Budongo forest reserve
Budongo forest reserve : sits on top of the Albertine Rift, part of the Great Rift Valley and is located within the boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park. This forest reserve is in the northwest of the capital Kampala on the way to Murchison Falls National Park and located on the escarpment northeast of Lake Albert. The name Budongo derives from the local Bunyoro word “fertile soil” and the forest is known for its former abundance of East African mahogany trees as well as being home to a population of chimpanzees. An exceptionally large mahogany tree is still found here and is more than 80 meters tall and some 20 meters in circumference. It is the largest survival natural forest in Uganda, with a total surface of approximately 825 square kilometers, of which 430 square kilometers is a continuous forest. The major tourist sites within this forest are; the Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism site and Busingiro Ecotourism site which are located at boundaries to Murchison Falls National Park and dominated by Mahogany and Iron-wood trees within the forest. Budongo forest reserve is a medium altitude, moist and semi-deciduous tropical rainforest managed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA). According to the history, the forest was protected by the King of Bunyoro and only with his permission local chiefs were allowed to hunt inside it. Thanks to him and his strict policy, the flora and fauna was preserved until the reserve was officially gazetted in 1932.
This pristine forest reserve has an amazing number of plant species (over 465 plant species have been recorded). The most notable are the impressive giant mahogany trees up to 60 meters high and the other beautiful trees to look out for are the spiky fagara trees, parasitic strangler figs and iron wood trees. The latter is regularly used by chimpanzees for communication by drumming on their trunks. The forest offers an extremely rich biodiversity including over 24 mammal species, over 9 primate species, over 280 butterfly species and a number of birds species such as the lemon bellied crombec, white-thighed hornbill, puvel’s illadopsis, chocolate-backed kingfisher among others. It is also the natural habitat of more than 600 chimpanzees, of which a small community has been habituated for eco-tourism purposes. This family consists of 80 individuals, allowing visitors the unique opportunity to view these amazing apes in their natural environment. Other primates that can be observed are the Black and white colobus monkey, olive baboons, red-tailed monkey, blue monkeys and grey-checked mangabeys.
What to do in Budongo forest reserve
This activity is the number one priority in the reserve. Starting from October up to January, the time when the fruits are shorter in supply, the chimps move a lot covering a wider area so the success of seeing them drops to about 50% rate. Fortunately, there is a diversity of accommodation facilities available from where you can base to enjoy your tour.
The forest is a home to some of the rarest birds in East Africa and a habitat to over 360 bird species both migratory and residential. Some of the birds are; forest robin, African emerald cuckoo, yellow and grey long bill, yellow browed camaroptera, black headed flycatcher, chocolate backed kingfisher, white spotted flufftail, lemon bellied crombec and many more.
Throughout the year, maximum daytime temperatures in Budongo forest hover around 31°C/88°F, thanks to its position near the equator. In the wet season (March to October), the rain eases off a bit during June and July. The precipitation practically disappears in the dry season (November to February), providing a welcome break from the tropical humidity.
Best time to visit
Budongo forest reserve is visited all year around. However, it is at its best in the dry season (November to February) and in the middle of the year when the season rains temporarily lighten (June and July). The drier tracks at these times make chimpanzee trekking and birding that much easier.