Bird watching adventure in Mabira forest reserve : Mabira forest is one of the largest dense rainforest forests in Uganda found in the District of Buikwe, between Jinja and Lugazi. The forest reserve is situated about 20 Kilometres away from Jinja and about 54 Kilometres from Kampala. Mabira forest covers an area of about 120 square miles and is home to about 311 tree species with the forest centre containing many ancient trees many of which are over 70 years old. The outer part of the forest consists of trees which are about 25 years old, a result of illegal logging and clearings from communities living outside the forest. Before Mabira forest became isolated in the late 1800’s, the forest 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. Mabira forest is also home to about 219 butterfly species, and about 316 bird species some of which include; Nahan’s Francolin and Papyrus Gonolek. 79 species of the birds in Mabira forest can only be found in Central Africa. Some of the animals found include; 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. Mabira forest is an important water catchment area serving many streams and other water bodies like River Nile, Lake Kyoga, River Ssezibwa and Lake Victoria. The Buganda people who are the dominant tribe around Mabira forest consider the forest to be of great cultural and historical significance that is the Buganda gods of food and rain are 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 neighbouring 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, Bird watching adventure in Mabira forest reserve.
Mabira forest is one of the best destination for Eco-tourism and some tourist come to Uganda primarily to visit forests for its eco-diversity system. 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. Below are some of the things visitors can do when they visit Mabira forest;
Birding in Mabira forest
Once you get to the starting point, your guide will be there to give you a quick briefing before you can hit the jungle and start searching for all kinds of birds. A well trained guide will help you identify the birds that you may be lucky to see and if you are a keen bird watcher, you may be able to see more than 200 different birds in just this one day. Some of the birds that you can expect include the Black and-white Casqued Hornbill which is a very common bird. Some of the birds includes;
The Forest Wood Hoopoe
The Yellow White-eye
The Hairy Breasted Barbet
The Bockages Shrike
The Tambourine Dove
The Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher
The African Harrier Hawk
The Speckled Tinker bird
The Great Blue Turaco
The Black-and-white Mannikin
The Chestnut Wattle-eye
The Superb Sunbird, African Grey Parrot
The Jameson’s Wattle-eye
The African Shrike Flycatcher
The Red-headed Malimbe
The Velvet-mantled Drongo and
Black-billed Turaco, among others. You will be able to see more than 30 bird species in just 3 hours.
After your bird watching experience, you can choose to visit other bird watching sites from the nearby locations for example, there is the Sezibwa Falls which is also a place for a great bird watching safari, and alternatively you can visit Kasenge Forest Reserve do bird watching from there and you will realize that these forests have a number of similar bird species.
It is import to know that there are birds that fly high up above the canopy and that means that such birds can’t easily be seen from the ground level during the bird watching adventure. There are also some birds that are easily seen in those places like Kasenge than in mabira.
At the end of the day, you will drive back to Kampala and the guide/ driver will drop you any place of convenience within Kampala thus the end of this one-day bird watching safari to Mabira forest.