Check out how to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as a backpacker and spend a couple of nights on a budget on a beautiful and relaxing island on Lake Bunyonyi
Kabale, in the south-west of the country, close to Rwanda, is a perfect location to find accommodations of all kind, go trekking in the surrounding area to get a wonderful view of nearby Lake Bunyonyi and organise your tour to famous UNESCO site Bwindi National Park.
Bwindi means darkness in the local language and it has been called like that because it is an impenetrable forest that lives up to its name. It is famous to be home of mountains gorilla. The only issue is that visiting the mountains gorilla is very expensive. At the moment 600 USD for one permit, plus the transport to get there, and it is going to be more expensive in the future.
It was too much to spend for me for a one hour experience, but I still wanted to see the national park. It is indeed possible to go for nature walks around the park with the same rangers that would take you to the gorillas for the price of 70 USD. Then you’ll have to organise your transport to get to the entrance of the park.
Be careful to people just trying to sell you nature walks or Pygmies village visit in the surroundings of the park. These activities might be nice if that’s what you want, but they are not inside the national park. Many locals try to sell this type of tours, but there is only one way to enter Bwindi and it is through the rangers office.
So, you pay your 70 USD and you get to walk around the impenetrable forest, see perhaps some birds and monkeys or other animals, there are elephants, antelopes and many kinds of mammals. But keep your expectations low, sighting wildlife in this kind of jungle is very hard.
Still, you have the experience, and if you are really lucky, you might come across the gorillas while they are moving around, for free. The areas where you walk are the same. It has almost happened to me, we were perhaps 10 minutes late to where a family crossed the path, there were clear marking of their passage and very fresh droppings.
Indeed, in order to take tourists to the Gorilla rangers send some people scouting early in the morning, so that they know where they are (they are not tracked as many people think for the simple reasons that gorilla would remove the tracking device), and they pass the information onto the rangers. So, the guide with me marked the place of their passage for the next group of lucky gorilla trackers.
Also from Kabale it is possible to visit one of the islands on beautiful Lake Bunyonyi for one or more days of complete relax surrounded just by the sound of birds. It isn’t actually always the case in Uganda to have such quietness, and I would suggest this is a perfect way to conclude your holiday in the country. Kind of romantic too, if you are with your partner.
A Boda Boda (motorbike) to go from Kabale to the lake shores cost 5,000 Ugandan shillings, then a motorboat ride to your island would cost 25,000 shillings. But if you are willing to help with the paddling, there are local canoe to be taken just for a small tip. Canoeing to your destination is actually quite a fun experience, highly recommended.
I have chosen to go on Itambira Island, where budget accommodations and dormitories are also available in some of the few structures. A real paradise on Earth.