A few years ago there was some controversy about the use of Mabira Forest land for the establishment of a sugar plantation. This was put on hold leaving the 300 square kilometres available for your exploration and now is a great time to visit.
To get there take the Jinja road from Kampala toward Jinja. The Mabira Forest is on either side of the highway about 50 minutes from Kampala, or 20 minutes from Jinja. The turn-off is prior to the Najjembe village so if you reach the village you’ve gone too far. The forest is signposted but it’s easy to miss. Turning left you’ll travel about 30 metres down a dirt road, past a few houses before arriving at the Ecotourism Visitor’s Centre. The centre is a tidy building surrounded by a few benches, picnic tables, a camping area, public toilets and a few bandas. If you intend to stay make sure to call ahead and bring everything with you as both the campsite and bandas are self-catering.
Entry fees are paid at the centre and are 5,000 UGX for residents, and 6,000 UGX for foreigners. Children are half those prices and those under six enter for free.
The forest itself is crisscrossed by well-kept hiking trails. Choose your trail based on the type of hiking you wish to do, your intended speed, and the amount of time you have to accomplish it in. All of the trails can be done in three hours or less but it is recommended that you take your time and have a look around. If you’re a mountain biker there’s a special trail just for you.
If you’re a bird watcher there are some 300 species to be spotted or, if you’re just generally interested in rainforest ecosystems then Mabira shouldn’t be missed. Don’t expect to see much in the way of wildlife, as monkeys are pretty much the only mammal you’ll encounter. Butterflies, moths, and other notable insects, however, abound.
None of the hiking is particularly rigorous although you will want to have a good pair of hiking boots and watch out for the safari ants which sometimes cross the trails in wide swaths. While the forest features heavily on tourist websites and itineraries it is rare to find groups there as most speed right through headed for the bright lights of Jinja. Unless it’s the high season you can expect to see only one or two people on your hike.
If you want to get out of the city for a few hours, get some fresh air and have a nice quiet walk in the woods then Mabira is the right choice for you.
To contact the Forest’s Tourism Project call +256 (0) 414 230 365.