10 Things to Do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Apart from Gorilla Trekking
Oftentimes, when Bwindi Impenetrable National Park gets mentioned, the first thing that comes to tourists’ minds is gorilla trekking. And this is quite understandable since it’s an awesome activity that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can track and observe the mountain gorillas in a dense rainforest from a sector of your choice as the park has four distinct sectors. These sectors include Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhizi. Rushaga and Buhoma are the most popular destinations for tracking gorillas because they’ve got the highest numbers of permits issued plus, the apes are easier to find there. However, there are other exciting things you can do in Bwindi, and these include:
1. Observe the gorilla habituation
Unlike with gorilla tracking where you get to watch these primates for only an hour after finding them, with gorilla habituation you’re allowed to spend 4 hours with them. This experience is enjoyed in the Rushaga sector where wild gorillas are trained to get used to people so that they don’t attack them, or run away, making their observation difficult during the gorilla trekking experience. And during the 4 hours allocated to you, you’ll watch a group of conservationists, researchers, trackers, and rangers as they carry out the familiarization process.
2. See the different waterfalls in the park
Bwindi has five waterfalls that you can visit, depending on the sector you choose to track the mountain gorillas since they’re found in (only) three sectors. The beautiful Bayenda Falls are found in Rushaga, close to the sector headquarters about 30 minutes away. Whereas, you can find the Suma Falls in the breathtaking Nkuringo sector and the Muyanga waterfalls, which comprise three falls in the Buhoma sector. The hike to the last falls is a bit strenuous, but if you’re able to trek gorillas through the hilly and rocky Bwindi terrain, you can as well as make it to these beautiful falls.
3. Go birding in Mubwindi swamp
Before mountain gorillas were introduced in Ruhiji where the Mubwindi swamp is, the sector was known for birding. Because of all the 350 bird species found in the Bwindi forest, the majority of them reside in this swamp, which has one of the most captivating bird-watching walk trails in the country. You’ll get to see the sought-after African green broadbill and other common birds like the Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, White-starred Robin, Strange Weaver, Grey-green Bush-shrike, and Slender-billed Greenbul.
4. Enjoy the Batwa cultural tour
The Batwa pygmies used to live within the Bwindi forest before it became a national park and had to relocate outside it. So in order to preserve their culture, a reenactment site was created outside the park along the Buniga forest trail so that they can share their heritage with their children and tourists. During the tour, you’ll visit their hut shelters, and watch demonstrations of how they used to hunt animals like the duikers and buffalo before it became illegal plus how to locally start a fire. You’ll also enjoy watching their traditional dances that you can participate in.
5. Hike to Nkuringo Hilltop
This hilltop is referred to as the “Top of the World” because it offers breathtaking views of the entire park, Lake Edward, Virunga mountains, and even Queen Elizabeth national park. And it can take about 2-3 hours of walking through tea plantations and a village to reach the Nkuringo hilltop from where you can enjoy a couple of drinks as you watch the sun go down. Alternatively, if you’re not up to the hike, you can drive there.
6. Bike through the Bwindi forest
This exciting activity is one of the best things to do in Bwindi because it allows you to traverse the park on a round trip that can last about 6-7 hours. You can set off in the morning from the Buhoma headquarters on a 17-kilometer trail to the Ivy River, enjoying views of bushbucks, red-tailed monkeys, and black and white Colobus monkeys along the way. However, you’ll need to book the bikes in advance from the Ride 4 a Woman group to avoid any disappointments since the bikes are few.
7. Take nature walks in the rainforest
With so many trails in Bwindi Impenetrable national forest that lead to different destinations, you can choose to take nature walks on those that appeal to you. And to help you decide, here’s a list of some of the popular hiking trails in the park:
- Muzubijiro Loop hiking trail: It offers stunning views of the Bwindi forest, the Western Rift Valley, and the Virunga Mountains as you ascend to the Rukubira hill. The trail is located in the Buhoma sector, and the hike can last 3-4 hours.
- Ivy River trail: You can start the walk along this 14km trail from either Buhoma or Nkuringo. And on this whole day hike that will take you across the Ivy River, you’ll encounter several primates like monkeys, birds, and locals on their way to the market.
- Habinyanja trail: On this 4-6 hour walk, you’ll hike across the Muyanga River found on the Habigorogo slopes and enjoy sightings of various birds in the Habinyanja swamp.
- Kashasha River walking trail: This trail is walkable in 4-5 hours, and you can travel on the steep inclines along the Buhoma-Nkuringo route, passing across an intersection of two rivers. And along the way, you can get a chance to see several birds and beautiful flowers.
8. Tour the communities
There are many villages within Bwindi that you can tour and experience how the locals live – see the houses they live in, and how they grind and traditionally make their food in pots. You can also visit the local project centres and support the people. For example, you can visit the Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation, which sells head crafts made by the community women, plus teaches orphans how to sing so that they can perform for visitors at nearby lodges.
9. Camping in the park
You should book a safari lodge with camping grounds since there are no designated camping sites in Bwindi national park, and connect with nature. Some of the lodges that provide this activity include Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Gorilla Conservation Camp, and Ruhondeza Lodge & Camp. And while you’re camping, you may get visits from black and white Colobus monkeys, baboons, gorillas, and different bird species, plus enjoy incredible views of the forest.
10. Take a dug-out canoe ride on Lake Mutanda
L. Mutanda might not necessarily be in Bwindi Impenetrable forest, but it’s close to the Rushaga and Nkurigo gorilla trekking sectors that you can drive/hike to it. You can enjoy a relaxing canoe along the lake while enjoying the scenic views of the towering Virunga and Muhavura mountains that lie in its backdrop, plus sightings of aquatic birds. Also, if you wish, you can visit one of the islands on Lake Mutanda and interact with the Abagesera local clan that resides on it.
Now that you know the different things you can do in Bwindi Impenetrable national park on top of gorilla trekking, go ahead and book a safari to the park to enjoy all of them.