This wildlife-rich forest reserve is about 800 wild chimpanzees, 366 bird species, 289 butterfly species, 465 plant species, and 24 Uganda mammal species. The forest is also known for its impressive giant mahogany trees that stand up to 80m high tall, and whose buttressed bases are often used as drums by roaming chimps.
Budongo Forest Central Reserve is located about 246km by road/4-5 hour drive northwest of Kampala City, the capital of Uganda. This moist, semi-deciduous tropical rainforest is situated at the top of the Albertine Rift at an altitude of 1110 – 1590m.
Budongo is essentially made up of 2 sites developed for tourism activities – Kaniyo Pabidi and the Royal Mile at Busingiro.
Kaniyo Pabidi is located along the southern edge of Murchison Falls NP and is where jungle activities such as chimpanzee trekking take place. Meanwhile the Royal Mile, which is one of the top tracks for Uganda birding safaris lies further to the western edge of the forest, outside of Murchison Falls National Park.
History Of Budongo Forest / Budongo Central Forest Reserve in Uganda
Budongo forest was protected by the Omukama (King) of Bunyoro Kingdom, and only with his permission could local chiefs hunt inside the forest.
Thanks to his strict policy the flora and fauna were preserved until the reserve was officially gazetted a forest reserve in 1932. The name Budongo derives from the local Bunyoro word for ‘fertile soil’.
Top Attractions In Budongo Central Forest Reserve
Wondering what to see in Budongo Forest Reserve? Budongo Forest is an incredibly biodiverse tropical rainforest, which is home to:
366 bird species
24 animal species
289 butterfly species
29 amphibian species
465 plant species
Here Is The Top Attraction To See In The Budongo Forest Reserve To See On Your Uganda Tour:
Chimpanzees In Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest is a natural habitat for about 800 wild chimpanzees, the second-largest population of chimps in Uganda after Kibale National Park, which has over 1500 chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, sharing 98.7% of our DNA. Just like humans, these highly intelligent great apes live in complex societies, solve complicated problems, make and use tools, engage in elaborate interactions, and communicate through a variety of sounds. They live in large communities of up to 250 members.
One community of more than 100 members in Budongo Forest in the Kaniyo Pabidi area has been habituated for eco-tourism purposes. The chimps at Kaninyo Pabidi are easy to see most of the time except during certain months (September) when they leave their territory due to a shortage of food and travel deeper into the forest.
Other Animals In Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest Reserve, in addition to Chimpanzees, is home to several other wild animals of Uganda. It is home to 8 species of monkeys and other animal species. Here is a list of other Uganda animals in the Budongo forest:
Indeed, such is its avian wealth that the track nicknamed the ‘Royal Mile because it was once a favorite hunting spot of King Kabalega of Bunyoro, is widely regarded to be the single most rewarding hotspot for Uganda birding tours.
Another excellent birding location in Budongo Forest is Kaniyo Pabidi, which supports a variety of localized forest species including the Puvel’s illadopsis which is known not to occur anywhere else in East Africa.
Here Are Some Of The Sought-After Key Bird Species In Budongo Forest / Budongo Central Forest Reserve:
African Dwarf Kingfisher
Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetail
Dusky long-tailed Cuckoo
Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher
Yellow and Grey Longbill
Great Blue Turaco
Tree Species In Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest Reserve is home to over 465 plant species. Most notable are the impressive giant Mahogany Trees, which grow up to 80 meters tall.
These fascinating trees have become one of the forest’s iconic features. It takes up to 8 people holding hands to round the entire 21-meter diameter of the Mahogany! Other beautiful trees to look out for are the spiky Fagara trees, parasitic strangler figs, and ironwood trees. The latter are regularly used by chimpanzees for communication by drumming on their trunks.
Butterflies In Budongo Forest Uganda
Budongo Forest Reserve also contains about 289 butterfly species belonging to the following four families: Papilionidae, Pieridae, Nymphalidae, and Lycaenidae.
Most of Forest’s butterflies can be seen around River Sonso and on the Royal Mile. The forest has 42 species of swallowtail and charaxes butterflies, accounting for around 62 percent of Uganda’s total.
The most notable of these is the African Giant Swallowtail which is Africa’s largest butterfly with a wingspan of 20-23cm.
Budongo Field Station Museum
This Museum in Budongo Forest is an ongoing collection of natural history items found or collected by visitors and workers at the project.
The collection complements the herbarium and seed collection. Items on display in the museum include a variety of mammal skulls, two chimpanzee skeletons, and a selection of ‘wet’ specimens, preserved in formalin.
