Budongo Forest Reserve is located in Uganda’s Masindi District and is part of the Murchison Falls National Park. It is Uganda’s largest natural forest, encompassing an area of around 826 square kilometers. Half of it is untouched woodland. The forest is separated into three major tourist destinations: Kaniyo Pabidi, Busingiro, and Sonso. During World War II, Polish refugees took safety in this vast woodland. The sole reminder of their brief stay in this distant region is a Catholic church. Four rivers go through the woodland to Lake Albert. Kamirambwa, Waisoke, Siba, and Sonso are among them. Budongo woodland is well-known for its chimp population and mahogany trees.
Mahogany trees may reach 85 meters in length and 21 meters in diameter. Apart from Mahogany trees, there are 464 other tree species, 24 animals, 300 butterflies, and 9 different types of primates. The most popular activity here is chimp trekking, followed by nature hikes. This vast woodland is home to around 600 chimpanzees. A little hamlet has become accustomed to tourism and has opened its doors to it. Visitors may see chimps, other primates, and birds by walking a 114-kilometer track through the forest.
Olive baboons, Blue Monkeys, Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, and Blue Monkeys are among the other primates. Because Budongo Forest is part of the larger Murchison Falls National Park conservation region, visitors may see huge creatures like as buffaloes, lions, and leopards as they pass through before returning to the plains.
Budongo Forest Reserve is a birdwatcher’s dream. Over 355 species can be found here, including the African Emerald Cuckoo, African Pied, African Shrike Flycatcher, Black and White Casqued Hornbills, Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-throated Roller, Brown Twin spot, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Cassin’s Honeyguide, Cassin’s Spine tail, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Crested Malimbe, Crowned Eagle, and the Dusky long-tailed Cuckoo to mention but a few.
Budongo woodland has two seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season lasts from March to May and from September to November. The major dry season lasts from December through February.
Chimpanzees are our closest cousins, as they share more than 98% of our DNA. They are very clever creatures that consume a wide range of foods, including plants and fruits. Chimpanzees eat meat anytime they have the chance. Male chimpanzees may weigh up to 70 kilos when fully grown, while females can weigh up to 50 kilograms. Chimpanzees may live in captivity for up to 60 years. Female chimps, unlike males, often leave the society in which they were born when they reach puberty. Chimpanzees, like humans, readily adapt to new situations and learn to utilize new tools. As a result, chimpanzee populations fluctuate in their overall behavior depending on where they dwell.
Budongo forest in Murchison falls national park is one of Uganda’s few surviving chimpanzee strongholds. Vernon Reynolds was the first person to research chimps in Budongo. He was one of the first primatologists, along with Adriaan Kortlandt and Jane Goodall, to conduct significant research of chimps in their natural habitat. Vermon departed Uganda during a time of political unrest and civil conflicts from 1972 and 1986. He returned in 1990 to find the chimp population drastically depleted as a result of unregulated hunting. He discovered that young chimpanzees were frequently sold to collectors outside of Africa after their mothers were killed. The chimpanzee population had declined to the point that just 55 individuals were detected in the forest by 1995.
With financing from the Edinburgh Zoo, RZSS, and other sources, a group of researchers began work in the woodland. The researchers established the Budongo Forest Project, which was eventually renamed the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS). BCFS combines conservation and research while also assuring the forest reserve’s long-term management. Once work began, BCFS faced several problems. Budongo woodland, like many other Ugandan forest reserves, had been encroached upon by the people that surrounded it. Poachers set snares to catch forest antelopes and tiny rodents in the forest borders, which were utilized for farming. Several chimps’ hands and limbs were damaged by snares left behind by hunters. The population of Mahagony trees (a popular chimp hideaway) has been considerably diminished as individuals hacked them down for wood.
To address several of the issues raised above, the team initiated a number of activities, including daily monitoring of the chimpanzees’ health and observation of behavioral data. The initiative has also assisted in the habituation of over 300 chimpanzees, as well as engaging with communities living near the forest to deter them from placing harmful snares in the forest. The project guarantees that the revenues of eco-tourism are distributed to the local population. Hunters are given goats as an alternate source of money and livelihood to discourage poaching for forest species. These ex-poachers voluntarily assist the BCFS team in determining where they set their final snares. The entire number of chimps has expanded considerably as a result of the project’s strong work. Poaching chimps for pets has largely ceased.
The major activity that pulls travelers to the jungle, as previously mentioned in depth, is Chimpanzee trekking. Budongo forest in Murchison falls national park is one of the greatest areas in Uganda to track chimpanzees. The majority of the tracking occurs in Kaniyo Pabidi, which is located south of Murchison Falls National Park. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo normally begins with a briefing from the Budongo Eco Lodge’s information center. The forest includes well-marked routes that allow tourists to see the chimps as well as other smaller monkeys and birds. Chimpanzee treks are conducted in two shifts: morning and afternoon. On most days of the year, Chimpanzees congregate around the Budongo Eco Lodge. However, during particular times of the year, they will venture off in search of fruits and water.
