The Mysteries of Bwindi and Batwa Pygmies

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Batwa of Echuya Forest

Bwindi impenetrable forest is a tropical rain forest located in southwestern Uganda, approximately 500 kilometers distance from Kampala city. The popular Bwindi Forest of Uganda and Africa’s unique ecosystems with a number of wildlife species and a home to half of the mountain gorilla population that are only located in three major countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorillas are critically endangered ape species that are estimated to be only about 900 remaining on the planet and over 400 of them are in Bwindi impenetrable forest. There are twelve habituated mountain gorilla families in Bwindi eleven of them open for tourists’ visitation and one for research.

Each of the mountain gorilla families is visited by strictly 8 tourists a day; this is intended to reduce behavior changes and chances of disease spread from humans to the mountain gorillas. Bwindi impenetrable mountain gorillas are distributed in various sectors (regions) that mainly include the Buhoma sector with Habinyanja gorilla family, Mubare gorilla family and Rushegura gorilla family, the Ruhija sector with Bitukura gorilla family, Kyaguriro gorilla family and Oruzogo gorilla family and the Rusahaga sector with Busingye gorilla family, Bweza gorilla family, Kahungye gorilla family, Mishaya gorilla family and Nshongi gorilla family. Any tourist going on a gorilla safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has chances of tracking any of the above mentioned mountain gorilla families however proper planning and early bookings should be made.

On buying a mountain gorilla permit, tourists are told the mountain gorilla family they will be tracking and therefore one books an accommodation facility in the sector where the mountain gorilla family lives. On the gorilla-tracking day, tourists wake up early morning and head to the major trail start points where they gather in their groups of 8, briefed and head directly to the jungles to track the gorillas. While heading to the forest, one is always highly anticipating the gorilla encounter but once you get to them, what you really expected is totally different to what you get because even if you try nothing can really prepare you for the feeling you get once you stare at these apes breaking leaves and eating.

Seeing them is an amazing and humbling experience that one feels especially while looking in the dark brown eyes or seeing the young mountain gorillas being pampered by their mothers. They do it just like humans perhaps because mountain gorillas have 95% of their DNA similar to humans meaning that most of their characteristics are just like humans. Being with mountain gorillas lasts for one hour and once it elapses, tourists are guided back to from the forest and then given certificates of participation.

The Batwa the initial forest dwellers are also people you should not miss while in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. The Batwa pygmies had for so many years lived in Bwindi impenetrable forest that they regarded as their lovely home until they were evicted because of the need to conserve the various wildlife species that live in the forest.

While still living in the forest, the Batwa were predominantly hunter-gatherers and largely depended on the forest for food. Having been thrown out of the forest, they had to adopt a new life of farming and getting various means of survival including the Batwa experience where the Batwa talk about their unique culture, guide tourists on the Batwa trail and also demonstrate their hunter gatherer skills to the interested tourists.

Tourists on the Batwa experience are led to the Garama caves which is a very sacred place for the Batwa where most times they sing songs for the tourists. They also demonstrate their major hunting weapons they used that include bows, arrows and traps. What one cannot miss are the stories of the Batwa ancient life that are told by the Batwa elders – such stories gives a great insight on the real Batwa people and most tourists leave astonished about how the Batwa managed their lives while in the forest.

The Batwa experience is very unforgettable because one experiences it physically (just like a living library).

Traveling to Bwindi impenetrable forest offers unique and exclusive mountain gorillas and Batwa pygmies’ experiences that tourists can never forget. Getting to Bwindi from Kampala city takes between 7-8 hours using road transport but one can have en-route sightings of the beautiful landscapes and attractions.

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