BWINDI IMENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK:
This Mountain gorilla sanctuary was gazetted National park the early 1990s to conserve the endangered species of the great Apes. Initially, the park was occupied by the forest people the Batwa who were mainly hunters and gatherers, as well as alluvial gold harvesters. The first gorilla safaris to Bwindi were conducted at the in 1993 basing at the then African Pearl homestead.
The 331 square kilometer forested World heritage Bwindi Impenetrable National park is located south of the former Kigezi game reserve or Ishasha to the north, the Democratic Republic of Congo with a continuation of the Virunga National park to the West, to the south, is the border district of Kisoro, Lake Mutanda while to the east, the areas of Kanugu district and the Kayonza Tea growing areas of Butogota and parts of Kabale and Rukungiri districts.
The Bwindi Impenetrable forest is comprised of thick tropical rain forests from the Ice age era as well as very heavy undergrowth which makes it almost impossible to travel through without use of hacking away vegetation, thus the word impenetrable or ‘’Bwindi’’ in the local dialect. The vegetation provides sustenance to various species of wildlife including the rare Mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking or tracking the gorillas.
The process of gorilla trekking begins with Mountain gorilla habituation where a group of Uganda wildlife Authority guides approach the Wild Mountain gorillas on a day by day basis to have them get used to human presence. This process may take a period of between 6 months to over a year of training and monitoring on a daily basis. The process is a difficult one which exposes the gorilla habituation rangers to some harm due to charges, mauling and injuries sustained as the gorillas give chase during the initial encounters. At the end of the process of habituation, the Mountain gorillas would be approachable and would not mind the presence of tourists.
The gorilla trekking activity starts early in the mornings and is only done once a day to minimize spread of airborne human diseases to the Mountain gorillas. A briefing is conducted in the mornings to establish the ages (above 15 years) or the medical or physical condition of the trekkers as well as guiding the visitors on the behavior while on the gorilla trek. From here, the tracking party is split in groups of 8 per ranger guide and trackers and the arduous hike in the forest commences to find a habituated gorilla group. Trekking would be through steep ascents which may involve use of walking sticks and some backside gliding through the mountain sides of the access paths. Gorillas are spotted in advance and the group is guided by GPS and two way radio to the gorilla viewing point. Along the way, you will be shown gorilla spoor and hairs that are left on their trail as they feed through the forest. They also leave behind bitten off plant leaves and shoots from the juicy nettles. Overnight gorilla nests on the ground with distinct sleeping depressions will be seen along the way to find the gorilla family. They may include droppings and hairs from the aging silver back gorillas as well as the sub adults and all family members. Close to the area where gorillas are to be located, the trail gets fresh with newer beaten off vegetation and probably audible sounds from the gorillas grunting, hollow chest thumping or breaking branches. In some instances, young Mountain gorillas can be spotted at a distance in the trees.
Approach of the gorillas is guided by the tracking personnel and the guides who will let everyone leave the picnic lunches and bottled water behind and will lead everyone to a good vantage point from which to observe film or photograph the Mountain gorillas. The gorillas would then be followed for the next hour as they feed, groom, play, carry their young, mock charge, take naps and little ones try to curiously try to get close to the visitors.
After the gorilla trek, gorillas will be left to forage on their own before building their new nests for the night as the day visitors retreat to a beautiful spot where picnic lunches of packed sandwich, pineapple, chicken leg, packed fruit, egg, cake or vegetarian alternative would be provided in the tropical forest. The main team would then take a short trek or board the transit vehicles back to the Uganda wildlife Authority offices to receive the certificates before heading back to the Bwindi accommodations for overnight at the lodge of preference.
Other wildlife of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:
Upgraded from the former Impenetrable Crown forest to a national park status in the 1990s, the World Heritage site of the Bwindi Impenetrable forest, boasts of some of other rare species of monkeys. The following can be found here L’hoest Monkeys which are easily seen close to the park headquarters and close to the human settlements where they raid crops, Chimpanzee colonies that aren’t yet habituated for tourism purposes, Olive Baboons, Blue Monkeys, red tailed monkeys black and white colubus monkeys, Dusky bush baby and Vervets.
Nocturnal wildlife at the Bwindi impenetrable National park includes, African Elephants found in the southern parts of the forest where they use the vast caves to dig for salt and mineral deposits using their downward facing tusks. Golden Cat, Giant forest Hog, Palm civets and the African Civet cats have also been seen along the tracks in the park.
A checklist of other animals at Bwindi Includes the following; African golden cat, honey badger, African bush tailed porcupine, Marsh mongoose and Sitatunga which are mostly seen around the Mubwindi Ngoto swamps, Bush pigs, Servaline genet, side striped Jackals and the red flanked duiker.