Mabira forest is a renowned natural forest found along the Kampala – Jinja highway. It is 54 km from Kampala the capital city of Uganda and 20 km from Jinja town. Mabira forest is found in Buikwe district and lies on quite vast land of about 300 sq.km. The forest was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 and it is under the watch care of Uganda’s national forestry authority (NFA); it is the government body in charge of forest conservation in Uganda. The visitor center of the forest is located at najjembe village about 500m northwards from the main highway road. The sign post on the road side, left side if from Kampala, is easy for you to show your direction to the visitor center of mabira forest reserve.
Biodiversity of Mabira Forest
Despite the illegal deforestation in mabira forest which has led to destruction of wildlife habitats, mabira forest is still a home to many forest inhabitants like, bird species, insects and a lot of primates like monkeys. Mabira forest is a natural bio diverse habitat with over 312 species of trees, some of which are endangered species such as cordia millenii, malilia excelsa, warburgia ugandensis which is famous for its medicinal purposes.
The forest is also an awesome destination for birders; mabira forest is a home for over 315 species of birds for example, cassin’s hawk eagle, nahan’s francolin, the forest wood hoopoe, the purple throated cuckoo, tit hylia, black bellied seed cracker, the red headed blue bill, and the shining blue kingfisher et cetera. Mabira forest is still a secret haven for the a lot of beautiful creatures like insects such as butterflies (about 218 recorded species), 97 moth species, 23 small mammal species (mostly the monkeys) and the spectacular griffin falls.
Activities done in Mabira Forest Reserve
The common activities done in mabira forest are, birding and nature walks. Birding in mabira forest reserve does not only give you a chance to spot a lot of bird species that fill the forest with distinctive tweets which fill the forest with a true rhythm of nature, you can also enjoy watching the butterflies in the skies and landing gently on the several flowering tree species in the forest, mabira forest reserve is a true beauty of nature.
Picnics are also very interesting in mabira forest. The natural setting of the forest brings out the true and realest definition of a picnic. Mabira forest has a beautifully prepared area for picnics, you and your friends or even family can chose to go and enjoy the tranquil surrounding at the visitor center. The picnic area is surrounded with views of the beautiful flowering trees; they attract a wide range of butterfly species. The birding can even start right on during your picnic, you can spot a number of exotic birds and red monkeys in the nearby trees, and you got to be careful here with your lunch.
Camping is awesome in mabira forest; the camping site is set in a natural area of the forest glades. The campsite is big enough to accommodate up to 12 tents for campers. The campsite is also well equipped with camping facilities like the campfire area, picnic table to allow you enjoy the self-catering during your group camping time. The camping ground has a wide large grass thatched camping shelter, all this is to make you camping epic as you want it to be and more.
Nature walks and Birding trails
- The picnic trail is the commonest among the visitors to the forest. The picnic trail starts from the picnic area at the visitor center and meanders around through the forest with spectacular sites of the forest streams. It is a 15- 20 minutes’ walk into the forest; you can either have a self-guided nature walk into the forest or have a guide to help you explain different tree species, sights and sounds of mabira forest.
- Forest trail is another interesting journey to exploring mabira forest and its unique features. The forest rail gives you access to the primary forest of mabira and then to the secondary forest where you can see a lot of monkeys and a number of trees and birds. The forest trail is designed to suite all age brackets, even children.
- Grassland trails are always fantastic for the keen birders; it gives the birders good sighting of a number of forest birds. It is a three kilometers trail, you can enjoy the grassland trail loop for about 1- 3 hours depending on the sightings of the birds. The grassland trail loop offers good views into the spaced forest canopies with a lot of forest fruiting trees which attract a lot of monkeys in the area and birds as well. It is a way marked hike that you can trek it alone and still find the way back to the visitor center or the camp site.
- The radio hill trail network will give you a more jungle experience. The radio hill trail is connected by a number of other trails. The climb up on the hill gives you a panoramic of the northern part of mabira forest reserve. The radio hill trail gives you a real jungle experience with all the epic moments you expect.
- The other trails that can help you explore mabira forest include; buwoolo pond trail good for birding, cycling routes, butterfly viewing trail among other trails with much more forest excitements.
You can visit mabira forest any time of the year, however, different activities in mabira forest are best done in particular period of the year, for example, camping and picnics are better in the dry season, that is, December to February. Despite, you can still do all the hiking and nature walks in mabira, but always remember to carry boots, insect repellants, binoculars, huts and raincoats if you chose to visit in the wet season. Mabira forest has a few Bandas near to the visitor center, so you don’t have to worry about a thing, you can stay for long as you can. Alternatively you can do a self-camping in the camp site.
The forest hiking and nature walk journey is a relaxing one with sightings of birds, the cool tropical shadowy surrounding, and tweets from the numerous forest birds, swashing of the forest, a number of forest streams with butterflies, gigantic tree species with python like twisted stems and the chattering of monkeys swinging from on tree to another high in the tall tree canopies. This is the real experience of the African jungle you do not want to miss out.