Tropical & Subtropical 
Moist Broadleaf Forest (Rainforest)

The rainforest of Africa spans from the lowland tropical rainforest on the west coast of the continent, across the swamp rainforest of the Congo in central Africa, climbing into mountain rainforest in eastern Africa, to patches of monsoon forest along the east coast, and small areas of more temperate forest in southern coastal Africa.

While the African rainforest is not as diverse as the equivalent biomes in the Neotropical or Indo-Malayan regions, there are many interesting species to be found here. The forest includes spectacular groups of birds such as the Turacos. Unlike the neighbouring savanna, there are not as many of the larger mammals to be seen in the African rainforests. However, there is a particularly rich range of primates, including iconic species such as chimpanzees and gorillas.

The centre of bamboo diversity is found in Asia, but there are also many species on the Pacific islands, a small range in the Neotropics and in Africa. They are among the fastest growing plants in the world. In Africa, bamboo is recorded being eaten by Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Elephants. The hard round stem is light but stiff, and useful for humans in construction.



Streptocarpus 'African Violets' or 'Cape Primroses' is a large genus of about 155 species. They are not related to either the true Violets or Primrose. The flowers are often colourful, and many have 'runway' patterns and colours on the petals to guide the pollinating animals. They mostly grow in moist and shaded cracks and crevices in mountain habitats in Africa and Madagascar, but have become better known as colourful garden flowers grown all around the world.

There are several trees that are planted around the world that have their origin in African forests. One of the most distinctive is the Kigelia, 'Sausage Tree'.

rwenzori-sausage(Rwenzori, Uganda)

While the banana we eat today is of Asia/pacific origin, there are also native related bananas in the African jungle: Ensete ventricosum, 'False (African) Banana'.

ruboni-banana(Ruboni Camp, Uganda)


Palms are typical of rainforest, and one of the most widely planted trees in the tropics is an infamous palm from the African forest: Elaeis guineensis, 'African Oil Palm'. Taken from tropical African forests and swamps, and planted throughout tropics of the world for it's oil.

Spathodea campanulata, 'African Tulip Oak'. Neither an oak nor obviously a tulip. Large red flowers. Found in west, central and east Africa. This species had been introduced widely throughout the other tropics of the world, but is often considered a major weed. 


Potamonautes is the most common, widespread and speciose genus of freshwater crab in Africa, with over 60 species. They are sometimes seen in rainforest creeks.

free-spirit-freshwater-crabs(Nature's Valley, South Africa)

Even though most people associate chameleons only with Madagascar, but they can be quite common (and are speciose) in the African forest, even on the edge in agricultural land. However, they are hard for a visitor's eye to find, so you may have to ask a local or go with a guide to find them.

rwenzori-chameleon-side-stripedTrioceros bitaeniatus, 'Side-striped Chameleon'. Central & eastern Africa, (Rwenzori, Uganda).
rwenzori-chameleon-3-hornedTrioceros johnstoni, 'Rwenzori/Johnston's Three-horned Chameleon'. Restricted distribution, endemic to the higher altitude forests of the Albertine Rift in Uganda, DRC, Burundi and Rwanda. (Rwenzori, Uganda)

The family Musophagidae (including 'Turacos') is one of the few families of birds endemic to Africa. They are large and often colourful birds. They eat fruit, with the family name meaning 'banana-eater'.

turaco-ross-entebbeMusophaga rossae, 'Ross's Turaco'. When it flies, the open wings underside reveal crimson. Found in woodlands, rainforest edge and in forest along rivers across tropical Africa, mostly in the east. 'Ross's Turaco' often have an on-again off-again relationship with 'Rachel's Turaco'. That last bit is not true.
the-garden-route-kynsnaTauraco corythaix, 'Knysna Turaco'. Found in forests of southern Africa Knysna Turaco (Nature's Valley, South Africa).
turcao-great-blue-entebbeCorythaeola cristata , 'Great Blue Turaco'. The largest of the Turacos. Found in rainforest in eastern and western Africa (Entebbe Botanical gardens, Uganda).

The family Bucerotidae, the Hornbills, are found in the 'old world' tropics of Africa and Asia. They are large birds with huge bills, the ecological and morphological equivalent to the new world tropical Toucans.

hornbill-black-white-casued-entebbeBycanistes subcylindricus, 'Black and White Casqued Hornbill'. Found in rainforest and edge, including gardens, in eastern and western Africa (Entebbe Botanical Gardens).

Smaller songbirds of the African rainforest include:

isunga-wattleeyePlatysteira cyanea, 'Brown-throated Wattle-Eye', male (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).
ruboni-flycatcher-blueElminia longicauda, 'African Blue Flycatcher', (Ruboni Camp, Uganda). Found in wetter habitats, including rainforest, in a distjunct distribution in central eastern and western Africa.
apalis-black-winged-bwindiApalis jacksoni, 'Black-throated Apalis'. Found in rainforest of tropical Africa, mainly lowland rainforest of west Africa and montane forest of Albertine Rift (Bwindi, Uganda).
rwenzori-dusky-crimsonwingCryptospiza jacksoni, 'Dusky Crimsonwing'. Restricted distribution, endemic to the mountain forests of the Albertine Rift in Uganda, DRC, Burundi & Rwanda (Rwenzori, Uganda).

One of the most spectacular of bird groups in the African forest are the sunbirds, of the family Nectariniidae.

isunga-bronze-sunbirdBronze Sunbird
isunga-sunbird-orange-'(Greater?) Double-collared Sunbird'. Found on forest edge, and also in coastal scrub and fynbos, in South Africa (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

isunga-sunbird-regal-Cinnyris regia, 'Regal Sunbird' (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

The mammals of the rainforest of Africa include a high diversity of primates... 

Allochrocebus lhoesti, 'L'Hoest's Monkey'. Distinguished by reddish back, and white neck and cheeks.
bigodi-red-colobusPiliocolobus tephrosceles, 'Ugandan Red Colobus' (Bigodi Swamp, Uganda).

bigodi-black-white-colobusColobus guereza, 'Mantled Guereza', 'Eastern Black and White Colobus', 'Abyssinian Black and White Colobus'. This is the subspecies Colobus guereza occidentalis, 'Western Guereza'.

And of course the largest and most famous primate of the African jungle....

gorilal-mountain-male-face-bwindiGorilla beringei beringei, 'Mountain Gorilla' (Bwindi National Park, Uganda).

There are smaller mammals in the rainforest, such as rodents and bats.

ruboni-Caruthers-squirrelFunisciurus carruthersi, 'Caruther's Mountain Squirrel'. Found in the subtropical rainforest of the mountains of central and central-eastern Africa.
mozambique-bats'Straw-coloured Fruit Bats' in a colony high up in a tree. Don't look up in awe with your mouth open, or you might find yourself eating some 'second hand' fruit! (Mozambique)

Places to enjoy the African rainforest

Being Africa, there are lots of national parks and lodges to enjoy. One of the most famous is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda where you can track gorillas through the rainforest. Isunga Lodge, Kibale, Uganda is a beautiful lodge to stay at right on the edge of the national park, with great views and birding right in the gardens. Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda gives a taste of upland mountain rainforest and a cheap place to stay is Ruboni Camp. Further south into the subtropical area and you can enjoy the cooler rainforest of South Africa along the Garden Route.

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