Budongo forest is East Africa’s largest mahogany forest found in the North western part of Uganda. It usually takes about 3hours to drive there for Kampala via Masindi. Budongo forest is situated in the southern extension of the great Murchison fall National Park. This forest reserve is in an area of 825 sq kilometers, with 53% forested and 47% grassland vegetation crossed by the Waiga River. Tis forest reserve was established way back in 1932. It’s a rich bio diversified ecosystem with so many tourist attractions that is; 24 species of small mammals; nine being primates; 465 species of trees and shrubs; 359 species of birds; 289 species of butterflies; and 130 species of moths.
These features can be viewed from two established tourist sites of the Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism site, Busingiro Ecotourism site. From here great views of Lions, Leopards and Buffaloes can be enjoyed during an early morning game drive. Some beautiful wildlife species black and white colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, blue monkeys and Grey –cheeked Mangabeys can be enjoyed from around the Waiga River as the animals line up for refreshment.
Budongo forest has the largest concentration of chimpanzees in East Africa and therefore offers great chimpanzee tracking expeditions to travellers. Despite all its beauty, the forest reserve stands great chances of destruction due to the ongoing high level of human activities like commercial timber extraction, hunting, and human encroachment. At the Budongo ecosystem, minus chimpanzee tracking, lots of tourist activities can be enjoyed when at this site and these are;
The Kaniyo akabidi and Busingiro sites
These can be tracked from either the Kaniyo Kabidi or the Busingiro site. These two sites were established in 1993 and made available for chimpanzee tracking in 1994, by the National Forestry Authority which later on handed its roles to The Jane Goodall Institute Uganda( currently responsible for the management and accommodation of the area). This has played a big role in the development of the two tourist sites of Budongo forest reserve, at the same time conserving the lives of the chimpanzees within the forest.
Kaniyo Pabidi offers wonderful chimpanzee tracking experiences to visitors and Busingiro site on the other side is known for its great birding and bush camping exclusives. In addition, there is also the Royal Mike site, which offers extraordinary birding sights for the birders and can easily be reached with the help of the tour guide via the Busingiro site.
Due to its grassland vegetation, the forest is an easily accessed area and also a good platform for viewing wildlife and bird species as the vegetation is less thick, so the chimpanzees can be clearly seen when visiting the forest. Tracking Chimpanzees in Budongo forest is very interesting as it has a flat terrain that provides easy movements to the tourists through the forest and the campsite at Budongo, is just within the chimpanzees’ vicinity.
Attractions in the park
Chimpanzee Tracking (Kaniyo Pabidi only): /
Budongo forest is a home to over 6oo chimpanzees and can be tracked in the mornings through a 2- 4 hours forest walk. Like mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking is also done in groups of 6-8 tourist individuals and can be tracked both in the mornings and afternoons. There are always well trained and well informed tour guides on board to provide you with all the necessary details you may need to know about the chimpanzees. While on this forest hike for chimpanzees, tourists should look out for other interesting primates like the black and white colobus, as well as the red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and the olive baboons. However, for those with limited time, can instead go straight to the southern community where there’s a habituated chimpanzee group of about 50 individuals and here visitors spend an hour with the apes. It’s an amazing experience watching these creatures from their natural locality.
Bird Watching safari – Half Day
Bird Watching safari – Half Day
Budongo forest reserve offers unique and exclusive experiences to birders and it’s greatly known for its bird biodiversity. It is the home to several bird species including those endemic to the Budongo forest the Puvel’s illadopses. The half day Bird watching in Budongo forest reserve can be done either in the morning or afternoon depending on the visitor’s choice and takes about 3 hours, walking through the flat forest terrain. Forest guides are always available to provide you all the necessary help and information.
Bird Watching safari full day
Alternatively, Budongo forest reserve offers exciting full day birding packages for those with big interest in nature and birding. Tourists going for the full day birding exercise in Budongo forest are advised to carry along drinking water and packed lunch as it will be hard returning to the entrance for a meal. During this exercise, visitors get a chance to spend long hours within the wild and able to view the bird species without any hurries.
Forest Experience Walks
This forest nature walk can be taken during your stop over visits / trip and can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour or even 2 hour depending on the visitor’s interest or arrangement. During this brief forest walk, tourists get a chance to discover some of East Africa’s oldest mahogany trees and scrubs within the Budongo forest reserve. They also get a chance in Bundongo’s wild viewing animals like monkeys, baboons, buffalos among others as well some rare and beautiful butterfly species.
