Best Things to do in Nkuringo Sector Bwindi
Kim Paffen Travel Specialist & Photo Safari Tour Guide
17 min

9 Things to do in Nkuringo sector while staying at Gorilla Heights Lodge

17 min

Nkuringo sector is one of the 4 sectors in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park where you can do gorilla trekking, but for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts, there’s more to do and see around the Nkuringo sector than trekking these endangered mountain gorillas. The region is home to a wide range of wildlife and birdlife and has two nearby lakes (Lake Mutanda and Lake Mulehe) that offer stunning sceneries and water activities. Apart from that you can participate in cultural activities like visiting the Batwa or community walks.

So let's find out the 7 top activities and things to do in Nkuringo sector of Bwindi.

Activities in Nkuringo Sector Bwindi National Park including Gorilla Trekking

1 Gorilla Trekking in Nkuringo

Gorilla trekking in Uganda is without a doubt the number one reason to visit the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi National Park. The southern part of Bwindi is home to (only) three habituated gorilla families: Nkuringo, Christmas, and Bushaho. 

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi National Park Uganda

Because of its steep hills, Nkuringo is known for a tough, adventurous hike with a lot of climbing before you reach the gorillas. So trekking the gorillas in this sector is perfect for hikers that really want to put in the effort to find the mountain gorillas. The average trekking from beginning to end takes around 5 hours, but it all depends on where the gorillas are located and how mobile they are. For that reason, the trek can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day. 

Once you locate the gorillas, you can stay with them for max. one hour, enjoying their human-like behavior. Planning a gorilla trekking in Nkuringo? Book your gorilla permit (700 USD) in advance as they are in high demand and there are only 3 gorilla families in Nkuringo to trek.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Are you not very fit and not a great hiker? Plan your gorilla trekking at the Rushaga sector. This area in Bwindi has more gorilla families to trek and the families are more accessible. From Gorilla Heights Safari Lodge, it's a 5-minute drive to the Nkuringa Visitor Center (Park Gate) and a 40-minute drive to Rushaga, so even when you want to do your trekking in Rushaga, you can stay at the 5-star Gorilla Heights Lodge.

  Related: My Gorilla Trekking Experience in the Rushaga Sector of Bwindi

tracking Gorillas in Bwindi Forest Uganda

Book Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Find examples of Uganda tours that include Gorilla Trekking.

2 Gorilla Habituation Experience

Apart from gorilla trekking, you can opt for a gorilla habituation experience, which allows you to spend almost all day with a semi-habituated gorilla family. Nkuringo currently has one semi-habituated gorilla family, meaning these gorillas are still in the process to get fully habituated. The Gorilla Habituation Experience costs 1500 USD.

Batwa Pygmies Bwindi National Park Uganda

3 Batwa Cultural Tour

Walk in the footsteps of the Batwa, and discover many uses of the Buniga Forest. When you visit the Nkuringo sector, one of the activities you can’t miss is engaging with the Batwa pygmies, who used to live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest together with the gorillas. 

Visit the Batwa in Nkuringo sector or Bwindi National Park Uganda

The Batwa are one of the oldest tribes in Africa and are known as ‘keepers of the forest’. A cultural Batwa Tour is a great way to learn more about their way of life, culture, and traditions. You can also participate in their traditional dances and songs. 

Visit Batwa Tribe Bwindi National Park Nkuringo sector

Apart from that, a member of the Batwa community will explain everything about the plants they use to stay healthy and the plants to treat diseases. 

Batwa Tribe Uganda

But they will also show you how they used to hunt animals with clever tricks to catch animals like a duiker or buffalo in a trap. Lastly, they will show you how to make a fire to stay warm and cook their food. 

Batwa Tour Nkuringo learn how to make fire

Batwa Pygmies Cultural Visit Uganda

They also explained about the various huts that are part of the Batwa settlement, like a bachelor hut, a family hut, a community hut where the Batwa gather to eat their food, and the treehouse hut where they would leave their children that aren’t ready to hunt yet.

Batwa Settlement Uganda

During the Batwa Cultural Tour in Nkuringo you don't visit their actual settlement, but it's set up to show people their way of life in the forest. The trail is known as the Buniga Community Forest Trail.

Batwa Village Bwindi National Park Uganda

4 Spa Treatment at Gorilla Heights Lodge

Looking for a relaxing experience after a tough gorilla hike? Book a massage at the Gorilla Heights Spa to stay 'Forever Young' and come to rest in the complimentary sauna and steam cabin. 

Massage Gorilla Heights Lodge Nkuringo

In between you can enjoy a cup of herbal tea with some salty popcorn. A great way to unwind and rejuvenate.

Spa Treatment Gorilla Heights Lodge Nkuringo

Apart from the Spa, you can also enjoy the swimming pool at Gorilla Heights Lodge; it’s the only lodge in Nkuringo sector of Bwindi that has a pool. So, looking for these facilities? Book your stay at Gorilla Heights Lodge.

