Located atop the Albertine Rift in the south-west of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, the majestic Budongo Forest is one of the best-preserved and largest rainforests in East Africa. It is also distinguished as the biggest mahogany forest in the region measuring 852sq. kms of which 430sq. kms is the uninterrupted forest. The name Budongo is a Runyoro word for ‘fertile soil’, given by the only tribe that inhabits the area, the Banyoro. Historically, Budongo Forest was under the supreme protection of the Omukama, King of Bunyoro and only he could grant permission to hunt inside the forest, so it was well preserved even before 1932 when it was gazetted and named Budongo Forest Reserve.
Budongo Forest is one of Uganda’s most ecologically diverse regions with 24 small mammals, 9 primates, 465 species of trees, 366 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies, 130 species of moths. About 800 chimpanzees inhabit the adjoining Kaniyo Pabidi Forest. A well-developed 115km trail system crisscrosses the forest and is used for birding, chimpanzee trekking and nature walks. Because Budongo Forest is located inside the wildlife-rich Murchison Falls National Park big game like lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants can sometimes be sighted.
During World War ll, the forest housed a large number of Polish refugees that built a Catholic church in the middle of the forest. The church which still stands is used for weekly mass and is frequently visited by Polish tourists.
Budongo Forest Reserve - Activities
Budongo Forest supports the densest population of chimpanzees in Uganda, about 650. Two habituated communities of 90 chimpanzees each inhabit the Kaniyo Pabidi area and can be followed on chimpanzee trekking expeditions when trekkers are frequently rewarded by the curious sound of the chimpanzees drumming the large mahoganies as they communicate with each other. Budongo Forest Reserve also offers the newly introduced chimpanzee habituation experiences that give visitors the unique opportunity to join guides as they follow a family of chimpanzees from sunrise to sunset.
The exercises are carried out to learn more about the chimpanzees and to accustom them to the presence of humans. Other primates that can be observed in the forest are the black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, blue-tailed monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys.
Budongo Forest is one of the finest birding destinations in Uganda. The forest is home to 360 bird species including many West and central African species. Two species, the Yellow-footed flycatcher and the Illadopsis puveli have not been seen anywhere else in East Africa. Other great sightings are 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.
The Royal Mile – The best place for bird viewing in Budongo was named for its popularity with Omukama Kabalega who frequently visited it for recreation and traditional rites. It is a wide forest avenue with an astounding density of bird species, located next to the Nyabyeya Forestry College. Foot travel is possible because of the flat terrain, making it an ideal place for bird watching, led by experienced guides that are familiar with the sights and sounds of the forests.