Uganda Eco-Tourism sites outside National Parks and Game reserves
Publically, forest reserves are associated with consumptive forms of land use most especially timber logging. However, there are a couple of Central Forest Reserves that undoubtedly have features and attractions that are of real interest to international plus domestic tourists on a sustainable basis.
1. Mabira Central Forest Reserve
Uganda’s largest surviving Natural Forest covering an area of 306 sq km is Mabira Central Forest Reserve. This Forest is a Natural Habitat of 312 species of trees like the endangered Mililia Exclesa, Cordia Millenii the Warbhugia Ugandanese which has medicinal properties famed to cure about forty ailments; and the vulnerable Prunus Africana which cures Prostate Cancer and boosts the Human Immune System.
Mabira is habitat of 315 species of Birds like the Tit Hylia, the Red Headed Blue Bill, the Black bellied Seed Cracker, the Shining Blue Kingfisher and the Blue headed Crested Monarc, Nahan’s , Francolin , Cassin Hawk Eagle , the Forest Wood hoope, the Purple throated Cuckoo and Some of these species can only be found in Mabira.
Other rare features to be explored in the Forest Reserve comprise of 218 Butterfly species, 97 Moth Species, 23 Small Mammal Species especially Primate Species of the Monkey Clan and the spectacular Griffin Falls!
Some of the activities in the Forest Reserve are; Mountain Biking, Bird Watching, Environmental Education and Research, Camping and Picnics, Primate Watching, Butterfly Identification, Forest Walks with over 68km of well developed Trail length and general Forest Exploration.
Accommodation is available in the Forest Reserve. 3 Bandas accommodate atmost 10 guests at the Eco-Tourism site at near Najjembe Trading Centre. The Bandas are self-catering although house keeper can prepare for you a light meal.
There is a Camping Ground near the site for do-it-yourself caravans at a reasonable fee. The Mabira Forest Lodge, a modern eco-friendly facility by the Alam Group of Companies is nearing completion. Details and reservations can be got from Geo Lodges, Uganda.
Mabira Central Forest Reserve is situated on the main Kampala-Jinja Highway in Mukono District. It is 54km from the City Centre of Kampala and 26km from Jinja Town. This Eco-Tourism site is approximately half a kilometer from the road head along a short dirty road off the Najjembe trading centre. Therefore the forest is accessible by all vehicles throughout the year.
Knowledgeable, Specialized and courteous local Guides are ready on site to take you for an exciting interpretative Forest Walk. The Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organization (MAFICO) and Non Government Organization, is in advanced stages of developing a community Eco-Tourism Site at the Griffin Falls located 20kms from the Najjembe visitor reception centre.
Mabira Eco-Tourism Drama Group, a community Interest Group entertains Visitors with Cultural Music, Dance and Drama. The Najjembe Women’s Crafts Group ensures that visitors take a Souvenir home in form of Handcrafts like baskets,mats,handbags,becovers, all made out of local materials.
3. Mpanga Central Forest Reserve
Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is a natural forest with rare Tree Species and other Flora. Among the outstanding Tree Species are the Ficus Family and Mahogany.
Celtis Family Species with large buttresses, The forest also boasts of a number of primates most especially the Red- Tailed Monkeys. Nocturnal visits can be arranged to see the Bush Babies. There is group of birdlife like the Grey Parrot, Owls, Hornbills, Cuckoos. Ross Turaco and Weaver-birds, also this forest is a home to a variety of Butterflies and Moths.
Main activities in the forest are;
Bird Watching and Identification.
Forest Walks and Forest Exploration. The Forest Trails are well developed into four main routings viz; The Butterfly Trail, the Family Trail, The Baseline Trail, the Hornbill Trail, each with unique features and experiences.
Basic accommodation if available at the Visitor Reception Centre at Mpanga under the management of the National Forestry Authority. One Tourist Banda, a self-contained Duplex, and a double Rom on the main office Block can accommodate 12 visitors at once. There is also a Tent for hire at a modest fee. These are self-catering facilities even though light meals can be ordered from the House Caretaker.
It is located in Mpigi District 37km from the city centre of Kampala. This Forest Reserve is easily accessible through the main Kampala- Masaka High way. The eco – Tourism spot is approximately1km from the road head using a well-surfaced direct road passable throughout the year.
Quite knowledgeable local guides about the forest Bio-Diversity exist on the site.
4. Lutoboka and Bujanzi Central Forest Reserves
The Forests located on the famous Ssese Islands are described as medium altitude moist forests. They form a belt along the lower ridges with a gentle slope from a lakeshore to the centre. However, the forest walks are not strenuous.
Forest Trails are well developed. Visitors from Lutoboka should not miss one particular trail that stretches from the landing site up the Fort where the explorer Henry Morton Stanley pitched camp on his way to the popular mountains of the moon. There are 31 gazetted Forest Reserves in the Islands with a sum of 7,324 hectares under the control of the National Forestry Authority. Kampala Forest Reserve is 80Ha; Lutoboka Forest Reserve is 378 Ha.
