The Batwa Cultural Trail
Done only in Mgahinga gorilla national park, Batwa cultural trail is a celebration of the past forest life for the Batwa who were traditional forest dwellers before conservation and tourism were introduced. Batwa cultural trail is the only way to experience true traditional African community for travelers going for uganda safaris in Mgahinga gorilla national park. The activity exposes travelers to the ancient forest life of Batwa comprised of hunting, fruit gathering, collecting honey and performing of rituals in the caves within the forest. History tell that the batwa depended wholly on the forest for food, shelter, fruits, firewood and lived in harmony with wild animals like mountain gorillas for over 500,000 years not living any foot print. Since their eviction from the forest, the batwa are not allowed to go back except during the batwa trail. This means that Batwa cultural trail was introduced purposely to improve the lives of batwa pygmies since they are the main participants and beneficiaries of the activity. Most travelers have done batwa cultural trail as a complement on their gorilla safaris to Mgahinga gorilla national park and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park south western Uganda.
On meeting the Batwa, you with no doubt see forest life in their eyes showing that they were happily and comfortably living in the forest until they were chased away. It’s surely a memorable experience spending time with the very ancient, short people dressed in hides while dancing and singing their ancient songs as a way of entertaining travelers. Batwa cultural trail is part of a full travel package to Mgahinga gorilla national park. Interestingly, the money earned from the batwa cultural trail goes back to batwa communities in form of food, clothes, scholastic material for children and medical services all aimed at improving their standards of living. The nomadic fruit and hunter gatherers are known to be the first people to reside in the tropical rain forests of south western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These people had free access to all natural resources in the forest and lived in harmony with wild animals in the forest until when they were relocated to the forest edges, which affected their ways. Unfortunately, the Batwa never sought ownership of the land they inhabited and depended on wholly before which left them landless and the poorest people in the whole world after their eviction.
How much is the Batwa cultural experience
A visit to these indigenous people comes at a cost of 80usd only. Payment is made at the head quarters of Mgahinga gorilla national park on the actual day of encounter. After paying, travelers enjoy a 5-6 gentle walk into the forest through the lower slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. Its here that the Batwa do different activities like making fires by friction, visiting the Ngarama caves, gathering fruits, and spotting different medicinal herbs as they sing traditional songs. The six hours of nature walk expose travelers to the true forest life since they encounter many animals and plant specie making the experience of its own kind.
When did the Batwa trail start?
It was on 7th June 2011 when the Batwa cultural trail was launched by the Uganda wildlife authority as a new tourism product in Mgahinga gorilla national park purposely to preserve the traditional cultures of Batwa people as well as improving their standards of living out side the forest. Similarly, the Batwa trail is a source of employment for the Batwa people since they are the main participants in form of guides, dancers and porters which help them to earn a living. Since then Batwa cultural trail has and is done as a complement of a gorilla trekking package in Mgahnga gorilla national park.
What does Batwa cultural trail entail?
It’s all about experiencing the traditional forest life of the batwa pygmies. The trail involves walking on the foothills of mount Gahinga and Muhabura going deep into the forest to the traditional grass thatched huts of the Batwa. On reaching the first hut, the guide (a mutwa) kneels down praying to the gods for a blessing throughout the walk. After the prayer, travelers are taken to visit different spots such as, Ngarama cave a home to the gods of the batwa where travelers are reminded to keep silent in honor of the gods. From there, you visit the traditional herbalist who heals all sicknesses such as malaria, excessive bleeding, headache and backaches with traditional herbs. The guides will help you to spot various medicinal herbs, which were and are still used for medicine. You also take part in collecting honey, hunting, gathering berries and other forest fruits. Which make the experience incredible.
How to dress in the Batwa cultural trail
Though travelers at this time are not looking out for the gorillas, the Batwa trail lead into deep forest, which require proper dressing. The grounds are muddy and slippery with forest weather, which cannot be predicted. Travelers are therefore required to dress in hiking boots to ease movements, huts, rain jackets and sweaters for the cold weather along walking sticks.
Conclusively therefore, take part in batwa cultural trail and enjoy the Batwa traditional forest life rewarding you with extensive knowledge about these ancient people.