Top Activities To Do In Budongo Forest /Budongo Central Forest Reserve
Looking for what to do in Budongo Forest? Budongo features a well-developed and extensive trail system with a length of 115 kilometers in total, which enables tourist activities like forest walks, Chimpanzee trekking, Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, and bird watching.
Below are the top activities you can do in Budongo Forest Reserve on your Uganda safaris:–
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
Forest Nature Walks
Chimpanzee Trekking In Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest is one of the top spots for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives. Any encounter in the wild is a memorable experience. Budongo Forest chimp trekking takes place in the Kaniyo Pabidi, which is home to a chimpanzee community of over 100 individuals.
The forest offers 2 trekking sessions each day (morning and afternoon) and no more than 8 persons can trek. Chimp trekking starts with a safety talk and briefing at the visitor’s information center at Budongo Eco Lodge. Most treks last around 2 to 5 hours. Once contact is made, spend one hour observing these human-like creatures, watching them grooming, hunting, eating, resting, playing, or patrolling.
Budongo Forest Chimp Trekking Permit Costs:
USD 130 per person for Foreign Non-residents
USD 120 per person for foreign residents
USD 85 per person for Uganda citizens
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is a more intimate experience with our ‘cousins’. You spend a full day in the mahogany-lined forest with chimps instead of the 1 hour offered during the Chimpanzee trekking.
In this special encounter, you join researchers on their daily program and follow the chimps during their activities. The activity starts before sunrise, in time to catch the chimps as they rise from their nest. From there, follow them in the forest and watch them throughout the day as they go about their lives, until the evening when they make new nests to go to sleep!
Birding/Bird Watching In Budongo Central Forest Central Reserve
The other Budongo Forest draw is excellent bird watching. The forest has over 360 Uganda birds – species. It possesses the “Royal Mile”, one of the most popular Uganda birding trails, with a high density of birds, including the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher. Other birding trails are found at Kaniyo Pabidi, home to the Puvel’s Illadopsis, which is known not to occur anywhere else in East Africa. Other key birds of Uganda in Budongo Forest include:
Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, etc.
Forest Nature Walks
Budongo Forest contains a well-developed network of forest trails that will give you the perfect opportunity to explore the beauty of Uganda’s biggest tropical rainforest. You’ll learn more about the ecosystem, pass the old Mahogany trees, shrubs, and wildlife such as monkeys, birds, and butterflies, and also have a chance of seeing chimps.
You have two ways of getting to Budongo Forest Reserve in northwestern Uganda:-
How To Get To Budongo Forest By Road
Budongo Forest is most commonly accessed from Kampala/Entebbe through Masindi, a drive that takes approximately 4-5 hours (246 km).
You can break up the journey at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for a rhino tracking adventure. You can also access the forest reserve from the main gate of Murchison Falls NP and you’ll be required to Pay Park entrance fees.
As all our Uganda safaris are inclusive, you should not worry at all as you’ll have the chance to even visit the tops of Murchison Falls and participate in other safari activities as per your interest.
How To Get To Budongo Forest By Air
There are daily domestic flights to Pakuba, Chobe, Bugunga Airstrips in Murchison falls National Park, and this reduces your drive time to only one hour by flight. Aero link Uganda operates morning and afternoon flights to Murchison Falls National Park from Entebbe International Airport.
Best Time To Visit Budongo Forest/Budongo Central Forest Reserve in Uganda
Wildlife viewing, birding, and chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest are good all year long. But the best time to visit Budongo on your Uganda tour package is from December to February and June to July. During this time, there is also lots of sunshine and less rainfall. Chimps are easier to track, and the trails are drier.
Budongo Central Forest Reserve Rules/Regulations
You must be accompanied by a guide in the forest
Leave all items where you found them in the forest
Smoking is prohibited in the forest
Follow your guide’s instructions while in Budongo Forest
Remain at least 10 meters from the chimpanzees during chimpanzee tours
Don’t eat or drink in front of the chimpanzees
Don’t use flash when taking a photo of Chimpanzees as it frightens the chimps
For conservation purposes, time spent with the Chimpanzees is limited to 1 hour
If you are ill you’re not allowed to visit the chimpanzees as you put them at risk
The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest is 15 years
Group size for chimpanzee trekking is limited to 8 people
Most visitors visit Budongo Forest for birding or chimp trekking, however, there is more to do and see in Budongo, especially if you enjoy hiking. A safari here also allows you to explore Uganda’s largest national park, Murchison Falls National Park, and complete the Big Five with Rhino tracking on foot at Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. And booking a Uganda trekking chimpanzee safari to Budongo is relatively cheap compared to the chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park Forest.