It’s not something that happens often to us, but when we stepped out of our Land Cruiser and arrived at Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge in Uganda we felt at ease. The individual rooms and lodge blended in with its natural surroundings.
Banda’s feature windows that opened wide to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Here there was no end to the lodge as the park spilled right onto the property that is frequented by mountain gorillas.
The Bwindi Lodge
The Rooms at Bwindi Lodge
Bwindi Lodge has 8 spacious bandas that feature a balcony, large bathroom with his and her sinks, and a seating area overlooking the forests. The king-size beds are comfortable with a large mosquito net draped over the bed. We rarely saw a mosquito while staying at Bwindi Lodge, but good mosquito nets are important in malaria zones. Guests at the Bwindi Lodge do not have to go without western luxuries. The lodge underwent renovations to add full modern bathrooms with flush toilets and solar showers recently and the result is incredible.
Rooms come with an assistant that will ensure their guests’ needs are met. The room is cleaned daily and features a turndown service with hot water bottles placed in the bed to fight off the cold mountain nights. Gorilla trekking can be a muddy affair so guests are given complimentary laundry and shoe cleaning.
The room is decorated with colorful fabrics often worn by locals and stunning prints of the gorillas while furniture is largely wood and does not detract from the surrounding forest. The room is simple in decoration and earth tones make for an inviting room and that feels at home in the forest.
Environmentally Friendly Lodge Practices
Bwindi lodge does strive to be an eco-lodge in Africa. The lodge is run on solar power so there are no charging facilities in the room. However, there is a station in the main lounge where guests can charge their camera batteries, phones, and other gadgets safely.
Rainwater is never wasted and collected for use. The showers are solar heated, so you’re in for a treat when you have a really sunny day. However, on cloudy days bucket showers are heated by a fire and provided to all guests. We never had to use one of these as Uganda blessed us with her sunshine during our stay.
Our one recommendation would be to do away with the plastic water bottles. We have stayed at a number of lodges that have done so, and the effort makes a clear reduction in plastic waste.
Bwindi Lodge is located just steps away from the local village, Nkwenda. However, once you walk down to the main lodge and bandas it’s easy to forget there is anything around but wilderness. The property effectively acts as a buffer between the growing village and the nearby park.
The lodge feels secluded away, yet it is only a few minute’s walk away from the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest park entrance. However, it actually feels as if it is within the national park and makes for a relaxing wildlife experience. It’s the perfect place for a good book, coffee, and complete tranquility.
The Activites at Bwindi Lodge
Yes, there are other reasons to travel to Buhoma other than gorilla trekking. We were quite surprised by the sheer number of activities on offer at Bwindi Lodge and it was hard to pick and choose what we could do with our limited time.
We chose to start off right in the forest and do the river walk offered around the park. The river walk starts at Bwindi Lodge and loops itself around in under an hour. Along the walk, we saw black and white colobus monkeys, a blue duiker, and stunning Ugandan birdlife.
Other outdoor activities on offer are hikes offered by UWA such Rushurra Hill, Muzabajirro Loop Trail, and the Munyanga River Trail. There are also village tours, Ugandan tea tours, and the Bwindi Bar. We liked the sound of Bwindi Bar so we made a few efforts to stop by. Bwindi Bar is run and supported by the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trusts. It is a training institution and gateway into hospitality jobs for disadvantaged local youths. They serve up excellent coffee and other local Ugandan treats.
The Local Staff
I was pleased to find out that all of the staff are local Ugandans working hard in the tourism industry. Volcanoes Safaris prides itself on training, hiring, and empowering locals to completely staff their lodges and safaris. Even the managers are locals (which can be rare in Africa).
We found the staff at Bwindi Lodge to be friendly and accommodating to every request. Our laundry was cleaned free of charge, while coffee was brought to us in bed every morning, and cold gin and tonics were served to us every night before sundown.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Bwindi Lodge is completely set up to accommodate guests going Gorilla trekking. The night before trekking the managers will give you a gorilla trekking briefing. The next day a member of the staff will escort you, along with a packed lunch, gaiters, walking sticks, and plenty of bottled water to the trekking starting point.
Upon return from the trek the staff take your dirty and muddy shoes and clothes and clean them like they are new – oh yea…this isn’t their first rodeo. Gorilla trekking guests are then encouraged to relax with a hot lunch and finish off with a complimentary massage in the Bwindi Lodge massage room.
Gorilla trekking can be a strenuous experience, and the staff at the Bwindi Lodge are there to help you unwind after the trek. Don’t get too comfortable, though, we were told every week or so the gorillas walk right around the lodge to see what’s going on in the human world.
The Experience At Bwindi Lodge
Bwindi Lodge was the perfect place for us to have a memorable experience while gorilla trekking in Uganda. Their environmental and conservation efforts were duly noted and appreciated. The lodge gave clear support to the local communities and staff. At its core, the lodge is dedicated to aiding guests in gorilla trekking while ensuring general comfort, great amenities, support, and solid assistance. Full board rates start at $250 US per person in the high season and $188 US per person in the low season. Check their rates and safari offers here!
What to bring gorilla trekking?
What to wear
- Lightweight and waterproof safari clothes are recommended. The goal is to blend into the forest so greens, khakis, and general dark colors do well in Uganda.
- I would recommend also bringing a rain jacket in case you get caught up in a morning shower.
- Gaters or long hiking socks are recommended through the thick bush and to avoid those ants up your pants. Bwindi Lodge provided us with gaters to use.
- Good walking shoes to finish your trek are preferred. I never do any long treks without my Merrell Moab Ventilators.
- Walking Stick: we were each provided one of these from Bwindi Lodge.
What to bring
- Binocularsare never a bad idea in Africa.
- Gardening gloves:If you like to grab trees and things when on a hike then make sure to bring some basic gardening gloves. Many of the trees and branches have tiny thorns on them.
- Insect repellent with DEET. Might as well throw some sunscreen in just in case.
- Bring a good carry-on sized backpack to keep all your belongings in. Bwindi Lodge provided us with plenty of bottled water and food to bring on our trek.
- I almost forgot to mention a camera! You’re going gorilla trekking so I’m sure you will want something to take photos with! We travel with a Fujifilm X-T10 with a 200mm telephoto lenswhich is what the photos in this post are taken with.
Book A Safari in Uganda
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Check Out Our Gorilla Trekking Vlog!
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Plan Your Gorilla Trek in Uganda
Look the part
Here is our guide to choosing the best safari clothes for your adventure. Browse through all our Africa packing lists:
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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