Mabira Forest

Mabira forest is a natural rain forest covering 300 square kilometres (74,000 acres) of land. It is located in Buikwe District, between Kampala and Jinja.

While it isn’t as sought after as Bwindi or Murchison Falls National park, Mabira has its own charm that you wouldn’t compare to any other. Mabira’s best advantage is that it is strategically located (by nature) between Kampala and Jinja. This makes it ideal for a day’s getaway whether you are in Kampala or Jinja.

Most people go to Mabira forest and engage in various activities before continuing on to Jinja or Kampala. A weekend Mabira retreat is a very common activity that is self-organised by people in both Kampala and Jinja.

Highlights

  • Size:300 square kilometers (120 square miles).
  • Designation Status: Forest Reserve since 1932.
  • Plant Species:312 tree species.
  • Mammal Species:23 Small mammals.
  • Bird Species:315 species
  • Butterfly Species:218 species
  • Moth Species: 97 species
  • Popular activities: Guided Nature Walks, Mountain biking, Ziplining, Bird watching, Camping and picnics, General forest exploration
  • Ownership:National Forestry Authority (Government of Uganda). Mabira forest is a natural rain forest covering 300 square kilometres (74,000 acres) of land. It is located in Buikwe District, between Kampala and Jinja. By car, it should take one about an hour from Kampala and half hour from Jinja, approximately 54 kilometres and 20 kilometres consecutively.

Mabira is among the longest conserved forests of Uganda. It has been conserved and protected since 1932. The forest is blessed with many species of animals, birds, butterflies, and trees. Mabira is a great catchment area and contributes so much to the rain of the surrounding areas – that drain in Lake Victoria and River Nile.

Like most protected areas of Uganda, Mabira faced heavy encroachment during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s when Uganda was faced with so much political instability. The efforts to restore the forest have however paid off as the encroached area has now been reclaimed and replanted with natural species of trees and shrubbery.

The troubles of the rainforest might have been reduced considerably in recent times, but they are not completely gone. Mabira’s biggest problem is illegal deforestation for charcoal burning. This is the biggest way that humans are threatening the existence of this thick and lush forest.

Tourism – both foreign and domestic, helps to raise funds that contribute toward the development of the local communities. This social development of the communities around Mabira forest helps in educate the people about the value of the forest and also reduces the pressure for resources from the forest.

Want to be surrounded by nature at its most raw, this is the right place for you to explore and engage in a few exhilarating activities.

There are quite a number of tracks and trails across the forests, taking you deeper into the wonders that it provides and inhabits. There are both guided and unguided trails. If you hope to go on a solo adventure and discover things on your own, feel free to select the unguided trail option. These trails are pre-vetted and are safe for you to take. There is not much planning necessary for visiting Mabira Forest. On a free Saturday or Sunday, a 1-hour drive from the city will have you right on time to do whatever you want and be back in time for dinner!

Best Time To Visit

The morning session starts at 8 am ending at mid-day while the afternoon session is from 1pm going up to 6 pm. Accessing the forest canopy allows you to see many of the forest creatures including birds, monkeys and squirrels.

Activities

1. Bird Watching

No need to travel halfway across Uganda to be able to do your favourite thing. The Forest is a home for over 300 bird species. It is said to have 46% of Uganda’s forest birds which is a lot more than what other forests in Uganda inhabit.

The forest also holds some rare birds like Tit Hylia, Yellow and Green long bills, Purple-throated cuckoo shrikes, Jameson’s wattle eyes among others. The Forest is home for the Nahan’s Francolin which is one of the bird species listed on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Other available birds include the Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, White-spotted Flufftail, Afep Pigeon, Grey Parrot, African Dwarf kingfisher, Green-breasted Pitta, the Forest Robin, African Pied Hornbill, Fire-crested Alethe, Cassin’s Honeyguide, Little Greenbul, Sooty Boubou, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Forest Woodhoopoe among others.

The Diphasia angolensis is a bird species that is only exclusively found in Mabira Forest and not anywhere else in the Country. This is the best convenient place to do birdwatching.

2. Mountain Biking

Why only do virtual biking in the woods in the comfort of your house yet you can experience it first hand? An opportunity to take more trails, even go as far into the communities and back, or even a little bit into the unguided trails for fun. Indulge your exploratory side!

The thrill of biking the virgin terrain, surrounded by the forest sounds (the birds, insects and other primates). This is great way to spend your day in the forest and make stops whenever you want for those photo-worthy spots.

3. Zip-Lining

This is available in two sessions. The morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session starts from 8 am -12 pm and the afternoon starts from 1 pm – 6 pm. You want to see the entire forest as you fly like a bird over the ancient trees and birds, well this is an activity you should not miss. Want to see the animals up close? Well, what better way? The Zipline stretches 250 meters across River Musanya giving you a great view of the forest.

Foreigners pay $50 and Ugandans $16 (60,000) The Zip lining machinery is kept in good condition following training from some Volunteers from the Peace Corps who helped put it up. There are skilled personnel available to help you get mentally prepared and gear up before you are set off on this amazing adventure.

4. Monkey Tracking

The key attraction in Mabira Forest is the Mangabey Monkey. One of the monkey species we have in Uganda, but the remarkable thing is this species is only found in Mabira Forest.

There are three groups that have been habituated and the tracking is led by experienced personnel who was part of the habituation. But that is not the only Monkey species you will encounter, there are the red-tailed and Vervet Monkeys.

5. Nature Walks

A walk around the forest is just what everybody needs. With the meshed trees providing the perfect shield from the sun, you can explore as many corners as you want. On the trails, you won’t miss sitting the bush-pigs, red-tailed monkeys, lots of birds and if you are lucky a leopard or two.

Feel free to turn this into a picnic day, there are grounds prepared where you can sit and grab a bite before you resume the activities in the afternoon. After an educative and exploratory walk in the evening, you are welcomed by cultural dances and other kinds of entertainment organized but the hotels and lodges in the forest. Best way to end the day.

You can find accommodation at Mabira Forest Ecotourism Center, Mabira rainforest Lodge, or Griffin Falls Camp.

6. Camping

For those of you who want to experience a night in the wild, there is an option of spending the nights in the forest. Who does not want to sleep under the stars? There are pre-selected safe grounds that can be used as camping sites.

If you hope to spend more days in the lovely forest, why not go all the way and enjoy every little spoil? Remember to carry your own sleeping tent and accompanying materials if this is the option you have chosen. You can carry a raincoat, Comfortable clothing (Tracksuits) and hiking shoes to protect you along this journey.

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