Planning a photography safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Planning a photography safari to Bwindi’s impenetrable National Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a top tourist destination in Uganda in the southwestern part of the country, with half the gorillas remaining in the world. Gorilla trekking is the top tourist activity carried out in the four national park sections, including the Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo, and Rushaga sectors.
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Taking photographs of the gorillas in the national park is both a rewarding and captivating memory; however, just like any other wildlife species, gorillas keep on moving from one place to the next, and this makes it a bit hard to take photos, and that is why you are advised to be patient because you are in their natural habitat and their behaviors can be unpredictable.
Bwindi is a diverse destination, and tourists can take photos of the different things and wildlife, like gorillas and the different types of monkeys, including red-tailed monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys, among others.
Planning a photography safari to Bwindi involves a few steps. The first step is to purchase a gorilla permit that will allow you to gain entrance into Bwindi, and this can be bought by either contacting the Uganda Wildlife Authority directly or by purchasing through a tour operator. You also need to know what is needed for a photo safari and when to visit the National Park. Get in touch with us to help you plan your photography safari; all you have to do is show up.
Rules for taking photos in Bwindi
Bwindi safaris are predominantly for gorilla trekking due to the high number of gorillas in the national park. Because these are endangered species, there are rules and regulations every tourist is supposed to follow while in Bwindi for the protection of the gorillas, and these include the following:
- When taking photos, make sure that you have turned off your flashlight. This should be done during the briefing to remember when you get to the gorillas. Flashlights scare off the gorillas, and that is why every tourist is advised to remove the flashlight manually.
- It is advisable to take photos from a higher point of view and with enough lighting.
- Crouch down a bit when taking photos of the gorillas in the national park.
- Tourists are supposed to keep a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas even when taking photos.
- Avoid taking a photography safari in Bwindi if you feel sick, especially with flu and cough.
Tips on photographing gorillas in Bwindi
You do not need to be a professional photographer to be able to participate in a photo safari in Bwindi because an experienced guide throughout the whole process will assist you. Below are a few tips every tourist should know when planning a Photography safari in Bwindi.
- Flash photography is not allowed when you are with the gorillas, so make sure you disable it before the start of the hike. If you need help turning off the automatic flash, you need to learn or ask for help, and all this should be done during the briefing.
- Ensure that the camera battery is always full.
- If possible, use a point-and-shoot camera.
- All professional filmmakers need permission to shoot within Bwindi, and all the filming permits are purchased through the Uganda Wildlife Authority in advance.
- You should take photos from a higher point of view with enough lighting.
- If you can afford to carry more than one camera, please do; if not, carry extra lenses and memory cards.
Packing list for a photo safari in Bwindi
Packing for a safari sounds easy, but it is hard, especially if you know exactly what to pack and leave behind. This packing list is to help you with this dilemma, and we are going to categorize the packing list into essentials, gadgets, and clothing.
Essentials: Besides clothing, other essential items need to be packed for a good photo safari in Bwindi, and these include:
- A first aid kit that is well packed with emergency painkillers, band-aids, plaster, spirit, cotton, iodine, and any other types of medicine recommended to you by your doctor. The tour guide will have a first aid kit with them, but it doesn’t hurt to be with two.
- Insect repellent: The jungle is filled with insects, including mosquitoes, and the easiest way to avoid malaria is by applying insect repellent throughout your stay.
- Carry sunscreen during the trek, even when you might not need it.
- A day backpack to help you carry the daily items you might need during the trek, including a water bottle, insect repellents, sunscreen, wet wipes, money, documents, snacks, and other personal items.
- Make sure that the luggage you are carrying during the trek
- Silicone bags are a perfect way to store anything that you have.
- Sunglasses, a sunhat, and a wet wipe.
Gadgets: An African safari is complete with a camera, phone, and binoculars. These help to keep your memories intact. Taking the right equipment for a photo safari in Bwindi is important because you do not want to be disappointed that the photos and videos are of good quality.
Binoculars are a must, as no one will be sharing their binoculars with you during the hike. These help spot the hidden wildlife as you trek through the national park, including gorillas, bird species, monkeys, and many more.
A camera is important as it is the best way to get photos of the gorillas and every other wildlife in Bwindi. Smartphones can still be used to take photos, but for an authentic photo safari in Bwindi, we suggest you use a point-and-shoot regular camera. The camera gear that you might need includes:
- The camera should be at least 200mm, whether you have prior photography experience.
- Extra batteries are a must because you might not be able to charge.
- A camera bag is needed to carry all your camera gear, and if you can get one that is waterproof, the better.
- A Zoom lens and lens solution will be needed. The lens should be mid-range or wide angle; the solution is to help clean the lens because it can get dusty on a safari.