During times of shortage, finding food is not always certain. The chance of sighting chimps is still quite high, second only to Kibale Forest National Park. Visit during the months of October and January for the best chance of seeing the chimpanzees. Budongo chimpanzee trekking takes about 3 hours on average. Visitors are only permitted one hour with the chimpanzees after finding them. To engage in the chimpanzee trekking activity, one must be in excellent health and free of ailments such as flu or tuberculosis. Chimpanzees are susceptible to human illnesses. To track chimps, you must also be at least 15 years old. After a recent change in management to Amos Wekesa, the cost of a chimpanzee permit in Budongo is $130.
Chimpanzee habituation is the process through which chimps become used to the presence of humans around them. The entire procedure takes roughly two years. Visitors to Budongo Park are also given the option to participate in the chimpanzee habituation process, especially during seasons when there are fewer visitors to the park. Following a group of chimpanzees and learning about their behavior under the supervision of seasoned researchers and trackers is part of the Chimpanzee habituation experience. It differs from regular chimpanzee trekking in that it takes place throughout the day.
Visitors are given much more time with the monkeys. Good hiking boots, hand gloves, long-sleeved shirts/pants, sunglasses, and a hat are required for the optimal chimp habituation experience. The chimpanzee habituation experience in the Budongo forest costs $230. This is less than what Kibale National Park charges.
Budongo forest in Murchison Falls National Park is one of Uganda’s top spots for bird viewing. Birders can spend a full or half-day bird viewing with the assistance of qualified Guides. If you want to view most of the species in a day, the Royal Mile in the Busingiro region is likely the best spot to go. The Royal Mile runs from the main research station to a local forestry college. The Guinea Congo Forest-Biome, Pitta reichenowi, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Illadopsis puveli, and Parmoptila woodhouse are unusual species to look out for. You should have seen at least half of the 360 species found in the woodland region by the end of the day.
Tourists may embark on nature treks deep in the forest with armed guards. It is strongly advised that you visit the magnificent Kaniyo Pabidi eco-tourism Centre. The Centre is home to towering Mahagony trees that are more than 70 years old. Throughout the nature trails, you will come across a variety of wild species that come to lick salt off fallen trees. After you’ve had your fill of the forest, you may explore the savanna grasslands and woods that link to the plains of Murchison Falls National Park.
Larger mammals like as buffaloes, elephants, lions, and even leopards may be seen here. In fact, these huge beasts frequent the forest itself. For your safety, you will always be accompanied by armed rangers. Don’t forget to bring water and a packed lunch.
Budongo Forest visitors have a variety of lodging alternatives. The final choice of lodging is determined by one’s budget. Lodges and motels are available within the forest reserve, in Masindi town, and farther out at the Murchison Falls National Park. Outdoor camping can be organized within the reserve for those who enjoy it. The Budongo Forest Research Centre also provides modest accommodations at reasonable prices:
Budongo Eco Lodge is a low-cost lodge located in the Budongo forest reserve. The resort is located 30 kilometers from the town of Masindi and provides a relaxing and peaceful setting. Budongo Eco Lodge has customized cabins with balconies as well as dormitory accommodations. The dorm rooms are huge and suited for large groups of travelers. Residents can order both local and foreign meals at the lodge’s restaurant.
While staying at the resort, you may engage in activities such as chimpanzee trekking, birdwatching, chimp habituation experience, and nature walks. Those looking for a local community experiences can visit the Visitor Centre and purchase locally crafted art and souvenirs.
Budongo forest may be visited at any time of year, but the optimum time is during the dry season, which lasts from June to September and December to February. The dry season in Budongo forest is ideal for nature hikes since the forest trails are dry and practicable. It is also ideal for animal observation because the foliage is short and the roads leading to the forest are 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 because there will be plenty of food for the chimps due to the rains, so you will be able to view the chimps near the eco-lodge in Budongo forest as opposed to the dry season when there is a scarcity of food, forcing the chimpanzees to move deep into the forest in search of food, making trekking difficult and tiring. The rainy season is also an excellent time for bird viewing since there will be lots of fruits for the birds and you will be able to see migrating species, making your safari more enjoyable.
Budongo forest in Murchison Falls National Park may be found in northern Uganda. The journey from Kampala to the reserve takes three hours. From Kampala, proceed through Masindi town before continuing on to the forest reserve. The entrance fee to the Budongo Forest Reserve is $45 per person.
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