Budongo Forest – “Where Birding Never Goes Wrong”
Budongo forest is one of the largest mahogany forests in Uganda and East Africa covering a total area surface of 825 square kilometers. Budongo forest is located in the northwestern part of Kampala City within Murchison Falls National Park which is the largest and most visited national park in Uganda. Budongo forest is comprised of woodland, grassland forest and is divided into three major tourism sites including Kaniyo Pabidi, Busingiro, and Sonso. Budongo forest is one of the best destinations in Uganda for chimpanzee trekking due to the fact that it harbors the highest number of chimpanzees after Kibale forest national park. The forest is a habitat of various wildlife including 360 bird species like African shrike flycatcher, blue-throated roller, grey-headed sunbird, yellow-footed flycatcher, yellow spotted barbet, speckled tinker bird, 450 tree species, 250 butterflies, 24 mammals like elephants, buffaloes, lion and leopards which are rarely seen, 130 moth species and 9 primates including the chimpanzees, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, grey checked mangabey, olive baboons among others.
Activities done in Budongo Forest
Chimpanzee trekking: The forest is a home of over 600 chimpanzees where some have been habituated for trekking hence making chimpanzee trekking the most popular activity carried out in this forest. Chimpanzee trekking is an adventurous activity where visitors move into the forest in search of the habituated chimpanzee families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest is done in two sessions that is the morning session which starts at 7:00 am and the afternoon session which starts at 2:00 pm with a briefing at the Visitors Information Centre. After the briefing visitors are grouped into 8 people and allocated a habituated chimpanzee group depending on their physical fitness and then they start trekking in the forest. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest takes about 2 to 4 hours or even longer depending on the location of the chimpanzee family because chimpanzees like to move from one place to another in search of food.
Once the chimpanzee family has been found, visitors spend one hour with the chimpanzees in their natural habitat learning about their habits, behaviors and watching them playing, feeding, breastfeeding as they take plenty of photos and also record moments to show people back home. Visitors who want to participate in chimpanzee trekking activity in Budongo forest are supposed to first purchase a chimpanzee trekking permit so to allow them to trek the chimpanzees and the permit costs $85 per person.
Bird watching: Budongo forest is known as a birders paradise in that it harbors over 360 bird species with species endemic to only Budongo forest. Bird watching in the forest is mainly done with an experienced birder at the royal mile which is situated within the Busingiro area. During bird watching in the forest you will be able to view different bird species including the Guinea Congo forest biome, Yellow-footed flycatcher, Zoothers Camaronensis, Ituri batis, Illadopsis Puveli, pitta Reichenowi, Crowned eagle, Little green sunbird, Forest robin, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Cassin’s honeyguide, Cassin’s hawk-eagle, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow long bill, Slender-billed Greenbul, the Speckled tinker bird, White spotted fluff tail among others.
Guided nature walk: Nature walk in Budongo forest is done with a help of an armed ranger who will be showing you the trails to follow, sharing information about Budongo and at the same time helping you to spot different bird and animal species. During nature walks in Budongo you will walk through the savannah terrain, woodland and Kaniyo Pabidi ecotourism where you will get an opportunity to view tall mahogany trees, bird species, butterflies, animals like elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, primates like red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons among others.
Best time to visit Budongo Forest
Budongo forest can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. The dry season in Budongo forest is good for nature walks in that the forest trails will be dry and passable, it’s also good for wildlife viewing because the vegetation will be short and the roads connecting to the forest will be passable.
However the wet season in the months of March to May and October to November is also a great time to visit Budondo forest in that there will be plenty of food for the chimpanzees due to the rains, therefore, you will be able to view the chimpanzees near the eco-lodge in Budongo compared to the dry season when there is scarcity of food which makes the chimpanzees move deep into the forest in search of food hence making trekking challenging ant tiresome. The wet season is also an ideal period for bird watching because due to rains there will be plenty of fruits for the birds and you will be able to also view the migratory birds which make your Uganda safari rewarding.
Where to stay in Budongo Forest
The forest has a wide range of accommodation facilities where visitors can stay during their safari in Uganda including Budongo Eco lodge, Masindi hotel, New court view hotel and other hotels in Murchison falls national park-like Pakuba lodge, Paraa safari lodge, Red chili rest camp among others. The lodges provide comfortable shelter, prepare both local and international meals, provide free internet in public places, warm and cold water in the bathrooms, gardens for relaxation and beautiful views of the vegetation, landscape, wildlife among others hence making the visitors feel at home while on a safari in Uganda.
How to get to Budongo forest
This forest is located in Murchison falls national park northwestern part of Kampala and can be reached by both road and air transport means.
- Road transport, when going to Budongo forest you will drive from Kampala to Masindi and then to Budongo which takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
- Air transport, you will book domestic airlines like Aerolink which operate chartered and scheduled flights from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield to Pakuba airstrip which takes about one hour and then connect by road to Budongo.
Budongo forest is a must-visit destination in Uganda if you are interested in great chimpanzee trekking and bird watching experience on your Uganda safaris.