Uganda Eco-Tourism sites outside National Parks and Game reserves
In the public eye, forest reserves are associated with consumptive forms of land use especially timber logging. However, there are a number of Central Forest Reserves that undoubtedly have features and attractions that are of real interest to domestic and international tourists on a sustainable basis.
Mabira Central Forest Reserve
Mabira Central Forest Reserve is one of Uganda’s largest surviving Natural Forest covering an area of 306 sq km. The Forest is a Natural Habitat of 312 species of trees including the endangered Cordia Millenii, Mililia Exclesa.the Warbhugia Ugandanesis which has medicinal properties and is known to cure over forty ailments; and the vulnerable Prunus Africana which cures Prostate Cancer and boosts the Human Immune System.
Mabira is also home of 315 species of Birds such as the Nahan’s , Francolin , Cassin Hawk Eagle , the Forest Wood hoope, the Purple throated Cuckoo, the Tit Hylia, the Red Headed Blue Bill, the Black bellied Seed Cracker, the Shining Blue Kingfisher and the Blue headed Crested Monarc. Some of these species can only be found in Mabira.
Other unique features to be explored in the Forest Reserve include 218 Butterfly species, 97 Moth Species, 23 Small Mammal Species especially Primate Species of the Monkey Clan and the spectacular Griffin Falls!
Activities in the Forest Reserve include Forest Walks with over 68km of well developed Trail length, Mountain Biking, Bird Watching, Environmental Education and Research, Camping and Picnics, Primate Watching, Butterfly Identification and general Forest Exploration.
Accommodation in the Forest Reserve is available in 3 Bandas which can accommodate a maximum of 10 guests at the Eco-Tourism site at near Najjembe Trading Centre. The Bandas are self-catering although some light meals can be prepared for you by the House keeper.
There is also a Camping Ground near the site for do-it-yourself caravans at a modest fee.
Mabira Forest Lodge, a modern eco-friendly facility by the Alam Group of Companies is nearing completion. Details and reservations can be got from Geo Lodges, Uganda
Mabira Central Forest Reserve is located on the main Kampala-Jinja Highway in Mukono District. It is 54km from the City Centre of Kampala and 26km from Jinja Town. The Eco-Tourism site is about half a kilometer from the road head along a short dirty road off the Najjembe trading centre. The Forest is therefore accessible by all vehicles throughout the year.
Specialized, Knowledgeable and courteous local Guides are on site ready to take you for an exciting interpretative Forest Walk.
Mabira Eco-Tourism Drama Group, a community Interest Group entertains Visitors with Cultural Music, Dance and Drama. The Najjembe Women’s Crafts Group ensures that visitors take a Souvenir home in form of Handcrafts like baskets,mats,handbags,becovers, all made out of local materials. The Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organization (MAFICO) and Non Government Organization, is in advanced stages of developing a community Eco-Tourism Site at the Griffin Falls located 20kms from the Najjembe visitor reception centre.
Mpanga Central Forest Reserve
Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is a natural forest with unique Tree Species and other Flora. Among the outstanding Tree Species are the Celtis Family Species with large buttresses, the Ficus Family and Mahogany.
The forest also boasts of a number of primates especially the Red- Tailed Monkeys,etc. Nocturnal visits can be arranged to see the Bush Babies.
There is an array of birdlife including the Ross Turaco, Weaver-birds, the Grey Parrot, Owls, Hornbills and Cuckoos.
The forest is also a home to a variety of Butterflies and Moths.
The main activities in the forest include Forest Walks and Forest Exploration, Bird Watching and Identification.
The Forest Trails are well developed into four main routings namely;
The Baseline Trail, the Hornbill Trail, The Butterfly Trail, and the Family Trail each with unique features and experiences.
There is basic Accommodation at the Visitor Reception Centre at Mpanga under the management of the National Forestry Authority. One Tourist Banda, a self-contained Duplex, and a double Rom on the main office Block can accommodate12 visitors at once. There is also a Tent for hire at a modest fee.
These are self-catering facilities although light meals can be ordered from the House Caretaker.
Located in Mpigi District 37km from the city centre of Kampala, The Forest Reserve is easily accessible through the main Kampala- Masaka High way. The eco – Tourism site is approximately1kmfrom the road head using a well-surfaced direct road passable throughout the year.
Local Guides who are quite knowledgeable about the forest Bio-Diversity are available on the site.
Lutoboka and Bujanzi Central Forest Reserves
These Forests, found on the legendry Ssese Islands, are described as medium altitude moist forests. They form a belt along the lower ridges with a gentle slope from a lakeshore to the centre. However, the forest walks are not strenuous.
