Budongo Forest in Uganda : Budongo Forest is one of the very few natural rainforests that still exist in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. Situated about 3-4 hours’ drive off from Kampala, Northwestern Uganda, Budongo Forest is the largest of all the natural forests in Uganda occupying the land area of over 825sq.kms. Of the 825sq.kms of Budongo Forest Reserve, 430sq.kms is a continuous forest.
Budongo Forest lies on the top of the Albertine Rift, which also makes up part of the Great Rift Valley. The forest reserve is situated within Murchison Falls National Park boundaries and makes up part of the vast Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA). Budongo is largely a Mahogany Forest Reserve, a few of which still survive on the African continent.
Lying on elevation range of 1110-1590m in Masindi District, Budongo Forest was established in 1932. It is a moist, semi-deciduous rain-forest reserve run by the National Forestry Authority- NFA. Budongo Forest prides itself for its 2 iconic tourist sites including the Kaniyo-Pabidi Eco-Tourism Site and Busingiro Eco-Tourism Site. The Kaniyo-Pabidi Site is found at the Murchison Falls National Park boundaries and largely consists of Mahogany, Iron Wood Trees etc.
History of Budongo Forest
History of Budongo Forest dates back to era of Bunyoro King who protected the forest and local chiefs could only be allowed to go hunt in the forest by his permission. Budongo is derived from the local Bunyoro word meaning fertile soil and officially, Budongo was designated as a forest reserve in 1932.
Fauna of Budongo – Budongo Forest is a vast natural forest protecting over 24 small mammal species which include 9 primate species, 280 butterfly species, 465 species of trees, and 130 species of moths. Over 800 chimpanzees call Budongo Forest a home making it one of the most visited chimpanzee tracking destinations in Uganda and East Africa. About 80 of Budongo Forest’s chimpanzees have undergone through habituation and readily open for tracking. In addition to chimpanzees, Budongo Forest is also a host to varied species of primates including the red tailed monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons and others.
Birds – Budongo Forest is a host to all 360 bird species making it a special and an important birding area in Uganda. They include variety of forest bird species and the most important birding spot is the Royal Mile, which stretches from Nyabyeya Forest College up to the Research Station.
Notable bird species in Budongo Forest Reserve include among others dusky long tailed cuckoos, black headed paradise flycatchers, lemon bellied crombec, Puvel’s illadopsis, slender billed greenbul, chestnut crowned eremomela, forest robins, little green sunbirds, white spotted fluff tail. Other special bird species in Budongo include chocolate backed kingfishers, Cassin’s hawk eagle, yellow manted weaver, African emerald cuckoo, grey long bill, Western black headed oriole, yellow browned camaroptera, crested malimbe eagle and many more.
Activities in Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda.
Chimpanzee tracking experience is undeniably the major highlight of most visits in Budongo Forest. The 2-5 hours’ trekking adventure to see chimpanzees in Budongo starts early morning or afternoon with briefing about chimpanzee tracking rules.
Upon finding a habituated chimpanzee community, you have a complete one hour to spend face to face with chimps and along the way, there is opportunity to keep an eye on diversity of floral species, butterflies, avifaunal species, other primates and others.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
Other than Kibale National Park, chimpanzee habituation experience is also best done in Budongo Forest. Before a chimpanzee community is opened for tracking, chimpanzees undergo through Chimpanzee Habituation a process which takes about 2 years or more. It is done by researchers, scientists, environmentalists, conservationists and others.
Birding in Budongo Forest Reserve takes you through a search for some of the 360 bird species that are sheltered within this natural forest. These include among others Puvel’s illadopsis, Cassin’s hawk eagles, chocolate backed kingfishers, white spotted fluff tail, flycatchers.
Guided nature/forest walks
Nature walks in Budongo introduce nature loving holidaymakers to forest reserve’s hidden habitats. The different habitats shelter variety of faunal and floral species including primates, birds, butterflies etc.
When is the best time to travel to Budongo Forest?
Budongo Forest is an all-year-round destination due to its favorable weather and climatic conditions. However, most safari activities such as chimpanzee tracking are best done during the dry season from June, July, and August to September and December, January to February. The peak rainy months start from April to May and October to November, the months most visitors tend to avoid due to muddy grounds.
Where to stay
Budongo Eco Lodge – This is the only lodge situated deep in the forest. Budongo Eco Lodge is the closest accommodation facility established and open for visitors to retire for a night or lunch. Budongo Eco Lodge is 30km North of Masindi town and it is accessible via Kichumbanyobo park gate in the South of Murchison falls national park.