Semliki valley wildlife reserve (1)
Semliki valley wildlife reserve was established in 1932 as Toro Game Reserve, the oldest of Uganda's reserves. PHOTO/KAZINGA TOURS

In countries like Uganda, forests provide numerous benefits and when managed sustainably, contribute to environmental protection, economic development, and an overall improvement in the quality of life of people.

Forests provide a number of benefits, and when managed sustainably, they can reduce the carbon footprint of a country (such as Uganda) and contribute to the economic development of the country.

Forests support a diverse range of indigenous flora and fauna species, as well as renewable products and energy, and contribute to the development of a green economy. 

Additionally, forests provide a diverse range of wood and non-wood products, clean water resources, and are critical in mitigating climate change.

Uganda’s forests are a significant and valued natural resource, accounting for approximately 8.7% of the national economy on conservative estimates (NEMA, 2011).

17% of Uganda’s land area is in Central Forest Reserves (CFRs) managed by the National Forestry Authority, 18% is in strictly protected National Parks and Wildlife Reserves (NPS & WRs) managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and the remaining forests (65%) are on private and communal lands. 

CFRs may be amenable to sustainable forest management, and the NFA has promoted Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) in recent years, allowing communities to access less valuable forest products through CFM Agreements, but reluctance to delegate more significant responsibilities and use rights.

NFA was established on 26th April 2004 under section 52 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act. 

It succeeded the century-old FD, which had failed to address the forestry sector’s challenges from the 1970s to the 1990s as a complete government department. 

The NFA’s mandate is to sustainably manage Central Forest Reserves and to provide high-quality forestry-related products and services to the government, local communities, and the private sector.

Uganda has six major indigenous/natural forest reserves where hardwood species such as Entandrophragma, Lovoa brownii, Chlorophora excelsa, Celtis, Cynometra alexandrii, and Newtonia buchanani can be harvested.

The following is a list of major protected forest reserves in Uganda.

  • Budongo forest reserve
  • Bugoma forest reserve
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Kalinzu Forest Reserve
  • Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve
  • Echuya Uganda Forest Reserve
  • Kibaale Forest
  • Lutoboka and Bunjazi forest reserves
  • Mabira Forest
  • Maramagambo forest
  • Mpanga Forest Reserve
  • Mt Elgon Forest Reserve
  • Rwenzori Forest Reserve
  • Sango Bay Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest Reserve uganda (1)
In northern Uganda, the Budongo forest reserve can be found approximately three hours from Kampala by way of Masindi. FILE PHOTO

Budongo forest reserve is located in northern Uganda, approximately three hours from Kampala via Masindi District. 

The reserve encompasses an area of approximately 825 square kilometres, of which only 53% is forest and the remainder is grassland forest. 

Since 1932, it has been a forest reserve. 

The reserve is located in the southern extension of Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest national park, covering over 3,840 square kilometres.

Semliki valley wildlife reserve

Semliki valley wildlife reserve is the oldest of Uganda’s reserves, having been established in 1932 as the Toro Game Reserve. 

It is a 545-kilometre-square sanctuary located in western Uganda, northeast of the Bundibugyo road and extending to Ntoroko on the lake’s southern shores. 

The dominant vegetation types are open acacia-combretum woodland and grassy savanna, which are interspersed with patches of Borassus palm forest, extensive belts of riparian woodland along the main water path, and some extensive swamps near Lake Albert. 

Semliki is primarily a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Katongo wildlife reserve

Katongo wildlife reserve is located in western Uganda, along the banks of the River Katonga, in the districts of Ibanda and Kamwenge. 

It occupies an area of approximately 211 square kilometres. It is approximately 200 kilometres (approximately 4-41/2 hours) from Kampala to the reserve. 

The wildlife reserve, established in 1998, is a relatively recent addition to Uganda’s protected wildlife areas. The reserve is best explored by canoe or foot; it is home to over 40 mammalian species and over 150 bird species. 

Numerous animals, birds, and plants found in the reserve are endemic to the reserve’s wetland environment.

Mabira Forest

Mabira forest is located in Buikwe District between Lugazi and Jinja, approximately 54 kilometres (1 hour) from Kampala.

 Since 1932, it has been protected as a reserve. 

It covers an area of approximately 306 square kilometres and is considered to be one of the last remaining rain forests in central Uganda, as well as the largest. 

It is home to numerous primate species such as red-tailed monkeys, Vertvets, and grey-cheeked mangabeys; it is also home to over 315 bird species such as the Cassinis hawk-eagle and Grey long bill, to name a few; 97 species of moths, 218 species of butterflies, and 312 species of trees, to name a few.

Kalinzu Forest Reserve

This forest reserve is located in the Bushenyi district of western Uganda, close to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Maramagambo forest. 

The drive to the reserve headquarters is approximately 375 kilometres or about 6 hours. The forest is located at an average elevation of approximately 1400m above sea level. 

The reserve is known for its 414 tree and shrub species, which include prunus African Ficus and Parinari. 

Additionally, the forest is known for its six distinct primate species, which include the chimp, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, L’hoest guenon, vervet monkeys, and baboon.

Pian Upe wildlife reserve

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is a conservation area located in northeastern Uganda’s Karamoja subregion. It is considered to be the second-largest conservation protected area in the country, after Murchison Falls National Park

The reserve covers an area of approximately 2788 square kilometres to the north of Mount Elgon and is now managed by the Mount Elgon conversation area. 

It is located in a semi-arid county that receives rainfall in April and more substantial light rainfall from June to early September, although some years see no rain at all. 

The Reserve is primarily made up of undisturbed grassland and wooded grassland.

Maramagambo Forest

Maramagambo Forest (1)
In Bushenyi District, the Maramagambo forest extends from the Kichwamba escarpment to Lake Edward, a portion of Queen Elizabeth National Park. PHOTO/TOUR UGANDA

Maramagambo forest is located in Bushenyi District and extends across a portion of Queen Elizabeth National Park, from the Kichwamba escarpment to Lake Edward. 

The area’s landscape is ideal for activities such as hiking and nature walks along the trails. It is famous for its bat caves. Two crater lakes, Lake Kyasanduka and Lake Nyamasingiri, encircle Maramagambo forest. 

It is home to a variety of primate species, including chimps, red-tailed monkeys, and bêtes pygmy antelopes.

Mount Elgon Forest Reserve

Mount Elgon Forest Reserve (1)
Among the animals that live in Mount Elgon Forest Reserve are elephants, buffalo, Defassa’s waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, leopards, and spotted hyenas. PHOTO/BEYONDER TRAVEL

Mount Elgon Forest Reserve is in eastern Uganda, near the Kenyan border. 

The forest covers an area of over 1,110 kilometres square and is located on the slopes of Mount Elgon, a 4,321-meter-high extinct volcano that geologists believe last erupted approximately ten million years ago. 

Mount Elgon Forest Reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife species, including elephant, buffalo, Defassa’s waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, leopard, and spotted hyena.

Last but not least, for an all-inclusive tour experience in Uganda, view our guide to Gorillas in UgandaSsese Islands, Cost of Gorilla TrekkingMurchison Falls National ParkLake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park.