Kaniyo Pabidi, Mpanga, Busingiro and Mabira Ecotourism Sites- Uganda


Kaniyo Pabidi Eco Tourism Site is situated on Budongo forest, the largest Mahogany forest in East Africa. Trees grow up to 80 meters. The forest is famous for its chimpanzees (600-800), which form a number of groups. 6 groups have been habituated; hence visitors have the chance of visiting them at close quarters. The forest also hosts much other rare specie of birds, including the Lemon Bellied Crombec, and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher. Kaniyo can be assessed as you visit Murchison falls National Park. From here you will also be able to view the blue mountains of Congo and the Rift Valley Escarpment.

 The Ecotourism site has various facilities, including an open sided Banda, which provides a visitor reception area and place for visitors to relax and enjoy sodas and snacks. The site has two-styled African Banda providing comfortable and private accommodation for visitors and made by local craftsmen using grass from the shores of Lake Albert. One double and two single beds can cater for a total of 4 visitors. Each Banda is set in a beautiful forest glade providing a relaxing setting for resting after a forest walk.

The campsite with space for 18-20 people is situated near to the visitor reception. A camp shelter, campfire area and picnic site services the campsite. Water and fuel wood are available on site.

An open-air washroom provides cold showers and along with two pit latrines services the campsite and Banda’s.

The campsite cook can prepare food. Visitors are advised to buy provisions in advance in Masindi and arrange with the guides if catering services are required.

Trail Network

The trails at Kaniyo Pabidi operate on an extensive 115 km grid system and require a guide to accompany visitors. A specially tailored program  will be devised to suit each individual visitors needs. The site is located in an isolated block of Budongo Forest, which has never been logged. It has many big-buttressed mahogany and ironwood trees and due to its remote location, lion, leopard and buffalo are occasionally present. From Pabidi Hill visitors will get magnificent views over Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Albert and beyond to Congo. The River Waiga runs through the site and forest glades contain salt licks where forest creatures are common in the early morning.

For bird watches a 600m nature trail has been developed at the forest edge allowing better views into the canopy.

Chimpanzee Tracking

Chimpanzee habituation began in 1992 and chimps are often seen. In May, June, July and August visitors have over a 90% chance of seeing the chimps. In February, March, April and September this drops to 70%, and in October, November, December and January, when food is scarcer, chances drop to 50%.

Note. Visitors to Kaniyo Pabidi will have to pay entry fees to Murchison Falls National Park. Visitors should check with the Tourist Board or Park Authorities for up to date information on charges.

Getting There

A visit to Kaniyo Pabidi can easily be combined with a visit to Murchison Falls National Park. The site is very accessible to visitors with their own transport. It is 29km north of Masindi. Simply follow the signposts to Paraa. The site is sign posted off to the right on the main road through the park to Paraa.

No public transport is available to Kaniyo Pabidi. It is possible to arrange a private hire to Masindi from MATODA at a cost of around $ 36 for a day return (fax +256 465 20411).
Booking is not necessary but for further information contact EA-ECOCONSULT for arrangements and further information.


Busingiro Eco-tourism Site

Busingiro Eco Tourism Site is situated on Budongo forest, the largest Mahogany forest in East Africa. Trees grow up to 80 meters. The forest is famous for its chimpanzees (600-800), which form a number of groups. 6 groups have been habituated; hence visitors have the chance of visiting them at close quarters. The forest also hosts many other rare specie of birds, including the Lemon Bellied Crombec, and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher. Busingiro can be assessed as you visit Murchison falls National Park. From here you will also be able to view the blue mountains of Congo and the Rift Valley Escarpment.

 There is a locally styled open sided building provides a pleasant place for visitors to relax, enjoy sodas, snacks or locally prepared meals. Local crafts, bird guidebooks, t-shirts and videos can also be brought here.

