Gorillas in the Mist: Bwindi National Park
East Africa has a richness to its offerings, and Uganda’s Bwindi National Park is arguably one of the richest.
The well trodden path in this part of the world takes tourists from the sparkling beaches of Mombasa to the haunting beauty of Zanzibar. Kenya is a natural paradise with a wealth of culture. It features some of the cultural jewels of Africa and a terrible, yet fascinating, tale of travel, immigration and exploitation by humans on the trail for spices in Zanzibar to carry back with them on the trade winds.
Neighbouring Tanzania, with the raw savagery of its landscape and the diversity of its wildlife is the playground of some of the most majestic subjects of the animal kingdom. The Serengeti’s draw isn’t just the elegance of animal life to which it plays host, but the sheer beauty of the landscape; the sunsets over the savannah, the imposing might of Mount Kilimanjaro.
But to limit an East African adventure to Tanzania and Kenya – as rich as they are with activities and sights – would be a shame. As you cross the giant Lake Victoria, Uganda offers dramatic landscape and natural wildlife of its own. And the further into the centre of the continent you go, the more the extra remoteness pays its dividends.
Beyond the beaten path, Bwindi National Park is a nature lover’s paradise.
Just like on Kenyan or Tanzanian safaris, you don’t have to love nature to appreciate the sheer power and beauty of the natural world. The landscape is enough to blow anyone away. But the beaches of Kenya and the plains of Tanzania are a world away from the volcanoes, trees and roots of the Bwindi Forest they call impenetrable.
There is a quite incredible array of flora and fauna to be found here. Over 100 species of mammal, countless different types of birds and butterflies and over 1,000 different species of plants.
But the star of the show is the gorilla.
Bwindi is home to around half of the world’s mountain gorillas, but once again the rewards are there for those who work for it. The trek to see them is not for the faint of heart: it can take six hours and bring hikers 7,500 feet above sea level, but at the end of it is the sight of wild gorillas in their natural habitat.
Time to Relax
Yet this isn’t all about extreme treks. The salubrious surrounds and the lush greenery of the area mean the stay has the perfect balance of relaxation and exertion, whilst kicking back after a productive trek is a pleasure in itself.
Back out on the trail again, guided walks are available to spot other species of animal and plant. With such a diverse ecosystem calling the park its home, this is a nature education as well as a jungle adventure experience.
The remoteness of the park is what makes it so special. The jungle is so isolated that it can play home to such a wide range of creatures, and that’s why so many gorillas can live peacefully in one spot. To get there, visitors would need to fly to Kampala – Uganda’s capital – and take a long and arduous road transfer to the other side of the country into deepest darkest Africa.
A Special Place
Thankfully that’s not the only way of getting to see this epic park.
Light aircraft transfers go from Kampala to the nearby Kihihi airstrip before transfers to the park take visitors to their lodgings. The whole trip from the capital is completed in just a few hours.
The natural wonders of Africa are many and various, but although Kenya and Tanzania are veritable tourist hotspots, no one looking for a close-up with nature should forget about Uganda and what it has to offer.
As Bwindi National Park itself shows, the little bit of extra remoteness pays off in style in the end.