Budongo Forest Reserve – Chimpanzee Trekking and Habitat Experience
Budongo Forest Reserve is located in Uganda’s Masindi District and is part of Murchison Falls National Park. At about 826 square kilometers, it is the largest natural forest in Uganda. Half of them are virgin forests.
The forest is divided into three main tourist sites – Kaniyo Pabidi, Busingiro, and Sonso sections. During World War II, Polish refugees sought refuge in this vast forest. The Catholic Church is the only evidence of their short stay in this remote wilderness. Four rivers flow through the forest into Lake Albert.
These include Kamirambwa, Waisoke, Siba, and Sonso. Budongo Forest is known for its large population of chimpanzees and redwoods. Redwood trees can grow to about 85 meters tall and 21 meters in diameter. In addition to rosewood, there are more than 464 other tree species, 24 mammals, 300 butterflies, and 9 primates.
What is Popular in Budongo Forest Reserve?
The most popular activity here is walking with chimpanzees, followed by nature walks. More than 600 chimpanzees call this vast forest home. A smaller community has adapted to it and opened up to tourism. Visitors can see chimpanzees, other primates, and birds on a long trail (more than 114 kilometers long) through the forest.
Other primates include olive baboons, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mango monkeys, and blue monkeys. Located within the wider Murchison Falls National Park Reserve, those visiting Budongo Forest have the opportunity to see large mammals such as buffalo, lions, and leopards before returning to the plains.
Budongo Forest Reserve is a Paradise for Birds.
More than 355 species are found here, including African Emerald Rhododendron, African Speckled, African Thorn Flycatcher, Black-and-white Horned, Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-necked Roller, Brown Double-spotted, Cameroon Dark Gray Green Bull, Cameroon Singing Eagle, Cassin’s Mandarin, Cassin’s Spinetail, Chestnut-crowned Premera, chestnut-capped flycatcher, chocolate barred eagle, crested eagle, dark long-tailed cuckoo, wood robin, grey-headed biome, forest. illadopsis puveli, Ituri Batis, Jameson’s Acacia, Kingfisher, Lemon-bellied Cronbeck, Little Green Sunbird, Olive Greenptera, parmoptila woodhouse, Pipe, Pita reichenowi, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Pygmy Crane, Sabine’s Spine-botted Ori, vitiligo fluff, yellow and gray long bill, yellow-legged flycatcher.
Tawny Pinptera, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Yellow-maned Weaver, and Yellow-spotted Sandpipers. Budongo Forest has two rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season is from March to May and from September to November. The main dry season is from December to February.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo Forest Reserve
When you consider that chimpanzees share more than 98% of our DNA, they are our closest relatives. They are highly intelligent creatures and eat a variety of foods including plants and fruits. Chimpanzees also eat meat when given the chance. Adult male chimpanzees can weigh up to 70 kilograms, while female chimpanzees can weigh up to 50 kilograms.
Chimpanzees can live up to 60 years in captivity. Unlike male chimpanzees, male chimpanzees usually leave the community of their birth after reaching puberty. Like humans, chimpanzees easily adapt to different environments and learn to use new tools. Because of this, the general behavior of chimpanzee communities varies from location to location.
Budongo Forest is one of the few chimpanzee strongholds in Uganda. The first person to study Budongo the chimpanzee was Vernon Reynolds. Along with Adrian Cortlandt and Jane Goodell, he was one of the first primatologists to closely study chimpanzees in their natural environment. Vermont left when Uganda experienced political turmoil and civil war from 1972 to 1986. When he returned in 1990, he found that the chimpanzee population had been badly depleted by uncontrolled poaching.
Brief History of Budongo Forest Reserve
He found that baby chimpanzees were often sold to collectors outside of Africa when their mothers were shot. The number of chimpanzees has declined so dramatically that in 1995 fewer than 55 chimpanzees were recorded in the forest. The research team has started work in the forest with funding from Edinburgh Zoo, and other sources.
The researchers started a project (Budongo Forest Project) which was later renamed Budongo Conservation Area Station (BCFS). BCFS combines conservation and research while ensuring sustainable management of forest reserves. BCFS faced several challenges when it started.
Challenges to Budongo Forest Reserve
Like many other forest reserves in Uganda, Budongo Forest has been invaded by surrounding communities. The edges of the forest are used for agriculture, while poachers set traps to catch forest antelopes and small rodents. Several chimpanzees had their hands and limbs mutilated by traps left by poachers.
The number of mahogany trees (a favorite hiding place for chimpanzees) has greatly decreased due to people cutting them down. To address many of these issues, the project has undertaken several activities, including monitoring chimpanzee health and observing daily behavioral data.
The project has also acclimatized more than 300 chimpanzees while working with communities living near the forest to prevent them from setting dangerous traps in the forest. The project ensures that the benefits of ecotourism are shared with the local community. To stop the poaching of forest animals, hunters acquire goats as an alternative source of income and livelihood.
