Birding in Mpanga Forest Reserve

Birding in Mpanga Forest Reserve: The Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is located near Mpambire Village on the Kampala Masaka Highway in Uganda’s Mpigi region, 37 km southwest of Kampala City. It is the nearest natural forest to Kampala, the country’s capital, and one of Uganda’s smaller equatorial rainforests. This amazing forest covers 453 hectares, or 1,120 acres. This forest reserve was first gazetted in 1950 and subsequently in 1953, when it was utilised as a location for scientific research. You may spend the day birdwatching in the forest reserve, which is home to over 500 species of trees and bushes, including some that are said to be 100 years old. There are also 97 butterflies, 112 moths, and 300 different species of birds that have been recorded there.

A day trip to the Mpanga Forest Reserve is well worth it if you love the outdoors and want to see the many forest species and great places to go birdwatching. The reserve has a lot to offer, although its fauna is not as varied as that of huge forests in Uganda’s far west. For the greatest Forest Exploration, lace up your hiking boots, grab your bike, and head into the peaceful, beautiful forest. You can prolong your stay by walking or riding up to the nearby villages, where you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the region when you reach the plateau.  This location is perfect for a quick tour of Kampala City as well as longer excursions that include trekking and camping!

Is Mpanga Forest worth it?

One of Uganda’s best places for birdwatching is Mpanga Forest Reserve, which is conveniently accessible even from Kampala. Once you enter the walking track, there are plenty of birds to pique your interest. The well-maintained trail leads from the woodland to a creek where shoebills can be found, and it also gives hikers a chance to see some aquatic life. During your nearly three-hour birding excursion, you will get to see some of the fifty bird species that are well recognised to call this amazing woodland home. Additionally, because the trail is good, you may go birding in the Mpanga forest alone and not worry about getting lost.

If not, there is a local site guide who is knowledgeable about every species that lives here, even their calls! The more well-known Mabira Forest Reserve is another excellent location for birdwatching, offering easy access to forest species and a full day of birding from Kampala. It should be noted that marsh water birding and woodland birding in Mpanga woodland can be integrated into one day’s activities. The Mabamba Swamp Birding Tour is well-known for its Shoebills and excellent for waterfowl, and it takes only 30 minutes to get from one location to the other. Compared to extremely dense woodlands like Budongo Forest Reserve, birding is simpler in Mpanga Forest Reserve. Since this is a guided tour, make sure your guide is familiar with the calls and can mimic them.

Bird Species found in Mpanga Forest Reserve

The Hairy-breasted Barbet

Some of the notable bird species harboured by the forest include the Long-tailed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Black-headed Heron, Purple Heron, Hadada ibis, Egyptian Goose, Black Kite, Lizard buzzard, Yellow Bill and African Palm Swift, Hamerkop, Sacred Ibis, African Harrier-Hawk, and other notable birds that can be seen in Mpanga Central Forest Reserve while taking nature walks in the forest. African Green Pigeon, African Pied Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Black-and-White-Casqued Hornbill, Yellow-Throated Tinkerbird, Hairy-Breasted Barbet, Speckled Mousebird, Grey Parrot, Great Blue Turaco, White-Spotted Flufftail, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-Throated Longclaw, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Western Nicator, Red-tailed Greenbul, White-throated Greenbul, Buff-Spotted Woodpecker, Brown-Eared Woodpecker, Buff-throated Apalis, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Pale-Breasted Illadopsis, Yellow White-Eye, Olive Sunbird, Scarlet-Chested Sunbird, Grosbeak Weaver, Compact Weaver, Weyn’s Weaver, Red-Headed Malimbe, Grey-Headed Negrofinch, White-Breasted Black Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Lead-Coloured Flycatcher, Cedar Wattle-Eye, Red-Bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, among others.

