The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is home to some of the few remaining mountain gorillas in the world, who live in one of the oldest and most biologically diverse forests on Earth. The forest is thought to date back 25,000 years to before the pleistocene ice-age. The rainforest is spread over a series of valleys and ridges that rise to between 1,160 to 2,607 metres above sea level and form the beginning of the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest supports around 120 mammal species including 11 primates such as chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkeys, red tailed and blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and olive baboons. The forest is also home to around 350 bird species, 23 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and 14 that are only found in Bwindi. There is also an incredible variety of flora.
The park is separated into separate gorilla viewing areas: Buhoma the site of the park’s headquarters is located in the north of the park; Ruhija, the highest gorilla tracking trailhead and most spectacular, lies in the east of park; Nkuringo, covering the south-western area; and Rushaga on the southern edge of the park. Each area has varying terrain and difficulty in reaching the habituated family groups who live in these areas. A gorilla tracking experience in the forest can be strenuous depending on where family groups are located, but treks generally depart at about 8am. Groups depart with guides who will lead through the bush, slashing at the undergrowth and parting thick creepers, to track a particular gorilla family. This trek can take from half an hour to five hours, so a reasonable degree of fitness is required as well as a sturdy pair of walking shoes. If your tracking is successful, you will sit in the forest among the gorillas listening to them grumble at each other, and marvel at the sheer size of the dominant male, the silverback. Seeing mountain gorillas ranks as one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in the world, especially when put into the context that there are only 650 or so of these creatures left in the world.
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Looking into the eyes of a mountain gorilla is often described as a life-changing experience. The gorillas are completely wild but have become used to seeing a few humans after years of habituation. Many of the expert guides have been involved in this process since the beginning and are able to explain the complicated etiquette involved in meeting a giant silverback. This is an opportunity afforded only to a select few, as just eight visitors are allowed to view each group every day. Tracking through dense forest with steep slopes means that you do need to be physically fit to enjoy the excursion. If the tracking is successful, you will spend a maximum of one hour with the gorillas before returning back to camp. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is a great base, in Bwindi National Park. Children must be aged 15 and above to participate.
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"I would like to thank the travel advisor, Jonathan Fitzsimmonds for his patience, help and advice during the booking process. We were rather late in trying to arrange everything and I think we presented him with quite a challenge! He rose to it brilliantly. Almost every aspect of the holiday went like clockwork and we had a wonderful time. I think we were quite lucky to get an experienced driver too. His depth of knowledge of the wildlife, and in particular the birds, was invaluable. All in all, a fantastic holiday and we hope to return to Uganda in the not too distant future."