10 – Top Things to Do and See – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – 10 – Top Things to Do and See

10-Top Tourist Activities in and near  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda


 Discover the Things to do and See in the Ancient Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a park that is home to the most Mountain Gorillas in Africa. 

The only Park in Africa Chimpanzees and gorillas coexist in the same park.  Home to other Primates, Forest Elephants, and rare Birds not found elsewhere.  Foremost, Bwindi Forest National Park is Gorilla Country with over 400 Gorillas that live there and are thriving because of sound Conservation Practices.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is Gorillas and more, the more is not discovered by most Visitors to the Park since they focus on Gorilla Treks.

They miss the Hikes, Climbs, Biking, Birding, intercultural visits just to name a few. The ancient forest offers many things to do and see – Discover that the Forest is not so impenetrable, but a place of Discovery like no other in East Africa.

CNN picked Bwindi Impenetrable Forest if May 2017 as one of Africa’s 5 Best Parks. Lonely Planet Picked Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as one of the most unusual Honeymoon Spots in the World.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is one of the most visited parks in Uganda – the reason –over  half of the mountain gorillas remaining in the world live here – and the good news is that they are thriving and growing in numbers. According to the last Survey – there are 400 Mountain Gorillas plus in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and here is some practical Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Information – Tips – Advice.

Most visitors who come here, come for Gorilla Trekking, there is however much more to this ancient – primeval rainforest – this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One could spend many days  on a Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Safari  – this is  one of the most fantastic places in all of Africa – not to be found elsewhere – Bwindi Forest is simply unique and has much more to offer than the magnificent Mountain Gorillas

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the oldest Afro-Montane Forests in East Africa, it survived the platonic shift that created the Albertine Rift that is all around it – It is thought that Bwindi Impenetrable Forest may have been inhabited 370,000 – 400,000 years ago by the Batwa People, the original people of the Rainforest.

Due to its age, one can see plants and trees here, that are not found elsewhere.  Bwindi  Impenetrable Forest is a hidden pearl in Uganda awaiting to be discovered by you, though many come here, the focus is gorilla tracking the magic and wonder of the ancient forest are missed.  This 128 square mile park has much to offer – there are many activities that one can partake in, amazing scenery, plants, wildlife, birds, primates, the list is endless.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the most bio-diverse forests in Africa with one of the best ecosystems on the Continent.

Here you can find 160 species of trees, over 100 species of ferns, over 1000 flowering plants, and Afro-montane vegetation that is simply incredible. It is located in southwestern Uganda and some of it along the border with the Democratic Republic – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the source of many rivers, there are pristine creeks, waterfalls, sights beautiful to behold.

The Bwindi Impenetrable forest is at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest part of what is referred to as the Kigezi Highlands.  The altitudes of the park range from 1,190 to 2,067 meters, though Bwindi has a tropical climate which can range from 7 degrees Celsius at night to 27 degrees Celsius during the day.

In Bwindi you can find over 120 species of mammals including Primates such as the Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus, Red-Tailed Guenon,Vervet Monkeys, L’Hoest’s Guenon, Baboons, Nocturnal Prosimians, Forest Elephants (hairier, smaller, smaller tusks, 1 extra toe on each foot), small antelopes such as Duikers, Bush pigs, Giant Forest Hogs, several small species of Cats.

A Birder’s Paradise with 348 species of birds including the African Green Broadbill and Shelley’s Crimson-wing. Other birds include the Francolin, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, Green Tinkerbird, Mountain and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls, Mountain Masked and Chestnut –throated Apalises, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, White-browed Crombec, Ruwenzori Batis and White-tailed fly-catcher among others.  ,

220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos – there is simply a lot of Discovery awaiting you at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Please note:  One does not track Chimpanzees here – though they are found here  – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is Gorilla Country.- the most Mountain Gorillas found in any park.


Here are the 10 Top Things to Do and See in-near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is broken down into 4 regional areas.  The best known was also the first Area for Gorilla Trekking – Buhoma is in the northern area of the Park, 45-minutes away is Ruhija. In Southern Bwindi Forest there are two areas, Nkuringo and Rushaga.  The southern areas are easily accessed from Rwanda and a scenic 4-hour plus drive from Kigali, Rwanda.

 1.  Gorilla Tracking – the number 1 activity in the Park:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is best known for Gorilla Tracking, that is the reason that most visitors come to this park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest provides an incredible backdrop for this once in a lifetime adventure.  There are four trailheads from which one tracks one of the gorilla families for which we have obtained permits for you.

More Gorilla Families have been habituated for visitors. That means that there are over 100 daily gorilla permits available in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Be sure to wear the right clothing for the trek and bring the things needed.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the best Safe, Secure Park in Africa for Gorilla Trekking – plus the added benefit of lower permit prices.


 2. Gorilla Habituation Experience in Rushaga- More Time with Gorillas:

It is only in Uganda that you can be with a Mountain Gorilla Family for 4 hours on a Gorilla Habituation Experience along with researchers in Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest – this amazing experience – to be with a Mountain Gorilla Family as it is being habituated is a one of a kind experience in Africa.

