Budongo Forest, a place of serenity and wondrous nature

Sunday May 8 2011

Budongo Forest, a place of serenity and wondrous nature

Hippos are among the delights to be seen.  

By Edwin Nuwagaba

The journey to Budongo Forest on the boundaries of Murchison Falls started very early in the morning. There were eight of us in the van. Save for the dusty road, the journey was exciting as we had many stories to share. It was so hearty that we barely took notice of the time and reached Budongo Eco Lodge, where we were to stay for the next two nights.

The lodge has been around for quite some time now, but courtesy of Great Lakes Safaris, it has gone through a couple of facelifts. Most of it is built out of beautiful wood, which together with the green environment makes Budongo so natural. It’s blessed with a very beautiful green cover andis indeed a haven for flora and fauna and abundant fresh air.

The moment we arrived, it felt like we’d been cut off from the rest of the world. The tranquility was so relaxing, courtesy of the lodge’s location in the middle of a forest reserve. We were received and ushered into the dormitory where the four of us were to sleep for the following two nights. In the dormitory, it felt like the old school days as we stayed awake long into the night, chatting away.

There are five eco cabins here, if you don’t want to sleep as a group. The cabins are well spaced - you won’t stumble upon any crowds outside unless you go to the dining area.

In the morning, we went for a game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. There we ran into waterbucks, giraffes, buffalos, elephants and lions.

Lions are not easy to come by in Murchison, but we managed to see two of them, though they were too far away for us to get a close view. So, we reached for binoculars, zoomed in and took pictures.


I saw a couple of vans and Land Rovers drive through the park, anxiety written all over the faces of their occupants, who stopped to ask our driver whether we had seen any lions. Our guide kept us entertained with a number of humorous stories, most of them moments he had shared with his clients.

After the game drive, we headed to Paraa Safari Lodge for lunch. Overlooking the Nile, it was a perfect place for us to unwind. We then went for a boat ride and headed to the Murchison Falls. It was such a relaxing ride. The water was calm, the sites beautiful and it was so much fun being on the top deck of the boat.

However, the point where we stopped did not allow us get a good view of the falls. It was when we went round and watched from above that we had a breathtaking view. The falls are incredibly powerful and fascinating. Darkness was fast approaching, so we drove to another lodge, where we had a few drinks and watched a local band. The music was so organic and really captivated the white tourists. At around 10p.m, we drove back to our haven, Eco Lodge, about an hour and a half away.

The next morning, we went for chimp tracking, a very exciting experience. One chimp in particular, Kaluueiti, has gotten so at ease around people that it never runs away from tourists like its peers. Chimps are peaceful animals, but when they see many people, they tend to kick at thick tree trunks.

The most memorable part of the journey was at the Royal Mile, an aerial stretch in the forest with many beautiful tall trees and a variety of bird species. It’s said that the King of Bunyoro used this path to tour the forest. It is a must-see when you are in this part of the country.

Also, as part of the trip, we toured an old church that was constructed by the Polish government. Apart from having unique architecture, the church has an intriguing story. Many years ago, about 200 Polish people died of sleeping sickness and got a mass burial here. There are many tomb stones there. The place is deathly quiet.

Much as this place appears significant to Poland and Uganda’s history, not much has been heard from Poland, except for an article that was once written in a Polish newspaper many years ago.

For its work in conserving nature as well as helping the surrounding communities, the Budongo ecotourism site has been nominated for the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.