Combining a forest adventure with stunning scenery Kasyoha Kitomi forest offers the visitor a memorable experience. The forest is set in a beautiful landscaped setting overlooking the Albertine Rift Valley and nestled amongst the picturesque hills and crater lakes of the southwest region.
Kasyoha Kitomi is a superbly rich forest supporting a huge biodiversity of forest species. In conservation terms it ranks second in the country and offers visitors a chance to encounter a fabulous array of forest life with five species found in no other Ugandan forest.
The visitor center and campsite are beautifully situated on a ridge overlooking the twin crater lakes Chemo and Mweru. Just 1.5 kilometers from the main Mbarara to Kasese highway the site is readily accessible to visitors traveling to Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori, Semuliki and Kibale National Parks and makes it a stunning overnight stop or perfect spot for a picnic.
The ‘Transparent’ lake Kamunzuku, a beautiful clean and clear crater lake lies further into the forest reserve. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing or bird viewing from the lake edge or explore the caves surrounding the lake.
A 17-kilometer trail system leads from Lake Kamunzuku along which visitors can explore the gorges and waterfalls of the Kyambura River. The trials journey through intact tropical high forest, tall ‘elephant’ grasslands and along hilltops and ridges offering wonderful views over the forested river valleys.
Chimpanzees are common in the forest and are regularly heard as you travel along the forest trails.
A project is underway to habituate the chimps, getting them used to human presence so that visitors can enjoy viewing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
First stop is the visitor and education center, a locally built and traditionally styled building housing interesting displays on the forest and the local area and a library for further research.
Here visitors will meet one of the five experienced local guides who will provide further information on the options available to visitors and help you devise a programme suited to your time scale and fitness level.
On a rise behind the visitor center a small area has been cleared for camping. Three tents can be pitched here and campers will enjoy the spectacular views looking down over the crater lakes. Pit latrines are and a water tap is located near the visitor center.
An alternative camp site is being developed further into the forest on a rise above Lake Kamunzuku this will accommodate more tents and offer visitors a real get away from it all experience.
Campers should be self-sufficient as there are limited facilities on site. Water, firewood and basic meals can be organized with advanced notice via the guides and basic foodstuffs brought at Nyakasharu trading center 1.5 km away on the main highway.
The nearest alternative accommodation is a small hotel at Nyakasharu, which has 9 single beds, the Homeland Hotel in Ishaka (tel 42226) some 35 km away.
The Forest Trails
The trailhead is 3.3km from the visitor center. Visitors in their own vehicles can drive to a parking area near to start of the trail network. Visitors without transport can take a boda boda or enjoy the scenic walk along a quiet murram track overlooking swampy wetland areas.
The trailhead leads through matooke plantations out into butterfly and bird rich grasslands and over a ‘tree bridge’ into the forest reserve. It is a 1.5 km journey, which builds up your expectations as to what you might find in the forest beyond.
Three forest trails have been developed which meander around the Lakes and along the rivers of the forest reserve. The trails are not advised for young children . The trails all involve some clambering and venturing over hilly terrain. Advice on the fitness levels required for each trail can be obtained from the local guides.
The Lakeside Trail
The gentlest 1-hour walk takes visitors on a 3km trip around Lake Kamunzuku. It is a transparent lake formed by volcanic activity. Sacrifices have always been offered around the lake to African gods. The beautiful clear waters create stunning reflections of the forest canopy and surrounding hills. Local fishermen can be seen casting their nets for fresh water fish, and a wide range of water birds and ducks enjoy these clean and peaceful waters.
The path allows visitors to explore two sedimentary rock caves formed by lava during volcanic eruptions. They are used by hunters and fishermen for shelter and local people used to grind stones from the rock and mix it with clay to make pottery.
Two beached areas allow access for swimming or boat trips with local fishermen.
The Waterfall Trail
A 2 kilometer one way trail leads north of the lake past the fishing cave and through the forest towards a spectacular waterfall on the Lubale River. Red tailed monkeys are a common site in this section of the forest a visit to the waterfall can be combined with the lakeside trail to extend your walk.
The Kyambura River Trail
The hike to the Kyambura gorge is a more serious affair and can take a whole day. On this trail visitors will enter deep into the forest and maximize their chances of viewing some of the more elusive forest species. Chimpanzee’s inhabitant this area of the forest, visitors should listen out for their distinctive calls.
The trail leads to the river valley where it crosses the river and loops past waterfalls, rapids and rock islands. These are huge rocks stationed in the middle of the river, brought thousands of years back by heavy floods. These amazing features can be used by the adventurous to cross the river.
Rurama Hill Trail
A trail to Rurama Hill is in the early stages of development. This is an area popular with chimpanzees and will offer good chances of viewing chimps after the habituation programme is complete.
How to get there
The visitor center is 1.5 km off the main highway between Mbarara - Kasese . Travelling from Mbarara the eco tourism site is 35km west of Ishaka past the picturesque Rwenzori tea plantations. On reaching Nyakasharu trading center look out for a sign on you right directing you towards the forest visitor center. Travel 1.5 km along this murram road until you reach the center set on raised ground between two crater lakes.
