Lazarus Forest Luwero– Bethany Land Institute – great birding near Kampala

Lazarus forest is 612 acres of natural forest being restored, found in Luwero District just outside Kampala City District. The Lazarus’ Forest is a program under the Bethany Land Institute (BLI), a catholic church founded institute, that started the restoration of the forest as a learning center for ecological education and reafforestation. The BLI are ‘resurrecting’ the only surviving forest in Luwero District, naming it after the Biblical Lazarus who was resurrected from the dead by Jesus Christ.

Lazarus Forest is a secondary forest that is characterized by a thick undergrowth of recently planted trees and many shrubs growing among tall mature trees. It is a diverse forest with many species of trees and shrubs, and more trees species are being introduced on a regular basis. Only local tree species are planted in the forest.

A variety of wildlife are finding refugee in this forest and are blossoming. Monkeys, lizards, squirrels, snakes, butterflies and plenty of birds.

BLI has availed Lazarus Forest and environs for birding and it is a nice place to include in your birding tour in Uganda for twitchers planning a birding holiday in Uganda. It is also a perfect place for a one day birding excursion from Kampala for birders who have just a day and want to see some local birds in Uganda.

Lazarus Forest & Bethany Land Institute – more than just forest birding

The forest being restored is the highlighted habitat, but there is excellent birding outside the forest in woodlands, gardens, grassland, bushes & thickets, and even swamp. It is not easy finding a place near Kampala where you can go birding comfortably, to look for the sought-after and common birds of the bushland, woodlands and garden; such as cuckoos, doves, pigeons, tinkerbirds, pipits, weavers, bush-shrikes, cisticolas, sunbirds, woodpeckers, etc… This place is simply a gem, with good trails that take you through various habitats all under the institute and with minimal disturbance, you will tick off a good number of bird species. Perhaps it cannot be compared to the accomplished forest birding destinations that are not far from Kampala such as Mabira Forest, but the extra habitats around Lazarus forest and a good trail with few onlookers make it a perfect place if you are interested in ticking off as many local birds as possible while on birding on foot.

Most of the productive birding is outside the forest in the bushlands and gardens, and at the edge of the forest. The interior of the forest is not so productive at the moment due to a thick undergrowth.

On a good you day you will record more than 100 species including several lifers!

Below is a bird list from a previous half day birding excursion from the area:

Red-eyed Dove

Blue-spotted Wood-dove

African Green Pigeon

Eastern Plantain-eater

Blue Malkoha

Diederik Cuckoo

Red-chested Cuckoo


Cattle Egret

Hadada Ibis

African Harrier Hawk

Palmnut Vulture

Long-crested Eagle

Lizard Buzzard

Speckled Mousebird

Crowned Hornbill

Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill

African Pygmy Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher

Striped Kingfisher

Broad-billed Roller

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

Lesser Honeyguide

Speckle-breasted Woodpecker

African Grey Woodpecker

Nubian Woodpecker

Eurasian Kestrel

Red-headed Lovebird

Meyer’s Parrot

Black Cuckoo-shrike

Grey-headed Tchagra

Tropical Boubou

Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike

Mackinnon’s Shrike


African Blue-flycatcher

White-chined Prinia

Green-backed Camaroptera

Tawny-flanked Prinia

Red-faced Cisticola

Winding Cisticola

White-headed Sawing

Little Greenbul

Common Bulbul

Ruppel’s Starling

Splendid Starling

African Thrush

Northern Black-flycatcher

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Olive-bellied Sunbird

Green-throated Sunbird

Black-necked Weaver

Spectacled Weaver

Vieillot’s Weaver

Village Weaver

Golden-backed Weaver

Compact Weaver

Black Bishop

Grosbeak Weaver

Bronze Mannikin

Black-and-white Mannikin

Black-crowned Waxbill

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu

Brown Twinspot

Red-billed Firefinch

Pin-tailed Whydah

Northern Gray-headed Sparrow

African Pipit

Yellow-fronted Canary

At the end of the birding at Lazarus Forest, participants are each given a tree to plant and contribute to the reforestation efforts of institute.

How to get to Lazarus Forest and Bethany Land Institute

The forest and institute are found in Nandere village, near Bombo in Luwero District. You drive out of Kampala taking the Kampala – Gulu highway, for about 30 – 40 minutes and branch off at Kalule trading center to Nandere.

The drive from Kampala to Nandere is about 1 hour or less depending on the traffic situation, hence you have to leave Kampala by 6am so that by 7am you are already on the birding trail.

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