The site runs an environmental education program for local schools. Children visit the forest to see it for themselves and find out about its importance to the area. Displays at the center help visitors interpret the forest’s secrets, and understand its complex ecosystem. Get a taste for Budongo Forest by first visiting the Entebbe Wildlife Education Center where a forest display is based around the eco tourism project at Budongo.

Busingiro also has two traditionally styled African Banda’s, that provide comfortable and private accommodation for visitors. One double and three single beds can cater for a total of five visitors. Each Banda is set in a beautiful forest glade providing a relaxing environment for resting after a forest walk.

The campsite with space for 20 plus people is pleasantly situated away from the visitor reception. A camp cooking shelter, water pump and campfire area provide all the necessary facilities for the self-catering camper.

There is an open air wash room, which provides hot or cold showers and, along with two pit latrines serve both the Banda’s and camp site.

Catering is available at the site, and the campsite cook can prepare food. Visitors are advised to buy provisions in advance at Masindi and arrange with the guides if catering services are required.

The site has a complex trail system of a grid system, which offers the best chances for chimpanzee tracking, and a loop system incorporating a range of forest features and good specimen trees.

Visitors must enter the forest with a guide and follow the code of behavior, which will ensure their safety and maximum enjoyment. Visitors should discuss their preferences and time schedules with the forest guides who will tailor a program to meet individual’s needs.

A number of special interest walks can be arranged from Busingiro.

Bird enthusiasts can pay a visit to the Royal Mile. This spectacular wide forest avenue was first enjoyed by King Kabalega of Bunyoro earning its name ‘The Royal Mile’. It is a 15 km drive from the eco-tourism site and visitors must pay a forest entry fee before entering the forest reserve. On an early morning visit visitors cannot fail to see some spectacular forest birds such as the Chocolate Backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher. A visit to the Royal Mile can also be combined with a trip to Lake Kanyege where water birds and clouds of butterflies enjoy a sunny forest edge pond.

Primate tracking is a common activity at Busingiro. Chimp tracking is most successful on the grid trail, where a 200m-grid system ensures ease of access through the forest. For chimp tracking its best to start early around 7.00 am. The guides follow the daily movements of the habituated chimpanzee groups. Three years of recording their movements indicate July, August and September offer a 90% success rate of seeing the chimps. In February , March , April, May and September this decreases to 70 %, and in October, November, December and January when food is scarcer chances drop to 50%. The fluctuating fruiting seasons of the forest trees determine the chimp’s movements. It can take 30 minutes or all day to find them. Only children 7 years and upwards are allowed chimp tracking. Groups are limited to 6 people.

The general forest walk is offered by the loop system leading from the visitor center. It offers fascinating forest walks. The guides will interpret the features of the forest, which include elephant pit traps, salt licks, elephant wallows and historic grinding stoners. Secrets of the forests will be revealed on these walks. Discover a tree that gets elephants drunk and be amazed at the huge indestructible Ironwood trees dominating the forest canopy.

The Little Kasenene Hill Trail is a 4-hour walk that takes visitors up Little Kasenene Hill to enjoy spectacular views over Lake Albert and the Blue Mountains of Congo. The trail leads through grassland and shrub. Visitors to the forest in November will witness the spectacle of local people collecting grasshoppers for frying.

Getting to Busingiro is easy from Kampala. It is located 41 km west of Masindi on the road to Butiaba. The site is 40 m on the left and well sign posted from the road. From Kampala the drive takes 3 to 4 hours.

By public transport take a taxi from the New Taxi Park in Kampala to Masindi. The journey takes 2 -3 hours and costs approximately Ush. 7,000. A daily bus leaves Masindi Taxi Park at midday. Matatus also run to Butiaba or Wanseko , they take approximately 1 hour to reach the site and cost 3,000 Ush.


Mabira Ecotourism Site.

An attractive forest visitor complex in a beautiful tranquil forest edge setting offering comfortable facilities for a weekend break. and a relaxing environment to unwind and get back to nature.

