Things to consider when visiting the Batwa trail in Mgahinga N.P : The Batwa trail is carried out in the Mgahinga national park however, there is also a cultuaral experience which is carried out in Bwindi impenetrable national park. The Batwa trail was an initiative by UOBDU in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims at empowering the Batwa socially and economically through proceeds from tourists. The Batwa trail offers one of the best community tours in Uganda.
The Batwa Trail and cultural experience is an experience designed for tourists/visitors interesting in understanding the way of life and history of the Batwa people during their life in the forest. By the end of the activity, visitors will understand why the Batwa have still failed to adapt to life outside the forest. It is different from the Batwa cultural visit in Bwindi because it is a longer experience, which takes place within the park/forests of Mgahinga national park. The Batwa cultural visit/experience in Bwindi is done with Batwa communities living outside Bwindi forest.
The 5 hour Batwa Trail is led by the Batwa themselves and begins after the guide (a Batwa) kneels down to beg the spirits to keep everyone safe during the journey through the forest. This ancient practice ensured that the hunting sessions where blessed and successful. After the spirit prayer, the Batwa guide leads visitors through the dense forest and around the slopes of the volcanoes like Gahinga and Muhavura.
As you follow the guide, you will realize that to the Batwa, every plant and weed in the forest is has an importance. The guide will often stop to pluck off leaves from trees and demonstrate its medical importance. There are leaves to deal with pressure, fever, diabetes and even the common cold. These remedies are usually first crushed or chewed directly from the mouth. Beside the forest medicines, you will learn how the Batwa prepare their traditional dishes, build their huts, harvest honey and make fire. The Batwa were good artists too and will impress you with some of their products like a cup made out of bamboo.
Throughout the trail, the Batwa will narrate stories that will highlight their history/creation and life in the forest. The Batwa experience usually ends with an exploration of the Garamba caves. These dark and quiet ancient caves have a great significance to the Batwa. The Batwa consider the Garamba caves sacred for it used to house the king’s palace and the main food store/granary. During wars with their Bantu neighbors, the Batwa used the caves as meeting and hiding points. After visiting the Garamba caves, you will conclude the activity by being led to witness a traditional dance performance from the Batwa men and women.
The Batwa trail in Mgahinga and the Batwa cultural visit in Bwindi have contributed greatly to the social and economic welfare of the Batwa community by tapping into the generous proceeds from Tourism. By allowing them back in the forest as Tour guides during the Batwa trail in Mgahinga, they feel like the forest still belongs to them. Moreover, money from the tourists/visitors helps supplement their incomes hence improving the incomes of their families. While visiting the Batwa in Bwindi and Mgahinga, countless tourists have are touched by their plight of the Batwa and offered generous donations inform of money, or clothing. This has further attracted funding to projects geared towards improving the conditions of this unique community. Below are some of the things you must consider to go on a Batwa Trail.
Things to consider when visiting the Batwa trail in Mgahinga N.P : Level of difficulty
The Batwa trail is a relatively less strenuous activity partly because the trails are well maintained and defined. There are a few steep areas particularly around the foot of the volcanoes but this should be manageable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. Those with heavy luggage or equipment (camera etc) can hire the services of a local porter at a cost of about $15. Because there are few emergency response health centers and facilities, those with serious medical conditions might think twice before going for the activity.
Things to consider when visiting the Batwa trail in Mgahinga N.P : Cost of the Batwa trail
The experience in Mgahinga National Park costs $80 for a lone traveler while those traveling in groups pay less. Two international travelers should expect to pay $70 each while a group of 4 or more will part with $60. Those interested in capturing the whole experience on camera or producing a documentary will need to pay an additional $400.
While planning to go for the Batwa cultural experience, you also need to take into consideration what to wear. You should travel with a rain jacket, garden gloves, long sleeve shirts and trousers to help protect you from the rains, thorns and sharp forest trees/plants. It is also wise to carry some snacks/ packed lunch and bottled water. You might also consider bringing along other essential items like a camera and insect repellents. If you have an allergy, you should carry along anti-allergy drugs and any other medications recommended by your doctor.
Unlike gorilla trekking and some of the other activities, you do not need to carry much for the Batwa trail experience. The Batwa experience is arranged after gorilla trekking but the experience can also be undertaken after a wildlife safari or game drive
The Batwa Trail and cultural experience is an adventurous activity that is comparable to visiting the Ibya’iwacu cultural village in Rwanda. Both help spice up your East African Safari by allowing you take part in and understand the local culture of some of Africa’s indigenous tribes while helping support them economically.