Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve is found in west of Queen Elizabeth national park in Bushenyi district in Western Uganda under the management of National Forestry Authority that is mandated to manage all the central forest reserves in Uganda for sustainable use. It covers a total surface area of 146 km sq standing at an altitude of 1400 above the sea level. Kalinzu forest is one of the places that you should not miss out to include on your itinerary to Queen Elizabeth national park. It’s more rewarding with a lot of eco-tourism activities that will compliment your entire trip. It’s also found in the same vicinity with Kyambura gorge, Kichwamba escarpment, explosion craters and Maramagambo forest that all together give you a rewarding experience in the western circuit during your trip.
Kalinzu forest is a home to over 300 chimpanzees with over 50 chimp members habituated, making chimp trekking one of the major tourist activities in Kalinzu forest. It also hosts over 370 bird species, other 6 primate species and over 260 butterflies that give a rewarding experience especially during nature guided walks along the forest ridges. It’s also a home to other nocturnal primate species including galagos, bush babies and pottos. These give you a rewarding experience during night guided walks.
Tourism Activities in the Forest;
Kalinzu forest is one of the best places where you can trek chimpanzees at a cheaper price compared to other destinations where Chimpanzee trekking activity takes place including Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary, Budongo forest, Kyambura gorge, and Kibale forest national park. It’s a home to over 300 chimpanzees and over 50 of which are habituated that facilitate chimp tracking making it the key tourist activity in the forest. Its takes about 3 to 4 hours and there are 2 sessions per day both morning and afternoon. You will attend a briefing before the activity to learn about the do’s and don’ts of chimp trekking but in summary, you will spend with them at least one hour taking pictures in close range. Remember to come with your hiking shoes, rain jackets, wear long sleeved and carry at least 2 bottles of water. You will be required to keep your voices low while during the activity and spend at least 8 m away from the chimps. Carry your binoculars to sight chimps that are not in close range because most of them tend to climb and stay on top of high trees.
Kalinzu Forest is also a good place for bird lovers with over 350 recorded different bird species. Go for a 2-hour bird watching exercise where you will have a chance to see these forest birds including Great Blue Turaco, Cuckoos, black and White Casket, and Sunbirds among others. While on your bird watching exercise, you will see the giant forest trees, butterflies and several other primate species.
Guided nature walks;
You can also do guided nature walks in the forest that takes about 2 to 6 hours depending on the trail. You can do day guided walks or night guided walks to see nocturnal animals like bush babies, galagos, and pottos. Kalinzu forest has 4 forest trails that facilitate guided walks which include; valley trail that gives spectacular views of the rift valley area and takes about 4 hours, waterfall trail which passes in wet terrain and hilly areas in the forest and lead you to a water fall popularly known as Kilyantama which takes about 4 hours. Palm trail with a lot of palm trees and rare flame tree known to arouse sexual desires in women. Women from the neighboring communities used to flood this area in search for this plant. Finally, there is River trail that leads you to river Kajonjo where Elephants used to converge and bathe. While on your guided walk, you will encounter other species of primates including chimpanzees, olive baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, white colobus monkeys among others. The guide will also explain to you about the history of the forest and how it has evolved, its threats and its benefits to the neighboring communities.
There are several accommodation establishments around Kalinzu and others from Queen Elizabeth some of which include; Camping in the middle of the forest Mweya Safari Lodges, Mweya hostel, Jacana and Park View Safari Lodges, Kyambura game lodge, Katara lodge, Baboon lodge, Kasenyi game lodge, Elephant plains, Pumba lodge, Bush Lodge among others
Accessing Kalinzu forest;
You can access it by road using Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese road which is about 370km from Kampala that takes approximately 5 hours. You will branch from Butare bus stop in Bushenyi district and drive straight about 10km to the reception of Kalinzu forest where you will be booked in and assigned your guide to take you on your preferred tourism activity.
You can also fly to Mweya airstrip from Kajansi or Entebbe international airport using local chartered flights to shorten the distance and connect with a vehicle to Kalinzu forest which will take you about 45minutes.