Why Travel Here
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is open year-round for gorilla trekking, and ranks alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in terms of the quality of the primate experience. The name of the park – which refers to the density of some of the rainforest vegetation – should not in any way be a deterrent to visiting; rather, it adds to the already considerable charms of this part of Uganda.
It’s undeniably the presence – and near-certainty of encountering – mountain gorilla that inspires most visits to Bwindi, but this is much more than a one-species park. The gorilla share their mist-shrouded habitat with an incredible array of flora (macro photographers in particular are in for a real treat) and numerous bird and insect species that are found in few other locations.
Bwindi safaris offer almost unparalleled list-ticking opportunities for birders (including turaco and hornbill species flying noisily through the canopy), while mammal fans can keep an eye out for colobus monkey and chimpanzee. Indeed, Bwindi has such a high degree of biodiversity that it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although perhaps overshadowed by the gorilla, Bwindi’s elephant add an extra dimension to the experience, and complement the headline attraction that’s one of humankind’s closest relatives.
On the map
Through The Year
Bwindi largely follows the familiar four-season East African cycle, although with the caveat that there is no such thing as a day in Bwindi when rain is impossible. It can and does rain at any time, although planning Bwindi safaris is made easier by the fact that most precipitation falls during the two ‘official’ rainy seasons. These are effectively the tourism low seasons in the park, and some lodges may close during these months.
The first of the year’s two wet seasons is heralded by sometimes prolonged periods of misty, drizzly weather, which can result in an ethereal quality to time within the forest. Indeed, this is truly a time for witnessing gorillas in the mist, but the forest is also alive with migratory birds. Gorilla permits are generally easier to obtain, and they are usually cheaper; lodge prices now also tend to fall.
This is the peak season for Bwindi safaris. Many gorilla permits are booked up months in advance, so it pays to be organised and plan well in advance. With all lodges open, there’s a wider range of accommodation options available, so visitors are spoilt for choice. With plenty of sunshine, trekking is drier and easier underfoot, and the heat haze makes for dazzling, dreamy views.
After dry must come wet, as the cycle continues with the year’s second rainy season. As in the period between March and May, cooler, wetter weather is the norm. The gorilla simply sit this out, of course – after all, they’re superbly well adapted to their environment. This can be a rewarding time to travel to Bwindi – particularly for birders, and people who enjoy seclusion.
Another very popular time in which to visit Bwindi, the transition from the old year to the new is marked by a period of consistently drier weather (although it would be foolhardy to rule out rain completely). Gorilla trekking is easier, thanks to the trails being more navigable. As with the year’s other dry season, the fact that this is regarded as an optimum time to be in Bwindi means increased demand for the all-important permits.