Easy access between Uganda’s two largest urban centres, Kampala and Jinja, the forest is one hours drive from the capital and just half an hours drive from Jinja. Mabira offers visitors with tight time schedules a tropical forest experience on their doorstep and for visitors without their own transport an easily accessed and reasonably priced public transport link.

A huge and beautiful forest to explore via an extensive trail network. The forest trails cater for people of all time schedules and abilities and give visitors fantastic views into the forest canopy, and opportunities to discover close up a fascinating array of forest life. Both guided and unguided trails are available. For the energetic a circular 25 km bike trail links the forest to the surrounding sugar and tea plantations (mountain bikes are advised).


The visitor center

Discover more about Mabira with a visit to the forest interpretation center. Find out about the rare and wonderful creatures that inhabit the forest, learn about the importance of the trees and plants and find out what we can all do to help conserve our forest resources.

On sale at the visitor center are craft items made by local groups, postcards, tourist maps, bird books and souvenir’s Mabira Forest T- shirts.

Picnic site and viewing platform

Enjoy a soda, snack or picnic in the tranquil picnic site surrounding the visitor center. Flowering trees and good views into the forest make it an excellent place for watching exotic sunbirds and playful red tailed monkeys. The raised viewing platform elevates you into the forest canopy where you can relax in shady comfort.

Banda Accommodation

The forest center has three traditional styled African Banda’s offering visitors private and comfortable accommodation set in beautiful forest glades. Each Banda has it’s own balcony with views into the forest, a perfect spot to relax after a forest walk.

There are two double Banda’s and one family Banda sleeping 6 people. Each Banda has its own latrine and bathing facilities.

Water and firewood can be provided for self-catering visitors or meals can be arranged in advance with the caretaker.


The campsite is set in a idyllic forest glade. It can cater for up to 12 tents. A campfire area and picnic tables make it ideal for self-catering groups. A spacious thatched camp shelter adjacent to the campsite offers additional comfort to campers. The campsite has its own latrine and bathing facilities.

The Forest Trails

An excellent trail system allows visitors easy access to both undisturbed primary forest and good secondary forest. The trails have been designed to suit all ages and abilities.

Picnic Trail

Leading from the picnic site this short 15 - 20 minute self guided trail journeys into the forest meandering through regenerating forest along the valley of one of Mabira’s many forest streams.

It is ideal for children and visitors on a tight time schedule.

Grassland Trail

Keen bird watchers will enjoy the Grassland Trail loop, which offers good views into the broken canopy, which, together with an abundance of fruiting trees, make sightings of large numbers of forest birds a real possibility.

It is a 3km trail which can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours depending on bird sightings. It is well way marked so visitors can walk alone or with a guide who will help identify the sights and sounds of the forest. The trail travels through regenerating secondary forest flanking the sides of the Najjembe stream valley. It is possible to link with other trails to extend your walk.

The Radio Hill Trial Network

For visitors wanting a more ‘jungle like’ experience and views over the forest canopy a number of trail circuits link to Radio Hill where a steep climb is rewarded by panoramic view north over the forest reserve.

The Primary forest trails are across the main road from the forest center. Visitors enter a cool tropical shadowy environment characterized by gurgling forest streams, giant tree trunks, twisted stems of strangler figs and the chattering of tribes of monkeys high above in the forest canopy.

This is intact tropical forest and rich in plant and animal life. Visitors will enjoy walking in this cool environment and wonder at the amazing natural formations in this artists paradise.

All walks in the primary forest must be lead by a trained guide. They will choose a trial to suit your time schedule and fitness level. All walks are on looped circuits with resting points.

The Market Loop

This trail links two impressive fig trees and is a common area for monkeys, which feed on the fruit. You may meet Red Tailed monkeys or Black and Grey Cheeked Mangabeys, which often raid people’s gardens on the forest boundaries. The market loop takes approximately one hour from the Forest Center.

The River Mabugwe Loop

This trail leads through intact rainforest along the path of the River Mabugwe which is one of the permanent rivers in Mabira Forest. A huge strangler fig is a prominent feature on the trail and the trail opens up in places to provide excellent sites for butterfly and bird viewing. This trail takes approximately 2 hours from the forest center.

