Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in East Africa. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It comprises 331 square kilometres (128 sq mi) of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa,[citation needed] and the diversity of species is a feature of the park. The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. Floristically Bwindi is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern (low altitude) sector is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. These include two species internationally recognised as endangered, Brown mahogany (Lovoa swynnertonii) and Brazzeia longipedicellata. In particular the area shares in the high levels of endemisms of the Albertine Rift.[citation needed]

The park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds (such as hornbills and turacos). It is perhaps most notable for the 340 Bwindi gorillas, half the world's population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. There are four habituated mountain gorilla groups open to tourism: Mubare; Habinyanja; Rushegura near Buhoma; and the Nkuringo group at Nkuringo.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda. The Democratic Republic of Congo borders the western side of the park. It covers an area of 331 square kilometres (128 sq mi). Kabale town to the southeast is the nearest main town to the park, 29 kilometres (18 mi) away by road. The park comprises two blocks of forest that are connected by a small corridor of forest. The shape of the park is a legacy of previous conservation management, when the original two forest blocks were protected in 1932. There is agricultural land where there were previously trees directly outside the park's borders. Cultivation in this area is intense.

The park's underlying geology consists of Precambrian shale phyllite, quartz, quartzite, schist and granite. The park is located at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest parts of the Kigezi Highlands, which were created by up-warping of the Western Rift Valley. Its topography is very rugged, with narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills. Altitudes in the park range from 1,190 to 2,607 metres (3,900 to 8,553 ft) above sea level, and 60% of the park has an elevation of over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). The highest elevation in the park is Rwamunyonyi hill at the eastern edge of the park. The lowest part of the park is located at its most northern tip.

The forest is an important water catchment area. With a generally impermeable underlying geology where water mostly flows through large fault structures, water infiltration and aquifers are limited. Much of the park's rainfall forms streams, and the forest has quite a dense network of streams. The forest is the source of many rivers that flow to the north, west, and south. Major rivers that rise in the park include the Ivi, Munyaga, Ihihizo, Ishasha, and Ntengyere rivers, which flow into Lake Edward. Other rivers flow into Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi. Bwindi supplies water to local agricultural areas.

Bwindi has a tropical climate. Annual mean temperature ranges from a minimum of 7–15°C to a maximum of 20–27°C. Its annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimetres (55 to 75 in). Peak rainfall occurs from March to April and from September to November. The park's forest plays an important role in regulating the outside area's environment and climate. High amounts of evapotranspiration from the forest's vegetation increases the amount of precipitation that the region outside the park receives. They also lessen soil erosion, which is a serious problem in southwestern Uganda. They lessen flooding and ensure that streams continue to flow in the dry season.

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes a lodge, tented camps, and cheaper rooms run by the local community, located near the Buhoma entrance gate. The park is in a remote location, and reaching the park involves a long difficult journey. Roads are in a bad condition.

Bwindi Community Hospital provides health care to 40,000 people in the area and to visiting tourists.

Gorilla tracking is the park's main tourist attraction. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit to do so. Selected gorillas families have been habituated to human presence and the number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent degradation of the habitat and risks to the gorillas. Gorilla tracking generates much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority. The gorillas seldom react to tourists. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the gorillas. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the only countries where it is possible to visit mountain gorillas. Guided walks through the forest include a walk to a waterfall, and walks for monkey watching and birding.
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