Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Budongo Central Forest

Budongo forest reserve is located in north-western Uganda in masindi district in Uganda.

Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Budongo Central Forest

Are you looking Chimpanzee Habituation and trekking Experience in Budongo Central Forest? This reserve is situated in Masindi district in Murchison falls national park. Budongo forest reserve is the largest natural forest in Uganda having an area of 826 sq.km the forest is divided into three parts namely kaniyo pabidi, sonso and busingiro with each section having its own tourism attractions. During the 2nd word war, refugees sought shelter in this natural forest. There are 4 main rivers flowing through Budongo forest into Lake Albert namely kamirambwa, waisoke, siba and sonso. Budongo forest is famous for being a habitant of a large population of chimpanzees with mahogany trees which can grow up to 85 meters long and 25 meters wide. The forest does not only have mahogany trees but as over 470 other tree species, 4 mammal species, 300 butterfly species and 9 primates. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest is one of the most done activities followed by nature walks. The forest is a home of 600 chimpanzees. A small number of chimpanzees have been habituated and are open for tourism. Visitors here can spot chimpanzees, birds and other primates such as olive baboons, black and white monkeys, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys and red cheeked mangabeys. Because of its part of Murchison falls national park, this means that visitors have chances of seeing large mammals such as buffaloes, leopards, elephants, lions because they sometimes come to the forest. Budongo forest is also a best place for birds with over 355 bird species found in the park such as African emerald cuckoo, African pied, black and white caspued hornbills, African shrike flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, chestnut crowned eremomera, Crested Malimbe, Crowned Eagle, Dusky long-tailed Cuckoo, Forest Robin, Cassin’s honeyquide, Grey-headed Sunbird, Guinea Congo forest Biome, illadopsis puveli, Ituri Batis, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Cassin’s hawk eagle, Kingfishers, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Little Green Sunbird, Olive Green Camaroptera, Cameron somber greenbul, parmoptila woodhousei, Piping, pitta reichenowi, brown twin spot,  Puvell’s Illadopsis, Pygmy Crakes, Sabine’s Spine tail, Slender-billed Greenbul, hawk eagle, Speckled Tinker bird, Western Black-headed Oriole, White-spotted Fluff tail, Yellow and Grey Long bill, yellow footed fly catcher. Yellow-browned Camaroptera, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Yellow-manted Weaver and Yellow-spotted Barbet.

Weather in budongo forest reserve

Budongo forest reserve has two rainy season in the months of March, May, September and November and two dry season that’s is December to January. We strongly advise you to plan your chimpanzee habituation in Budongo during dry seasons of the year.

Chimpanzees are our close human relatives the fact that they share more than 98.6% of human DNA. They are very intelligent creatures and eat a variety of foods including insects, plants and fruits as well as insects and termites. Chimpanzees also consume meat from small primates whenever an opportunity arises. A fully grown male chimpanzee can weigh up to 70 kgs while female chimpanzee may reach 50 kgs. Chimpanzees can live up to 60 years in captivity and a male chimpanzee can live up to 32 years in the wilderness while a female chimpanzee lives up to 39 years. Unlike males, female chimpanzee usually leave the community they were born in to other groups once they reach adolescence stage. Like humans, chimpanzees easily adapt to different environments and learn to use new tools to get food i.e. sticks to get insects and termites as well as hard rocks to break coconuts. Because of this, chimpanzee communities have different behaviors depending on where they live.

Budongo forest is one of the few remaining areas where visitors can go see for chimpanzees in Uganda.  The first person to study chimpanzees in Budongo was late Vernon Reynolds. He was along with Adrian Cortland and Jane Goodall the first primatologists to do a complete study of chimpanzees in their natural habitat. As Uganda entered a period of political uncertainty and civil wars between 1972 and 1986, Vermon Reynolds left Uganda. He later came back in 1990 to find the chimpanzee population reduced due to uncontrolled poaching. He found out that infant chimpanzees were often sold on black market to collectors outside Africa after their mothers had been shot dead. The chimp population decreased so much that by 1990’s and less than 55 individuals were recorded in the budongo forest

A group of researchers started working in Budongo forest reserve getting funds from the Edinburgh Zoo, RZSS and other sources.  The researchers started a project called Budongo forest project which was later renamed to Budongo conservation field station merging research and conservation while setting a seal on sustainable management of budongo forest reserve. Budongo conservation and research faced many challenges when work had started. Like many of the forest reserves in the country, Budongo forest had face a problem of human encroachment from surrounding communities. Part of the forest was cut down to practice farming at the same time poachers set traps in the forest to kill antelopes and other small animals for trade meat. Many chimpanzees fell in these traps leaving their limbs and hands damaged by the snares. The people cut down a big population of mahogany trees which were acting as shelter for chimpanzees for timber and firewood. To reduce all these challenges, the Budongo forest project launched a number of activities among which included monitoring the health of chimpanzees and recording their data on a daily basis. This project has started habituating over 300 chimpanzees at the same time sensitizing the communities living close to the forest about the dangers of setting dangerous snares in the forest and advantages of the forest and the wildlife to the people.