There are presently two family groups being habituated, meaning that they becoming used to human contact and will not run away from visitors trekking them.

You can fly into Kigali Rwanda and 4 hours later be in the Rushaga Region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  You have the choice of budget, moderate and upmarket lodging and can stay either in Rushaga or scenic Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Gorilla Habituation – fewer Participants, more time with the Gentle Giants of the Forest.


 3. A Visit with the First People of the Forest – the Batwa: 

The Batwa People – are pygmies and were the first inhabitants of years, they were hunter-gatherers and lived in the forests of Southwest Uganda and beyond.  They left a small ecological footprint on the forest and lived in harmony with nature. Conservationists insisted that they were evicted from their traditional home, the Forest.  In those days they had no voice, no representation – the existed as squatters, beggars, accused of being drunkards, marijuana smoking, lazy people.

Today various organizations have given them a voice, defended their rights as first people, improved their living conditions, medical care, education and more.

The Batwa Experience in the Buhoma area and the Buniga Forest Walk, near Southern Bwindi, give you a glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Batwa Pygmies.  It also restores a bit of their dignity and keeps their cultural practices alive to be passed on to future generations.


4. Hiking through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

The Hike through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can be one day or the long hike from the north of Bwindi to the South – called Nkuringo- there one can stay overnight and continue the next day down to scenic Lake Mutanda where you paddle across in a wooden dugout and continue to the town of Kisoro.

This is the most popular hike along two trails of Bwindi – there are however other trails and nature walk, most from easy to moderate in and near the Forest that can be explored on foot and require from an hour to all day long.

Hiking through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is always with a guide.  The through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Hikes have become more popular over the last few years, especially with those who choose to trek gorillas twice, once in Buhoma and once in the South of the Park.

This Hike incurs daily Park Fees and Guide Fees per person


 5. Hikes and Trails in and around Bwindi Impenetrable Park:

Not only can you hike through the forest, but there are also many hikes and nature walks in and outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that matches various fitness levels.

Trails can be found in Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo.  Some of the are birding hikes, while others focus on the scenery of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The Hikes and Nature Walks can be added on to your Gorilla Trek or gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Let us know at the time when you plan your safari with us about your hiking plans.

Note:  Hiking within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest incurs a daily Park Entrance Fee plus Ranger Guide Fee per person. Hiking Trails outside of the Park have only Guide Fees for the day.


 6. Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, it is one of the prime birding destinations in Africa.  There are over 347 species of forest birds recorded in the Park, at least 70 out of 78 montane forest bird species occurring in the Albertine Rift region are found in the forest, and 22 of the 36 endemic species in the region.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has been picked as Africa’s Number One Birding Site where you find many species endemic to the forest.

Now visitors come from far and wide to spot some of Africa’s rarest birds and at the same time, they can track the Mountain Gorillas and the enjoy other nearby prime birding spots.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – a top Birding Destination in Africa


7. Mountain Bike Rides – Buhoma and other areas of Park: 

Ride 4 a Woman which is a community support group offers mountain bike rentals and guided bike in and around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the Buhoma area of the park.

You can even do the Village Walk on a bike with a guide.  There are Birding Bike Rides, or simply a ride into the Forest such as the Ivy River Trail.  The average Bike Ride is 3 hours or longer in length with much to see along the trail or road.

The guides are all well-trained, some specialize in birding, others in culture but all know Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which they all love and want to conserve.

Please Note:  The Buhoma area provides the best Biking Experience.  Unfortunately there no organized biking experiences in the other areas of the park.  A few lodges have added biking as available activity in the other areas of the park.


8. Village Walks such as the Buhoma Village Walk:  

Here you have a 3-hour cultural walk through the village – you learn the ways and culture of the people that live in the Buhoma area on the edge of Bwindi Forest. The Village Walk is with a local guide who is friendly and knowledgeable about local culture and customs.

You will see how people make local crafts such as baskets with the most intricate designs – beer made from Bananas, and a distillery that makes the local Waragi Gin from Bananas, meet a traditional healer and learn of what is gathered in the ancient forest and how it is taken and applied to ailments – you will be amazed –

See how the growth of local produce is done and harvested, food preparation over charcoal or open fire, visit a school, and meet the Batwa Pygmy community as they perform a dance for you just to name a few.  It is certainly a cultural learning experience and the cost of the walk supports the local community – so a win-win for everyone. (3 hours in length and difficulty level is easy – Location – Buhoma Area) gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Please Note:  Each of the 4 Areas of the park has a Village Walk, the Buhoma one is the oldest.  The Nkuringo area is a close second and you can also do a Village Walk in the Rushaga and Ruhija Areas of the Park.


 9. Bwindi Community Hospital – one of Uganda’s Best Rural Hospitals:

The Bwindi Community Hospital is located in the Buhoma Area.  One reason that this hospital is on the cutting edge of Medical Care is that it is supported in part by donations that Gorilla Trekkers have made.

