Budongo forest is listed as Uganda’s only extensive natural forest with a large number of tropical trees. It is located in the northern part of Murchison Falls national park and therefore an extension of Murchison Falls conservation area. Majority of tree species here are hardwood and because the forest is located in the tropics, trees grow to an imaginable height denying the lower grounds to access sunlight.
This in turn brings up the growth of so many creeping plants that grow around the tree trunks and branches in order to have access to sunlight which is important in their making of food and survival. Budongo forest is neighbored by Lake Albert to which some of the streams from the forest pour their waters.
Some of the commonly known tree species in this forest are Mvule, Mahogany, and other rainforest trees. The forest cover is composed of trees that have massive buttress roots that are important in supporting the heavy weight of these trees. The trees here also grow canopies as one of the major characteristics of tropical rainforests.
By far and large, Budongo Forest is famous for its habituated troops of chimpanzees which brings in so many tourists, yearning to take part in chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation experiences. The forest has had its fair share of challenges including encroachment on forest lands by the local people in the vicinity searching for more agriculture land, and also those who seek to acquire hardwood timber from this forest. Because of this, the government of Republic of Uganda has pushed for conservation activities through National Forestry Authority, which works hand-in-hand with one of the major conservation agencies located near the forest, known as Budongo Conservation Field Station. It has been pivotal in making sure that it expedites conservation education to the local people and most importantly carrying out research on better ways of making sure that the forest is conserved. It's also important to note that it seeks to preserve wildlife in the forest.
Budongo Forest is one of the major birding destinations in Uganda and the prospective birding tourists should therefore look out for it when they come into the country. The forest has a range of bird species, some of which endemic species, and others migratory birds that come from the far lands of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and also those that are attracted because of the rift valley and surrounding water bodies such as Lake Edward, Lake George, and Lake Albert which is the closest water body near this forest. The birds are also attracted because of the Murchison falls that are equally a neighbor to this forest.
Budongo forest is special for tourists who look out for birding because of its two endemic bird species that cannot be easily be found anywhere else in Uganda. Of these, is the Puval’s Illadopses. It’s an extremely rare bird and majority of the tourists that have come across it get amazed by its beauty. Others include White-thighed hornbill, Smithornis Rufolateralis, Yellow-footed flycatcher, African dwarf kingfisher, Brown twin-spot, Batis Ituriensis, Chestnut capped flycatcher, Crested guinea fowl, Grey-headed sunbird, Neafrapus cassini, Little green sunbird, and many more. The scenic bird watching sites in this forest are Sonso, Royal mile which is found in Busingiro, and the one at Kaniyo Pabidi. There’s over 115 kilometers for the tourists to trail these sites while enjoying the scenery.
The best time to visit this forest for the birding experience is in the months of September, October, November and then in the months of December, January, and finally February. During those months, there is a dry season which spans for a long time. The dry season creates a very conducive tourism environment, with the beaming sunlight that comes along with it. Therefore, tourists are advised to take advantage of this period.
Apart from birding, the tourists should also expect to encounter chimpanzee tracking as one of the major tourist activities in the forest. Another activity is the beautiful nature walks for those that may be interested. As a point of advice, a tourist is recommended to carry a camera, whose importance cannot be overemphasized, and a pair of binoculars. While at Budongo forest, there’s also some accommodation facilities such as Budongo Eco, Pakuba, and Para lodges, among others. The forest can be accessed through road transportation. From Kampala, the journey can take an average of about 3-4 hours. Interested tourists can opt for air transport. A chartered plane can be accessed from Kajjansi Airstrip, or Entebbe International Airport. The landing is on the airstrip at Pakuba. The airlift is fast as it can take about 1½ hours.