By public transport take a bus going to Kasese from the bus park opposite the new taxi park in Kampala, or pick up the Kasese bus from Mbarara, Bushenyi or Ishaka. The journey from Kampala takes 5 ½ hours and the bus around 7am. Cost varies between 8,000 to 12,000 Ush depending on time of year. Ask to be set down at the Nyakasharu trading center and take a boda boda to the visitor center (cost 500 Ush).
Kalinzu forest offers visitors a choice of scenic guided walks along the ridges and valleys of the Rift Valley escarpment. From the forest trails amazing views open up over the Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward, the Kazinga Channel and the Congo.
Visit the "old man of the hills". Kalinzu forest is steeped in mysteries and rich with local legends. Learn about the folklore and uses of the forest from a local guide.
Experience the forest at night. See nocturnal primates like pottos and galagos. Search for owls and other animals that only emerge under the cover of darkness and listen to the eerie shrieking of the tree hyrax.
Get away from it all at the campsite retreat. The camping site is set deep into the forest far away from any settlements and although basic, offers visitors a tranquil ‘back to nature’ experience.
First stop at the Forestry Station, which you pass through on the way to the site. Here ask for any of the eco-tourism staff that will explain more about the project and help you plan an itinerary to suit your needs.
A visitor reception and education center was built in 1999. They will be built on sight of disused sawmill, which lies 5-½ km into the forest from the forestry station.
The campsite is located in a shady forest glade in the heart of the forest reserve. From the forestry station you follow the murram track for 5-½ km, bearing right after some eucalyptus plantations. You eventually reach a forest clearing and will see the rusting remains of old sawmill machinery. Park in the clearing on the left and through the trees you will find a semi-open area that provides an idyllic campground.
Pit latrines and a simple wash shelter housing solar powered showers have been provided on site.
Campers need to be self-sufficient. Water and firewood may be organized at the Forestry station and basic supplies can be purchased at Butare Trading Centre 9 km from the campsite on the Mbarara to Kasese highway.
Visitor not wishing to camp can stay at the Homeland Hotel 10
km away from Ishaka.
Contact: Homeland Hotel, P.O. Box 290, Bushenyi. Tel: 42226.
The Forest Trails
Four fabulous forest trails have been developed at Kalinzu offering visitors a range of exciting options. All the trails involve some clambering over hilly terrain so the local guides on the suitability of each trail should advise visitors for each age and ability.
The River Trail
This short 2 ½ km circular trail takes approximately 1 hour. The major feature along this walk is the River Kajojo or ‘elephant river’ so called because elephants used to bathe here. The trail goes past some fine specimens of ‘Parinari excelsa’ the climax tree in the forest and a huge strangler figure. Visitors will see signs of the nine forest primate species including chimpanzee nests high in the tree tops.
The Palm Trail
A 5 km circular trail taking between 1 ½ - 2 hours over relatively flat terrain. Visitors will discover some fascinating forest trees along this trail including the ‘Flame tree’ with its large, red, tulip-like flames which supposedly activates sexual desire in women, ‘Raphia Palms’ used for making local mats, a spectacular ‘Dragon tree’.
The Valley Trail
This 3 ½ km circular trail takes approximately 2 hours and offers spectacular views over valley. Visitors will trek along a ridge and past a number of interesting forest features. A forest favorite is the ‘Mutragyne rubrostipuleta’ or ‘viagra’ tree.
The Waterfall Trail
An 11 km loop trail taking between 4 and 5 hours over some hilly and, in parts, wet terrain. This trail leads to a magnificent waterfall ‘kilyantama’ locally known as ‘the sheep eater’. Visitors will discover the tree that "baboons cannot climb" and barkcloth figs, which are used in the craft industry to make beautifully, decorated table cloths, curtains, handbags and ceremonial clothes.
How to get there
Kalinzu forest is 10 km west of Ishaka on the main Mbarara to Kasese highway. It is very conveniently situated for visitors to Queen Elizabeth National Park and other parks in the south west.
To reach the eco-tourism site turn left at Butare Trading Centre on the main road and travel 4 km along a murram road to the Forestry Station. Here stop and ask for information about the ecotourism site.
By public transport from Kampala, take a Kasese bus from the
bus park opposite the new taxi park. They leave early in the morning about 7
a.m. It takes 5 hours to reach Butare and costs between 8,000 and 12,000 Ushs.
(depending on time of year). Get off at trading station and get a boda boda to
the Forest Station (Ush. 1,000).
At one time, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) was caring for 23 chimpanzees at the Entebbe facility. The chimpanzees are brought to the Centre as a result of confiscation from animal dealers or poachers. Since then UWEC and concerned citizens have been looking for a suitable alternative for the orphaned chimpanzees at the Centre.
Uganda has approximately 3,000 chimps left in the wild. Many chimps fall victim of poachers and infants are often sold into the pet trade or smuggled to other countries to be used in biomedical research, circuses, and entertainment.
New Chimp Sanctuary on Lake Victoria
In 1996, Ngamba Island, 23 kilometre south-west of Entebbe on Lake Victoria, came up for sale.
This tropical Island is composed of 100 acres of rainforest and was found to have many species of food trees suitable for chimps.