The Hospital gives excellent care, including Dental and Sight care.  The infant mortality rate in the area has been greatly reduced and life expectancy dramatically increased.  The hospital has a great children ward, offers dental care and sight care to the community. mostly supported by present and past Gorilla Trekkers to the Park.

Visitors are welcome to come and see them most anytime – the Hospital gives a glimpse of what healthcare can be like for rural Ugandans.


 10. Foodie Adventures at the Bwindi Bar and Restaurant in Buhoma: 

The Bwindi Bar and Restaurant in Buhoma is the Perfect Stop for the Foodie Adventurer on a Gorilla Trekking Safari in the Buhoma area where Tasty Treats are the norm combining International Fare with locally produced items.

Try the Bwindi version of the famed Rolex Dish in Uganda. Those that want to try local food, it is on the menu but also Cassava Chips with Bwindi Salsa or Guacamole. You can have a Fudge Brownie with a cup of Americano Coffee. There is the Juice Bar with freshly made juices.  The Restaurant is sponsored by the exclusive Bwindi Lodge and is a training ground for underprivileged youth in the area.

Bwindi Bar and Restaurant on Main Street in Buhoma


Bwindi is home to the Mountain Gorillas but it also a place for many activities – Top Things to Do and See – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest- the above were just a few.


 Is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Safe & Secure?

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the safest National Parks in all of East Africa.  There are 4 Parks where you can track Mountain Gorillas, three of them without incident for the past 20 years.  Virunga National Park, the oldest park in Africa is located in Eastern Congo where Rebel Groups such as the Mai-Mai, Criminal Gangs such as the Charcoal Gangs have created havoc.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is safe and secure where you cannot even enter into the Park itself without an armed Ranger Escort.  The park and activities in it are monitored by Rangers and the Ugandan Military 24/7.  You do not go on a Gorilla Trek without armed escort.

Bwindi Impenetrable earns more income for Uganda Wildlife Authority than any other park.  That permit and the entrance money is used for conservation of the Gorillas and the forest and for local communities providing infrastructure for those near the park.  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the Crown-Jewel for Uganda Wildlife Authority and everything is done to protect the park, the mountain Gorillas and visitors that come here from around the world.

 


 Where To Stay in or near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Where to stay while visiting Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and gorilla tracking, hiking, biking, cultural walks, birding in the ancient rainforest.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest ranges from budget to exclusive luxury lodging.  The range of lodges is extensive, especially in the Buhoma Area of the Park.

In recent years added lodges have sprung up in the other areas of the park giving visitors a range of options and selections.

Lodge Rates tend to be higher around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest than other parks in Uganda, on the positive side, lodge rates are lower than in neighboring Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking.

We use Quality Lodges based o feedback from our Clients and our Personal Observations.

Bwindi is home to the Mountain Gorillas but it also a place for many activities – Top Things to Do and See – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest- and staying at a good lodge only enhances your time here.


 Best Gorilla Trekking Safaris that include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with 480 plus Gorillas remains the best place in East Africa for Gorilla Trekking, besides it has more Habituated Gorilla Groups than anywhere else.

Not only can you trek Gorillas on safari here but Bwindi is the only place where you can go on an all-day Gorilla Habituation Experience – spending 4 hours with a gorilla group being habituated.

There are no longer any Discounted Permits, they were discontinued in November of 2017.

Gorilla Trekking – a once in a lifetime experience.

Luxury Gorilla Safaris   Fly in Gorilla Safaris   Fly into Rwanda – Trek Gorillas in Uganda Safaris

Gorilla Habituation  Experience Safaris


 Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a 9 hour plus drive from Entebbe International Airport.  We break that long drive into smaller drives by incorporating different parks and activities.

Fly into Kigali – Rwanda and Trek Gorillas in Uganda – Kigali International Airport is the gateway to Southwest Uganda.  A mere 4-hour drive and you are in Rushaga or Nkuringo in the Southern End of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with some of the best Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

Fly-In Gorilla Safaris:  You can also fly from Entebbe to Kihihi and stay in the Buhoma area of the Forest or fly to Kisoro and stay in the southern region of the Forest.

Most of our Clients choose to fly into Kigali Rwanda and trek Gorillas in Nkuringo or Rushaga areas of Bwindi Forest which is a mere 4-hour drive from Kigali.


The Batwa Experience with the First People of the Forest – Bwindi

A Day with Batwa Pygmies – the Keepers of the Forest – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The Batwa Experience with the First People of the Forest who have lived in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for Thousands of years


Interactive Visit – The Batwa Experience with the First People of the Forest – A Day with the original people of the forest – The Batwa Pygmies.  Learn how they prepared for the hunt, their hunting techniques, what they gathered in Forest and how they lived – leaving a small ecological footprint on their environment.

The Batwa People are Conservation Refugees living at the edge of the forest that was their home for Centuries and they lived n harmony with Mountain Gorillas, they considered eating one Cannibalism since they considered the Gorillas as part of their Forest Family.  Conservationists, others like Dian Fossey unfortunately saw them as Gorilla Killer, unfortunately the latter stuck instead of the keepers of the Forest that they were.

