What you should know!
The habitats of the two parks are different. Mt Mgahinga Gorilla NP is part of the famous Virunga Volcano Chain and Conservation Area (high altitude 2227m - 4127m) divided between Congo, Rwanda and Uganda while Bwindi Impenetrable Park rises from 1160 m to 2207 m and has a different ecosystem with tropical rainforest. The appearance of the Bwindi gorillas is also different from the Virunga gorillas. They look physically intermediate between the Eastern lowland gorillas (gorilla gorilla graueri) and the Virunga population (gorilla gorilla beringei). They have shorter hair and slightly longer limbs. Bwindi gorillas live at lower altitudes and in warmer temperatures. They travel longer distances per day to eat and they eat more fruit and pith. By contrast, the Virunga gorillas eat more leaves and bamboo. Some experts separate them in two subspecies. Genetic comparisons however show that both (Virunga and Bwindi gorillas) are the same subspecies. Research on the Bwindi gorillas has started only recently in 1995. Both parks are little islands surrounded by densely populated farmland and this indicates how important it is to protect not only the gorillas and their habitats but also to involve the population in preserving the parks.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is located in South Western Uganda and covers 331 km². It lies at the edge of the great Western Rift Valley (Albertine Rift) and is part of the Kigezi highlands. Located next to the Congo border and only 40 km South East of Lake Edward and not far from Queen Elizabeth National Park (Ishasha sector). The wide altitude ranges from 1160 m to 2607 m. Bwindi has a unique rich and varied ecosystem and has lowland rainforest and afromontane forest. It's considered as one of the most unique and important forests of Africa. UNESCO declared it as a Natural World Heritage site for Humanity for his many values and because it is vital to the survival of many endangered species. There are about 290 mountain gorillas, living in the medium-altitude forest. Bwindi has over 320 species of trees, 350 bird species, 310 species of butterflies (84% of the country's total) and at least 120 species of mammals including 10 species of primates!
- The mountain gorillas with 4 habituated groups for tourism (Mubare group, 10 gorillas and Habinyanja group, 18 gorillas, Rushegura group, 10 gorillas and Nkuringo, 19 gorillas) are the big attraction but there is a lot more to do and to see in Bwindi's complex ecosystem.
- You have hiking trails in Ruhija and Buhoma. The hiking times of the trails vary from 15 minutes to 6 hours. Due to the confusing topography and sensitive ecology of the forest a Ranger-guide is mandatory. Your guide will take you along river trails with delightful waterfalls, up steep slopes, helping you to penetrate the Impenetrable! Bird-watchers, trekkers, hikers or eco-tourist will love Bwindi!
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Park is located 10 km from Kisoro and bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla NP covers the slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes: Muhavura (4127m), Gahinga (3474 m) and Sabinyo (3645m) . The Park is not far from the "Volcanoes National Park" in Rwanda. You have 6 different vegetation zones adapted to distinct climate: Former farmland, Montane Woodland, Bamboo Zone, Montane Forest Belt, Sub alpine Belt and the Afromontane Belt. Mgahinga Gorilla NP has 79 birds species, 90 species of mammals and about 30 gorillas.The gorillas are moving freely in the Virunga Mountains (crossing borders) and there is only one gorilla group (Nyakagezi) with 10 family gorillas that is habituated to human presence. On Ugandan territory, the troop will remain several months and gorilla trekking is then possible. Please note that it happend several times that the Nyakagezi group was not in Uganda during a long period of time. (The gorilla permits are refunded if the gorillas are not in the park.) You have 7 hiking trails with hiking times going from 30 minutes to 8 hours. You have free-guided birding along the edge of the Park. Guides are happy to take you out if you book in advance.
- Highlights: The main attraction of both Parks is Gorilla trekking, but you have also excellent birding and hiking opportunities through several trails.
- Distance (travelling time): 9h00 from Kampala - 4h00 from Lake Bunyonyi - 6h30 from Lake Mburo NP. Bwindi Impenetrable NP is only 3h00 from Ishasha (QENP)
- Weather conditions: You are in the mountains and rainforest. Expect cool nights and rain.