Budongo Forest Reserve, one of the most important forests in Uganda, lies on the escarpment north-east of Lake Albert. It consists of a medium-altitude moist semi-deciduous forest (covering c.42,800 ha), with areas of savanna and woodland. The reserve occupies gently undulating terrain, with a general slope north-north-west towards the Rift Valley. The forest is drained by four small rivers (Sonso, Waisoke, Wake and Bubwa) which flow into Lake Albert. The majority of the reserve is covered by tropical high-forest communities. Medium-altitude semi-deciduous Cynometra-Celtis forest covers about half of the site and Combretum savanna is widespread in drier areas. The forest is partially degraded, mainly because of pit-sawing and saw-milling over many years. The vegetation has also changed considerably following 60 years of selective logging and silvicultural treatment which favoured the growth of valuable timber species, especially mahoganies. Today, the forest is the richest for timber production in the country. The Forest Master Plan prescribes conservation of forest biodiversity and ecological conditions, economic production of hardwood timber on a sustainable basis, integration of the communities living near the Forest Reserve in collaborative management, development and provision of recreational facilities, and the pursuit of research on various aspects of forest ecosystem dynamics. The Budongo Forest Project is based at Sonso and carries out research throughout the forest, mainly on primates and birds. There are ecotourism sites at Busingiro and Kaniyo Pabidi.
Two species of birds found in Budongo Forest Reserve are not found elsewhere in East Africa. The forest is the second most important in Uganda (after Semliki National Park) for species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome, and the list of such species will probably continue to grow. Yellow-footed Flycatcher (Muscicapa sethsmithi), only known from Budongo in Uganda, used to be common in mature forest, but is now extremely hard to find. Puvel’s Illadopsis (Illadopsis puveli), a recent addition, is not known elsewhere in East Africa. Other species such as Piping hornbill, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Spotted Greenbul, Cassin’s Spinetail, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Ituri Batis and Black-eared Ground-Thrush are known from few other forests in the country. Other rare species in Budongo Forest include Green-breasted Pitta and Woodhouse’s Antpecker, both with multiple recent records. Aside from the two biomes under which the site qualifies as an IBA, species restricted to other biomes also occur, including seven from the Afrotropical Highlands biome.
Activities in Budongo Forest Reserve
Enjoy a guided primate walk in the lush expenses of the tropical forest, in search of the habituated chimpanzee family. Your guide will explain you more about the animals and plants species that you encounter on your way. Also look out for other primates like the Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys, different type of birds, tracks of mammals and much more. Chimp tracking can be experienced daily with two viewing times per day. The hike takes about 2 to 4 hours, depending on the movement of the chimpanzees. Once the chimps are found you will stay for one hour with these amazing creatures to watch them eating, resting and playing.
With the Habituation Experience you will spend an entire day with our ‘cousins’ and learn about their way of life. Chimpanzee Habituation in Budongo Forest started in 1992 with the aim to habituate the chimpanzees to human presence, without necessarily altering their natural behaviour. This is a long process and it can take up to 15 years to fully habituate a chimpanzee community. The Habituation Experience offers you the unique experience to join the professional guides on their daily program and follow the chimps during their activities. Since you will be out in the forest from the early morning till the end of the day, a packed lunch can be provided by the lodge.
Well-developed forest trails give you the perfect opportunity to explore the beauty of the tropical rainforest. Learn more about the eco-system, pass the old Mahogany trees and encounter different species of butterflies on your path. As the terrain is flat, the forest walks are suitable for the average tourist.
Budongo Forest is truly a paradise for birders with 360 species of birds. Accompanied by a guide you will follow the trails and look out for different types of birds. Bird watching safaris are available for a half or full day and guided by keen birders. If you have more than one day in Budongo then a visit to the ‘Royal Mile’ is a must. It is located about 60 km from Budongo Eco Lodge and offers a spectacular wide forest avenue with a high density of birds, including the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher.
Where to stay in Budogo Forest Reserve
There is accommodation in Budongo Forest and you can stay at Bugongo Eco Lodge.
You can as well stay outside the forest in Masindi town with a number of options including Masindi Hotel or Kolping Masindi
The other options for accommodation for those who visit Budongo Forest Reserve are those who drive from Murchison Falls National Park into Budongo and return to the part. You can as well have Budongo Forest as a stopover from Murchison Falls National Park and continue for a night in Hoima Town.
How to get to Budongo Forest Reserve
Budongo Forest Reserve is about 6 hours drive from Kampala City on Kampala Gulu Road and banch off to Masindi. The forest is part of Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) about 25km from Masindi town.
You can as well fly from Entebbe or Kajjansi Airfield to Bugungu Airstrip and then drive to the reserve.