The Batwa Experience in the Buhoma Area of Bwindi will be an eye-opener to you, a cultural insight into the lives of the original people of Southwest Uganda, the Batwa.

Be sure to let us know that you would like to include the Batwa Experience in your Safari while Gorilla Trekking in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.


For 500,00 years the Batwa People lived, hunted and gathered in their beloved forest.  Before any other people lived in what is today Bwindi Impenetrable Forest there were the Batwa Pygmies – the  indigenous people of the ancient rainforest.

The forest provided everything that they needed, in turn, they left a minimal footprint in the forest, they co-existed with Nature and their environment only taking what the forest provided and what they needed.

The concept of owning the forest, of owning land was foreign to them – they lived in harmony with their surroundings and kept their traditional ways and culture even when other people groups moved into the areas surrounding them.

Times changed – In the name of conservation, in the cause preserving the ancient rainforest and its wildlife, birds, primates such as the mountain gorillas, the keepers of the forest were displaced without compensation since they did not own the land of the forest, they had only used it.  They became squatters, refugees, a people without, a people who lacked, a people on the verge of losing their traditional ways and culture,  their dignity, ways of living they had known and practiced for thousands of years – their beloved Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The Batwa Experience with the First People of the Forest – To Experience Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with the Batwa People is one way of keeping those ancient ways and traditions alive for the Batwa Pygmy People, a way of passing on the traditions and culture that had been such an integral part of who they were to their children and grandchildren and allowing outsiders, visitors to see and take part in their ancient ways.

Today you can spend a day Experience Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with the Batwa People – the  people of small stature but big hearts and allow them to guide and lead you through their beloved forest and learn of their traditional ways from handling a bow and error to which plants, berries, roots and bark to pick for medicinal purposes, to the gathering of honey .  Eat a traditional meal – today that is some goat stew and gain insight into a way of life that might be foreign to you and yet very enriching.

The Batwa Experience takes place outside of the park in an old-growth forest on land that is next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park.  The Batwa experience begins with a nature-walk, hike through the forest seeing the forest in a new way, through the eyes of the original people of the Forest, the keepers of the forest.  Learn how they hunted the small animals they used for food, what things they gathered, how traps and nets were used.

The Batwa Experience will also show you how they lived in huts made of grass, trees, the use of tree-houses, caves.  Experience the Batwa village life of old, the sharing, of living as a community, as a people, learn the things that they revered and cared for and almost lost.

A full day – over five hours or longer experiencing the Life and Ways of the Batwa Pygmies – your simple presence will honor them and their ways and in a way be a restoration of their dignity one of the most important things they have lost as they were evicted from the forest and having to live in a world that was foreign to them, a world where others would malign and look down on them as primitive and uncultured.

The Batwa Experience is an interactive time of learning, of seeing the forest in new ways, the ways of old, a day of personal enrichment, something not to be missed while in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Plan a day for your Batwa Experience and let us know that you would like to spend a day with the keepers of the forest, the Batwa people.  The cost per person is minimal compared to what you have spent visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and it directly supports the Batwa Development program.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is not only a place where you can visit and track the gorillas but a place where you can experience the right culture and ways of life of the Original People of the Forest – the Batwa Pygmies…enjoy your personal Batwa Experience in Buhoma.

We think based on our past clients reactions that the Batwa Experience is not to be missed if you are trekking Gorillas in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Forest.


 Batwa Cultural Visits Authentic?

This is a question that we are asked from time to time.  They are certainly different from the proverbial Masai Village Visit that many Visitors have done in Kenya or Tanzania.  It is a reenactment as to how Batwa used to live in the forest for thousands of years until they were evicted from them without compensation in 1991 ad 1992 becoming Conservation Refugees watching Gorilla Trekkers spend thousands of dollars while they, the Batwa were on outside looking in what was once theirs.

The Batwa Visits allow Tourists to see the forest through the eyes of the first people of the Forest.  It is meaningful not only tourists but to the Batwa since it allows them to keep their culture alive in the 21st Century.  it certainly is not poverty tourism meant to evoke pity from Visitors.  Most that partake are very glad that they met the Batwa people while Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

We think that it is a way that Dignity is restored to the maligned Batwa People.


The Batwa Experience with the First People of the Forest – if this interests you – please contact us.


Visiting the Batwa People in Uganda

See the Ancient Forest through the Eyes of its First People – the Batwa People

Can Gorillas – Forest Conservation – Tourism and the Batwa People Coexist?


Visiting the Batwa People – the Original People of the Rainforests have become Conservation Refugees  evicted from their Traditional Hunting and Gathering Grounds – the Rainforests of Uganda and Rwanda.

Can Gorillas – Forest Conservation – Tourism and the Batwa People Coexist?  The answer is a resounding yes, they did so for 500,000 years.

The Batwa People have their own creation story, in it there creator gave some people height, others prosperous land, but when he got to the Batwa, there were no more such gifts, so he gave them the Rainforest. When they were evicted by the Government in the 1990s, they felt God had rejected them.

By Visiting the Batwa People – the People of the Rainforest in Uganda you are helping to keep the Batwa – Traditions and Culture alive.

