Geography and location
It is located in Kigezi Highlands of southwestern Uganda overlooking the western rift valley, covering an area of 331 square kilometers with in the Districts of Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu. The Park borders Rwanda Democratic Republic of Congo on the west. The nearest main towns is Kabale 29 kilometers by road to the south east and Kisoro.
Bwindi is characterized by steep hills and narrow valleys, with a general incline from the north and west to the high deeply dissected south and southeast. 60% of the Park is over 2,000 m high. Together with some remnant lowland forest outside the boundary, the Park is an important water catchment area serving surrounding agricultural lands. It has rivers and swamps inside like the Nsongi river, river Rushaga and Mubwindi in the central of the south.
The climate is tropical with two rainfall peaks from March to May and September to November. Bwindi is chilly in the morning and at night with average temperature. The coldest period in Bwindi is June and July, while wet seasons are March-May and September-November with total annual rainfall of up to 2390mm.
Current evidence indicates that for trees Bwindi is one of the most the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 200 species, and for ferns with more than 104 species. In recognition of this, Bwindi was selected by IUCN’s Plant Program me as one of Africa’s 29 most important forests for conserving plant diversity.
Bwindi is one of the few large expanses of forest in East Africa where lowland and montane vegetation communities meet. It is representative of the Afromontane Centre of Plant Endemism and the northern sector is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. It is also a Pleistocene refugium, all of which have resulted in extremely high biodiversity.
The National park lies in one of the country’s most densely populated rural areas, with figures ranging between 160 and 320 people/km2 at different locations around the forest. The local people around the area are Bakiga, Bafumbira and Batwa. They cultivate the land immediately surrounding the park. Batwa families live as landless laborers following their eviction from the forest in 1964. They were completely dependent on forest resources. Initially there was strong opposition to the loss of forest resources from the local people who were also excluded from decision-making about the forest, but most now appear to respect the Park and show constraint in their use of its resources. Though large numbers do extract wood, bamboo, honey, bush meat and gold and only about 10% of the forest remains free from human disturbance. Some percentage of the money for gorilla permit goes to cater for well-being of these people like building for them schools and hospitals. More so, the local people are working at park headquarters as rangers, guides and porters. This has created a lot of wareness among people around the importance of conserving the forest and the mountain gorillas. Increased conservation measures has led to improved number of the great primates.