Bwindi Location and How to Get There
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, is located in the south west of Uganda. A visit to Bwindi’s ancient rainforest is sure to be magical.
From the incredible mountain gorilla trekking adventures, endemic bird species, beautiful butterflies, rare monkeys to the beauty of Bwindi itself, this Uganda gorilla safaris park is a must-visit for travellers on Uganda safaris.Once you have decided to make the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest your next adventure, you will need to figure out how to get there! Read on for all you need to know.
Where is Bwindi National Park located?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the southwestern Uganda, near the towns of Kisoro and Kabale, approximately 500km from Kampala. The park is composed of 321 square kilometers of both montane and lowland forest and accessible only on foot.
It is situated is at the edge of the Great Rift Valley in the highest parts of the Kigezi Highlands. Its topography is very rugged, with narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills. Elevations in the national park range from 1,190 to 2,607 metres above sea level, and 60 percent of the park have an elevation of over 2,000 m. The highest elevation is Rwamunyonyi Hill at the eastern edge of the park.
To the north of Bwindi lies Queen Elizabeth National Park (known for its famous tree-climbing Lions).
To the south, there is the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda. And the DR Congo lies on the western edge of the park. This ancient rainforest jungle is surrounded by intensely cultivated agricultural lands, previously covered by forest vegetation. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also located about 55 km northwest of the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi – Africa’s second deepest lake.
Bwindi National Park Sectors and Gates
Bwindi Impenetrable is divided into four sections, named after the surrounding villages. These are Buhoma and Ruhija in the north, and Rushaga and Nkuringo in the south.
They are several hours apart by road and each act as a self-standing gorilla trekking destination. Visitors who want to see Bwindi gorillas are given permits for a specific gorilla trekking sector and must head to the gate granting entrance to that particular sector to be admitted into the park.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
The two main ways of getting to Bwindi National Park are to travel there from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, or from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The quicker route is actually via Kigali, but you will then need to clear immigration twice: at the airport in Rwanda and when crossing the border into Uganda.
If you are heading to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you are possibly also planning to see more of Uganda, in which case it makes the most sense to travel via Kampala. One way to arrive at Bwindi is to fly into Entebbe International Airport (EBB) just outside of the city of Kampala. From there, you can choose one of two options to reach Bwindi:
- Fly to an airstrip near Bwindi and then take a short drive to the park
- Drive straight there
Here are the details for each option to help you figure out which is the best for you.
Getting To Bwindi by Air
The fastest way to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is by taking a scheduled or chartered flight. There are a number of domestic flights each day from Entebbe International Airport in Entebbe City or Kajjansi Airstrip in Kampala. Most Uganda domestic flights between parks are arranged by your tour operators and are included in your Uganda tour package.
Kihihi is the closest airstrip to the Buhoma and Ruhija trailheads and Kisoro airstrip is closest to the southerly Rushaga and Nkuringo. The flight time is just over 1 hour. Both airstrips are about 40 kilometers from the park and the drive from either takes usually around 1½ hours.
At, Tulambule Uganda safaris, we organize scheduled flights to Bwindi. And we have several all-inclusive Uganda fly-in safaris to Bwindi from Entebbe to Kihihi/Kisoro. If you would like to book your scheduled flight to Bwindi with us, you’ll need you to share with us your planned travel dates so that we share with the local flight operators to check for availability. Once we confirm availability, we will tentatively book the flight for you as we wait on you to confirm and make payment.
We can as well organize charter flights which you can book any time you want to visit Bwindi Forest National park. And if you want privacy on your flight, this is the best option. These charter flights can even land in small Air Fields closer to the park or at some lodges hence reducing on the drive time from the main airfield to your Lodge.
Getting to Bwindi by Road from Kampala
Driving is the most popular way for visitors to get to Bwindi and Tulambule also offers several road trips to this wonderful Uganda gorilla park. If you are coming straight from Entebbe or Kampala, the road trip to Bwindi will take approximately 8 to 10 hours. Although this road journey is much longer than flying, the route is interesting for those who are adventurous and love nature.
You would be traveling through several small Uganda towns, rural villages, and scenic regions of the country with stops to important landmarks like the Uganda equator line or even stop to buy fruits and local artifacts. Your drive through the countryside will also give you a much better impression and understanding of Uganda than flying.
You might even stop for a day at Lake Mburo National Park to break the long journey. Mburo is located about 3 to 4 hour drive from Kampala and 4 to 7 hours’ drive from Bwindi’s various trailheads. It is popular for spotting Leopards, Zebras, Giraffes, Buffalos and antelopes during day game drives, horseback safaris, boat cruises, game walks, and cycling tours.
If you are already in Queen Elizabeth National Park which is about 7 hour drive from Kampala, the main gorilla trekking trailhead can be reached in 2 to 3 hours (from the Ishasha sector) or 5 to 6 hours (from the more northerly areas).
If you are travelling from Kibale National Park – home of the best chimpanzee trekking in Uganda – which is about 5 hour drive from Kampala – the drive to Bwindi takes around 6 to 7 hours.
Getting to Bwindi from Rwanda
Another, faster option is to fly into Kigali city of Rwanda and then drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This drive takes approximately 3 to 6 hours.
You can easily drive to Bwindi on day one, track mountain gorillas the next morning, then return to Kigali afterwards. This is the only chance to see gorillas in Uganda on a 2-day safari.
Please note that due to the long driving distances, it is impossible to squeeze a gorilla trekking adventure into a 2-day driving safari that starts and ends at Kampala/Entebbe. The minimum duration for a gorilla tour from Entebbe/Kampala is 3 days, as you need to spend the night immediately before and after you trek at a lodge or camp close to the relevant park.
Yes, it is possible to do gorilla trekking in Rwanda, so you might reasonably ask one would cross into Uganda to do the same activity. The answer is that it is cheaper: Uganda gorilla trekking permits cost US$700 as opposed to US$1,500 for the gorilla permit in Rwanda.
Thus, visiting Bwindi gorillas from Kigali is an ideal option for travellers with limited time or a very tight budget. You will also get to the experience the emerald green hills of Rwanda and Uganda on a spectacular drive from Kigali city to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Can I Get To Bwindi By Public Transport?
Yes, you can visit Bwindi by using public transport means to and from the park.
The first step is to know which part of Bwindi you will be visiting so that you establish which Bus you will be using. If you are going to trek gorillas in the Southern Section, you will need to take Buses that go to Bwindi via Mbarara, Kabale and then Kisoro Town.
But if you are going to track gorillas in the Northern Sector of Bwindi, you need to take Buses that go through Mbarara, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Kihihi and the border town of Butogota.
Whether you are to visit the south or North of Bwindi, no public means will transport you up to the park headquarters. If you decide to go to the North, then you need to budget for a motor cycle transfer from Butogota Town to Buhoma Park headquarters.
Please check with your lodge if they can offer you transfers to and from Butogota Town. If you decided to visit the southern section, Buses are likely to drop you either in Kabale or Kisoro or from there; you will need to organize transport either to Nkuringo or Rushaga.
Several bus companies offer daily on these routes from Kampala. While travelling in these buses, you need to be extra serious with your luggage as there are so many thieves that may target you.
Please ensure that you hold your luggage all the time, move with it when moving out of the Bus at all times. We as Tulambule don’t recommend travel by public means of transport as the risks are more than the benefits but should you decide to do so please take care.
Ready To Explore Bwindi?
The Uganda safari tours below showcase just some of what is possible. Use these safari itineraries as starting points, or to draw inspiration. Then get in touch, and let our team of Uganda safaris help craft the perfect itinerary for you.