Not only that, but you are providing income, infrastructure, and giving support to the neglected and maligned First People of the Forest.


The Batwa People Batwa People – the original People of the Rainforest are Pygmies who were the first  inhabitants of the montane Rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi. They lived, gathered and hunted in the Rainforests for over 500,000 years there was no farming, there was no destruction of the forest, no charcoal making, their shelters did not disturb the environment, they lived in harmony with their beloved forests, wildlife including the Mountain Gorillas and left a low ecological footprint behind them.

The Batwa Pygmies (Twa in Rwanda) led a simple and harmonious way of life with nature without farming, livestock keeping, they simply relied on the Rainforest for their existence only taking what was needed. There is a Batwa saying “A Mutwa (Singular Batwa) loves the forest as much as he loves his own body.”

Many Ugandans call Batwa, as do conservationists, “Killers of Gorillas”, the Batwa do not and have not eaten Gorillas, instead, they coexisted with them for centuries.  Any Gorilla Hunting that the Batwa did was done so at the instigation of others after their eviction and where money was used as an incentive.

 Today the Batwa are stigmatized as Gorilla Killers and Poachers and are readily blamed for any poaching that takes place in either Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

Here is the reality, the Batwa people were keepers and protectors of the forest until the Bantu People came to the area, the Bantu tribes were the ones who cut down the forests, cultivated and grazed their cattle on fields that were once their precious Rainforests. The Batwa coexisted with Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and every other animal, bird, in the now parks.

When Rwanda became a Kingdom (the kingdom’s northern border was in present-day Uganda), the Batwa would pay tribute to the Tutsi King in various ways.  They were even included in the court of the King as advisers, dancers, and warriors.  They were allowed to extract payment from those encroaching on the forest, they were also able to tax caravans, traders coming through their area.

Life for the Batwa People changed drastically in 1991 when Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest were established for the protection of the Forests, Wildlife, and Primates such as the Mountain Gorillas.

In 1992 all those living on Park Land in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and that included the “First People of the Rainforest” – the Batwa received no compensation in the form of land or money. This was done at the insistence of conservationists.

The non-Batwa Farmers who for years had destroyed the now Park-lands received compensation and  land-rights, while the Batwa who had lived for centuries in forests without destroying the Ecosystem received nothing.  There was no recognition by the Ugandan Government about their historical claims to the land.

The need protect the forests in the parks was great, today in the 21st Century the forest would no longer exist, without gorilla conservation which protects the habitats of Gorillas, without Gorilla Tourism being a source of money for that conservation work.

The area around both parks is heavily populated and the surrounding communities would have moved deeper and deeper into the parks to build houses and farms destroying forests and the Gorilla habitats.

Since 1992, the original people who lived in coexistence with the forests, wildlife, gorillas, who took only what they needed were left with nothing.  he Batwa, without land – without a way of life which had been one of hunting and gathering.

On the one hand they were citizens of Uganda, while on the other hand, they were a people without rights,  without compensations for their losses, now living outside of their ancient homelands as squatters at the mercy of others, as outcasts, the Batwa Pygmies were now a people without an identity reduced to begging, poaching, stealing and working for others as indentured Servants who paid them a mere pittance and not a fair wage for their work.

Without land of their own or the skills to compete in the modern marketplace, the Batwa have become marginalized, existing in extreme poverty on the parks’ boundaries, looking in where they used to live. The other tribal communities are for the most part – non-supportive.

Prejudice against the Batwa is deeply rooted and goes all the way to government and other parts of Uganda where Batwa’s have no respect at all and seen as lazy, thieves, Pot Smoking (traditionally done before a hunt), drunkards.

Non-Batwa refuse to marry Batwa men or women, yet non-Batwa rape Batwa women (over 50% of Batwa women claim to have been raped – non-Batwa falsely believe they would be cured of AIDS having sex with a Batwa woman (this has resulted in non-pygmy children being born into the community).

 Non-Batwa refuse to even have a meal with them.  There are random acts of violence and harassment committed against the Batwa.

Even clinics refused treatment of Batwa People.  The mortality rate of Batwa people was very high at a much younger and infant mortality was simply through the roof.

After some years, the Batwa cultural ways, the ways of gathering and hunting were in danger of being lost, the young people began to grow up in a world where they would hear the stories of old  but never experienced the ways of the forest for themselves, all they saw was the squalor and abject poverty in which they grew up in.

The ways of hunting, gathering, even of honey, traditional medicine, traditional skills all were no longer taught to the young Batwa people because there is no access to the ancient forests.

The Batwa people have gotten a voice, there are Batwa organizations within Uganda that are speaking out and making a difference on their own behalf.  The Dream still is to go back into the forest and live in Coexistence with their environment and that includes the Mountain Gorillas where they hope is once again peacefully exist with the Mountain Gorillas.

The Batwa Dream is to go back into their Forest and once again live in harmonious existence with the Forest, Wildlife, and Gorillas.

