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Budongo Forest

Budongo Forest

Budongo Forest is in the northwestern Uganda of located on the escarpment north east of Lake Albert and is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Believed to be one of the oldest forests in East Africa with its ancient origins evident in its rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystem. Budongo Forest is found in Masindi district, Budongo forest is the largest natural forest in Uganda at 825km2 and the biggest mahogany forest in East Africa. The forest is divided into three sectors which are Kaniyo pabidi, Busingiro and Sonso with four main rivers flowing through namely Rivers Ramirambwa, River Waisoke, River Siba and River Sonso.

Budongo forest is one of the few strongholds for chimpanzees left in Uganda. Vernon Reynolds was the first person to study chimpanzees in 1962, later in 1970-80s civil wars broke out in the country leaving infant chimpanzees vulnerable as their mothers were killed. This made it possible for people to steal the infants and smuggling them off to wealthy individuals. In 1990 with the help of Chris Bakuneeta, Reynolds started the Budongo Forest Project in a bid to try and protect the available chimpanzees which later turned into the Budongo Conservation Field Station. Initially the project started with 50 chimpanzees, though habituation was a long process after the chimps has lost their mothers and were scared of humans however now the number has increased greatly with support from the Edinburgh zoo in 2005 to ensure proper conservation.

Dr. Vernon Reynolds’ research in Budongo Forest has been instrumental in advancing our knowledge of chimpanzee behavior and ecology, as well as informing conservation strategies for protecting these endangered primates and their habitat. His work remains a cornerstone of primatological research in Uganda and has had a lasting impact on the field of primatology.

Budongo’s conservation importance extends beyond its charismatic inhabitants. It serves as a critical watershed, providing essential ecosystem services to local communities and supporting the region’s biodiversity. Efforts to protect the forest involve conservation organizations, government agencies, and local communities collaborating to safeguard its ecological integrity and promote sustainable development.




Budongo is known for having the biggest population of Chimpanzees and other primates including red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, pottos, galagos and olive baboons. However the Chimpanzees are the popular primate species in the forest something that encourages both trekking, habituation and research to address these threats and promote sustainable management practices to ensure the long-term survival of the forest and its inhabitants.


Budongo forest has about 360 bird species making it a go to for birders as it has enough to keep one occupied with the different bird calls. Birding enthusiasts can spot a diverse array of avian species, including the rare and endemic Nahan’s francolin, as well as turacos, kingfishers, barbets, honeyguides, herons, hornbills, sunbirds, and many others.

Flora and Fauna

Budongo Forest is characterized by its towering tropical trees, including mahogany, ironwood, ebony, bamboo forests and various species of fig trees. Epiphytic plants such as orchids, ferns, and mosses grow on the branches of trees in Budongo Forest, utilizing them for support and access to sunlight.  All this enables the forest to provide a habitat and food for a wide range of wildlife. The forest is home to a variety of mammal species, including elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, duikers, bushbucks, mongooses, squirrels, and rodents. These animals can be seen as one hikes through the forest to trek chimpanzees, birding or a nature walk.



Chimpanzee trekking

This is one of the top activities which offers a unique opportunity to observe habituated chimpanzee groups in their natural habitat. Before embarking on a chimpanzee trek, visitors receive a briefing from park authorities or guides about the safety guidelines, rules for interacting with the primates and more information about their behavior. Upon encountering a habituated chimpanzee group, visitors have the opportunity to observe the primates from a safe distance. Guides ensure that visitors maintain a respectful distance and follow established guidelines to minimize disturbance to the chimpanzees as they get an hour observing and photographing the chimpanzees as they go about their daily activities which include interacting with each other, foraging for food, and caring for their young and playing. All this is done with the help of experienced guides and trackers and takes place at Kaniyo Pabidi trail information center.

Chimpanzee Habituation

Habituation is the process of gradually teaching wild chimpanzees to get accustomed to the presence of humans, enabling researchers and tourists to observe and study them more closely. This happens during the low seasons with less tourists to the forest and the tourists are given more time with the chimpanzees including the researchers. Once a group has been located, tourists are given four hours to observe how the chimpanzees look after their young ones, how they copulate, feed, hunt, patrol and build their nests within their habitat and also you are allowed to take pictures to keep the memory alive of the process. The process of full habituation takes 2years, then the group can be tracked by tourists.


With over 300 bird species, Budongo forest is one of the top birding destinations in Uganda. The forest has trails like Kaniyo Pabidi, Sonso and Royal mile which enable tourists to enjoy the views while spotting different bird species and taking in the beauty they provide. Birding can take half or full day and is best experienced when started in the morning as the birds wake up the world. Some rare species like the pitta-reichenowi, yellow-footed flycatcher and Puvel’s illadopsis can be sighted on top of other birds like turacos, kingfishers, barbets, honeyguides, herons, hornbills, sunbirds, and many others.

Guided Nature walks

Guided nature walks in Budongo Forest offer the chance to explore the diverse flora and fauna of the forest. Knowledgeable guides lead visitors along forest trails like Kaniyo pabidi, royal mile and Sonso, pointing out interesting plants, trees, valleys, hills, birds, primates and mammals along the way. These walks provide insights into the ecology of the forest and its importance for biodiversity conservation; this is also commonly most done in the morning.

Community walks

Visitors to Budongo Forest can also engage in cultural experiences with local communities living near the forest. These experiences may include visits to villages, interactions with community members, and learning about traditional practices and customs, education, food, housing to the people in this community; with crafting and weaving all ways in which people in the community are supported to stay afloat.

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