Mabira rainforest, so far away yet so close

By Vision Reporters

Added 15th April 2016 09:10 PM

After a precise an hour's drive away from the hustle of Kampala, we arrived at the forest late in the evening.

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Oleny and Martinez take time off in the Mabira Forest

After a precise an hour's drive away from the hustle of Kampala, we arrived at the forest late in the evening.


By Sebidde Kiryowa, Solomon Oleny & Fanny Martinez

(Photos by Sebidde Kiryowa, Solomon Oleny & Fanny Martinez)

There is something enchanting about forests. Something refreshing. Perhaps it has to do with their ethereal tranquility and association with rewarding adventure. Or really the rejuvenating sights and sounds.

Mabira, a remote tropical forest en route the Jinja Kampala highway is not exceptional as it dawned on us after a weekend spent at one of her best kept secrets, Rainforest Lodge, Mabira.

With over 200 square kilometres, the Mabira Forest is Uganda’s second largest forest. This unique eco-system has its own micro climate, with rainfall and temperatures different to the open country side.

After a precise one hour's drive away from the hustle of Kampala, we arrived at the forest late in the evening of Friday August 2.

Roadside hawkers will accost you with an array of roast indigenous Ugandan foods to choose from as you turn off from the main Kampala-Jinja highway into the thick of the forest

The welcome was not quite what we expected. It was rough. The one kilometer murrum road leading to the lodge from the main road was a little bumpy.

With this first impression in mind, we expected the rest of the story to be punctuated by blow after blow as it unfolded. The biggest of them all was that our two-night stay would be ruined by unending down pours—as suggested by the name of our accommodation (Rainforest Lodge).

To this end, we braced ourselves for the worst but to our surprise, hardly did a drop of water fall off the skies. On the contrary, the weather was shiny and just perfect for outdoor activities all through inclusive of nature walks and bird-watching.

A hornbill perched in the canopies of Mabira Forest. This is but one of the many bird species that call this forest home

The lodge

Even better, that was only a footnote. The big takeout was the alluring infrastructural design of the cottages at The Rain Forest Lodge’s interior which was largely made of wood was cool and chick with a strong African feel. Everything was a polished and shiny spaceship.

The staff here told us the place has been recognized for its distinctive architecture, use of natural materials, and the integration of design with forested surroundings. It is no wonder.

We were full of excitement to wake up and step out to the balconies of our respective rooms and see the green forest full of life.

Fanny’s take

I (Fanny) can still remember how my face lit with a sense of pleasure when I looked through one of the windows only to be struck by the sight of the Great Blue Turaco, a gorgeous bird species with an exciting contrast of colours. She was not the only one in sight. There were plentiful of species, a good number of which I was seeing for the first time, like the black and white casqued hornbill.

Nothing felt as fulfilling as being surrounded by a pure vibrant forest that was pristine to the dot. The only words coming out of my mouth at that moment was wow and OMG!!! Hearing these birds chirping as the room filled with the sun’s light just simply put a smile in my face.

On the other hand, there was no contest in terms of dining comfort. The experience was informal and yummy. The biggest wow factor here was how Hanington-the menu master created a terrific list of options using the freshest products that could entice even the most reluctant dieter.

This is a great place for the nature lover, the person looking for some peace and yes, very romantic for couples. I would say this is a great place to also plan weddings and retreats.


Walking through the property gave us a sense of feeling free in the jungle while enjoying the great design of the facility. We spotted many monkeys from a distance. Lots of them, especially the red tailed monkeys that couldn’t help it display fascinating acrobatic like flying skills up in the trees.

Going by the cheerful smiles on their faces, we could tell they were so excited to usher us into the unknown that awaited us deep inside the forest.

Inside the forest, indigenous trees struggled to hug the sky, rodents played hide and seek in the buttress roots. Lush vegetation prompted exploration. The tracks were so clear for adventure, let alone a nature race.

The writers enjoy a cozy moment at The RainForest Lodge

The swimming pool at the RainForest Lodge smack right in the middle of the forest

The serene, ancient history and captivating talks about the forests past by our team guide Isaac was very fascinating too. Once there, be sure to look out for this guide. This gentleman has an impressive wealth of knowledge about nature to share following his 10 years of stay in the forest.

To cool off the day’s steam, I (Fanny) so wanted to get in the pool. I could have had it been a bit warmer in the am. That will be a next time visit activity. Oh yes and the sauna… next time for sure.

Here, Sebidde Kiryowa (left) and a tour guide (centre) consult a book about birds during their morning forest walk

Activities in Mabira Forest

  • Forest walks
  • Nature treks
  • Mountain biking
  • Swimming pool
  • Sauna, massage

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