Forest Walks:

The characteristics on day or night tours and guided walks through Mpanga Forest Reserve provide guests with the chance to discover the amazing hidden gems of the forest while taking in the natural surroundings and the refreshing weather beneath the forest canopy. The Mpanga Eco-Tourism Centre was founded in 1999 and leads these walks. As a result, you will be able to see an innumerable number of trees, monkeys, butterflies, and a variety of vibrant birds. You may also see nocturnal animals, particularly if you are one of the tourists who spends the night in the vicinity of the forest reserve. Established in 1999, the Mpanga Ecotourism Centre is primarily responsible for leading the woodland walk.

Walking Forest Trails in Mpanga Forest Reserve

In order to best accommodate forest activities like nature walks and forest exploration, bird watching and identification, primate watching, butterfly identification, walk racing, dirt biking, mountain biking, hiking, running, and camping, forest trails are well-developed, well-maintained, and divided into three main routings: The Baseline Trail, the Hornbill Trail, and the Butterfly Trail.

Walking Forest Trails: The Baseline Trail, the Butterfly Trail, and the Hornbill Trail are the three primary paths for exploring the Mpanga forest. The Forest Trails are well-maintained, well-developed, and accessible. These primarily provide amazing opportunities to interact with monkeys, common forest birds, and a variety of plant species. Mpanga Forest offers a range of walks that can last anything from fifteen minutes to several hours. Among the Forest Trails Are:

The Base Line Trail

Its a broad, level track that is three kilometres long and crosses Mpanga without deviation. It terminates at the western boundary of the forest, near the Nakyetema papyrus swamp. Simply place your head in the trees to take in the breathtaking vistas of the forest canopy without worrying about where you are walking. Enjoy some of the most spectacular trees in the forest on this gently rolling walk that crosses two streams and gently rises. It is also a great spot to see clouds of butterflies that gather in the trail’s sunny clearings. By turning around and riding through nearby communities and dirt roads, this trail can be utilised for mountain biking.

The Butterfly Loop

This one-kilometer twisting jungle track is ideal for those looking for a quick adventure who do not mind periodically climbing over logs and hiding behind thick tangles of vegetation that blanket the forest, which is home to a variety of animals and vegetation kinds.  Leopards are occasionally spotted on this trail, but bush babies are the most prevalent animals there. A walk along this trail takes about thirty minutes.

The Hornbill Trail

This unique woodland trail is a 5-kilometer circle that goes right through the centre of the forest. It offers challenging terrain across modest slopes and along the streamside, similar to the butterfly loop. Halfway through the trail, keep an eye out for the “tree root arch.” The hike takes about three hours, but if you are fatigued, you can combine it with shortcuts to the Base Line trail.  Savour breathtaking views of rolling hills, streams in the forest, buttresses, fungi, root systems, Monkeys, Butterflies, Snakes, and many other creatures. Additionally, be wary with timid Snakes, such as a drowsy python. This trail is approximately 5 kilometres long, and a walk on it typically takes 3 hours.

Other Activities in Mpanga Forest Reserve

One of the forest nature walks in Mpanga Central Forest Reserve

The woodland is home to three different types of monkeys: Vervet, red-tailed, Black-and-White colobus Monkeys. Additionally, there are a number of small mammals, such as Pangolins, Pottos, Squirrels, Banded Mongoose, and Bush babies. You may have a chance of seeing the uncommon nocturnal pottos and bush babies if you spend the night in Mpanga Forest. There are other mammals found in Mpanga, such as flying Squirrels, Red-tailed Monkeys, and Bushbucks.

The hardy, weather-resistant Celtis tree species is the most common species in Mpanga Forest.  The unpleasant, hard Celtis trees have greatly prevented the Mpanga Forest from being exploited by the traditional drummers who live around it. The drum makers search for soft trees that are suited for creating drums. Nonetheless, the communities continue to rely on the forest for charcoal, firewood, and medicinal plants.