The Dream still is to go back into the forest and live in Coexistence with their environment and that includes the Mountain Gorillas where they hope is once again peacefully exist with the Mountain Gorillas.  Something that will most likely never happen.  The Forests have shrunk too much to sustain both people and gorillas. There is also the possibility in a smaller forest environment where the Batwa could transmit diseases to the gorillas, especially the habituated ones.  Gathering in the forest in certain locations might be something else to look at but not hunting.

 There are less than 3,000 Batwa People today, yes People can also become extinct some concerned people and agencies are doing their best to revive the Batwa Spirit of old that lived in harmonious coexistence with the Forest, the animals, including the endangered Mountain Gorillas.

Foreign Nonprofit Agencies such as the one started by the American medical missionaries Dr. Scott and Carol Kellerman, who have dedicated themselves to serving the Batwa People in southwest Uganda since 2002. The Kellerman’s purchased land and established programs to improve conditions for the tribe—home-building, schools, a hospital (Bwindi Community Hospital) and clinics, water and sanitation projects, income generation, and the promotion of indigenous rights.

These activities are now being assumed by the Batwa people and other local staff through the Batwa Development Program (BDP). It is supported by the Kellermann Foundation, a US-based nonprofit organization.


A Ray of Hope for the Batwa People – Visiting the Batwa People – the People of the Rainforest in Uganda keeping the ways of old alive:


Though the Batwa people are not allowed to live in the Forests that make up the parks, though the Batwa  cultural ways are rapidly diminishing since their eviction.  However things are changing, in 2011 Uganda Wildlife Authority assisted by money from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Netherland’s Embassy in Kampala began the now famous Batwa Cultural Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Where members of the Batwa Community lead tourists through the forest in the shadows of the Virunga Volcanoes and teach the visitors about their ancient ways of hunting and gathering and the Batwa Guides get to return to the Rainforest and keep their traditions alive, at least in spirit.  The Batwa communities also receive half of the Batwa Trail Fees.  Tips are accepted…

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme worked with the Batwa Community and began the Buniga Batwa Forest Walk and village visit program.  This is at the south end of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  Buniga Forest is not part of Bwindi National Park, however, the vegetation, wildlife, and primates are similar and one just see a few chimpanzees while on the Forest Walk with Batwa Guides keeping the tradition and cultural ways of the Batwa People alive.

There is also the Batwa Experience which was set up by the Kellerman Foundation outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the half day Batwa Experience has benefited the Batwa Community and those what made the Batwa Experience a part of their time in the ancient Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Today there are Batwa Communities benefiting from tourism and making a living that keeps them from poaching and turns them toward conservation of the forest and of the wildlife and Primates.

Below you will find 3 activities in South West Uganda where you can learn the ancient Batwa ways and traditions in their beloved Forest.  Enjoy your time with the Batwa people and the Mountain Gorillas…


Visiting the Batwa People – the People of the Rainforest in Uganda


 The Batwa Trail – Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a great park – the scenery that you encounter as you venture with your Batwa Guides is simply amazing.

The Batwa Trail allows you to see the forest through the eyes of the first people of  – the Batwa Pygmy people and allows them some meaningful income that will make a difference in their lives.

Take the Batwa Trail, learn the Batwa Ways, end with dancing in the Garama Cave where a song of lament, of not living in the forest is brought forth by the women.

You, in turn, learn the ancient ways of hunting and gathering that the Batwa People used and how they lived in the ancient forest.

This is normally a 5-Trail and the reviews of it are excellent.  The intent has been for authenticity as the Batwa People demonstrate how they used to live here.


The Buniga Batwa Forest Walk:

The Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa people is near Kisoro – easily accessed from the southern area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest such as Nkuringo – Rushaga – from around Lake Mutanda or Kisoro.

The forest walk here once again is very informative about the Batwa People and their ways and this includes a visit to the village from which they come from and where you see beehives and crafts made.

This activity was begun by the African Wildlife Fund in order to assist the Batwa Community in this area and to keep them from poaching antelopes in the parks.  Something that had to be resorted to in order to survive.  One must keep in mind that the Batwa are fully aware of the fees that visitors pay for Gorilla Trekking while they are excluded from the forest, though a small percentage of funds is shared with them, often never reaching every community member.

Another enriching experience with the first people of the forest.  This activity is a community program sponsored by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.


The Batwa Experience at Buhoma:

The Batwa Experience takes place just outside of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and includes hunting and gathering ways, but also about how the Batwa People used to live, prepare food, collect their medicine from plants, roots, and bark.

The Batwa experience takes place in Buhoma – and those who take part in this 5 hour plus experience simply love it and take with them some great memories

Any of the above Batwa Walks with the original people of the forest can easily be added on to any safari around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park – we would be glad to do so.

This is an excellent interactive Cultural Experience in the Buhoma Area of the Forest.


 Batwa Cultural Visits Authentic?

This is a question that we are asked from time to time.  They are certainly different from the proverbial Masai Village Visit that many Visitors have done in Kenya or Tanzania.  It is a reenactment as to how Batwa used to live in the forest for thousands of years until they were evicted from them without compensation in 1991 ad 1992 becoming Conservation Refugees watching Gorilla Trekkers spend thousands of dollars while they, the Batwa were on outside looking in what was once theirs.

