The Batwa people, also referred to as the pygmies are recognized as the first inhabitants of the forest and are thought to have stayed in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for more than 60,000 years ago. These Batwa can currently be found in the southwest of Uganda in areas of Kanungu, Kabaale, Kisoro.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was declared a protected area by the government in 1992, primarily for the protection of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas. As a result, the Batwa people were sent out of the forest hence they became landless, penniless, and suffered several social difficulties after their eviction which marked the start of their sorrowful days. This led to them being despised by the bantu residents who looked down on their culture beliefs and stature.
The Batwa pygmies, who stand 1.5 meters tall on average, used to hunt and gather food and fruits from the tropical rain forest. They are still learning how to adjust to their new way of life as they now live near the edge of the forest and depend on farming. The Batwa community trail/visit was created as a way to enhance the Batwa people’s quality of life.
The Batwa cultural experience
The displaced Batwa founded the Batwa Cultural Experience to teach their kids and to showcase their unique culture and traditions to the world. The Batwa tour provides a unique opportunity to interact with the Batwa people who are a fascinating group of individuals that lead pretty unusual lives.
The Batwa cultural experience is one of the highlights as far as cultural and community experiences go. It is among the top things you can see and do in Uganda. This is because of their rich culture which has managed to stay unaltered by outside influences – over so many generations.
You may discover a lot about the Batwa’s culture and history by visiting them in Bwindi. You have the chance to engage in a cultural experience with these people as they demonstrate how they hunted for food from the forest using storytelling, exhilarating cultural dances, and thrilling folk music
What you will enjoy on the Batwa cultural experience
The Batwa trails begins with a hike in the forest. tourists who do Batwa community trails usually go for them a day after or before gorilla tour and the experience is so worth doing. Batwa trails lead you to the Batwa communities and into their homes bringing you close to these ancient people who for thousands of years co-existed with wild animals in the forests of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national park before the introduction of gorilla tourism and conservation.
While on your visit to the Batwa, you will enjoy the following.
- Your Batwa guide will give you the chance to experience the forest and its inhabitants from their point of view by joining a Batwa cultural trail. Through storytelling, folk songs and cultural dances, you will get to know how the Batwa lived in the forest and survived for all those years.
- You will get a chance to observe how they conducted their traditional hunting and way of life. Enjoy putting your hunting skills to the test while the Batwa teach you how to use a bow and arrow.
- You will also get to learn how to prepare, cook, and serve a dinner or a mean from the Batwa women when you visit a typical Batwa homestead.
- You will also have the opportunity to sample some of the local dishes the batwa people prepare.
- Enjoy folk songs and stories of how the Batwa would freely roam all over the forest for honey, wild yams, fruits, firewood as well as hunting down small animals on which they survived.
- Learn about the medicinal properties of the forest’s trees and how the Batwa used them for treatment
Though done for a short time, the Batwa trails in Bwindi Forest National Park are related to the Batwa cultural trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in where travelers spend the whole day enjoying the Batwa Culture Experience
A guided visit to the Batwa community can cost you about 50 USD per person. These funds are used to support the livelihoods of the Batwa and to conserve their culture and tradition. Many Batwa community groups have been formed in this area with a goal to empower and support the Batwa people.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for Batwa experience
By air you can get to Bwindi through the Entebbe airport then get a 2 hours transfer to Kisoro or Kihihi airstrip using chatter flights which are scheduled daily. From Kisoro or Kihihi, you will have a drive to Bwindi which usually takes takes about 2 hours.
By land from Entebbe or Kampala, you will have an 8 to 9hrs drive to Bwindi National park via the Kampala, Mbarara, Kabale Kisoro route. Here you have to start your journey quite early in order to make it early to your destination. Most travelers prefer to travel by air to avoid the long tiresome drive of 9hrs .
Taking part in Batwa cultural experience can be done anytime of the year and most visitors add it to their Gorilla safari itinerary.
You are advised to carry necessary gear while visiting Bwindi National Park, i.e. warm jacket or seater, because it is a cold area and it can rain any time of the day. You should also carry hiking boots, camera, backpack, rain jacket or Umbrella and some first aid items. You can also carry items to share with the locals if you wish to.
You are also advised to make your bookings and travel plans with a certified and professional travel agent, or tour operator. Jewel safaris is one of the best and most trusted Ugandan tour operators that can plan your trip to surpass your expectations.
Plan your tour to Bwindi impenetrable national park with Jewel safaris to visit the amazing Batwa people, enjoy Gorilla trekking and more.