The Batwa experience is another interesting and informative activity in Bwindi Impenetrable national park besides Gorilla tracking. Although the park is a habitat for the Mountain Gorillas, mammals, trees, birds, and primates, the park also consists of montane and lowland forests in the southwestern part of Uganda which is believed that this was home to the Batwa people and were the first people who lived in the Bwindi Impenetrable orest. These very short and indigenous people are also known as the Batwa Pygmies. This fascinating experience starts from the Batwa craft and souvenir shop located in the Buhoma trading center quite a few meters from the Bwindi Impenetrable national park entrance. The activity lasts about 5-6 hours including traveling time both to and from. One should note that the latest time to depart the souvenir shop is exactly 2 pm. Also, the maximum number of visitors allowed to participate is 12 people per setting off; 12 in the morning and 12 in the afternoon.
The hike is moderately strenuous and tiring. Some sections of the trail are steep but manageable and accessible. This is because the path is well maintained and the presence of experienced guides will travel at your desired pace. Unfortunately, visitors with severe health complications and mobility issues are discouraged from the activity due to its physical requirements and hard adventure nature that could place such visitors at risk in isolated environments.
The Batwa pygmies lived a simple and easy life that was fully dependent on the forest for survival for a very longtime. This involved hunting forest animals using spears, gathering fruits for food and plants, honey and shrubs for medicine from the tropical rain forest. They always constructed huts as shelter from leave, trees and climbing plants. Before being chased, the forest was the source of all Batwa’s needs, they lived in harmony with the other residents of the forest, and these included mountain Gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and birds. On being chased, they lived a miserable life leaving their lives endangered since they were not used to life outside the Impenetrable forest. But this was done for conservation purposes after the park was gazette in 1993 gandaand declared a world heritage and unique game park. Due to the expulsion of the Batwa out of the Bwindi forest, they became refugees, lost their culture and traditional ways, normal lifestyle, and forest. The Batwa experience trail will expose you to the lifetime encounter to learn about the day-to-day lifestyle of the original dwellers and keepers of the Bwindi tropical rainforest in the rolling hills of southwestern Uganda.
These small and big-hearted people will enthrall you through activities that include dancing, singing, and storytelling about their traditional ways of farming, handling the bow, gathering honey, and picking herbal medicine from the roots and leaves of trees. Furthermore, these hospitable indigenous groups of people will be extremely happy to see you and will welcome you to prepare and share a meal with them from plants to meat stew. This experience will also expose you to the grass thatched houses and caves that act as shelter. Hunting small animals that act like food is another riveting and engaging encounter not to be missed on the Batwa experience trail. This full-day trail begins with a nature walk, hike through the forest as you learn from the first keepers of the forest. The compulsive and enthralling experience costs USD 80 per person, USD 70 per person in a group of two to three people, USD 60 in a group of four or more. Furthermore, in the case of filming, this costs USD 400 per day and a per-group of visitors. Also, one is not required to pay any park entry fees since the activity does not take place inside the park but just adjacent to the park.
On the whole, tracking of Mountain Gorillas is not the only activity worth your visit to the rolling hills of southwestern Uganda. Cultural activities more especially the Batwa experience trail teach and enthrall tourists about the culture and ways of the first people to inherit the forest. Pro-poor tourism activities like fundraising of funds to improve the standards of living of the Batwa people are also in place. For example, constructing local schools, feeding that supports conservation, a wonderful environment for those interested in charity activities. This small group of people lives outside the forest and in every region, Rushaga, Ruhija, Buhoma, and Nkuringo. The Mgahinga Batwa trail currently costs $80 whereas the Buhoma, Bwindi Batwa experience costs $100. Remember to carry hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts and trousers, jackets, and coats in case of the wet season.
Travellers to south western Uganda should expect un predictable weather patterns given the tropical climate of the region. Certain weather conditions like rainfall and mist which usually hinders clear visibility of distant objects should be expected no matter the season whether wet or dry seasons throughout the year, except from June to August and December to February that receive less intense down pours. These months are the best times to experience the Batwa lifestyle, traditions, culture and beliefs and are the driest months in a year with temperatures between 23-25 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, the wet months / season is usually between March to May and October to November and it is usually slippery out there along the trail but it is one of the best times for birding as the rains usually bring migratory birds such as African open bill, Black stork among others. Furthermore, rainy seasons also come with discount offers due to the off season.
The Batwa experience trail is an activity that takes place around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and access can be by either air or road means of transportation. It takes roughly 5-7 hours from Kampala the capital city of Uganda by road means of transportation to Kabale district in south western Uganda. The distance to be covered is about 520 km. By air, one of the options is flying from Enttebbe or the Kajjansi airfield to the Nyakabande Kisoro airstrip or any of the other three air strips like Kihihi and Kayonza airstrips. It takes roughly 30-40 minutes from Kampala the capital city to the 3 different airstrips.
This south-western region of the country is blessed to have a number of top and most eco-friendly accommodation spots in the East African region. All types of visitors are catered for from high-end luxurious to budget travelers. Some of the advisable accommodation lodges include Chameleon hill lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Tracker’s Safari Lodge, The Gorilla Safari Lodge in the Rushaga sector among others. For one to achieve a satisfying Batwa experience, he/she need a professional and experienced tour guide. Happy travels and tracking.