The Batwa Visits allow Tourists to see the forest through the eyes of the first people of the Forest.  It is meaningful not only tourists but to the Batwa since it allows them to keep their culture alive in the 21st Century.  it certainly is not poverty tourism meant to evoke pity from Visitors.  Most that partake are very glad that they met the Batwa people while Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

We think that it is way that Dignity is restored to the maligned Batwa People.


 


If you are interested in a visit with the Batwa People while Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park – please contact us

 

 


The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park- a day with the original People

The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park -Authentic Culture

Seeing the Forest through the Eyes of the First People – The Batwa Pygmies


Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park allows you to experience the ways of the ancient Batwa People the first  People of the Forest  lived here in harmony with nature and Gorillas until they were evicted in 191 and 1992 and became what is called Conservation Refugees living in the shadow of their former home as squatters and outcasts. 

The Batwa Trail keeps the ancient ways and culture alive. The Batwa People who have lived here for 500,000 years and have gained much wisdom when it comes to the Forest. 

The Batwa, wrongly labeled by movies such as “Gorillas in the Mist” as Gorilla Killers a label that has remained – eviction from the forest without compensation made them become poachers in order to feed their children.

The Batwa, once a proud people whose fierceness was respected by other tribes who had migrated to Southwest Uganda,

Today the Batwa Trail provides an an enriching look into the past and the the present of the Batwa people – gives them pride and dignity, a source of income and you insight into a rich and ancient culture.


 The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. In 1991 these ancient forests and mountains became Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Batwa Pygmy People were without a home in the forest.  Since that time they have lived as marginalized people – Ugandans but disdained by other Ugandans as primitive.

They have seen tourists come and spend 600 USD on gorilla permits and visit their ancient land while they have gone without any compensation, without being given new land, living in utter poverty.

“The Batwa Forest Trail” is part of a project to restore dignity and hope by keeping the Batwa  Culture and Traditions alive to the Batwa People, give employment to those who are in involved in the day-to-day project of the “Batwa Trail” from the dancers to the guides, pay for school fees for the children, books and beyond that buy land for the community.

Your participation in The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park is a half – day activity will not only be an informing and interesting time for you but aid the Batwa Pygmy Community.


 The Batwa Forest Trail- Seeing the Forest through the eyes of the First People:

Every culture has an in the beginning story and so do the Batwa People.  The walk starts out with a Batwa elder – actually a middle-aged person dressed in skins telling the story of the Batwa creation and how they became a people of the forest. The Batwa were the original people in this area of Uganda, long before other people migrated here.

Walk along in the shadows of Mount Muhavura (also called Muhabura – meaning the guide) and Gahinga Volcano as your guide stops and kneels down.  Has he spotted an animal but he asks his God to bless the walk as the hunter of old did as they went hunting in the forest of old.

Further down you may stop for a few berries that the hunter used to use for a meal prior to hunting.  Learn the value of plants used for medicine – such as blood pressure and other medical needs.  The black crust of ants nests used for applying to fungal infections of the skin.  You just saw plants – they see a pharmacy.

 One thing you will notice as you see them demonstrating hunting and trapping techniques, starting a fire with a stick, gathering honey,  the huts that they lived in, that they lived a lifestyle with a low impact on their environment and their surroundings.

The Batwa Trail allows them to return to the beloved forest and show others about how they lived and potentially keep some of their ways and crafts such as making bamboo cups, clothing beyond this generation of the Batwa people.

Come to Garama Cave – the former residence of the King of the Batwa People  – no outsider was allowed to enter – but you have special permission.  The cave was also used for the Batwa people to hide from their enemies.

Enter the sacred Garama Cave- going down – if you are a bit claustrophobic – relax – it will be fine.  You enter down – darkness embraces you and you hear mournful chants of the Batwa women – mourning the loss of the beloved forest.  A dim light illuminates the cave and you see them dancing with the words like tears pouring forth – a most meaningful time.

Outside there is celebratory dances and music – enjoy your day with the first people of the Forest – the Batwa people.


 Batwa Cultural Visits Authentic?

This is a question that we are asked from time to time.  They are certainly different from the proverbial Masai Village Visit that many Visitors have done in Kenya or Tanzania.  It is a reenactment as to how Batwa used to live in the forest for thousands of years until they were evicted from them without compensation in 1991 ad 1992 becoming Conservation Refugees watching Gorilla Trekkers spend thousands of dollars while they, the Batwa were on outside looking in what was once theirs.

The Batwa Visits allow Tourists to see the forest through the eyes of the first people of the Forest.  It is meaningful not only tourists but to the Batwa since it allows them to keep their culture alive in the 21st Century.  it certainly is not poverty tourism meant to evoke pity from Visitors.  Most that partake are very glad that they met the Batwa people while Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

We think that it is way that Dignity is restored to the maligned Batwa People.


 Our Recommendation:

If you are tracking Gorillas in the southern area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or In Mgahinga Gorilla Park then do not miss a visit to the Batwa.

