Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga National Parks

17 -21 July 2018

 

It is not everyday that we make a dream come true. Bwindi impenetrable forest made us realize one that was sleeping for a long time. This mountain and plain jungle forest of 331 square kilometers is classified as a national park and a UNESCO world heritage site. It shelters 400 individuals of the last mountain gorillas recently identified in Rwanda, in Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, as well as 120 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, 163 species of trees, 100 species of ferns and a lot of endangered species.

The species of mountain gorilla almost disappeared and we can thank Dian Fossey and other primatologists for having crystallized world public opinion on the ongoing tragedy. Today, thanks to an ecotourism which brings back millions to the three African States concerned, a gorilla is worth alive than dead and the result is that their population is finally increasing slightly.

 

To meet them and especially to be almost sure to see them, it is compulsory to register in advance for one of the group treks organized by the « Uganda Wildlife Authority ». The gorilla groups that tourists will encounter are always the same and are relatively well used to humans, otherwise they would not let themselves be approached : not crazy these primates ! However, do not be mistaken, they remain wild and when they are fed up with the presence of their cousins, they quickly and clearly make it know. During our meeting with them, the dominant silverback charged at us to fear us after an hour: the Ranger made us leave immediately!

 

We were in a group of eight people without counting the porters and the rangers. After three good hours of very tiring climb, not to say exhausting, through the forest, we arrived on a small plateau and the group of gorillas was there ! We had both tears in our eyes, seized with indescribable emotion. We saw the first one climb in a huge tree, then little by little the others were revealed: a mother and her baby, two teens and three silverbacks.

 

The region has also many endemic species linked to the Rift Valley. The bottom of the little hills formed by the forest is huge and superb marsh where other non-forest flora and fauna flourish. For example, we found the very rare and endemic Bourscale de Grauer.

Thanks to our excellent guide, we had the chance to observe a good part of the endemic birds, including the famous and very difficult to find, the African green Broadbill small forest passerine, all green and podgy! We needed two days walking in these magical forests to find it. Without Emmy's perseverance, we would probably have dropped : dead tired but happy ! This forest is one of our Ugandan favorites and when we go back we will stay there at least two weeks. We stayed in our guide’s camp, The « Broadhill Forest Camp », http://www.broadbillforestcamp.com/, very well located with breathtaking views of the primary forest, surrounded by monkeys, chameleons and Ruwenzori Nightjar ! Moreover, the price-quality ratio is great!

 

Mgahinga National Park is situated about 15 kilometers South of Kisoro in the district of the same name and covers the Ugandan part of the Virunga mountain range. With a surface area of 33.7 kilometers, it is the newest and smallest national park in Uganda and one of the only two, with the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, to shelter mountain gorillas in the country. Contiguous to the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, it forms with them a protected area of 434 square kilometers in total. Unfortunately, the biological corridors that linked these protected areas are only a distant memory ; human pressure has become too important. Unfortunately, we only spent one day there but we saw numerous new birds and breathtaking landscapes !

 

 

The other regions visited:

 

- Mabamba Swamp and Lake Mburo

 

- Ishasha and Queen Elizabeth NP

 

- Kibale, Semiliki and Budongo forests

 

- Murchison Falls National Park

 

- Kidepo Valley

 

- Pian Upe reserve and Mont Elgon National Park