These former poachers volunteered to help the BCFS team determine where they last set their traps. Thanks to the excellent work of the project, the overall chimpanzee population has increased dramatically. The poaching of chimpanzees for pets is almost over.
Safari Activities in Budongo Forest
As discussed in detail, the main activity that attracts tourists to the forest is chimpanzee trekking. Budongo Forest Reserve is one of the best places to track chimpanzees in Uganda. Most of the tracking takes place in Canillo Pabidi, just south of Murchison Falls National Park.
Chimpanzee trekking in the Budongo forest lasts an average of 3 hours. After finding the community of chimpanzees, visitors can spend only an hour with them. To participate in the chimpanzee trek, you must be in good health and free from illnesses such as influenza or tuberculosis. Chimpanzees are susceptible to human diseases.
A person must be at least 15 years old to track chimpanzees. Following the recent management change by Amos Wekesa, a Budongo chimpanzee license costs $120. Tickets are $130 when purchased at the park or Budongo offices. Combine chimpanzee tracking with a tour of the park’s wildlife on a four-day wildlife safari at Murchison Falls.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience:
Chimpanzee habituation is the process of acclimating chimpanzees to the presence of humans around them. This process takes about two years. In Budongo Forest, visitors have the opportunity to participate in the chimpanzee adaptation process, especially during periods when there are fewer forest visitors.
The chimpanzee habituation experience involves following a community of chimpanzees and learning their behavior under the guidance of senior researchers and trackers. This is different from a normal chimpanzee walk because it takes place throughout the day.
Visitors can spend more time with the chimpanzees. For the best chimpanzee habituation experience, good hiking boots, gloves, long-sleeved pants/trousers, sunglasses, and a hat are essential. Chimpanzee acclimatization at Budongo Forest costs $160 (prices subject to change due to recent management changes). This amount is less than the Kibale National Park fee. For comparison, you should check out the 3-Day Chimpanzee Adaptation Tour in Kibale National Park.
Budongo Forest is one of the best bird-watching spots in Uganda. Bird watchers can choose to go on a full or half-day birding tour with the help of an experienced guide. If you want to see the most species in one day, the royal route found in the Busingiro area is undoubtedly the best place to go.
The Royal Mile stretches from the main research station to the nearby forestry school. Rare species to look out for include Guineafowl, Pitta reichenowi, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Illadopsis puveli, and Parmoptila woodhouse. By the end of the day, you should have discovered at least half of the approximately 360 species found in the forests.
Nature walks in Budongo Forest
Visitors can go on nature walks deep in the forest accompanied by armed rangers. A visit to the beautiful Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism Center is highly recommended. Tall mahogany trees over 70 years old grow in the center. As you walk through nature, you will come across a variety of wild animals licking salt from fallen trees. Once you’ve seen enough of the forest, you can also head to the savanna plains and woodlands that connect to the plains of Murchison Falls National Park.
Here you can see some larger mammals like buffaloes, elephants, lions, and even leopards. These large mammals often visit the forest itself. You will always be protected by armed forest guards. Don’t forget to bring drinking water or a packed lunch.
Visit Other Parts of Murchison Falls National Park
Budongo Forest Reserve is part of Murchison Falls National Park and offers activities such as waterfall summit visits, game drives, boat trips, and visits to the Boomu Women’s Museum The group sees how life is done in rural Africa. You’ll find all 5 big mammals when you visit Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest, and the nearby Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. See 2-Day Murchison Falls Safari for details.
How to get to Budongo Central Forest Reserve?
Budongo Forest is located in northwestern Uganda. It takes 3 hours to reach the reserve from Kampala. From Kampala, you need a pioneer vehicle to get to Masindi town and then to the forest reserve. Entrance to Budongo Forest Reserve is $40 per person. Overnight at Budongo Central Forest Reserve
There are many accommodation options for visitors to Budongo Forest Reserve. The final choice of accommodation depends on your budget. Lodges and cabins can be found in forest reserves, in the town of Masindi, or further afield in Murchison Falls National Park. Friends who enjoy outdoor camping can be arranged at the reserve. Budongo Forest Research Center also offers basic rooms at affordable prices:
Budongo Ecolodge is a budget lodge built in the Budongo Forest Reserve. Located 30 km from Masindi town, the hotel offers a great atmosphere for relaxation in a peaceful environment. Budongo Eco lodge offers comfortable dedicated cabins and dormitories with balconies. The dormitories are spacious and designed for a large number of tourists.
The hotel has a restaurant where residents can order local and international dishes. While at the lodge, you can participate in activities such as chimpanzee trekking, bird watching, chimpanzee habituation, and nature walks. Those interested in local souvenirs can visit the visitor center to purchase locally-made artwork and gifts.