The Batwa Trail in the Mgahinga Gorilla Park can easily be added to your safari, especially if you are tracking Gorillas in the Nkuringo, Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Tracking of Gorillas – Rushaga areas of Bwindi Forest.  Gorilla Trekking can be done in Mgahinga Gorilla Park with the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family that is habituated for Gorilla Tracking.

Other activities that can be done here are day hikes consisting of volcano climbing, birding, nature walks, Golden Monkey Tracking.

Enjoy the Batwa Trail and learn the ways of the first people of the forest, a one of a kind experience in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa

 


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If you are interested in adding The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park to your Safari Itinerary with us – please let us know.


The Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies in South Bwindi Forest

Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies – the First People of the Forest

Discover the Rainforest through the Eyes of the Batwa People


Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies is where members of the Batwa Community lead you through  Buniga Forest showing you their ancient ways of hunting, gathering and living by leaving a low ecological footprint.  The Batwa People have lived here for thousands of years and the Forest Walk, near Nkuringo and Rushaga, is a way in which they share their traditional ways of life and culture.

The Buniga Forest Walk is a way of seeing the Forest through the eyes of its first people, the Batwa Pygmies who in 1991 and 1992 were evicted from Uganda’s Parks and became Conservation Refugees.  They that had been the keepers of the Forest and lived in harmony with nature leaving a low ecological footprint behind them.

The Batwa will gladly take you on a 2-hour hike into their forest showing you how they used to live.  The walk is an interactive learning time.  The Batwa benefit from the fees that you pay for the walk.

Be sure to let us know that you want to include the Buniga Forest Walk in your Safari with us.


Buniga Forest like many others such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was once inhabited by the Batwa people – they were the original people of the forest.

As parks were formed(1991) they were evicted from their ancient dwelling, hunting and gathering places.  Today they are a people who are without a home, and one could go further, a people who lost their identity, a people in transition, often marginalized by other people groups and yet they are the people that know forests such as Buniga, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest the best and the best are your guides through the magical forest of Buniga.  The walk is a merging of nature and ancient culture and  visitors are simply amazed by what they experience.

The Forest itself is rich in floral diversity with species including Afro-Montane Plants such as the Giant Lobelia, there are Tree Ferns such as you have never seen before, the forest is filled with magical natural wonders. Primates, including chimpanzees, can be spotted here, bird species abound including many that are endemic to the area.

On the Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies, you will not miss much including the plants they used to gather, the barks, roots, berries, some of them for traditional medicine and some for food, something that even today is much relied on by the Batwa people.  Another material in the forest was used to build huts, to make clothing and the like.

It is generally accepted that the Batwa pygmy people were the original people of the forest, but also of this region before other people groups migrated here.  As you are with your Batwa Guides you learn ways and traditions that go back thousands of years and were passed on from generation to generation.  Since they are now a people in transition without their forest there is the danger of the next generations losing their rich and ancient ways.  The Buniga walk guided by the Batwas restores some of which they have lost in a small way and keeps traditions and ways alive.

The Batwa Guides will show their methods of honey gathering, of hunting and of trapping and one needs to be reminded that they gathered and hunted only what they needed and not to excess.  The Batwa people of the forest left a small footprint of their presence behind very different from much of the rest of the world.  The forest was considered sacred and something to be protected and not to be exploited by the original people of the Forest.

Though the Buniga Forest Walk is not highly promoted, is not offered by most tour companies it is something not to be missed if you are going gorilla tracking in the stunningly scenic Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

After the forest walk which ends at the Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation take the short 5-kilometer drive to the Sanuriiro community of the Batwas and see how they live today instead of in their former home in the forest.  Many of them are landless squatters instead of the proud people of the forest.  Buy some Batwa crafts, ask questions and your guides from the forest walk will be with you, see beehives being created and receive a pleasant sendoff after an enriching experience.

Enjoy your time on the Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies in the ancient Buniga Rainforest in Southwest Uganda near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. After the Buniga Forest Walk, you can visit the Batwa Village which is nearby and see how the Batwa People live today..B


 Are Batwa Cultural Visits Authentic?

This is a question that we are asked from time to time.  They are certainly different from the proverbial Masai Village Visit that many Visitors have done in Kenya or Tanzania.  It is a reenactment as to how Batwa used to live in the forest for thousands of years until they were evicted from them without compensation in 1991 ad 1992 becoming Conservation Refugees watching Gorilla Trekkers spend thousands of dollars while they, the Batwa were on outside looking in what was once theirs.

The Batwa Visits allow Tourists to see the forest through the eyes of the first people of the Forest.  It is meaningful not only tourists but to the Batwa since it allows them to keep their culture alive in the 21st Century.  it certainly is not poverty tourism meant to evoke pity from Visitors.  Most that partake are very glad that they met the Batwa people while Gorilla Trekking in Uganda.

We think that it is a way that Dignity is restored to the maligned Batwa People


If you like to go to the Buniga Forest Walk with the Batwa Pygmies during your safari with us – please contact us.