The Batwa Trail found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park within southwest Uganda has for several years been under establishment and this has seen various partners contribute towards its development. The trail is a cultural tourism ‘invention,’ as referred to in the tourism industry, although this ‘invention’ is something that unveils a culture back into the forest on which it entirely depends. This it does in a way that well benefits the tourists, Batwa people, and the forest as well with utmost respect to the culture of the Batwa people.
The Batwa trail was officially launched on 7th June, 2011, by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Kisoro District local government and the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU). This launch included a landmark occasion that comprised of the signing of an official agreement between UWA- Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Batwa community, as well as the local government on this new tourism invention within the national park.
Regardless of Uganda’s history of joint forestry plus natural resource use, beekeepers have already been permitted to have registered beehives in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, for instance this remains an exceptional arrangement that highlights the persistent need to officially engage communities in the conservation of protected regions.
The Batwa Trail goes across the bottom slopes of 2 volcanoes within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is a forested area that contains a rich biodiversity among which are the famed mountain gorillas. Visitors get an opportunity to experience the verdant forest as well as encounter the sociable Batwa through the voyages they make led by resident Batwa guides.
At a customary Batwa house is constructed using forest materials, and the guides will narrate Batwa myths as well as show you the traditional method of making a fire. A little distance away, young men redo a traditional forest hunt for a buffalo. The Visitors will have a chance to sample a few of the forest herbs plus fruits, and also learn how these people used the forest profusion for medicine, provisions as well as tools.
The highlight is the descent into the stunning Garama Cave, which is a long lava tube estimated to be 200 meter long under Mt. Gahinga. The cave was used by the last king of the Batwa as a safe hide out. A lively traditional performance of songs and dances is staged within the rocky burrow makes and this makes this adventure a very memorable experience. You can Read an earlier description about The Batwa Trail from a preceding IGCP post.
Various people have been touring The Batwa Trail since way back from 1st July, 2010 and today more than 70 visitors, majority being international tourists; have tracked The Batwa Trail, each person paying a fee of $80 US dollars. 40 dollars of the money paid is given to UWA for purposes of conserving the park. The remaining 40 dollars go to the Batwa community as direct support to the local 34 guides plus the musicians or to a money collection fund meant for future development within the Batwa community, which is approximated to 1,500 people living in Kisoro District.
This Batwa Trail was established by UWA, Kisoro District, as well as UOBDU with technical plus financial help from the USAID STAR Project, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Netherlands Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS)Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and the USAID PrimeWest.
Location: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The thick forest at the bottom of the Virunga Volcanoes was home to the impressive Batwa people: fierce warriors, hunter and gatherers that depended entirely on the forest for food, medicine and shelter thanks to olden knowledge that was passed on to the following generations.
The establishment of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park saw the abrupt eviction of the Batwa people from this forest forcing them to abandon their nomadic lifestyle. Today these people do not have permanent land and can only work for the local farmers. They are only allowed to enter their once very treasured forest as tour guides on this Batwa Trail. The guides unveil to the visitors the thrill of their once upon a time home.
Throughout this thrilling tour, the Batwa people display their hunting methods; honey gathering skills; reveal medicinal plants as well as exhibit how they make bamboo cups. The visitors are then led to the consecrated Ngarama Cave, which was one time home to a king of the Batwa, where the Batwa women from their community do perform a mournful song that echoes unmusically through the depths of this dark cave. This rewards visitors a remarkable and heartrending feel of the richness of this unfortunately fading tradition.
Turn off all flashlights in the Ngarama Cave, as eerie singing starts to echo in the darkness
Producing a fire necessitates team work! Observe your Batwa guides as they make a fire to smolder out bees
Marvel at a traditional grass thatched Batwa hut – which is easy to build as well as to demolish; this nature of hut was ideal for their nomadic culture
Take pleasure in the energetic dance at the entrance of the cave as the women of the Batwa community sing traditional welcome songs for their visitors.
Trek through the unspoiled Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, with rewarding sights of the Virunga Volcanoes
a large number of the Batwa are not capable to make enough money to cater for their families, since they do not posses any private land. So a fraction of the tour-fee is given to the guides as well as performers, whereas the other given to the community fund that is used to pay school fees purchase books, and buy land.
This tour persuades the carry out of traditional skill practices such as looking for medicinal plants, use of bows plus arrows as well as making of bamboo cups. Majority of these practices are diminishing as the Batwa mix with people from the surrounding communities
The generated income is an alternative to the once practiced unlawful poaching within the Park
Guided tour as well as performances