Find Uganda’s largest population of Chimpanzees in Budongo Forest Reserve, Chimpanzee trekking in this large (825sqkm) virgin tropical forest on the southern fringes of Murchison Fall National Park is one of Africa’s finest. There are 800 chimps in the reserve and adjacent Kaniyo Pabidi. You can also see 366 bird species, but the huge mahogany trees are also worth a look. It’s a great add-on to your Murchison Falls National Park visit. As it’s actually part of the park, you’ll need to pay those entry fees here if engaging in activities.
Activities in the reserve are organized through Budongo Eco Lodge and while they can be booked at the lodge itself.
Chimpanzee tracking trips take place daily and you have a good chance of finding the chimps, though it’s not guaranteed. The walking is easy as the terrain is level, and walks last from two to four hours.
Once you find the chimps, you get to spend an hour with them. Trekkers must be over 15 years old.
Kaniyo Pabidi Tourist Site
This site is regarded as one of the more reliable places to track chimpanzees in Uganda with an estimated 70% chance of finding them. It’s on the main park road, 29km north of Masindi and inside the southern boundary of Murchison Falls National Park.
Kaniyo Pabidi isn’t served by public transport, but it’s possible to arrange a charter from Masindi.
These worthwhile forest walks pass through East Africa’s last remaining mahogany forest. The largest specimens are 60m tall and 300 years old. Black-and-white colobus monkeys and duikers are commonly seen. Guided walks are 2½ hours and four hours.
Those here for birdwatching usually seek puvel’s illadopsis, which isn’t known anywhere else in East Africa. Other highly sought species are the rufous-sided broadbill and white-napped pigeon.
Busingiro Tourist Site
Busingiro Tourist Site, also within Budongo and 40km west of Masindi on the Bulisa Rd, is for the birdwatchers. It’s a great place to add a yellow-footed flycatcher and African pitta to your spotting list. There used to be chimp tracks here too, but when the chimps lost their fear of humans they started raiding local farms, forcing an end to the program. The chimps are still here though, so you may get lucky and meet them.
Visitors can only go unguided along the main road. Guided walks are charged per person. Busingiro is on the route used by minibusses heading for Bulisa from Masindi.
Royal Mile has some of the country’s best birdwatching. There are some rare species, but more importantly, sightings are easy. The bird list exceeds 350 species, including several types of flycatcher, sunbird, kingfisher, hornbill, and eagle. At dusk, it’s possible to view bat hawks. Since it’s outside the national park, the only fees are for guided walks (guides required).
You’ll need your own vehicle to get to the Royal Mile. The first turn-off is 25km from Masindi, marked by the Nyabyeya Forestry College signpost, and there’s another, also with a college sign, closer to Busingiro.
There’s one ecolodge with economical dorms in the reserve; otherwise, accommodation options are plentiful at nearby Murchison Falls National Park or in Masindi.
Budongo Eco Lodge
Great value, this wooded camp has six handsome cabins and nice dorms with screen windows. There’s solar power, hot water, rainwater catchment, and eco-toilets. If you’re interested in seeing chimps, this is one of Uganda’s best-kept secrets, with excellent, personalized guiding that’s respectful of the animals. The restaurant serves good food too.