Set in northwestern Uganda, Budongo forest features among a few Africa’s spectacular tropical rain forests. It is about 3 to 4 hours’ drive from Kampala and makes up part of the vast Murchison Falls National Park-Uganda’s largest national park. It is one of the largest mahogany forest reserves which still thrive in Africa. It extends up to 825 square kilometers and it is remarkably one of Uganda’s few natural forests. This forest reserve straddles just at a boundary of Murchison Falls National Park. It comes with medium elevation of between 1110 and 1590 meters, moist, semi deciduous tropical rain forest. Budongo forest reserve is run by National Forestry Authority (NFA). Historically, it was preserved by the King of Bunyoro at a time and only with his permission could local chiefs hunt inside it. Credit goes to his strict policy on the flora and fauna till recently when this area is gazetted as a reserve in 1932. Locally, the word Budongo denotes fertile soil.
Its vast size offers refuge to diverse flora and fauna. While on Uganda safari in this forest reserve, expect to catch a glimpse at varied primates including over 600 chimpanzees that make up part of over 5000 individuals in Uganda. This makes it an ideal site for chimpanzee tracking which is conducted around Kaniyo Pabidi eco-tourism site, Busingiro eco-tourism site. It is dominated by mahogany and iron wood trees. Over 24 mammal species, 9 primate species and 280 butterflies. Beside chimpanzees, other primate species to spot out include blue monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys and many others. Over 465 plant species are confined within this forest reserve and they include Mahogany trees that grow up to 80 meters.
For birders, there are more than 360 bird species to identify in this forest reserve and they include the dusky long tailed cuckoo, yellow browned camaroptera, black headed paradise flycatcher, Puval’s illadopsis, chocolate backed kingfishers, chestnut crowned eremomera, slender billed greenbul, white spotted fluff tail, Cassin’s hawk eagle, little green sunbird, yellow manted weaver, crested Malimbe, lemon bellied crombec, forest robins and others.
Things to do in Budongo Forest
This is conducted around Kaniyo Pabidi and takes you about 2 to 4 hours walk through the rainforest. You can embark on morning or afternoon chimpanzee tracking. There are habituated groups and equally only an hour is given to you to have magical encounter with these magnificent creatures, take photos and explore more about their behaviors. Along the way, you will also come across other primates like blue monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and several plant and tree species.
Over 600 chimpanzees are found in this mahogany forest. There are higher chances of seeing chimpanzees when fruits in the forest are plenty and when the fruits lower, the chances of meeting them lowers to 50%. Its because chimpanzees move a lot to look for food and that can make the process hectic and tiresome.
Chimpanzee trekking starts at around 7:30 am with briefing which takes 30 minutes. Thereafter, the grouped trekkers move to the forest to encounter chimpanzees in their natural habitat. The exercise is led by ranger guides to offer security, knowledge and guidance.
It is another adventurous activity which allows a visitor to stay longer with chimpanzees. Chimpanzee habituation process aim at making the chimps familiar to human being in order to facilitate Chimp trekking. Chimpanzee habituation takes 2 year when primatologists visit chimp troops to monitor their routine activities hence getting used to people. The visitors therefore go with experts to do the same.
Budongo forest is one of Uganda’s most significant birding sites. Over 360 bird species have been recorded. The best birding sites in Budongo forest include Kaniyo Pabidi, sonso and Royal mile at Busingiro which offers a 115 km birding trail. Visiting Uganda’s national park for any activity is always best achieved in the dry months when the parks are easy to trail through and the vegetation is easy to penetrate. Among the recorded birds include: the rare Puval’s Illadopses which is endemic to the region. Others include the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Chestnut Crowned Eremomera, Dusky long-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-browned Camaroptera, Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Slender-billed Greenbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Forest Robin, White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow and Grey Longbill, Little Green Sunbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-manted Weaver, Crested Malimbe and Cassin’s Hawk Eagle among others.
A birding tour in this area gets you the best sight at birds like black headed paradise flycatcher, Puval’s illadopsis, chocolate backed kingfishers, chestnut crowned eremomera, slender billed greenbul, white spotted fluff tail, forest robins, Cassin’s hawk eagle, little green sunbird, yellow manted weaver and many others.
Nature walks in Budongo Forest
The guided nature walks in Budongo forest gives you a chance to see many wonders like caves, unique tree species, Valleys, Hills and so on.
Well-developed forest trails give you the perfect opportunity to explore the beauty of the tropical rainforest. Learn more about the eco-system, pass the old Mahogany trees and encounter different species of butterflies on your path. As the terrain is flat, the forest walks are suitable for the average tourist. The largest specimens are 60m tall and 300 years old. Black-and-white Colombus screech, chimps yell, butterflies flutter their wings and moss grows like a velvet rug on the massive trunks of trees – duiker are also commonly seen.
Other activities include forest/nature walks in Pabidi hill and in the nearby areas you can explore mostly the Boomu Women’s Group and others.