Sunbird Hill Kibale Forest edge

Sunbird Hill Kibale Forest edge

By Charlotte Beauvoisin (blogger in residence at Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge)

Inspiring a love of nature: encouraging the next Goodall & Attenborough

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” – Sir David Attenborough

  1. Are you passionate about nature and conservation?
  2. Do you want to hold the world’s heaviest beetle?
  3. Or listen to the loudest insect?
  4. Are you looking for rare ticks to add to your Uganda bird list?

Then you will receive a warm welcome at Sunbird Hill where you have a chance to encounter the Goliath beetle, Giant forest cicada, Blue-throated brown sunbird and so much more.

Uganda has a mind-blowing selection of nature-based activities but where do you go next if you are a nature addict?

Sunbird Hill is a haven for nature enthusiasts that have ticked off the Big Five and are intrigued by Uganda’s smaller creatures. The site’s 16 hectares of regenerating farmland on the border of Kibale National Park in western Uganda are regularly visited by Critically Endangered forest elephants, chimps and monkeys but it’s the birds, frogs and reptiles that bring this site alive, along with an abundance of exquisite butterflies, moths and beetles.

It’s a mecca for serious birders and butterfly-lovers and those who simply love immersing themselves in the sounds, sights and smells of the forest edge. Flocks of Great blue turacos enjoy the stone bird baths. At night, we hear the bark of a bushbuck and the occasional felling of a tree by an elephant; when the maize is ripe, ululating children chase baboons off their crops!

Beetle Sunbird Hill PHOTO Nick Byaba
Beetle Sunbird Hill PHOTO Nick Byaba
Africa butterfly map
Africa butterfly map
Blue headed agama lizard Sunbird hill
Blue headed agama lizard Sunbird hill

The Sunbird Hill Experience

Visitors love the secluded Kibale Forest edge location. (It is no accident that Sunbird Hill has developed with an air of mystery around it). It is open exclusively to pre-booked visitors, and those that are in awe of nature. Every nature walk is different and customised to guests’ particular interests.

‘Explore and discover’ walks are highly interactive as we question, examine – and sometimes pick up – all the interesting ephemera we find along the way: a butterfly wing, the remnants of an eggshell, a discarded nest, the footprints of an antelope, a dead insect and (occasionally) a snakeskin. Sunbird Hill site guides are a fun, enthusiastic group of home-grown nature lovers who share their in-depth knowledge with guests to bring the forest edge alive. Anything that can’t be identified is photographed and studied at the extensive reference library at the Birders’ Lounge, a relaxing area for armchair birding and photography.

More than 270 bird species have been recorded at Sunbird Hill over the last 10 years. The name pays homage to the site’s 15 sunbird species (thank you Malcolm Wilson!) Top ticks include the spectacular Black bee-eater, White-spotted flufftail, Lemon dove, White-collared oliveback, Green-breasted Pitta, Rufous-crowned eremomela, Masked Apalis, Green-backed twinspot and Bamboo warbler. Professional photographer Adam Scott Kennedy poured us all a celebratory dram of his special whiskey when he photographed the Lead-coloured flycatcher for his new book (a comprehensive photographic guide to the birds of East Africa, for Princeton University Press).

National and international experts who visit Sunbird Hill on a regular basis include ornithologists, lepidopterists, herpetologists, botanists and primatologists. Bird ringing (or banding) occurs periodically throughout the year.

During the past few years, these local, national and international nature experts have dedicated their spare time to investigating their specialist subject at Sunbird Hill. There is only one prerequisite: that they share their knowledge with the Sunbird Hill Team. Here, curious and enquiring young guides and researchers investigate every aspect of nature, supported by specialist training programmes and Sunbird Hill’s reference library to become the best site guides in the region.

The Sunbird Hill Experience is not something that should be rushed. In fact, a quick skim of the visitors’ book reveals a strong pattern: everyone wishes they had booked for longer – or plans to revisit.

Sunbird Hill highlights

  • Magnificent views into Kibale Forest
  • Bird and nature trails led by expert site guides: forest edge, woodland, bushland, grassland, farmland, wetland and riverine habitats
  • Guided walk with Silver, the ex-poacher and Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger. He is a walking encyclopedia of indigenous forest knowledge
  • Learn about the reality of living with wildlife and see Human-Wildlife Co-existence interventions such as the elephant trench
  • The Birders’ Lounge: Uganda’s only reference library for naturalists, ideal set-up for armchair birding and photography
  • Contribute to Citizen Science: 270 bird species and 180 butterflies identified (so far!)
  • Uganda’s first and only Butterfly Village is maturing nicely; nectar-rich flowers have been planted to attract more species (and visitors!)
Sunbird hill team
Sunbird hill team
Harriet and martin fowler sunbird hill
Harriet and martin fowler sunbird hill

Promoting Citizen Science

Sunbird Hill is an active nature monitoring site with strong collaborations in place.

The team contributes data to the e-Bird database (Cornell University) and works alongside NatureUganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority, African Bird Club, Wildlife Clubs of Uganda, Tooro Botanical Gardens, and WildAID. The team has won NatureUganda’s “Best Private Site” for four years in a row during Big Birding Day and now uses that experience to encourage their four Village Bird Clubs to participate. The kids love it!

The team never fail to get excited when they record flocks of African grey parrots flying overhead. On the advice of the World Parrot Trust, a “Parrot Garden” of Nandi Flame Tree seedlings has been planted to help ensure the species’ future.

Twice a month the Sunbird Hill team carries out butterfly transects on the edge of the forest; during the new moon they capture, identify and release moths. This data is shared with The Lepidopterists’ Society. Visitors are welcome to be a part of these initiatives.

Tarzan & Jane? Perhaps you will meet the next David (Attenborough) or Jane (Goodall) at Sunbird Hill

“There is a powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.” Jane Goodall.

By spending a morning / afternoon with the Sunbird Hill Team you are investing in the people who are protecting our magnificent environment. This is the aim of the aptly named indigenous NGO In the Shadow of Chimpanzees… but that’s another story…

How to book the Sunbird Hill Experience

Please note *advance booking is essential* for all-day tours and very basic, eco-friendly accommodation. Sunbird Hill is a family home and is not set up for walk-ins.

WhatsApp +256 (0)701 577784 | email: | web:
Facebook @SunbirdHillKibaleForest

Sunbird Hill and In the Shadow of Chimpanzees NGO feature in the current (2019) Bradt Guide. They are recommended by Le Petit Futé (2022).

Julia and Dillon Lloyd
Julia and Dillon Lloyd

Former primate researcher, Julia Lloyd has been resident in the area for 20 years. She once lived in Kibale Forest where she led the team that habituated the chimpanzees which tourists now track.

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