led by locals who are expert regional guides. Buniga Forest Reserve is one of the three remaining pocket forests adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Due to the increased encroachment on the forest and associated loss of biodiversity and other forest resources, the trail was created by Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF) to protect the forest and manage it for ecotourism activities.
Other activities around the park
Though gorilla trekking is the main tourism attraction, range of other walks provide more relaxed opportunities to spot birds and monkeys while exploring one of Uganda’s loveliest rain forests. Mountain biking is also a good activity around Bwindi. This is usually done through a well maintained trail 13km trail of Ivi river from the park office. The following walks can be arranged to depart in the morning at 9:00am and in the afternoon at 2: 15 hours.
- Muyanga Waterfall Walk departs from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo trail and culminates in the sensational sight of the falls plummeting 33 meters.
- Rushura Hill Walk passes through one forest shared by two countries. On a clear day you can view Lakes Edward and George and the Rwenzori Mountains as well as the conical peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes.
- Muzabajiro Loop is a 6km walk around a hill, where you will encounter primates and birds and enjoy a view of the Virungas.
- The Ivi River Walk is 14km and takes around seven hours. The trail passes a place known as Mukempunu – meaning “a place of pigs” – where wild pigs can often be found.
- The Buhoma – Nkuringo Trail takes three to four hours, and crosses right through the park, connecting the two villages and offering impressive views of the misty hillsides as you ascend the hills towards Nkuringo. You can leave our luggage with your driver, who will meet you at the other side. This trail can also be completed as part of the Ivi River Walk.
- The Habinyanja (Raleigh) Trail takes 4-6hrs. After crossing the Munyaga River, it takes in a fairly steep ascent of the Habigorogoro and Riyovi Ridge overlooking Buhoma River. Found along this trail is the legendry “African Corner” named after a rock piece depicting a map of Africa. Following the steep ascent, keen hikers can enjoy a more relaxed gentle slope to the mighty Habinyanja swamp. Birders on this trail should watch out for the Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Black Duck and Black Bee Eaters, among others.
Where to stay
There are a lot of accommodation facilities ranging from luxury, midrange and budget accommodation in the four sectors of Bwindi as listed below.
- Buhoma Community Rest Camp
- Buhoma Lodge
- Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Lodge
- Silverback Lodge
- Engagi Lodge
- The Haven
- Bwindi Lodge
- Mahogany Springs
- Chameleon Hill
- Mutanda Lake Resort
- Gorilla Safari Lodge
- Gorilla Valley Lodge
- Bakiga Lodge
- Broadbill Forest Camp
- Gorilla Friends Camp
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Nkuringo Safari Lodge