Mabira Forest is a dense rain-forest found in the District of Buikwe, between Jinja and Lugazi. It covers an area of about 120 square miles. The forest reserve is situated 20 Kilometers away from Jinja and 54 Kilometers from Kampala. Mabira is home to about 311 tree species with the forest center containing many ancient trees many of which are over 70 years old.
The outer part of the forest consist of trees which are about 25 years old – a result of illegal logging and clearings from communities living outside the forest. Before the forest became isolated in the late 1800’s, Mabira is believed to have extended without any interruption all the way to Central Africa.Mabira Forest is biologically diverse and a sanctuary to several animals and birds – some of which cannot be seen anywhere else on earth. Mabira is home to 219 butterfly species, 316 bird species and 97 of moths. Among the bird species are the Nahan’s Francolin and Papyrus Gonolek. 79 species of thebirds in Mabira can only be found in Central Africa. The forest also has blue duikers, fruit bats, baboons, Bush pigs, the Tree Hyrax, Red Tailed Monkeys, Squirrels, Bushbuck, Grey Cheeked Mangabey, Bush Babies, Leopards (very rare) and various species of snakes.
As a rain-forest, Mabira forest is an important water catchment area serving many streams and other water bodies like River Nile, River Ssezibwa, Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga. The Baganda (the dominant tribe) consider the forest of great cultural and historical significance. The Buganda god of food and rain is believed to live in Mabira forest.
The forest has always provided medicine/herbs that are used to treat all kinds of ailment among the people living in the area and beyond.
Mabira became a protected forest reserve in Uganda in 1932. Before its protection, the forest was used to extract rubber while some parts were cleared to set up coffee plantations.
As time went on and especially between 1971 and 1979, the forest resources were continually depleted due to poaching, logging and encroachment by neighboring communities.
Deforestation, encroachment and the setting up of sugar and tea plantations led to the loss of over 50 percent of the forest cover. With the return to peace in 1985, farmers illegally occupying the forest were expelled and reforestation programs aggressively implemented by the government. Apart from the Uganda government, inter-governmental organizations and other Agencies did everything possible to restore the forest and develop Eco-tourism to benefit the communities living in the outskirts of the forest.
Mabira Forest Giveaway
Mabira is surrounded by vast tea and Sugar plantations. In 2007, the government announced plans to clear about 30% of the forest to expand the sugar plantations owned the Mehta Group. Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) maintained that the expansion of the plantation would generate billions of Uganda shillings and create thousands of jobs
However, the public, politicians and environmentalists opposed this plan through massive demonstrations. The protestors feared that the forest giveaway would cost the country dearly by causing Lake Victoria to shrink hence increasing climate change, soil erosion, displacing people and leading to the extinction of many of the forests wildlife.
The Anglican church and King of Buganda even went as far as to offer alternate land if the plan was that urgent.
Key Attractions and things to do in Mabira Central Forest Reserve
Mabira forest is a favorite destination for Eco Tourist.
In fact, Mabira forest receives most of the tourist coming to Uganda primarily to visit forests. The key attractions in the forest are nature walks, cycling, birding, wildlife viewing, cultural encounters or simple relaxation and camping/picnics.
Mabira forest is also a perfect place to learn about how natural resources and threatened species can be protected.
The forest reserve can be explored using an extensive trail by foot, motorcycle or bicycle. All activities should start at the Mabira Eco-tourism Centre as you will learn from our 1 day tour of Jinja package.
Nature Walks: Nature walks in Mabira allow visitors to enjoy the tranquility and beautiful sounds of the forest You can go into the forest on your own but the best experience is when you are led by a Guide who is knowledgeable about the forest – ancient trees, butterflies, water bodies, plants, mammals and birds.
he forest trails are divided into four – the Red trail (33km), Yellow Trail (12kms), (5km) and White Trail. It is possible to complete all the trails in one day by bike but most visitors choose one or two trails for a start. Mabira has over 312 species of trees that can be spottedwhile on the Nature walk. Among the tree species include Ugandanesis, Mililia Exclesa, Cordia Millenii and Warbughia.
Mountain Biking: Instead of walking through the complex trails, one can hire a mountain bike and complete all the trails in one day. Using a mountain bike will enable you to go beyond the forest and visit the surrounding communities. You will encounter primates, birds, giant trees and people along the way.
The best bikes can be hired in Jinja but Griffin Falls camp also hires out bikes to its guests. The cost of renting a bike is about 40,000 Uganda shillings. BBC Television Centre
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