Expert Reviews – Budongo

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to habituated chimpanzees, this is an excellent Murchison Falls add-on
Overall rating

Though the Budongo Forest is rarely a destination on its own, it makes an excellent add-on to Murchison Falls National Park. You probably won’t see any safari species on a forest walk here; rather people come for the troop of habituated chimpanzees. There are no big hills to climb here, so this is the easiest place to meet our closest living relatives. And the hour that you are allowed to stay with them will be magical. The other draw is the excellent birdwatching. There are several good sites including the Royal Mile, which many consider the single best birding destination in Uganda because of both the number of rare birds found here and also the great visibility

The forgotten chimpanzee reserve
Overall rating

This is Uganda’s most important refuge for chimpanzees, supporting a population currently estimated at around 800, including communities that have been habituated for research purposes since the 1970s. It is also one of the most extensive and ecologically diverse forests in East Africa, with 465 plant species recorded, of which the most impressive are the giant mahoganies that stand up to 60m tall, and whose buttressed bases are often used as drums by roaming chimp. Unfortunately, however Budongo is not nearly so well developed for tourism as its closest counterpart Kibale. The tourist site at Busingiro no longer offers chimp tracking to tourists, while its counterpart at Kaniyo Pabidi now functions as an annex of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area and seems to be far less reliable for chimp sightings than Kibale National Park. That said Busingiro in particular is quite simply a great spot for birdwatching, and I’d recommend that any serious twitcher find time to explore the so-called Royal Mile near Nyabyere Forestry College – in terms of rarities and visibility, arguably the single best birdwatching site in Uganda.

Chimp tracking amongst forest giants
Overall rating

Walks here are about 3 hours and the tracks are easy to negotiate in the beautiful Budongo Forest. Your chances of seeing chimps (the main reason to come here unless you are a birder) are very high. The guides will often take you off the tracks and across country to get the best views of the chimpanzees.

The massive ironbark trees are a sight to behold, and the birdlife in the forest is both colourful and plentiful. But it’s the chimpanzees that steal the show as they frolic through the forest. They move with amazing speed and agility, and you need to be ready to dash through the forest to keep up with a family group. You have a good chance to see them at ground level because even though they feed and sleep in the trees, they come down to groom and chill out (and if you’re lucky pose prettily for pictures).

Chimpanzees en route to Murchison Falls
Overall rating

Budongo Forest can easily be visited en route to Murchison Falls National Park. In fact, the road to Murchison runs through the forest. The main activity here is chimp tracking. We were lucky enough to see a chimp cross the road before we even reached the lodge from where chimp tracking is organized, but when we did the official chimp tracking activity, we didn’t find them. Unfortunately, this is not that unusual, and you can’t rely on sightings here as much as in Kibale Forest. Even when you don’t see the chimps, the forest is beautiful and worth a stop-over in any case. This is also a birding hotspot and walking on the main road, which is actually the best way to see birds in the canopy, is permitted at all times (as opposed to chimp tracking which is a set activity). The accommodation is in rustic chalets.

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  • 3.0/5
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