Nestled just 37 kilometers southwest of Kampala, Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is a hidden gem, one of Uganda’s smallest natural equatorial rainforests. This enchanting forest sprawls across approximately 453 hectares in Mpigi district and beckons nature enthusiasts to delve into its abundant offerings. Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is a haven for biodiversity, boasting over 500 tree species and shrubs, a thriving population of 300 bird species, 97 species of butterflies, and 112 moths.
This small forest is not just about trees and birds; it also provides refuge to a variety of wildlife. Within its confines, you can encounter three monkey species: Vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys. Other sightings may include banded mongooses, squirrels, Pottos, pangolins, and bush babies. For those spending the night in the vicinity of Mpanga Forest, there’s a chance to spot the notable nocturnal Pottos and bush babies. The predominant tree species in this forest is the sturdy and weather-resistant celtis. The forest is surrounded by a community of traditional drum makers. Initially gazetted in 1950 and later in 1953, it primarily served as a scientific research site.
Mpanga Forest Reserve ranks among the finest birding destinations near Kampala. It is a sanctuary for numerous bird species, including the striking Great blue Turaco, African Emerald cuckoo, African Harrier hawk, Black goshawk, Narina trogon, crowned hornbill, African pied hornbill, Grey parrot, Western Nicator, and Green Hylia.
Mpanga Forest Reserve offers a range of activities for nature enthusiasts:
Mpanga Forest Reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise accessible even from within the city. The well-established trail meanders from the forest to a water stream, providing opportunities to spot the elusive shoebill and various water species. Spending about three hours on a birding experience, you may encounter some of the 50 bird species inhabiting this remarkable forest.
A walk through Mpanga Forest Reserve allows visitors to uncover its hidden treasures, surrounded by the forest’s natural beauty and cool weather. As you meander through the forest, you’ll encounter countless trees, monkeys, butterflies, and vibrant birds. The forest also reveals its nocturnal inhabitants to those who stay overnight.
Subdivided into three trails—the Baseline trail, butter trail, and hornbill trail—these trails offer incredible experiences with monkeys, common forest birds, and diverse plant species.
A unique experience to witness bush babies that come to life at night.
Explore Kiganda shrines, located just one kilometer from the ecotourism center, and Nakibinge with informative guided tours.
Enjoy stunning views of the forest and surrounding valleys.
Explore the local market at Mpambire trading area, offering drums, baskets, mats, local tools, and various handcrafted items.
Mpanga Forest Reserve welcomes visitors throughout the year, thanks to its easy accessibility from Kampala and minimal planning requirements.
Situated just 37 kilometers from Kampala, roughly a 1.5-hour drive along Masaka Road, Mpanga Forest Reserve is easily reached. If you find yourself in Mpigi town, it’s only 6 kilometers before you reach the signpost for Mpanga Eco Tourism Site, and from there, it’s approximately one kilometer to the main road.
While there are no accommodations within the forest itself, visitors have the option of staying at the Mpanga Ecotourism Campsite. This campsite offers two double rooms, two twin rooms, an eight-bedded dormitory, and excellent camping facilities. Meals and campfires are also provided.
In conclusion, Mpanga Forest Reserve beckons with its diverse attractions and activities, making it a must-visit destination in Uganda. Whether you’re planning a relaxing getaway or an adventurous experience, Mpanga Central Forest Reserve offers a perfect escape right on the doorstep of Kampala.