The project ensure that the profits got from the eco-tourism are shared with the local community, they also give out goats to stop people from poaching and cutting down the forest. The ex-poachers are now volunteering and identifying where they set their last snares. Because of the good works of Budongo forest project, the population of chimpanzees is increasing and poaching has stopped.

Main Tourism Activities In Budongo Forest

Chimpanzee trekking:

This is the main activity done in Budongo forest. Budongo forest reserve is one of the places to track down chimpanzees in Uganda. Most of the trekking is done in kaniyo pabidi forest which is found in the south of Murchison falls national park. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forests begins with a briefing from the guides at the information center at Budongo eco-lodge. The forest has established trails allowing visitors to spot chimpanzees nearer as well as promotes such as monkeys and different bird species. Chimpanzee trekking at Budongo forest reserve is done in two shifts one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The morning session is the best because you have chances of finding the chimpanzees before leaving their habitats.  The chimpanzees during the dry seasons move deep in the forest in search for food and water because during this period the food is scarce so trekking them is always difficult. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest lasts 3-4 hours and you find the chimpanzees you are allowed one how with them to learn about their behavior.

For one to participate in chimpanzee trekking they must have a trekking permit which costs USD 80 cheaper than kibale national park which is USD 150, you must be free from diseases like flue, diarrhea because chimpanzees easily contract the disease. You must also be aged 15 years and above

Chimpanzee habituation experience:

This is a process of getting chimpanzees get used to human presence around them. The habituation process takes about 2 years to complete the process. In Budongo forest, visitors can take part in the chimpanzee habituation process most especially in wet season when there are less visitors to the forest. The habituation process involves following a particular group of chimpanzees, learning about their behaviors under the guidance of researchers and guides. This activity is different from chimpanzee trekking because it takes you a full day and visited are given more time to spend with the chimpanzees, feed them play with them while learning about their habits. In order to have the best chimpanzee habituation experience, you must move with good hiking boots, gloves, sun glasses, long sleeved clothes and a hat. Permits for chimpanzee habituation experience in Budongo cost USD 160

Bird watching:

Budongo forest is among the best places to go for bird watching in Uganda because there are about 360 bird species in the area. Birders move with experienced birder guides around the forest. Royal mile located within Busingiro area is the best place to spot most of the bird species in a day. The rare bird species to look for are the pitta reichenowi, guinea Congo forest-biome, yellow footed flycatcher, parmaptila woodhousei and illadopsis.

Nature walks:

Nature walks are organized in the forest and the tourists are led by the guide deep into the forest. The forest has tall mahogany tress that are about 70 years old. During the nature walk you will see a number of birds, wild animals and tree species. When you connect to the plains of Murchison falls you will see some mammals such as buffaloes, lions, elephants, leopards and warthogs among others.

Visit other parts of Murchison falls national park:

Budongo forest is part of famous Murchison falls national park. The park offers activities such as game driving, hiking to the top of the falls, spot fishing, cultural encounters, community walks among others.

How to access Budongo central forest for chimpanzee habituation.

Budongo forest reserve is located in north-western Uganda in Masindi district in Uganda. From Kampala to Budongo forest takes you about 3 hours and one can pass by Masindi forest first before going to Budongo forest.

Accommodation in Budongo forest

Budongo eco lodge:

This is a budget located within Budongo forest reserve. The lodge has a good area for relaxation and a beautiful environment. The lodge has dorm rooms constructed for a big group of people and special cabins with in the balconies. Budongo eco lodge has a good restaurant with both local and international dishes. While at Budongo eco lodge, you can engage in activities such as chimpanzee trekking, chimpanzee habituation experience in Budongo, nature walk and bird watching. Apart from budongo eco lodge, visitors can go to the nearby town in Masindi or in Murchison falls national park and for those who love camping it can be organized with in the forest reserve depending on budget and the type of accommodation.

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