The Ssesse Islands are a group of 84 Islands well known for their unexplored Forests some of which are completely uninhabited. They are a natural habitat for unique and endemic Birds and Butterflies. Some Primate Species especially the Monkeys abound .This rich and virgin Eco- system serenely blends into the equatic expense of lake, making these Forest Reserves a compulsory visit.
Some of the visitors can also enjoy sailing, Boating, Fishing, and sun Bathing along the Lakeshores, Forest Walks, Bird Watching, Primate Identification, and Butterfly Identification. In addition, visitors can also enjoy sailing, Boating, Fishing, and sun Bathing along the Lakeshores.
In Lutoboka, Accommodation reserves are largely in the hands of Private Developers. There are a lot of well developed Beaches and Resorts for both the Upper Market and Middle Market. Some of them are Palm Beach Hotel, Pearl Gardens Beach, Panorama Camping Site, Mirembe Resort Beach and Ssesse. All these have access to the White Sand Beaches ideal for relaxation after a Forest Walk.
The Budget Travelers are advised to seek modesty lodge Accommodation readily present in Kalangala Town Council a few kilometers from Lutoboka Landing Site.
To access the Islands is by Ship departing from Nakiwogo Landing Site near Entebbe at exactly 14 hours per day. The Ship starts its return journey from Lutoboka Landing Site at exactly 8 or one may reach the islands by Ferry from Bukakata/Kachanga Landing Site near Masaka. Starting at 8 Hours, The Ferry docks at Luku Landing Site near Kalangala four times a day.
5. Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve
In Bushenyi District in Western Uganda, Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve is a Natural Forest teeming with terrestrial Bio-Diversity. The forest is well known for 414 Species of Trees and Shrubs forexample the Stroboia, Parinari Ficus, Prunus and Africana among others.
The forest also harbours 378 Species of Birds like Cuckoos, Sunbirds, the Great Blue Turaco, and Black and White Caskets. Six different Species of Primates can be recognised in Kalinzu and the Black and White colobus Monkeys, and Chimpanzees, Blue Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys. 2001 Primate Census put the total number of Chimpanzees in the Reserve at about 240. Nevertheless, only two Groups of about 70 can be seen by both Researchers and Tourists.
Other numbers of species are Reptiles, Flowers, 262 Butterflies and 97 Moths. One can behold the entire Forest Canopy, great parts of the Queen Elizabeth National Park and some Peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Forest Reserve occasionally provides refuge to Savannah Grassland because of its proximity to the Queen Elizabeth National Park Species like the Duikers, Leopards and Wild Pigs while standing at the Kishunja Hill Viewpoint so activities in the Reserve include Forest Walks, Research Trails and Tourist Trails have been developed.
Pitched on top of an escarpment on the eastern edge of the great Albertine Rift Valley, Kalinzu Forest Reserve is 147 sqkm. Adjuscent to the famed Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Maramagambo Forest. It lies at an average altitude of 1,400 m above sea level.
In the reserves, Accommodation is still informal with only a do-it-yourself camping site at the forest station at Nkombe. Visitors are advised to carry their own tents. They also seek modest accommodation inBushenyi/Ishaka townships.
This forest reserve is situated in Bushenyi District in Western Uganda. From the capital city Kampala, It is about 375km (5 hours drive). It is only 30km from the district headquarters of Bushenyi along the main Kasese highway. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended due to Albertine Terrain with old logging and winding roads,
Kalinzu forest reserve has experienced, knowledgeable, local and professional guides who will make your forest visit a thrilling experience.
Kasyoha – Kitomi Central Forest Reserve. Situated 35km from Bushenyi, Kasyoha-Kitomi central forest reserve is 433 sq. km.
Ecotourism in the reserve is just starting to develop under the umbrella of Ndekye Women’s Development Association. Major attractions in the reserve are primates like black and white colobus, vervet monkeys and baboons, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys.
The reserve also boasts of spectacular crater lakes forexample twin lakes of Kamweru and Kyema also also the transparent lake Kamunzuku. Eing adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park, the reserve hosts a number of small mammals like duikers, antelopes, bush pigs and the Uganda kob.
Migratory elephants can rarely be seen. Other attractions in the reserve are water gorges birdlife, butterflies waterfalls, water gorges birdlife, butterflies, moths, reptiles and flowers. Visitors to the reserve may enjoy bird watching, sightseeing, conservation education, camping and community walks, forest walks and canoeing, A three; hour walking trail has been developed from the camping site at Magambo to the transparent lake kamunzuku.
Facilities in the reserve are still modest with a camping site at magambo parish headquarters overlooking the amazing twin lakes. Kindly bring your own tents and camping gear. It is a must to a four wheel drive vehicle.
6. Budongo Central Forest Reserve
The largest surviving natural forest in Uganda with a total surface area of 825sq.km is Budongo Central Forest Reserve is. It straddles across three districts of masindi, Hoima and the newly created Buliisa district. This is a true forest! Very few illegal activity and encroachment has ensured that the forest remains as natural indeed intended it to be.
