In the south-east of Murchison Falls National Park, lies the Budongo Forest Reserve, one of the most ecologically diverse areas of Uganda, supporting 465 different plant species and about 800 chimpanzees. The reserve is also one of the country’s premier birding destinations where 366 different species have been recorded, including 60 known to fewer than five sites in the rest of east Africa.
The 790 sq km expanse of forest reserve is comprised of the largest mahogany forest in east Africa and is made up of four sections, two of which are the Budongo and Kanyiyo forests, which support the two main eco-tourism sites at Kanyiyo Pabidi and Busingiro. Some of the best habituated chimpanzee tracking is offered at Kanyiyo Pabidi where the star of the show is a chimpanzee called Babyface due to his surprising pale complexion. As a baby, Babyface fell from the trees and subsequently prefers to stay on the ground. His pale skin makes him easy to photograph. The family groups in this area are also known to display drumming, when hands and feet are used to beat against large trees for communication.
Located 14km from Busingiro is the Royal Mile, the road between Nyabyere Forestry College and the research station, which is renowned as one of the best forest birding areas in the world with a multitude of species to be seen as well as various monkeys and bizarrely a large church built by Polish refugees during the second world war who settled here. Many of the paths through the forest were created by these refugees.
The reserve is managed through a collaborative framework involving Great Lakes Safaris, the National Forestry Authority and the Jane Goodall Institute Uganda. One of the focuses of the project, which has been funded through a two-year grant awarded by USAID and the National Forestry Authority, is socio-economic, with more than 95% of the reserve’s staff local community members recruited and trained on all aspects of tourism operations from forest guiding to housekeeping. Part of the parks revenue also goes to supporting community projects that benefit the local villagers and supporting conservation education.
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"I would like to thank the travel advisor, Jonathan Fitzsimmonds for his patience, help and advice during the booking process. We were rather late in trying to arrange everything and I think we presented him with quite a challenge! He rose to it brilliantly. Almost every aspect of the holiday went like clockwork and we had a wonderful time. I think we were quite lucky to get an experienced driver too. His depth of knowledge of the wildlife, and in particular the birds, was invaluable. All in all, a fantastic holiday and we hope to return to Uganda in the not too distant future."