Mabira Forest Eco-tour

Mabira forest is a perfect destination out of the City Centre. It is 60km away from Kampala. It is one of the largest forest reserves with over 315 bird species, 312 tree species. It is also home to butterflies and primates that include the Uganda Mangabey monkey, Red tailed monkey. It is a popular birding destination for the birding fraternity. It has accessible trails which can be accessed with the company of a guide who is knowledgeable about the forest.

It is a forest reserve managed by the National Forest Authority which has encouraged the promotion of forest tourism in the recent years. It was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 .Over the years several organizations have campaigned to restore it .Ecotourism opportunities have been advanced and developed thus supporting the communities around the forest.

Other activities include Mountain Biking, Environmental Education and Research, Camping and Picnics, Primate Watching, Butterfly Identification and general Forest Exploration.

Our birding group has continued to explore places to hone our birding skills. Mabira forest was yet another destination we explored away from Kampala city. It is an ideal place for nature lovers.

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Our main objective on this trip was birding, forest walks and tree species identification. Lesser striped swallows welcomed us at our accommodation. They stayed nearby till night fall. The weaver birds too in the neighborhood caught our attention nesting. The Male weavers are known to be family nest builders before a female weaver “fully” accepts to visit. The female will check ‘thoroughly’ the ‘comfort facilities’ in the nest before accepting ‘matrimony’. This behavior is similar to human beings(Male) who are known Bread winners. If a man does not have the required resources and facilities to support the woman, the woman will not visit.

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Lesser striped swallows

 

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Black headed Weaver

During this trip, 45 birds were seen. Among the 45 birds sighted, some the birds included the Brown eared woodpecker, Yellow crowned woodpecker, Blue shouldered Robin chat, Red capped Robin chat, Black throated Apalis, Forest wood Hoopoe, Forest Robin, Jameson’s wattle eye.

Red tailed monkeys and tree squirrels were sighted.We enjoyed the long forest walks too enabling us breathe in fresh air thus boosting our oxygen reserves.

Accommodation: Self catering accommodation and camping facilities are available at the eco-tourism site for budget travellers. Mabira Rain forest lodge is also another eco –friendly within the forest with 12 independent timber cabins, Swimming pool, Sauna and massage and Conference and seminar facilities ideal for the mid –range/luxury  traveler.

Location & Accessibility: Mabira can be accessed by both public and private transport off the main road to Jinja at Najjembe trading Centre at 60km from Kampala City or 24km from Jinja another tourism Haven, home to the Source of the River Nile..

 

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Our safari van

Other ecotourism sites near Mabira that can be visited include the Griffins falls Camp also known as the the Mabira forest camp  located near breath taking falls. This camp was founded by the Mabira Forest Intergrated Community Organisation (MAFICO) to improve the livelihoods and welfare of the community by conserving the environment. The “Star” activity at the site is the Canopy “zip line” that sends you soaring high in between the rainforest trees.

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Group Smiles at the end of our trip
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Birding with BBC World at Mabamba

Behind every successful man there is a woman and in my opinion the reverse is true. Women empowerment movements today may think otherwise. Well, I believe that the ladies just want to express their natural power and intelligence that existed behind the scenes for a longtime. True on this day January 15 2017, the birding ladies’ prowess was finally recognized by BBC World in Uganda. BBC World on this maiden trip chose the Uganda Women Birders Club a ladies birding division of Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA).

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Mabamba is a Ramsar Site since 2006 due to its importance as a habitat for the globally endangered species like the Shoebill and a stopover for migratory birds. It supports over 300 species of birds, community livelihoods through eco-tourism, fishing, agriculture and other activities.It is an ideal place for a one day trip or an add-on to other safaris in Uganda.

Meeting point was at Uganda House on Kampala road the tradition meeting point for USAGA FAM trips. That morning the ladies managed to keep time to make the trip. The team leader was Judith Mirembe the Chairperson. For the gentlemen like me and others we also managed to join the ladies because…behind every successful woman there is a man too. I know the readers of this blog post will agree or disagree with what makes a man or woman successful but that can be a story for another day.

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This is Catherine Byaruhanga reporting for the BBC

Mabamba marsh land is an Important Bird Area for the Shoe bill and other bird species .It is a popular destination for birding. Birding is done by boat with the guidance of the community site guides.When we arrived at the site, we did not waste time on pleasantries. Boats were organized and each of us was allocated a boat in groups of 5-7 individuals with the assistance of Herbert Byaruhanga  a renown birding enthusiast and also the Chairman of Uganda Safari Guides Association.

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At Mabamba, we glided through the water channels bordered by papyrus plants. The bird search started immediately. Although our mission was to spot the Shoebill, normal birding activity involves the identification other water birds. The search continued to trace the Shoe Bill. I was lucky to be on the leading boat with the site guide Ismail who was very knowledgeable about the birds. He managed to identify several birds along the way before he sighted one Shoe bill in flight after  about 1 hour and twenty minutes of searching. We thought it will land on the marshes but it just continued farther up in the sky. We thought our chances for seeing it had run out. Our eagle eyed guide,asked his colleague to move the boat ahead for another chance in the marshes. To him it was good signal for another one nearby. Indeed he applied the “Never give up” expression. The search continued and a few minutes later he spotted one in the marshland.

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Our guide Ismail seems to ask “Where are you Shoebill?”

Some birds seen on that day included the Purple Heron, Black Crake, Hammerkop, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Long toed lapwing, Blue-breasted Bee eater, Malachite Kingfisher, African pygmy Goose, Angola swallows, Pied Kingfisher, Winding Cisticola, Fan tailed widow bird and Yellow billed duck.

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“Fake Mounting” by the Hammerkop bird

There were quiet celebrations on our boat since we were the first to see it. We were joined by other boats,tourists and BBC crew  who were making their first excursion to the site. We positioned ourselves to have a clear glimpse of this iconic bird with our binoculars. We did not want to get close for fear of scaring it away except for the BBC team that moved a little closer to have a clear view for their story that was aired on Focus  on Africa on the 23rd January 2017.. Uganda: The rise in bird watching tourists http://bbc.in/2kGXjDj

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Shoebill

This bird is known to stay in one place for long hours as it waits for its prey which may be fish or frogs. Indeed on that day it stayed in one place until we started our journey back to the landing site. Even if you are not a birder or birding enthusiast, the tour of this renowned Shoebill habitat is always an exhilarating experience not to be missed on your itinerary.

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Excitement at take off