Nkima Forest Lodge, Mabamba Wetlands

Nkima Forest Lodge is located in its own patch of indigenous forest on Nansubuga hill overlooking the Mabamba Wetlands. The lodge has been built with minimal disturbance to the surrounding forest and the open grassland on top of the hill. The area is a birding hot spot in Uganda and the local community arrange boat trips into the swamp to view the Shoebill Stork and other birdlife from the nearby Mabamba landing site. The forest has numerous bird species, as well as Red-tailed monkeys (after which the lodge is named) and Vervet monkeys. The site also has many species of butterflies and insects, as well as smaller mammals such as squirrels, mongoose, and bushbabies. Bushbucks and duiker have occasionally been spotted. This is a small haven of wilderness within easy reach of Entebbe and Kampala that is perfect for those seeking peace, fresh air, and escape to an area of great natural beauty.

The main lodge has a dining section, bar and lounge with comfortable seating, which can be opened up on three sides during the day to allow a cool breeze and views of the grassy glade surrounded by forest. The lodge has a high deck built into the forest near the lounge, with views across the Mabamba wetlands, perfect for an evening sundowner or a quiet spot for sitting and reading in the shade. The lodge offers freshly cooked food with a limited, but changing menu covering a range of cuisines and caters for all dietary requirements.  The chefs have been trained by the owners, who take a personal interest in the quality of the food. A short distance from the main lodge there is an outdoor fire pit with sunset views over the forest canopy and the wetlands beyond. Through a small patch of forest beyond the fire pit and hidden from the main lodge there is a swimming pool with a protected shallow area for children and a deck with chairs and loungers. There are hammocks at various spots for resting or reading in the cool of the forest.

“This is a newly built lodge in Nkima forest at the top of a hill with fabulous views of the surrounding countryside and wetlands. There are also lovely views from the swimming pool. The food is excellent and the central lodge and communal area very light and comfortable. The rooms are all secluded within the forest so feel very private but have en suite facilities and a viewing platform. The Staff were all friendly and helpful. The jetty for taking boat rides to view the shoebills in Mabamba swamp is only five minutes drive away.” Trip Advisor, October 2018.

The lodge is named in Luganda after the many red-tailed monkeys which leap about in the trees. We are located in Busiro county in central Uganda where the Baganda are the predominant ethnic group. The Baganda can be divided into 56 clans, who share a common ancestry and are headed by the king or Kabaka. Each clan has a sacred totem and this hill is sacred to the Mamba clan. The Mamba totem is a lungfish. The clan totem is protected and is not hunted, which is probably why the shoebill storks are found here, because they DO eat lungfish. In order to prevent incest each clan uses particular names and Nansubuga, the name of this hill, is a favourite Mamba clan name for a girl.

Flora and fauna

Nkima Forest Lodge was started to preserve this small patch of indigenous forest (27 acres), which is termed a semi-evergreen Guineo-Congolian rainforest. This means it is on the edge of a vast vegetation zone and contains many tree species from West Africa. Although most of the big trees were logged about 30 years ago, (many coppice well) and enough seeds and saplings re-grew to provide a diverse secondary forest with more than 20 characteristic forest species as well as many edge species. This diversity means at any time of the year there will be a fruiting tree, which is vital for the fructivorous red- tailed monkeys (Nkima). There are also plenty of leaves to feed the caterpillars, which leads to a great diversity of butterflies. Lake flies hatch all at once and can be found in vast numbers at certain moon phases. All this insect life is fantastic for the birds, frogs and lizards which also abound in the forest.

Ecological footprint

Nkima forest is completely off-grid and all the electrical power comes from solar panels. Sockets in the room can be used to charge phones or laptops. The hot water is also heated by solar and is usually plenty warm enough even on a dull or rainy day as the insulated storage tank is large.

The water comes from a deep borehole and has been tested as potable, and better than using water from plastic water bottles. It is pumped up the hill with a solar pump and the swimming pool pump is also solar. The laundry is done by hand and sun dried! Hopefully you can see that it is possible to enjoy a modern life without too big an impact on the environment.

Shoebill Boat Trip

The community has worked hard for several years to protect the swamp. There are many boats that travel to Bussi Island and also provide guided tours to see the shoebill. The local boats can supply life jackets if requested and we also have some child life jackets.