Visitors seeking the serenity and calmness of being next to nature should opt for Budongo! Professionally preserved and managed by the National Forestry Authority, the forest is divided into three zones. Its strict nature reserve is the oldest in the country while its buffer zone allows Eco-Tourism and Research to prosper and its production zone caters for commercial activities.
7. Kaniyo-Pabidi Eco-Tourism Site
Kaniyo-Pabidiis situated in the North Eastern part of Budongo Forest Reserve. It is a natural habitat of approximately 120 Chimpanzees. However only one group consisting of about 30 chimpanzees has have been fully habituated for Eco-Tourism purposes. Also other primate species include red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, vervet monkey and baboons.
Black and white colobus monkey, Part of Kaniyo-Pabidi is contiguous with Murchison falls national park and Bugungu wildlife reserve which are managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority. In Kaniyo-Pabidi, some savannah grassland species can be sighted. These are; warthogs, lions, water bucks, buffaloes bush bucks, red and blue duikers, bush pigs.
There is prolific Birdlife especially the chocolate- backed kingfisher and the pruvels eladosis. This area is home of a variety of tree species like mahogany and the Celtic family.
Some of the trees are known to posess medicinal qualities. Butterflies, moths and tropical flowers are abundant. There are wll developed Forest trails at this site and also well maintained for tourist purposes. Some Tourist activities are forest walks, conservation education and chimp habituation, camping, chimp tracking and bird watching.
At Kaniyo-Pabidi, Accommodation consists of mainly camping facilities.
However, the Jane Good all Institutes is in the process of completing modern tourist cabins and bandas to be ready by mid-2007. Boomu Conservation and Crafts Women’s Association operates simple accommodation bandas near the park entry gate.
Kaniyo-Pabidi Ecotourism site is situated approximately 220 km from Kampala through Masindi which is 29 km. away. The site is along the secondary road that connects Masindi with Paraa. It is roughly 5 km. from the Murchison Park boundary and entry gate.
The two local organizations involved in Eco-Tourism near Kaniyo-Pabidi are boomu Conservation and Crafts Women’s Association and Asera Azora Women’s group. They provide community walks, cooking walks, simple traditional accommodation handcrafts and camping. Kaniyo-Pabidi has experienced, welcoming and knowledgeable guides who provide interpretation and guiding services.
8. Busingiro Eco-Tourism Site
The Busingiro Eco-Tourism Site is situated in the south western part of Budongo Forest Reserve.Kaniyo-Pabidi area is a home for several primate species like Monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons.The chimpanzees in Busingiro are not yet habituated for visitor tracking.
Fig trees, stranglers, Mahogany iron wood and a host of medicinal trees form a bulk of floral species in this seemingly untouched natural forest. Butterflies, reptiles Birds, small mammals and other micro organisms form the eco system that makes this particular site enviable.
Visitors must not miss the proverbial royal mile. This is one of the highlights of Busingiro! Royal mile is a stretch of one mile with a collection of all the tree species in budongo forest reserve. The former king of Bunyoro, King Kabalega used to frequent this segment for relaxation with his queen. The segment gets its name from these royal visits. The segment is beautiful maintained by the National Forestry Authority for aesthetic, historical and recreational reasons.
Some activities in Busingiro are; conservation education, and research and butterfly identification forest walks, bird watching, primate identification and many others. There is a primate research station on the site of an old sawmill at Sonso. The forest trails at this site are well developed and well maintained for tourist purposes.
At Busingiro, Accommodation consists mainly of camping facilities: However, the Jane Good all Institutes is in the way of refurbishing and renovating the tourist bandas to house at least ten visitors.
This place is situated to the west of Masindi. It’s about 47 km from Masindi town through Kinyara and Nyabyeya. Masindi is about 200 km from Kampala on a good tarmac road. Busingiro is on the earth road that connects masindi with Paraa via Buliisa on the shores of Lake Albert.
9. Bugoma Ecotourism Site
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is found in Hoima District. Its total surface area is 41,144 hectares. Eco- Tourism in the reserve is influenced by African Nature Conservation Expeditions, an international private firm with vast experience in tourism development.
The firm is in advanced stages of infrastructure development at the previous forest station. 10 tourist bandas to host a minimum of 10 visitors per night are nearing completion. In addition, another 10 luxury tented camps exclusively for the upper market will be ready by mid – 2007. Please contact the operations manager on Tel: 0702123064 for reservations.
The place is gifted with a variety of tourist attractions like reptiles, birds and butterflies chimpanzees, monkeys and tree species some of which endemic to Bugoma. Forest trails totaling 30 km long divided into loops of 200 meters each have been developed.
This reserve is sorrounding the oil exploration sites which has precipitated the migration of many grassland species due to habitat disturbance. Those that can occasionally be seen are Buffaloes, elephants and Uganda kobs.
The reserve is accessed through a dirt road 70 km from Hoima Township.
Hoima is about 200 km from Kampala. There is an Airstrip for light aircraft s at Kisaru Tea Estates 12 km. from Bugoma Ecotourism Site. Professionally trained guides are on site to offer memorable experience to visitors.