Budongo forest is the second largest forest reserve in Uganda after Mabira forest found between Masindi district, and Murchison falls national park which is about 200km from Kampala city centre. Its regarded as the largest survival natural forest in Uganda covering a total surface areas of 825 sq. It was gazetted in 1932 as the central forest reserve and its currently under the management of National Forest Authority that takes overall responsibility of protecting, managing and restoring forests or forest reserves in Uganda.
Its composed of tropical rain forests with over 465 recorded plant species with the most notable giant forest mahogany trees some of which measure up to 60m high. Other existing tree species include; Spiky fagara, iron wood, parasitic figs among others. Budongo is also a home to primate species especially the chimpanzees some of which are fully habituated making it the key tourism activity that takes place in the forest. Other primate species include; olive baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, white colobus monkeys among others. The forest also hosts nocturnal species that include galagos and pottos. Budongo forest is also a home to different bird species some of which include; Yellow Footed Flycatcher, camaronensis, Ceratogymna fistulator, Neafrapus cassini, Batis ituriensis, Smithornis rufolateralis, Sylvietta denti.
Some times, you will sight other mammals in the forest that come from the neighboring Murchison falls national park which may include; elephants and buffaloes among others. It acts as a catchment area to the neighbouring lake Albert with over 4 water streams that draw its waters into lake Albert. They include rivers Sonso, Siba, Kamirambwa and Waisoke.
The weather in Budongo is composed of both wet and dry seasons, with the wet season receiving rainfall that ranges between 1200 to 2200mm mostly in the moths of March to May and September to November.
Tourism Activities in the Forest;
Budongo forest has habituated chimpanzees that facilitate chimp trekking which is the key tourism activity in the forest. Budongo forest contains 2 key eco tourism centers where chimp trekking takes palace which include; Kaniyo pabidi and Busingiro. Chimp tracking takes place both in the morning and in the afternoon lasting between 2 to 4 hours. Chimp trekking is currently managed by Greatlakes safaris as a concession and as such, booking can be done directly to them or through your reliable tour operator. The trekking starts with briefing done at Budongo Eco lodge information office. The chances of seeing these chimps is certain since they are habituated, however, during the periods of scarcity of fruits, they tend to over move in search for what to eat, which implies that clients will also need to move a lot to have a clear sight of them.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience;
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience involves enabling chimps to get familiar with human presence. This is a full day activity where you will go with researchers to explore the behaviors of chimpanzees which experience starts right from nesting. This process of chimpanzee habituation takes about 2 years for chimps to get used to people. When the group is considered to be fully habituated, it is declared ready for tracking. The activity is highly regulated in terms of numbers who do the activity in order to have enhanced experiences. Chimp habituation will help you explore the behaviors of chimps, their way of leaving including feeding, mating and nesting among others.
You can go for guided forest walk to explore the beauty of the forest with its tropical rain forests especially the giant mahogany being the most dominant some of which measure about 80 metres tall and 20 meters in circumference. You will learn about the conservation efforts of the forest, its threats and how it has benefited the neighboring community. While on the nature walk, you will be able to sight other primate species like chimps, olive baboons and different monkey species. You will also have a chance to see bird species and a variety of butterflies.
Budongo forest is also a home to over 390 different bird species recorded some of which include; Yellow Footed Flycatcher, camaronensis, Ceratogymna fistulator, Neafrapus cassini, Batis ituriensis, Smithornis rufolateralis, Sylvietta denti. Others include Yellow Footed Flycatcher, camaronensis, Ceratogymna fistulator, Neafrapus cassini, Batis ituriensis, Smithornis rufolateralis, Sylvietta denti as well as Ixonotus guttatus, White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow and Grey Long bill, yellow footed fly catcher. Yellow-browned Camaroptera, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Yellow-manted Weaver and Yellow-spotted Barbet among others. Birding normally starts from Nyanyeba Forestry College to Research Station and lasts about 2 to 3 hours. It also has over 290 butterfly species which you will view while on this bird experience. The forest also hosts Royal Mile, one of the top bird watching tracks in the country.
Budongo Eco Lodge
Operated by Uganda lodges, it is the nearest which is about 30 km north of Masindi town located in Murchison Falls national park. Turn left after 8 km from the Kichumbayobo gate and drive straight to the lodge
Hotel Victory Bijja
Its about 20 km from Budongo Forest and located in Masindi town few meters off Centenary Bank branch Masindi.
Kabalega Resort Hotel
located in Masindi town and is about 21.7km from the forest.
How to get to Budongo
The forest is about 200km from Kampala city center and takes about 3 hours to drive from Kampala to Budongo. Its also about 20 km from Masindi town which is the nearest town to Budongo Forest. You can as well arrange local flights and fly through Pakuba airstrip in Murchison falls national park and connect with a hire vehicle from the park which is about 18 km.