- Extra memory cards are also a must
- Do not forget the Tripod, as it helps take photos that need precision.
Clothes: Right and proper clothing is important for your photo safari, and the right clothing wear to pack includes neutral-colored pants and long-sleeved shirts, comfortable hiking boots, a rain jacket, a scarf and warm sweater, thick socks (these are used to tuck in trousers to avoid insects crawling up your pants), avoid clothes in black, blue and camouflage because they retain heat, attract tsetse flies and associated with the army respectively.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park activities
When planning for a photography safari, you will need to know the different activities that are carried out in the national park, and these include:
Gorilla trekking is the main activity in Bwindi and the best place because Bwindi has half the population of the world’s gorillas. Trekking in Bwindi is done all year round, but the best time is during the dry season, from June to September and December to February. Bwindi has 19 habituated gorilla families that are located in the four sections within the park, which are the Rushaga sector, Buhoma sector, Nkuringo sector, and Ruhija sector. Gorilla trekking will take between 30 minutes and 4 hours, depending on where the gorilla family you have been assigned to is on the day of the trek. All tourists need to purchase a gorilla permit to be able to gain access to the gorillas foreign residents pay $600, foreign non-residents pay $700, and East African Citizens pay 250,000UGX per person, and these cease to be valid after the one-hour spent with the gorillas and cannot be used again.
Gorilla habituation in Bwindi was introduced in the Rushaga sector, and it is the only place where tourists can enjoy 4 uninterrupted hours with the gorillas. Gorillas are studied and trained by professional researchers to get used to the increased number of tourists visiting the National Park annually. The same gorilla trekking rules and regulations apply to the gorilla habituation, and they need to be followed throughout your stay in the national park. Gorilla habituation involves only 4 people spending 4 hours with the gorillas, where they get to participate in the process and learn about the behaviors of the gorillas. A gorilla habituation permit can be purchased through a tour operator or the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Bwindi is a beautiful rainforest, and nature walks are one of the ways tourists can explore the national park. Various trails are used when taking nature walks within Bwindi:
- The Ivi Riverwalk
- Muyaga Waterfall Walk
- Rushsura Hill Walk
- Habinyanja Trail
- Muzubijiro loop
- The Buhoma-Nkuringo trail
The nature walk trails take you through the different parts of the national park, and tour operators can easily arrange these. The best time for nature walks and hiking is between June to September and December to February during the dry season when the trek trails are easy to use. However, you should note that this is a tropical rainforest; therefore, there will be a few showers of rainfall even during the dry season. You should be physically fit to trek through Bwindi because of its terrain, and since there are different trek routes, you can also ask for a shorter terrain.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the best birding spots in Uganda, with over 350 bird species, including endemic and migratory birds. Birding is best carried out during the wet season, from March to May and October to November, but since this is a rainforest, birding can still be carried out all year round. Many trek trails are used when birding, and the Mubwindi swamp, Bamboo, and Buhoma waterfall trails are the best. The bird species you should look out for while in Bwindi include the Kivu Ground Thrush, Black-breasted barbet, Archer’s Robin-chat, Strange weaver, short-tailed warbler, Collared Apalis, Green-breasted Pitta, Great Blue Turaco, Dwarf Honeyguide, Chapin’s Flycatcher, African wood owl and Doherty’s Bush-shrike among others.
Cultural trips to the Batwa communities
The Batwa people are pygmies who used to live in Bwindi, and after it was gazetted, they moved to the nearby communities and tried to live with other locals. When you visit the Batwa, you will learn more about the Batwa culture and their life after leaving the national park, participate in their songs and dances, and support their community projects. Before taking photos of the Batwa people, you need to ask for permission and not call them pygmies because it is an insult to them.
Best time for a photography safari to Bwindi
Tourists can visit Bwindi National Park all year round in both the dry and wet seasons. However, since photography safaris are mainly carried out on foot, the dry season is the best time when the routes are dry and passable. However, if you want to take photos of bird species, the best time is during the wet season experienced from March to May and October to November.
How to get to Bwindi
Tourists have two ways of getting to Bwindi, and these are by either driving to the national park or flying. Driving is the most commonly used mode of transport. 4×4 safari vehicles are used to drive from Kampala to the southwestern part of Uganda, where the park is located. It takes 9 to 10 hours to get there, passing through different towns and districts, seeing beautiful scenery along the way, and making a stopover at the Equator monument. Flying, on the other hand, is an easier, shorter, but more expensive way of getting to Bwindi. Your tour operator can easily arrange charter flights in advance, and these fly from Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe International Airport to Kihihi or Kisoro Airstrip, where you have to drive the rest of the way to Bwindi.
Contact us and let us plan your photography safari to Bwindi.