Gorilla Heights Lodge Nkuringo Swimming Pool

5 Nature Walks & Hiking in Nkuringo

Want to experience Bwindi’s stunning nature? Consider going on a guided nature walk in Nkuringo sector where you will spot various primate species, colorful birds, and butterflies, enjoying the scenery and sounds of nature. The nature walks range from short, easy hikes to longer, more challenging ones. 

Nature Walk Nkuringo Sector Uganda

For the more adventurous hikers, there are several hiking trails in the Nkuringo sector that offer stunning views of the Virunga volcanoes and the surrounding landscape. Popular hikes are for example the Nkuringo hill hike, and the Ivy River trail where you can spot different primates, like Colobus monkeys, and baboons, but also animals like duiker. 

Opting for a nature walk or hike is a great activity to do in Nkuringo if you want to learn more about the local flora and fauna.

Birdwatching Nkuringo sector Bwindi National Park

6 Birdwatching

Nkuringo sector is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 350 species of birds. A few birds worth mentioning are the African green broad bill, Shelley’s crimson wing, and the black-billed Turaco. During birdwatching, an experienced guide will help you to spot different bird species, like the African goshawk, Klaas’s cuckoo, snowy crowned robin chat, African paradise flycatcher, the Yellow-rumped tinker bird, grey-cheeked hornbill, and much more.

Birdwatching Nkuringo Sector

The birdwatching activity in the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi was a 3-hour trail led by the community coordinator using cow and goat tracks. 

During the rainy season, this trail is quite muddy and slippery, but during the dry season, these tracks are all dried up. I did the activity during Uganda's rainy season and some parts were challenging including streams to cross.

River Trail Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

It's a nice trail that takes you through the community and the forest, spotting various birds and passing by various fruit trees, like passion fruit, banana, mango, lemon, and guava. I also found wild cucumber and avocado trees.

Nature Hike Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

Birds I spotted were the Bronze Sunbird, Chubb's Cisticola, Streaky Seedeater, Grey-backed Fiscal, Yellow White-eye, Green-headed Sunbird, Red-chested Sunbird, Augur Buzzard, and the Pin-tailed Whydah.

Birdwatching in Bwindi Uganda

7 Canoeing Trip on Lake Mutanda

Most people come to Nkuringo to trek the gorillas and enjoy Bwindi Forest, which isn’t a world heritage site for nothing. However, I highly recommend extending your stay in Nkuringo to enjoy a canoeing activity on the stunning Lake Mutanda, which is surrounded by lush green hills and dotted by volcanoes part of the Virunga mountain range. 

Lake Mutanda Uganda

A canoeing trip on Lake Mutanda is a relaxing and peaceful way to enjoy the scenery and spot aquatic birdlife and shy otters. 

Otter on canoe trip lake Mutanda Uganda

On the internet, you may find that Lake Mutanda also has hippos, but hippos aren't seen in the lake since 2013. Because of the absence of hippos and crocodiles, swimming in the Bilharzia-free Lake Mutanda is very safe.

Canoe Trip Lake Mutanda Uganda

Lake Mutanda is home to several fish, including Tilapia, Catfish, and Mudfish. However, due to overfishing, there are very few fish left. The government tried to place back fish in order to regenerate, but during COVID-19 local fishermen came with huge nets during the night, catching everything they possibly could. Sadly, this is a major challenge of Lake Mutanda, which is believed to be formed 13 million years ago.

Fishing on Lake Mutanda Kisoro

The scenic lake has 13 major islands that support human activity, but there's only one island with a settlement. Lake Mutanda is 45 to 900 meters deep and 29km.

Canoe activity Lake Mutanda

The canoe trip on Lake Mutanda is issued through Chameleon Hill Forest Lodge, a colorful cozy lodge with amazing views of the lake and the volcanoes in the distance. You will use a local dug-out canoe, locally known as 'Ubrato' made of eucalyptus trees. Along the shores, you will also find aquatic birds, like pied Kingfishers.

The hike down to the starting point takes about 10 minutes. When you return it's a steep climb uphill taking you probably around 15 minutes. Wear clothed shoes for the hike; in the canoe, you can take off your shoes if you wish.

Chameleon Hill Lodge Lake Mutanda

From Gorilla Heights Lodge in Nkuringo it's a 50-minute drive to Lake Mutanda. Another option is to go straight to Chameleon Hill Lodge for a canoe trip after arriving at the Kisoro airstrip and stay at this peaceful forest lodge for a nice lunch with a view, before continuing to Gorilla Heights Lodge in Nkuringo.

Canoeing on Lake Mutanda Uganda

8 Sundowner On Top of the World

Enjoying a sundowner 'On Top of the World' is something not to be missed while staying in Nkuringo. You can either reach the top of the hill by foot, walk through the tea plantation, or drive up the hill. 

