Melting into the music of nature, that was my experience in Mabira Forest. Not far from Kampala, Mabira Forest is a reserve forest under the control of National Forest Authority in Uganda.
Our experience in Mpanga forest inspired me to search other similar options near around. My search took us to Mabira Forest on a weekend to stay overnight. Forest that lies 54 kilometers northeast to Kampala, on the way to Jinja can be easily accessed by public transportation or your own private arrangements. A study tour or a pleasure trip, you will never be disappointed by the range of birds, butterflies, reptiles, and mammals that the forest hosts.
The forest that was once a reason for riot in Uganda is still an attraction for nature lovers. In 2007, an Indian was murder and the city life was disrupted by a decision taken by government to axe one third of forest’s natural vegetation for sugarcane production. Environmentalists and protesters planed a peaceful demonstration on the roads of Kampala which later on turned into violence as charged crowds carrying placards like ‘Asians should go’ and ‘For one tree cut, three Indians dead’. A massive arrest of rioters and withdrawal of government decision brought Kampala back to normal life. That is an old story for now.
A very beautiful ecolodge within the boundaries of Mabira forest was our night stay arrangement. On our arrival a traditionally dressed lady welcomed us to the reception and verified our reservations while another staff brought a tray having two wet towels for us to freshen up. Before following the lady staff to our accommodation, I verified the safety our transport. She led us through a stone paved track to one of the wooden cabins meant for visitors. It was wonderful double bed accommodation very much into wilderness. Wooden roofs, wooden walls, and wooden floorings offered a natural mood to us. A choice of wide pull-in window or a big balcony with comfortable seating arrangements allowed us to be with nature anytime we wished. Night was cool and fresh with crickets and toads singing wilderness.
Sunny morning was our good luck to enjoy a guided walk in the forest. Ismah, our guide carried a bird encyclopedia in his hand. He explained the possible animals, birds, or reptiles that we might come across during our forest walk. As and when a chirp or a whistle of bird echoed in air, he opened his support to show and explain the bird that made sound. Photographs printed on the encyclopedia were beautiful and explanations were even better but sighting them alive was a far possibility for us in that thick forest. Forest walk in Mabira was different from Mpanga. Base trail that we chose in Mpanga was comparatively on a plane surface and was somewhat clear. In Mabira, we walked through a clear path just for a very short distance and the rest were sloppy wild jungle. We were lucky to spot a Paradise Flycatcher very near to us. With black velvet head and brownish orange body its beak was sky blue in color. Adult male Paradise Flycatchers have a very long tail but females are not so long. They are noisy birds with harsh scolding voice.
Baboons; a village of them were in front of us. We watched their naughty behavior from a distance. Some fought while others played on the branches. Baboons exhibit a large number of characteristics similar to human. They are omnivorous and live in large social groups. They have leaders who are well respected by subordinates. Any opportunity to lead the group will not be wasted by Baboons same as Humans. Fig fruit trees were many among the other food supplies, in the forest, to feed baboons and other primates. According to Ismah, there are elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, and leopards live in Mabira Reserved forest, though none of them entertained us during our short forest walk. Towards the end of our walk we found two Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills on the top of a tree which was not very tall to hide the birds from our sight. Black body with a portion of back white in color, the bird has an over sized blackish or grayish beak with a large casque (helmet) that made people to call it Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill.
A bath in a small swimming pool meant for the guests of Rainforest lodge refreshed us to stay refreshed even after we returned to Kampala. Mpanga and Mabira both are Reserved Forests with a high proximity to Kampala but the experiences were entirely different and equally good.