Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are the mountain gorillas (1)
Trekking these gorillas became available in April 1993, making Bwindi impenetrable national park a favorite tourist attraction. FILE PHOTO

A well-known feature of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are the mountain gorillas; they live in families, which makes it easy to identify them.

The Bwindi impenetrable national park is an incredible tourist destination located in Uganda’s southwestern area. This park is located along the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border, on the edge of the Albertine Rift. 

History and Facts

The Batwa Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (1)
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can be seen through the eyes of the indigenous Batwa people who have lived there for millennia. PHOTO/UWA

The Bwindi impenetrable national park spans 321 square kilometres and is primarily covered in montane and lowland forest.

The park is home to 120 mammal species, 348 bird species, 220 butterfly species, 27 frog species, and over 1000 plant species.

The most fascinating aspect of Bwindi impenetrable national park is that it also has a historical legend from which the park’s name is derived. 

Bwindi is derived from the indigenous word “mubwindi bwa nynamuraki,” which initially referred to the mubwindi marsh, which is located in the park’s south-eastern section rather than the forest.

Bwindi, the park’s name, dates back to a century ago when a family travelling from Kisoro were lost in the southern end of the seemingly impassable swamp. 

The parents sought help from the marsh spirits to find their way. The family was told to sacrifice their most beautiful daughter Nyinamuraki to the spirits in exchange for guidance. 

After two days of attempting to decipher and interpret the spirit’s commands, they chose to obey them as a way of navigation. They threw the girl into the sea, where she drowned and crossed to the other side safely.

When word of the sacrifice spread to neighbouring settlements, residents began avoiding the swamp, which they began referring to as mubwindi Bwa nyinamuraki (the dark place of Nyinamuraki)

The land/forests occupied by Bwindi impenetrable national park were originally inhabited by the Batwa tribe of people. The Batwa hunter/gatherers lived in the dense forests of Bwindi and subsisted mostly on hunting and fruit gathering. 

During the colonial period, when Uganda was a British protectorate and administered by the British, it was discovered that the forests supported a vast ecological system that needed to be protected from destruction. 

The area’s biological systems included montane and lowland forest, as well as endangered mountain gorillas whose numbers were rapidly declining owing to hunting.

In 1932, the forest was declared a royal forest reserve. The newly constituted reserve, which covered an area of 207 square kilometres, was divided into two blocks: the northern block and the southern block. 

There were two crown forest reserves established in the North and South blocks, the Kayonza forest reserve and Kasatora forest reserves respectively. 

Later that year, in 1942, the two reserves (kayonza and kasatora crown forest) were combined and their boundaries expanded to encompass an area of 298 square kilometres. 

The merged reserves were called the impenetrable central crown forest and placed under the joint supervision of Uganda’s game and forest agencies.

Again, the reserve’s status was amended to ensure the ultimate protection and safety of mountain gorillas, whose population was in decline at the time. 

The reserve was founded in 1964 as an animal sanctuary and renamed in 1966 as an impenetrable central forest reserve. 

In addition, the reserve’s two forest reserves were added in 1966, bringing the reserve’s total area to around 321 square kilometres.

The Bwindi impenetrable national park was established in 1991 when the impenetrable central forest reserve, Mgahinga gorilla reserve, and Rwenzori mountain reserve were designated as national parks. 

The newly formed Bwindi impenetrable national park encompassed an area of 330.8 square kilometres. 

The establishment of Bwindi national park had a profound effect on the Batwa pygmy people; their lives were forever changed when the Batwa hunter-gatherers were forcibly expelled from the forest and relocated to neighbouring settlements. 

The third aspect of the eviction is that they were not compensated and continue to live in substandard conditions on the park’s edges, having lost the majority of their resources and belongings when they fled the Bwindi forests. 

The forest was their home, but they can no longer access it because it is a protected area.

The Bwindi impenetrable national park is well-known for its mountain gorillas; these gorillas live in families, which makes them simple to identify. These gorillas were habituated to acclimate to human presence. 

In April 1993, these gorillas were made available for trekking, and Bwindi impenetrable national park became a famous tourist attraction. 

Since that year, Bwindi impenetrable national park has continued to give the world’s best mountain gorilla trekking experience and also boasts the world’s largest mountain gorilla population. 

In 1994, the Uganda Wildlife Authority was entrusted with the protection of Bwindi impenetrable national park and its spectacular forest. 

That same year, ten square kilometres of the park were added and certified a world heritage site, so adding it to the world heritage list. The Bwindi impenetrable national park was expanded by 4.2 square kilometres in 2003.

Tragic events in Bwindi impenetrable national park

Massacre in Bwindi

The Bwindi massacre remains the park’s most heinous catastrophe. It occurred on Tuesday 2nd March 1992 as a result of infiltration by former Rwandan Interahamwe terrorists crossing from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

This group of perhaps 100-150 individuals ruined what was supposed to be an incredible Bwindi forest gorilla trekking safari, transforming it into blood-curdling and horrifying moments.

These militants kidnapped 14 European tourists and their Ugandan guide and tortured and stripped them of their valuables, realising six of them and killing eight. 

According to witness testimony, a Ugandan guide was set on fire with gasoline, a horrific scene. The Interahamwe rebels sought to use this attack to destabilise Uganda.

Currently, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most stable national park, with strict security measures that eliminate the possibility of a repeat of the same occurrence.

Activities available in the Bwindi impenetrable national park

Mountain gorillas live in families in Bwindi (1)
Mountain gorillas live in families in Bwindi impenetrable national park, so it is easy to identify them. FILE PHOTO

The Bwindi impenetrable national park is home to a variety of magnificent and fascinating tourist attractions, including:

  • Mountain gorilla trekking
  • Birding
  • Mountain biking
  • Nature walks
  • Batwa cultural encounters

The Bwindi impenetrable national park is not only rich in history and beauty but also in terms of attractiveness, most notably the magnificent mountain gorillas. 

All of these attractions are accessible during your visit to the park, which is why you should book your safari into this magnificent park in advance.

Check out our guides to Murchison Falls National ParkLake Mburo National ParkKibale National Park, and Semuliki National Park for a complete Ugandan experience.