Mabira Forest – Visit for nature walks, ziplining, birdwatching
Established in 1900s, Mabira Forest Reserve is a natural tropical rainforest found in the central region of Uganda. Mabira, coined by the natives from a local term “amabira” which translates as “a big forest”, is the biggest forest in this region of Uganda covering an area of 306 square kilometers. BBC
Mabira Forest is located along the Kampala – Jinja highway in Buikwe District, about one and half hour’s drive from the capital Kampala City and 30 minutes from Jinja City farther east. It is very easy to reach from Kampala and is one of Uganda’s top forest attractions. Mabira forest is a destination perfect for nature lovers looking for a day or short trip in Uganda to experience the African jungle and get upclose with nature and for forest bathing.
Wildlife of Mabira Forest
Mabira Forest is predominantly a secondary forest that has grown for more than 100 years with minimal disturbance hence accumulating an impressive diversity of wildlife which include: 312 species of trees and shrubs and some of the shrubs have been discovered to be unique to Mabira forest and not found anywhere else. It is home to 316 bird species, 219 butterflies, 97 moths and 35 species of small mammals such as Duikers, Bushbucks, Squirrels, Red-tailed Monkeys, and the Uganda Mangabey a primate which is found only in Uganda.
Inspire African Safaris offers many different tour packages such as Gorilla & Chimpanzee Tracking,Nature walks,Wildlife Safaris,Hiking Safaris
Mabira Forest is also an important water catchment area and has some rivers that flow into Lake Victoria – Africa’s biggest lake.
Things to do in Mabira Forest
Birding in Mabira Forest
Mabira Forest is a top destination for Uganda birding tours, a hotspot of forest birds that you cannot miss to visit if you are looking to tick off as many forest birds as possible. Being it located near Kampala you can easily visit the forest for a day or two of birding, or have it as one of your first birding spots on your multiday birding vacation in Uganda. For a multiday birding vacation you can include Mabira as the second birding destination on your itinerary right after the Mabamba wetlands where you will have ticked off the Shoebill and other wetland specials.
Mabira forest bird list stands at about 316 species. There are 74 species of the Guinea – Congo Forests biome out of the total 144 recorded in Uganda.
Mabira forest main birding trails
There are a number of village tracks where you can walk and bird the forest but most of them have a lot of human traffic which distracts so much. Below are areas of Mabira forest where you can have comfortable birding with minimal or no distractions.
Mabira Eco tourism center
This is the headquarters of the management of Mabira forest. An excellent trail network starts from the clearing around the reception area, to the campsite and on into the forest interior. This area of Mabira forest is especially great for spotting lower strata and ground species. The large clearing at the campsite offers wide views into the undergrowth where the lower strata species can be seen hoping between shrubs or shying away behind vines and branches such as the Green-tailed Bristlebill, Brown-chested Alethe, Red-headed Bluebill. If you stand quietly in one corner of the camping grounds you will see species coming out to forage in the open camping grounds. E.g. Forest Robin, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, African thrush, Brown-chested Alethe, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, etc..
Other common species of this trail include Red-headed Malimbe, Red-bellied Paradise-flycatcher, Honeyguide Greenbul, White-throated Greenbul, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Olive Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, African Pied Hornbill, Vanga Flycatcher, Western Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-crested Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, etc…
Road to Rainforest Lodge and lodge ground
This 2 km dirt road off the Kampala – Jinja way at Najjembe roadside market going to the Rainforest lLodge offers great views into the mid strata and upper strata of the forest. Lots of the birds come to feed at the edge of the forest when the light is out so a great trail to bird after the Mabira Forest Eco Tourism Center.
Unlike many such dirt tracks you may find goring through Mabira this one does not have a lot of traffic from motorcycles and people and so you will have spells of quiet and uninterrupted birdwatching along the road. You will have a great day birding as you watch barbets, woodpeckers, tinkerbirds, woodhoopoes, greenbuls, hornbills, sunbirds, etc
Towards the turn off to the rainforest (about 100+ meters before) you will find a big track that breaks off into the forest (on your right), you can take this and immerse yourself in the forest and you will add more barbets and woodpeckers to your list. It is quiet part off the road so you will most likely be alone or may hear loggers cutting down trees. This part of the forest is heavily deforested and you can notice it is not dark like other parts of the forest.
Later you continue to the rainforest lodge and bird the trails around the lodge.
Common species of this trail to expect include: Little Greenbul, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Speckled Tinkerbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, African Pied Hornbill, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Forest Woodhoopoe, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, African Shrike-flycatcher, Narina Trogon, etc…
Other forest specials to look for in Mabira forest include: Uganda Woodland Warbler, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Black-billed Turaco, African Grey Parrot, etc…
Nature Walk and Forest bathing in Mabira Forest
Mabira forest has well established trail networks in 3 different areas of the forest where you can do a nature walk and discover the amazing nature in this beautiful jungle. Experience tranquility as you walk under the canopies in what can be termed as forest bathing. Do you know forest bathing is said to drastically enhance immunity? What better activity to do during this covid era than take a walk in Mabira Forest…
On your walk you will see an array of wildlife including different types of monkeys, beautiful butterflies, squirrels, and birds. Observe different types of trees and shrubs and learn about some special ones like those possessing medicinal properties such as Warbhugia Ugandenesis that has anti-viral properties and is one of the ingredients Prof. Patrick Ogwang used in inventing a popular local covid 19 herbal therapeutic concoction called Covidex.
Mabira is a water catchment contributing to streams and rivers that flow into Lake Victoria, and the nature walk is a great opportunity to learn how this phenomenon comes about.
Where to do the nature walk in Mabira forest
The main and most accessible area for a nature walk in Mabira forest is the Mabira Eco Tourism Center at Najjembe. This is great option if you just want a nature walk in Mabira as the only activity because you will see a lot. It is perfect for those on a day trip to Jinja and will be stopping over in Mabira forest for a nature walk. The area offers great sighting of the Mangabeys during certain seasons. There are also lots of Red-tailed Monkeys.
The Rainforest Lodge near Najjembe is equally accessible. The lodge has a good trail network where day and overnight visitors to the lodge can explore the trails and discover what Mabira possesses.
Griffin Falls Camp is another area where you can do a beautiful nature walk in Mabira forest. Unlike the other two areas above this one is not so accessible, located in a different area. The nature walk at Griffin Falls is often done in combination with the Zip Line adventure which is offered by Griffin Falls Camp. Therefore if you plan to do a nature walk in Mabira and the Zipi Line, best to do the nature walk at Griffin Falls as well.
Mangabey monkey tracking in Mabira forest
Mabira Forest is home to the Uganda Mangabey a species of monkeys which is found only in Uganda. Mabira forest offers the best chance to see the Uganda Mangabey and one troop has been habituated for tracking. These monkeys may also be seen during the normal forest walk, however for better chances of seeing them up close you can book a mangabey tracking experience where you join a forest guide and track them down and spend an hour observing them.
Ziplining in Mabira forest
This thrilling adventure offers access to the forest canopy and its inhabitants such as birds, monkeys, squirrels and other elements that are rather elusive while on ground. Once on the zipline the feeling of being high up in the trees, smelling the unfamiliar scents from the trees and seeing all the green around as you glide along is wonderful to experience!
Mountain Biking in Mabira forest
Mabira Forest is an excellent destination for mountain biking adventures, through the forest’s trail network.
Picnic in Mabira forest
There are neat well maintained picnic grounds in the forest for one to enjoy a meal in the peaceful and tranquil natural environment, and yet still have a chance to have a glimpse at some wildlife such as the monkeys, squirrels and several birds.