Gangu Ridge Trail

This is the longest trail and leads into shaded thick forest far away from the main highway. It takes approximately 3 –4 hours and involves a trek through primary forest across three valleys including the Gangu valley. The trail has two resting points from which you can view birds; forest primates or you may spot signs of the elusive bush pig. This trail links to the Butterfly loop and Radio Hill Circuit.

The Fig Junction Trail

This is another trail passing through thick primary forest. The main feature of this trail is an impressive fig tree junction, which provides an excellent bird watching area. Watch out for the Black Billed Turaco, Yellow Billed Barbet or Dusky Long Tailed Cuckoo. This trail takes approximately 2 to 3 hours from the forest center.

Radio Hill Loop Circuit

A trip straight to the viewpoint at the top the radio tower on Radio Hill will take approximately 45 minutes. It is well worth the climb to witness a marvelous panoramic view over the forest, from here you can start to appreciate the sheer scale of the forest which is the largest in Central Uganda.

Butterfly Viewing Trail

This trail is much more open and sunny. It is characterized by many flowering plants such as Lantana camara, whose pink and yellow flowers attract clouds of butterflies. Birds such as White Throated Bee Eaters and Pied Kingfishers enjoy this forest edge environment. This trail takes approximately 2 hours from the forest center.

Macaranga Loop Trail

This trail is characterized by the Macaranga species of trees with their amazing thorny stems. Discover how these trees protect themselves against forest predators. This trail takes approximately 1 hour from the forest center.

Cycling routes

From the visitor center visitors with their own mountain bikes can follow a specially designed cycling circuit which offers a challenging trail to the top of Namusa Hill for experienced cyclists and an alternative route along the Wagala ridge pylon clearing for less experienced cyclists.

The trail follows a quiet forest road for 8km into the heart of the forest, at Ssese village visitors can chose to follow the 5km loop up to Namusa Hill or turn left to follow the pylon clearing. The two trails meet and continue towards Lugazi. The more adventurous may like to search for the Griffin Water Falls, simply ask directions at the houses half way up the hill when you have crossed a bridge over the river.

The trial eventually leads out of the forest into Lugazi passing through the tea and sugar cane plantations, which surround the forest.

How to get there

Mabira Forest straggles the main Jinja to Kampala highway; it is 54km from Kampala and 20km from Jinja. The forest center is on the edge of Najjembe village approximately 500m north of the main road. Coming from Kampala it is signposted to your left just before you reach the roadside market at Najjembe.

A short walk or drive down this murram road will bring you to the forest center where parking is available.

The site is readily accessed by public transport. From Kampala take a taxi from the old taxi park heading towards Jinja and get off at Najjembe market. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and costs 1,500 Ush From Jinja take a taxi from the taxi park heading towards Lugazi or Kampala get off at Najjembe market, the forest center is on the road to your right. The journey takes approximately half an hour and costs 1,500 Ush.


 Mpanga Forest

A beautiful compact forest which has been protected as a scientific research site since 1953 and is criss-crossed with an extensive network of paths from which visitors can view the prolific bird life that make this forest their home. The average height and size of trees in Mpanga is very large with impressive trees throughout. A two-minute walk will place you in tall cathedral like avenue, which stretches the length of the forest.

Just out of town, Mpanga forest is easily accessed from Kampala and well worth a stop on a visit out West. Experience the silence of a noisy forest, witness-floating paths of butterflies and enjoy the peace and solitude of a beautiful forest setting just one hours drive from the capital.

The intimate and compact forest valley offers a wide range of experiences close to the visitor reception; it is an ideal spot for short visits when passing or for picnic stops or overnight camping.

The drum making industry is concentrated at Mpambire village near Mpanga, the home of the Royal Drum makers. The five main tree species suitable for this traditional craft are found in the forest and at the visitor reception you can learn about the drum trees, which since time immemorial have been used in Africa for communicating and calling people to festive occasion.