Tea Plantation Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

On top, you have a wonderful 360 degrees panoramic view over Bwindi National Park with Buhoma sector in the distance, and on clear days you can even see Queen Elizabeth and Lake Edward. Apart from that, you can see the border with Congo DRC, the amazing 8 volcanoes, and the wonderful property of Gorilla Heights Lodge.

View at Gorilla Heights from On Top of the World

Weather permitting, Gorilla Heights Lodge will set up nice tables and a cozy fire to enjoy the amazing views and sunset while having a sundowner. From the Top of the World Hill, you can also see Gorilla Heights Lodge (and vice versa). And while looking towards Bwindi National Park, you will see a natural buffer zone of tea plantations preventing the Gorillas from eating and destroying the people's crops. This smart solution has heavily reduced the human-gorilla conflict.

Top of the World Hill Nkuringo

I didn't have the best weather on top of the world, but I enjoyed the view and the amazing souls of Gorilla Heights Lodge. Thank you for an unforgettable stay!

Watch sunset On Top of The World Hill in Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

9 Community Walk

You can do several community walks in Nkuringo. One of them is the Batwa Cultural Tour, but you can also take a stroll through the town and see how the people of Nkuringo live and learn more about local craftsmanship, like the blacksmith.

Gorilla Heights Lodge Nkuringo sector

Where to stay in Nkuringo sector, Bwindi?

I highly recommend staying in the 5-star Gorilla Heights Lodge. It’s the newest addition to the lodges in Nkuringo, and it has by far the best views and service. 

Gorilla Heights Lodge Bwindi

Gorilla Heights Lodge has 9 standard cottages with a balcony overlooking the rolling misty hills of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, 5 deluxe cottages with an outdoor bath, a second balcony, and a kitchen area. 

Gorilla Heights Lodge Deluxe Cottage

Gorilla Heights Lodge Bwindi National Park

Gorilla Heights Lodge in Bwindi with Outdoor Bath

For bigger families, they also offer a family cottage. I had a memorable stay in one of their Deluxe cottages, enjoying the ever-changing view of the UNESCO world heritage impenetrable forest.

Gorilla Heights Best Lodge in Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi

What I really liked about Gorilla Heights Lodge is that they have 2 terraces in the main building. The ‘Bwindi Terrace’ is overlooking Bwindi Forest, while the 'Virunga Terrace' offers amazing views of the volcanic Virunga mountain range.

Gorilla Heights Lodge has the best view in Bwindi

On a clear day, you can see all 7 volcanoes, of which some are shared with Rwanda and Congo. So, regarding views, Gorilla Heights Lodge offers the best of both worlds and the lodge is only a 5-minute drive from the Nkuringo visitor center from where the Gorilla Trekking starts.

Gorilla Heights Lodge views Bwindi

Food Gorilla Heights Lodge Nkuringo

Their food is very good with various options to choose from. Selected wines and beers are complimentary, as well as laundry.

What is the best time to visit the Nkuringo sector?

Nkuringo sector can basically be visited year-round, but the best time is during the dry season in Bwindi National Park. The driest months are June to September and December to February. Because of less rainfall, the gorilla trekking is easier and less slippery.

Best time to visit Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

However, Nkuringo sector can also be visited in the rainy season, from March to May, and in November. These wet times are generally the best period for birdwatching, but even gorilla trekking is perfectly fine during these months. At least, that is what I experienced myself as I visited Uganda in the rainy season twice.

Nkuringo Bwindi National Park Uganda

Be aware that Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a rainforest, so it can rain anytime, and the weather is unpredictable. Downpours during gorilla trekking are common. Sometimes it’s just 10–15 minutes and then it clears up again. The advantages of traveling off-season are fewer tourists and lodging is more affordable.

Want to know more information about the best time to travel to Uganda? Read the best time to visit Uganda and Uganda weather by month.

Bwindi National Park Nkuringo

How to get to Nkuringo sector?

You can either access Nkuringo by road (about 10 hours from Kampala) or you can fly to Kisoro Airstrip. A flight with Aerolink from Entebbe to Kisoro takes about one hour, and then it’s another 1,5- hour drive to get to Nkuringo.

Fly to Kisoro Airstrip for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Another option is to fly to Kigali, in Rwanda, and proceed by road from there, passing the Cyanika border from Rwanda into Uganda. This drive will take you around 3 to 4 hours.

Fly Aerolink in Uganda for domestic flights

The advantage of booking a domestic flight from Entebbe to Kisoro is that the flight is very scenic with stunning views of Bwindi National Park, Lake Mutanda, the Volcanoes, and more.

Scenic Flight from Entebbe to Kisoro

scenic flight to Kisoro for Gorilla Trekking

9 Top things to do in Nkuringo sector Bwindi

The above activities in Nkuringo make this sector of Bwindi National Park a must-visit destination if you travel to Uganda. The combination of gorilla trekking, birdwatching, spa treatments, cultural experiences, and lake activities like canoeing, make the Nkuringo sector one of the best places to visit in Uganda.

Things to do Nkuringo Sector Bwindi

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