Mabira Forest – Visit for nature walks, ziplining, birdwatching

mabira forest reserve

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.

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.

red tailed monkey at Mabira Forest Reserve

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.

Camping in Mabira

Camping is available in certain spots of the forest including the main at the Eco-tourism Center and at Griffin Falls.

Where to stay in Mabira forest

Rainforest Lodge

rainforest lodge mabira

If you want to experience nature but love your comfort, then the Rainforest Lodge is your choice in Mabira Forest reserve. This is a 4-star upmarket lodge in the middle of a jungle.

The lodge has nicely furnished and spacious cottages tucked away in different spots under the thick forest giving you maximum privacy & tranquility (only disturbed by the beautiful sounds of wildlife), and well placed to give you nice views into the forest. The lodge also has a swimming pool, experience what swimming in the middle of a rainforest feels like; observing monkeys and listening to singing of birds while relaxing or taking a swim in the cool pool waters. Other amenities include a lounge area, bar, restaurant, and well maintained forest trails to adventure in Mabira.

Location: The lodge is only 2km off the Kampala – Jinja highway at Najjembe market. This location also means you are close to the Mabira Forest Eco tourism center which is situated opposite on the other side of the highway, hence forest activities such as mangabey tracking, nature walks, and birding are within easy reach.

Mabira Forest Eco-tourism Center – cabins & camping

Cabins: Mabira Forest headquarters at the eco-tourism center provides very affordable lodging in private wooden cabins/bandas set up near the trails. If you want to immerse yourself in nature, the cabins are perfectly situated in the thick undergrowth under the canopies of the towering trees. From the cabins you watch mangabeys and monkeys swinging by, hear and see different species of birds calling throughout the day, observe butterflies, squirrels, etc… At night you will feel one with nature as you sleep to peculiar sounds of jungle.

The cabins are not self-contained, having toilets located outside the cabins.

Camping: There are also camping grounds set up in nice hideouts near the trails so you can pitch your own tent.

Staying at the Mabira Eco-tourism Center is perfect for birders (who don’t mind budget) as you have a chance to catch elusive ground and undergrowth species which show up early in the morning such as Alethes, Bristlebils, Robin-chats,  Bluebills, etc…

Location: Mabira Forest Eco-tourism Center is located a few meters from the Kampala – Highway at the Najjembe roadside market

Griffins Falls camp

This is a budget lodging in Mabira forest. It located at the area of Mabira forest where ziplining is done

Book our tours to visit Mabira Forest

1 days Jinja tour with visit to Mabira forest

2 days Sipi falls hike and Jinja tour with visit to Mabira forest

3 days ultimate outdoor adventures Uganda tour

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