The Visitor Reception

This is a small umbrella hut at the entrance to the site, from where you can derive all information about the forest. Trail maps can be obtained from there.

Banda’s Campsite and Picnic area

The clearing at the edge of the forest makes the ideal picnic and camping site. Red tailed monkeys regularly play in the trees around the camp site and visitors can often get within 10 meters to photograph the more common hornbills who are quite used to people.

Latrine facilities are available and a camp shelter and camp fire/ barbeque area will be on site by April 1999. Water and firewood can be organized at the forest station but visitors must be self-sufficient and bring their own tent and food.

Mpigi town just 5 kilometers from the site can provide all basic provisions for campers, a range of fruits, vegetables and dry goods as well as petrol, kerosene and methylated spirits.

An alternative picnic site lies 100 meters into the forest in a beautiful shady glade simply follow the path into the forest and the site is on the left at the start of the Base Line Trail.

Other accommodation

Two twin Banda’s are available under a large thatched veranda. Bed linen, towels, mosquito nets plus kerosene lamps are provided and a spacious tiled shower room. Kitchen facilities are available to campers and Banda’s occupants. A simple dormitory with bunk beds for budget travelers is also available. Here you need your own mosquito nets and bed linen.

For visitors not wishing to stay in the forest, hotel accommodation can be found in nearby Mpigi town. There are also several restaurants, which, serve traditional, and some western foods. Sodas, beers and simple cafe snacks are available.

The Forest Trails

A variety of walks, ranging from fifteen minutes to several hours in length can be done at Mpanga forest

The forest links well to the rural areas surrounding it providing good opportunities to walk through traditional Ugandan villages and farming areas. Some trails are way marked for the independent visitor. Local guides are also on hand for visitors wishing to learn more about the forest or to travel to more remote parts of the forest.

The Base Line Trail

A three kilometer straight, wide trail which passes straight across Mpanga and ends at the edge of a papyrus swamp (Nakyetema) on the west side of the forest. There’s no need to watch your feet just put your head in the trees and enjoy fabulous views into the forest canopy. This undulating walk over gentle rises and across two streams offers some of the most impressive trees in the forest and is also an excellent place to view clouds of butterflies, which congregate in the sunny clearings along the trail. This trail can be used for mountain biking by looking back through local villages and dirt tracks.

The Butterfly Loop

A one kilometer winding jungle trail for visitors wanting a short adventure and willing to occasionally clamber over logs and duck under dense tangles of vegetation. It takes approximately 25 minutes and you venture pass native rainforest trees as well as a few newcomers to the forest, look out for a puzzling tree to the local primate population. Bush babies and leopard tracks have been on this loop.

The Hornbill Trail

A five-kilometer loop passing deep into the heart of the forest. Like the butterfly loop it offers adventurous terrain along streamsides and across gentle hills. Watch out for the ‘tree root arch’ half way along the trail. The trail takes approximately 3 hours but can be combined with short cuts to the Base Line trail if tired. Enjoy fantastic root structures and buttresses, fungi, butterflies, monkeys and birds along this trail. Also watch out for rather timid snakes including a sleepy python.

How to get there

Drive 37 kilometers west along the Masaka road from Kampala, Mpanga forest eco tourism site is on the right five kilometers beyond the Mpigi turn off. The main road passes through a dip just after it enters the forest. Immediately after the dip is a murram road on the right marked by  large Pepsi signpost. Follow the murram road for 500m bearing right at a fork in the road until you reach a clearing on the edge of the forest and the forestry station. Park at the edge of this clearing and make your way to the visitor reception.

By public transport from Kampala, take a taxi from the new taxi park to Mpigi (1,400 Ush) and catch a Boda Boda to Mpanga (approximately 1,000 U sh) or alternately, take a taxi from the new park to Masaka and ask to be set down at Mpanga forest entrance sign (4,000 U sh)