The Batwa Trail and Batwa Experience activities can be done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda respectively. The Batwa people are commonly known as Pygmies. They are an endangered group of people believed to have migrated from the Ituri forests in Congo in search of wildlife to hunt. This influenced the naming of Kisoro, the district they settle in. Kisoro means “Place of wildlife”.
The first record of the Pygmies was noted by the Egyptians, over 4000 years ago describing them as “Dancers of the gods”. They described them as short stature people who lived near the Rwenzori Mountains. The Batwa, who are hunter-gatherers were the first inhabitants of the Virunga and Great Lakes Region. They believe when their creator was creating people, He gave some people different gifts, good land, others were blessed with height and more. Their biggest belief is that the creator gave the Batwa people the rainforests.
Batwa people have lived in this rainforests for over 500,000 years. They have lived in harmony with nature, depended on the forests for medicine, shelter, food, and shade. The co-existed with mountain gorillas and loved the forest with passion. There was no charcoal burning, deforestation, bush burning and so much more. The eviction of Batwa from the forests in 1991 was a nightmare for them because they were not compensated, leaving them stranded.
The Batwa were left with no option but to work in farms of the surrounding communities every day under the scorching sun with an unfair wage. They cannot preserve even their own cultures as they used to do in the rainforests in the ancient days.
Today, there are less than 3000 Batwa left in the world. They created trails in which they can teach children and the rest of the world about their ancient culture and how they used to live in the ancient forests for all the hundreds of thousands of years.
The Batwa were almost getting extinct by the year 2002 but Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann, the American missionaries were of a great rescue. They came in and bought land, built houses, schools, and hospitals that have improved the lives of the Batwa. Today, their numbers have increased. They also earn a percentage of the fees charged for tourist activities in the area. Among these include Uganda gorilla trekking safaris, Batwa Trail and Batwa Experience.
Batwa Trail in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The Batwa Trail in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park takes you on a nature walk, then hike to the forest with a Batwa guide who shows you how they used to hunt. They also demonstrate how they used different traps for hunting and how effective they were.
You can also visit a Batwa traditional homestead and learn how women prepare local food, weave baskets. You can get entertained too with traditional dances and songs not forgetting the mysterious storytelling moments where you get to listen to the ancient stories and myths about the forests they used to live in.
Batwa Experience in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The Batwa Experience in Mgahinga starts at Muhavura caves by the Batwa guides. It normally starts with a prayer to the gods to guide you through the forest. The Batwa guide will narrate to you how they used to live in the forest by showcasing traditional herbs, portraying how grass thatched houses are constructed, showcasing honey gathering tricks, hunting skills and so much more.
The Batwa in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park like in Bwindi engage in various cultural activities like bamboo cup demonstrations, visit a traditional healer and teach you about plants used as herbs. The visit in Mgahinga ends at the Garama cave. This cave was once the Batwa kings cave. A cultural entertaining dance is always performed in the cave. You will definitely enjoy it.
Most visitors who go on the Batwa trail end up going for gorilla trekking too. This is the common tourist activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Batwa people used to live in great harmony with mountain gorillas. There are slightly more than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world today.
Bwindi and Mgahinga provide opportunities for spending one hour with gorillas for $600 permits. The $1500 for gorilla habituation experience, however, entitles you to a whopping 4 hours with researchers and scientists in the presence of mountain gorillas.
Golden monkeys are also an endangered species of monkeys that are endemic to the Virunga region. Their highest population lives in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They are estimated to be about 3000-4000. Golden monkey trekking is not so hectic like gorilla trekking because these primates live in lower slopes. The price of trekking golden monkeys is also less costly. Golden monkeys are known for their entertaining behaviors and beauty. They love to pose for photos from flashlight cameras, unlike gorillas.
The Batwa trail and Batwa experience can be done all year round but if you are intending to combine the Batwa trail experience with gorilla trekking, then the best season for visiting is from June to August and December to February. Gorilla trekking permits should be obtained in advance; about 3 months before the actual day of trekking.