The visit to the Pabidi hill, offers great top sights over the Budongo forest reserve together with the Murchison fall national park. This hike is usually done in mid mornings so visitors should bring along their packed luch.IT IS an exclusive experience as the visitors view the two natural beauties from above , taking in the beautiful scenery while listening to the beautiful singing birds from the woods. Note should be taken, at this point of the forest, are the kings of the jungle- the lions, therefore an armed guide should always be aboard.
Habituating chimpanzees is a process that involves training the apes to live comfortably in the presence of human beings without running away. It is somehow a slow process they can even take up to 10 and 15 years. Since chimpanzees are quite very shy creatures, it’s really a slow process. In Budongo forest reserve, it’s carried out from the southern community where about 50 chimpanzees are being trained. The habituating humans usually go to the forest at 7 am spending an entire day in the vicinity of these creatures and leaving in the evening.
Budongo forest reserve offers 2 individuals a chance to be a part of this habituating team per day. Those with an interest of contributing to this tourism development, bring along packed lunch/ are usually offered lunch within the forest reserve. In addition to lunch, those interested in participating, are advised bring good walking boots, raingear and good backpack. The habituation process therefore takes about 7 hours to 10 hours depending on the time you reach the chimpanzees’ location.
School Group activities
Budongo forest reserve also provides great school group activities to various schools in the country. They are basically taken from Busingiro site. Currently there’s a well-established education center, a canteen, and a wide camping area and a great camping staff / team. The school campers are required to bring their own camping supplies to reduce costs. The camping staff offers well organized programs for the varying age groups and sizes that may turn up. They (staff is aware of the national school curriculum and usually able to provide great field study to the students or campers.
Busingiro Ecotourism Site:
Busingiro Eco tourism site is a great birding spot for birders in Uganda. It offers exclusive birding encounters for tourists especially at the Royal Mile site where several bird species are viewed such as the sought-after African dwarf, blue-breasted and chocolate-backed kingfishers. At Busingiro birding site, tourists can enjoy several African bird species either along the road next to the gate or from deep inside the Budongo forest during a forest nature guided walk, it doesn’t matter which ever spot you choose, the birding experience got is all exciting. The trip to the great Royal Mile birding site is only possible through private transport means. Tourists in for the birding tourist activity, get a chance of enjoying wonderful sites of the other wildlife species with in the forest; monkeys jumping from tree to tree, giant forest squirrels and the bizarre chequered elephant-shrew. This birding exercise is usually conducted in the company of well trained and well informed guides with a pair of binoculars for great clear views and birding experiences.
Note: The birding guides can be got from the Busingiro forest entrance following the payment of a birding fee.
Camping Fees (Busingiro):
This camping tourist activity is basically done at the Busingiro camping site and visitors are expected to come prepared with their own camping supplies that is; food, shelter, firewood and drinks though at times some sodas for sale are available. For great camping experience, it’s always important to come when effectively prepared for the activity and with all the necessary items.
This exclusive activity can be best enjoyed from the Royal Mile birding site. It’s 15 km drive from the Busingiro ecotourism site entrance. The Royal Mile obtained its name from King Kabalega’s frequent visits to the place from Bunyoro kingdom. An early morning trip to the Royal Mile offers tourists with spectacular views of unique forest bird species; the Chocolate Backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher etc. Still great birding experiences can be enjoyed at the Kanyege lake viewing water birds and large clouds of beautiful butterfly specieswithin the forest.
General Forest Walk
It’s a natural wonder walking through the thick mahogany trees of Budongo forest while listing to the harming or singing birds. There are great forest nature walks that can be enjoyed right from the loop system at the visitor’s center. This forest walk is usually in the company of a well-trained and well informed guide who provides you with all the important information about the forest and you can discover more about places like; elephant pit traps, salt licks, elephant wallows and historic grinding stoners. A lot can be learned during this forest nature walk including the tree that gets elephants drunk. It is very festinating to walk through the ironwood trees making u the forest woods.
Little Kasenene Hill Trail
This grassland and shrub lined trail, takes visitors to the Kasenene Hill top where they are able to enjoy great views over Lake Albert and the Blue mountains of Congo. It’s traditionally known as a grasshopper harvesting spot-that are usually God given in the months of mid-March and November of every year during the wet seasons. It’s known for this, because a taste of grasshoppers is quite very memorable due to its unique taste. The trail usually goes for about 4 hours which are yet very rewarding to visitors.