Maramagambo is the largest natural forest in East Africa situated in Bushenyi district in Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest and most visited national park in southwestern Uganda. The forest starts from the escarpments of Kichwamba all through to Lake Edward. The name Maramagambo was derived from a traditional story about a group of young people who got lost within the forest for several days and by the time they found their way back to the village they were speechless because of being tired. The name Maramagambo therefore means someone who is speechless. the forest is a home of 7 primate species namely chimpanzees, l’hoest monkeys, baboons, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, bush babies, Pottos, pythons, elephants, Bates pygmy antelopes, buffaloes, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, bats, bird species among others.
Activities in Maramagambo Forest
Guided nature walk, this is a thrilling activity where visitors get an opportunity to walk on foot with the forest as they explore beautiful scenery, wild animals, crater lakes, birds, tree species among others. during the nature walk in the forest you will follow trails such as forest trail, palm trail which has frame trees with leaves that are believed to increase female libido, waterfall trail which takes you to Kilyantama waterfalls, valley trail and river trail where you will visit river Kajojo. Nature walk takes about 2 to 6 hours and those who are not physicals fit can follow trails like forest trail which passes through flat terrain. during the nature walk you can also visit the crater lakes namely lake Nyamasingiri and lake Kyasanduka at the border of Maramagambo forest, while at the crater lakes you can ride around in a canoe boat. Nature walk in the forest is filled with spectacular views of insects, butterflies, bird species, primates like the red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees among others.
Bird watching, Maramagambo forest is one of the best birding areas for bird lovers therefore during bird watching visitors should look out for bird species like martial eagle, white tailed lark, papyrus canary, African skimmer, pink backed pelican, Rwenzori turaco, lesser and greater flamingos, black bee-eater, Chapin’s flycatcher, black headed batis, African green pigeon among others.
Primate viewing, Maramagambo harbors about 7 primate species such as chimpanzees, olive baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, l’hoes monkeys, nocturnal primates like bush babies, pottos which are only viewed at night during the night walk. though Maramagambo forest has a lot of chimpanzees which are viewed during the nature walk and primate viewing they haven’t been habituated for chimpanzee trekking because Maramagambo is a large forest and chimpanzees like to move from one place to another and also move deep into the forest especially during the dry season therefore trekking may take a lot of hours.
Bat watching, bat caves were the most visited attraction in the forest before 2008 when they were closed because some visitor contracted Marburg Virus which is a virus caused by bats and due to the collaboration with the American Center of Disease control there is a secure viewing platform that has been established outside the caves where visitors can view the bats in the cave and the python that feeds on the bats.
Cultural encounter, this is an activity that gives you an opportunity to interact with the local people that live around Maramagambo forest. During the cultural encounter you can visit a historic cave near Nyanziibiri community where you will learn how the cave is belied to protect people from misfortunes and other calamities. During the 1980’s the cave was used as a hideout by fugitives who were running away from dictatorial regimes. you will also learn about the lifestyles of the local people, food they eat, their standards of living, learn how to make crafts like bags, mats, baskets, hats among others.
When to visit Maramagambo forest
The forest can be visited all year round though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During this period there is less rainfall in the forest therefore the shrubs, bushes, trees will be short which allow you to easily view primate species, nature walk trails and access roads to the park will be passable compared to the wet season when there is heavy rainfall which makes nature walk trails muddy and slippery.
Though the wet season has heavy rain visitors can also visit because birding is best done in the wet/rainy season when there is plenty of food for the birds which makes bird watching easy because they will easily be spotted without walking deep in the forest
How to get to Maramagambo forest
The forest can be accessed by road and air transport means and when using road transport you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Bushenyi and then to Maramagambo forest which takes about 6 hours’ drive. Maramagambo forest can also be accessed by public means of transport where you will board a bus from Kampala to Bushenyi and then hire a private taxi to the forest headquarters.
Air transport, there are domestic companies like Aerolink Uganda which operate scheduled and chartered flights daily from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Mweya airstrip therefore visitors who don’t like travelling long distances can book a flight to Mweya airstrip and then connect by road to Maramagambo forest.
Visitors who visit Maramagambo forest can combine it with other activities in Queen Elizabeth national park such as game drive, boat cruise, Hot air balloon, chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge among others which gives you incredible and lifetime memories on your safari in Uganda.