Mpanga Forest Reserve lies about 37 kilometers southwest of Kampala. It is one of the smallest natural equatorial rainforests in Uganda. This remarkable forest spans up to 453 hectares just as you are in Mpigi district. If you are nature enthusiast, then a trip to Mpanga forest reserve is worthy to explore the abundant forest species. The forest reserve is a home to over 500 tree species and shrubs, 300 birds, 97 butterflies and 112 moths. There are also 3 monkey species that are protected within this small forest and they include the vervet, red tailed and black and white colobus monkeys. You can as well spot some banded mongoose, squirrels, pottos, pangolins and bush babies. For those who may spend a night around Mpanga forest, they can be in position to sight at notable nocturnal pottos and bush babies. The main tree species in this forest is the hard and weather resistant celtis. The forest is surrounded by a community of traditional drum makers. This forest reserve was gazetted in 1950 and then later in 1953. It first served as a scientific research site.
Mpanga Forest Reserve is one of Uganda birders paradise sites that you can easily reach even when you are within the city. There are various birds to excite the mind with as you get into the walking trail. The trail is well established and stretches from the forest up to a water stream which is an area for shoebill and visitors can as well get a glimpse of water species. It takes you nearly 3 hours to do your birding experience where you will have opportunity to watch some of the 50 bird species that are popularly known to live in this remarkable forest. The birds to have a glimpse awhile in your nature walks in the forest include the long tailed cormorant, cattle egret, black headed heron, purple heron, hadada ibis, Egyptian goose, black kite, lizard buzzard, great blue Turaco, yellow bill and African palm swift.
A walk through Mpanga Forest Reserve offers visitors opportunity to explore the remarkable hidden treasures of the forest while enjoying the natural setting of the forest, enjoy the cool weather conditions under the forest canopy. This will give you the opportunity sight at countless trees, monkeys, butterflies and many colorful birds. There are also nocturnal species for you to sight especially for those visitors who spend their night around the forest reserve. The forest walk is mainly conducted by the Mpanga Ecotourism centre which was launched in 1999.
This is sub divided into 3; Baseline trail, the butter trail and hornbill trail. This mainly offers incredible experiences on monkeys, common forest birds and several plant species to be explored.
This is basically for tourists to view the bush babies that eat at night.
This leads you to Kiganda shrines just one kilometer from the ecotourism centre and the Nakibinge.
Tourists also have opportunity to view at the forest and surrounding valleys that are remarkably stunning.
Visit the local market and do some shopping at Mpambire trading area where you will get drums, baskets, mats, local tools and many other handcraft materials.
The Forest Trails
A variety of walks, ranging from fifteen minutes to several hours in length can be done at Mpanga forest
The forest links well to the rural areas surrounding it providing good opportunities to walk through traditional Ugandan villages and farming areas. Some trails are way marked for the independent visitor. Local guides are also on hand for visitors wishing to learn more about the forest or to travel to more remote parts of the forest.
The Base Line Trail
A three kilometer straight, wide trail which passes straight across Mpanga and ends at the edge of a papyrus swamp (Nakyetema) on the west side of the forest. There’s no need to watch your feet just put your head in the trees and enjoy fabulous views into the forest canopy. This undulating walk over gentle rises and across two streams offers some of the most impressive trees in the forest and is also an excellent place to view clouds of butterflies, which congregate in the sunny clearings along the trail. This trail can be used for mountain biking by looking back through local villages and dirt tracks.
The Butterfly Loop
A one kilometer winding jungle trail for visitors wanting a short adventure and willing to occasionally clamber over logs and duck under dense tangles of vegetation. It takes approximately 25 minutes and you venture pass native rain forest trees as well as a few newcomers to the forest, look out for a puzzling tree to the local primate population. Bush babies and leopard tracks have been on this loop.
The Hornbill Trail
A five-kilometer loop passing deep into the heart of the forest. Like the butterfly loop it offers adventurous terrain along streamsides and across gentle hills. Watch out for the ‘tree root arch’ half way along the trail. The trail takes approximately 3 hours but can be combined with short cuts to the Base Line trail if tired. Enjoy fantastic root structures and buttresses, fungi, butterflies, monkeys and birds along this trail. Also watch out for rather timid snakes including a sleepy python.
How to get There:
This forest is located 37 kilometers which is approximately 1 and half hour’s drive from Kampala along Masaka road. If you are in Mpigi town, it is 6 kilometers before you reach to Mpanga Eco tourism site sign post and from there you can take the main road which is about one kilometer.
In case you want to use public means, you can get a taxi from Kampala Taxi Park a 14 seater up to Buwama. You can inform the conductor that you are stopping at Mpanga Ecotourism site junction. There is a nearest taxi stage where visitors can chance also to sight at the locals crafting drums in the traditional manner.
Where to stay:
Some of the notable accommodation facilities to spend a night in the forest include;
Mpanga Ecotourism Campsite:
This is made of 2 double rooms, 2 twin rooms, 8 bedded dormitory and good place for camping. Meals and camp fire are also provided.
In conclusion, there are many attractions and activities that you must not miss out in Mpanga Forest Reserve if you are planning a trip in Uganda. Mpanga Forest Reserve is an ideal place for your gateway in Kampala.