The Forest Trails are well developed. One particular tail visitors from Lutoboka should not miss stretches from the landing site up the Fort where the explorer Henry Morton Stanley pitched camp on his way to the famed mountains of the moon. There are 31 gazetted Forest Reserves in the Islands with a total 7,324 hectares under the control of the National Forestry Authority. Lutoboka Forest Reserve is 378 Ha; Kampala Forest Reserve is 80Ha.
The Ssesse Islands are a group of 84 Islands famous for their unexplored Forests some of which are completely uninhabited. They are a natural habitat for rare and endemic Birds and Butterflies. Primate Species especially the Monkeys abound .This rich and virgin Eco- system serenely blends into the equatic expense of lake, making these Forest Reserves a must visit .
Activities in the Forest Reserves include Forest Walks, Bird Watching, Primate Identification, and Butterfly Identification. In addition, visitors can also enjoy sailing, Boating, Fishing, and sun Bathing along the Lakeshores.
Accommodation in the Reserves, especially in Lutoboka, is largely in the hands of Private Developers. There are a number of well developed Beaches and Resorts for both the Upper Market and Middle Market. Some of them include Mirembe Resort Beach , Ssesse Palm Beach Hotel , Pearl Gardens Beach and Panorama Camping Site. All these have access to the White Sand Beaches ideal for relaxation after a Forest Walk.
Budget Travelers are advised to seek modesty lodge Accommodation readily available in Kalangala Town Council a few kilometers from Lutoboka Landing Site.
Accessibility to the Islands is by Ship departing from Nakiwogo Landing Site near Entebbe at exactly 14 hours daily. The Ship starts its return journey from Lutoboka Landing Site at exactly 8
Alternatively, one may approach the islands by Ferry from Bukakata/Kachanga Landing Site near Masaka. The Ferry docks at Luku Landing Site near Kalangala, four times a day starting at 8 Hours.
Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve
Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve is a Natural Forest teeming with terrestrial Bio-Diversity in Bushenyi District in Western Uganda. The forest is famous for 414 Species of Trees and Shrubs including the Ficus, Prunus Africana, the Stroboia, and Parinari among others. The forest also harbours378 Species of Birds such as the Great Blue Turaco, Black and White Caskets, Cuckoos and Sunbirds. Six different Species of Primates can be identified in Kalinzu including the Blue Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, Black and White colobus Monkeys, and Chimpanzees. The 2001 Primate Census put the total number of Chimpanzees in the Reserve at approximately 240. However, only two Groups of about 70 can be accessed by both Researchers and Tourists.
Other varieties of species include 262 Butterflies, 97 Moths, Reptiles and Flowers. Standing at the Kishunja Hill Viewpoint, one can behold the entire Forest Canopy, great parts of the Queen Elizabeth National Park and some Peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.
Because of its proximity to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Forest Reserve occasionally provides refuge to Savannah Grassland Species such as the Duikers, Leopards and Wild Pigs.
Therefore, activities in the Reserve include Forest Walks, Research Trails and Tourist Trails have been developed.
Pitched on top of an escarpment on the eastern edge of the great Albertine Rift Valley, Kalinzu Forest Reserve is 147 sq.km.adjuscent to the famed Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Maramagambo Forest. It lies at an average altitude of 1,400 m above sea level.
Accommodation in the reserves is still informal with only a do-it-yourself camping site at the forest station at Nkombe. Visitors are advised to carry their own tents. Visitors can also seek modest accommodation inBushenyi/Ishaka townships.
The forest reserve is located in Bushenyi District in Western Uganda. it is approximately 375km (5 hours drive) from the capital city Kampala. It is only 30km from the district headquarters of Bushenyi along the main Kasese highway. Because of the Albertine Terrain with old logging and winding roads, a four wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Kalinzu forest reserve has very professional, experienced and knowledgeable local guides who will make your forest visit a thrilling experience.
Kasyoha – Kitomi Central Forest Reserve
Located 35km from Bushhenyi, Kasyoha-Kitomi central forest reserve is 433 sq. km.
Ecotourism in the reserve is just beginning to develop under the umbrella of Ndekye Women’s Development Association. The main attractions in the reserve include primates such as chimpanzees, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus, vervet monkeys and baboons. The reserve also boasts of spectacular crater lakes such as twin lakes of Kamweru and Kyema as well as the transparent lake Kamunzuku. Eing adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park, the reserve hosts a number of small mammals like duikers, antelopes, bush pigs and the Uganda kob.
Migratory elephants can occasionally be seen.
Other attractions in the reserve include waterfalls, water gorges birdlife, butterflies and moths, reptiles and flowers.
Visitors to the reserve may enjoy forest walks, canoeing, bird watching, sightseeing, conservation education, camping and community walks.
A three; hour walking trail has been developed from the camping site at Magambo to the transparent lake kamunzuku.
Facilities in the reserve are still modest with a camping site at magambo parish headquarters overlooking the amazing twin lakes. Please bring your own tents and camping gear. A four wheel drive vehicle is a must.