Night Walks

This is primarily for tourists to see the uncommon nocturnal pottos and bush babies that feed at night, as well as for people who simply wish to take a nighttime stroll to experience the nighttime jungle.

Camping

It is a good place to go camping with friends and family for nature walks, bird watching, a night campfire listening to music, and sharing barbecue stories about your Uganda adventure trips. The place is a must-go for people who love camping.

Guided tours

For those who want to visit more isolated areas of the forest or learn more about it, local guides are available. There are excellent walking options through traditional Ugandan villages and farming areas thanks to the forest’s strong connections to the neighbouring rural areas. Certain routes provide waymarks for those who are travelling alone. Situated approximately one kilometre away from the ecotourism centre and the Nakibinge are Kiganda shrines, accessible through guided walks.

Hill climbing

Visitors can also take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and forest of the flat-topped hills.

Biking

Get your bike and head into this beautiful woodland for the ultimate woodland Exploration. You may take in the breathtaking vista of the region by riding up to the nearby settlements. It is possible to cycle to the Mpanga Forest Cycling Tour from Entebbe or Kampala.

Shopping for souvenirs

Explore the neighbourhood markets and go shopping at the Mpambire trading region, a village known for producing royal drums. You can purchase native tools, drums, baskets, carpets, and a variety of other handcrafted items here. Since ancient times, drums have played a vital role in African rural civilizations as a means of communication. Many African tribes have also employed drums as musical instruments for pleasure. The majority of the tree species used to make drums are found in the Mpanga Forest Reserve.

Leisure Activities

For those who are not yet ready for the forest, there are additional leisure options available: Community-led activities in SDG Village. An SDG model village is being implemented by the Climate Smart Youth Activities Network (CSYAN), an NGO, as a community-led effort to promote climate-smart activities along the forest boundaries. During the lockdown in 2020, Peniel Rwendeire, the technical advisor for CSAYN, identified this need and has been enlisting many parties to support the endeavour. Visit http://www.csyan.org/. These recreational pursuits include volleyball, board games, campfires, photography, and videography, in addition to silent discos. Enjoy a delicious meal, unwind, and have fun at Taza Café.

How do I access Mpanga Forest Reserve?

By Road:

The Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is conveniently placed 60 minutes’ drive from the capital Kampala on the main Kampala-Masaka Highway, which is 37 km in length. After arriving in Mpigi Town, drive 1 km off the main road to the Eco-tourism centre location. From there, take a dirt road to the Mpanga Central Forest Reserve, where you may either walk or take a boda boda (motorbike ride) into the forest. Tours of the forest are available for both day trips and overnight stays, and all guests to the reserve are welcomed at the Mpanga ecotourism centre.

Be aware that there is a 10,000 (Ten Thousand Uganda Shillings) mandatory entrance price per person, an extra 10,000 (Ten Thousand Uganda Shillings) for a forest walk, and a 10,000 (Ten Thousand Uganda Shillings) per person camping fee for the camp ground.

Accommodation and where to stay in Mpanga Forest Reserve

There is a self-contained duplex, a double room on the main office block that can hold 12 guests at a time, and one tourist Banda at the Visitor Reception Centre in Mpanga, which is run by the National Forestry Authority. There are bug nets in the rooms.

Mpanga Ecotourism Campsite

There are two double rooms, two twin rooms, an eight-bed dormitory, and a nice camping area. There are also meals and a campfire available. Tourists can camp at the Mpanga Forest Reserve, which has restrooms available. Every evening, campfires are built up at the location where guests gather to enjoy stories. Travellers who enjoy camping should pack everything they possibly need, including food, cutlery, tents, and other items. Additionally, there are picnic areas where visitors can eat. The town of Mpigi, which is roughly 5 kilometres from the forest reserve, also offers lodging to visitors.

Our Kampala/Entebbe day excursions, which combine the Mabamba Swamp Birding Tour and the Mpanga Forest Reserve day excursions, are a great way to start your Uganda Safari Tour.